Search This Blog

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Why I like to write Jane Austen spinoffs

Having sent for a second proof of 'William Price and the Thrush' now all the revisions are complete, and having been writing like mad on sequels to 'Death of a Fop' I paused to wonder what it was that made Jane Austen so popular for fanfiction writers. 

Speaking for some that I have read there seems to be a theme of 'what if'; that if one small thing were changed what might have happened, for example, what might have happened had not Elizabeth Bennett heard that disastrous comment  about being 'tolerable'.  Although I find the better-written examples of these 'what if' scenarios may be entertaining to read, they are 'not enough to tempt me' as one might say in terms of writing.  For me, Austen has told the tale the way she wanted to tell it, and she is the master, I am but the learner [sorry, wrong universe!]. However from a child I have always wondered 'what happened next' in stories, which is why I lapped up such things as the Famous Five of Enid Blyton, who had an adventure every holiday, as did Malcom Saville's excellent Lone Piners, Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons and so on; and as I grew older, I found those stories like Swallows and Amazons where the protagonists grew up and grew as characters were the more satisfying.  When I discovered EM Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series which spanned generations, literally, of schoolgirls, I was captivated by how much a series could encapsulate.

Returning to the world of Jane Austen, I again was drawn so into the stories that I found myself wondering what happened next; for some people the immediate consequences of living happily ever after were definitely implied, but Austen is such a master that her lesser characters also live quite vividly, even those who only make a brief appearance - like William Price, sailor brother of Fanny in Mansfield Park.  In the few short sections which include him he is delightfully depicted as a man who is deeply loyal to his sister and totally enamoured of his chosen career as a naval officer.   Equally, in Death of a Fop, I was drawn to Jane Fairfax in 'Emma' and felt that there was a lot more to her than appeared on the surface - my opinion is amply backed by Mr Knightley - and that she was throwing herself away on Frank Churchill.  Frank was plainly a man who was deeply in love with Frank Churchill, and gave every appearance of having a weak, vain, character that disliked being thwarted.  My premise for his supposed devotion to a penniless girl like Jane was that he wanted someone he could bully as a catharsis to his reactions to his controlling aunt.   Jane was so desperate to escape a life as a governess that she was willing to be pliable and, once flattered into thinking herself in love, was ready to fall in with his plans in any respect.  The way he humiliates her on the picnic is quite nauseating - I have had some experience with abused wives and I felt sick to the stomach with recognition of some of the symptoms.  It occurred to me that once the scales of luuurve fell from Jane's eyes, she was probably capable of a lot of inner strength and stubborn rebellion.  She had growing and developing to do, which made her for me a more interesting character than Emma, whose pilgrimage from 'Mr Woodhouse's daughter' to 'Mr Knightley's bride' had been the main thesis of the book as Emma learned that people did not always like the same things that she did, and that kindness and well-meaning had to be allied with thoughtfulness and compassion.  And no, don't worry, I'm not about to launch into an essay on the same.

My desire to follow up more 'what happened next' stories will continue, as well as a series about Jane and the Bow Street Runner.  I have three novellas to publish as a book waiting for first editing, and I'm about three quarters of the way through a full length novel following them.  Unless I decide to take them apart and make each of them into a novel when I edit.  Things like that can happen.... 
I have also every desire to publish 'Vanities and Vexations' which is the tale of what happened next to the women of the Bennett and Darcy families.  Elizabeth Darcy has, if she but knew it, just enough of her mother in her to have the drive to want to make sure that her new sister Georgiana is as happy as she is herself. 

Well, there you have it.  Happy ever after isn't enough for me; greedy, aren't I? 
Of course one of the other authors who gives us wonderful secondary characters is Georgette Heyer; but her books are covered by copywrite.  Pity....


  1. Hey, thanks a lot for an exceptionally insightful blog post, I will
    not invariably post compliments but appreciated your blog thus decided say thankyou - - Ellie
    my page: makeup chair

  2. Thanks Ellie! your comment doesn't appear to have shown up, but it's nice to be told if I'm doing something right. I am GETTING to a post on patchwork, which has taken a lot of grubbing about in research and I still haven't solved some problems to my own satisfaction. Meantime, re Austen spinoffs, the 3rd Jane Fairfax book is being put together.