Don’t Insult My Jane!

Being a fan of JAFF before the days of ereading was tough! I have a whole shelf of paperbacks from many of my favorite authors . . .  Linda Berdoll . . . Elizabeth Aston . . . etc. I became hooked on reading JAFF in the mid-2000s when it experienced a resurgence from the 2005 feature film. In fact, I didn’t like the book when I first read it in high school. It wasn’t until I saw that movie (yes, THAT movie, the 2005 one, I love it, actually), then read a few JAFF titles that I was able to go back and read the original Pride & Prejudice, deliciously devouring every line. And for six years, aside from forum reading, all I had were these paperbacks I lugged everywhere I might have to wait, so, everywhere.

::Confession time, how many of us bought purses based on the ability to hold a paperback? I know I’m guilty! ::

You know how people always feel the need to comment on what you’re reading, AS you’re reading the book, when you’re in public? Being young in age with historical looking books, other men and women would always ask me what I’m reading, and I would explain it was a variation or sequel of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Most of the time, I would just get a blank stare, but too many times, far, far too many times, the person would just be downright rude!

The most common response was “Why don’t you read the original?”

To me, that’s like asking someone reading the seventh Harry Potter book why aren’t they reading the first one? I’m not reading Austen’s original because I already have, multiple times, and can quote to you from it! 🙂

Another favorite of mine was when they would accuse the author I was reading of stealing from Jane Austen’s estate by writing stories. I would try to explain about copyright, and the history of the books, how poor Austen didn’t even make very much from her own writing in her lifetime . . . but most didn’t grasp it.

Now, I stick with this explanation:

JAFF is like your favorite TV show never being cancelled.

If JAFF was the Austen Channel on TV, there is so much rich variety and ingenuity that the stories allow us to relive the best moments of her books again and again and again. It reminds me of my daughter who is 5 and wants the same bedtime story every night about an elephant trying to be like all of the other animals in the jungle. We’re now making up new parts of the story, and she has a whole life of this elephant well beyond the pages of the simple children’s story.

It is in our nature to build and adopt what others create to our own reality.

They say there is nothing new under the sun. Today, I can read any book without the person next to me being the wiser. But then we’ll be at some cookout or work party and my husband will introduce me as an author.

“Really? What do you write?” They will ask earnestly.

And I will flash them a brilliant smile, and keep it plastered the whole time.

“Well you see, it’s like your favorite TV show never being cancelled . . .”

41 Responses to Don’t Insult My Jane!

  1. Wonderful post. Yes, it would be a tragedy if our favorite tv show, All Things Austen, was cancelled. Thank you for helping keep that from happening.

  2. Thanks for a wonderful post, Elizabeth, and for the best idea ever about how to explain our addiction to the OTHERS. Same as you, I found that many people from the real world, close friends even, can’t quite understand why on earth do I read the same genre over and over. I got the blank stares, the confused smiles and the occasional bit of social commentary too (‘But it’s just some story about rich people and people who claim they’re poor even though they can afford servants. What about the real poor, the TB and the social inequalities?’) There are some people who won’t understand, no matter what. But for the vast majority, this IS the best answer. It IS my favourite show, and thank goodness it’ll never be cancelled 🙂

    • That’s when you explain that having servants back then was like having a dishwasher, a washing machine, a shower in today’s world. You wouldn’t run around and scream “I’m rich, I’m rich!” because you have running water in your bathroom, but to some OTHER countries, you be ballin’!

      My husband still wonders why I read stories about the same characters over and over again. But now, he’s all “how are the books going?” since my royalties are paying this month for new carpet in the house. Perspective, now he has some, and he doesn’t say anything bad about my passion anymore. LOL 🙂

  3. I really like the analogy of your favorite TV show never bring cancelled… it seems to be all that I have read for the last three or so years. Although, when my boyfriend asks what I am reading, I just say it is something I found on the internet. He hates to read so he drops the subject. Thanks to all of you for your continuing “the show”!

    • Oh my hubby could NOT understand the hours and hours I would be on a forum . . . reading. LOL. He still doesn’t get it. But he reads fantasy doorstoppers and he’s soooo slow! That’s the other thing, when I’m reading, I’m an animal! I consume fast and furious and I do not like to stop reading until I go from beginning to end. If you came to the West house, you might see me stirring a pot for dinner with my Kindle in the other hand! LOL

  4. Definitely guilty of finding a purse big enough for a paperback (or two). And when I bought my Ipad mini as I was replacing my nook the biggest selling feature for that when we were only getting a new phone for my husband, was that it could fit in my purse. Also, woohoo. I’ve had my purse back for a few months now (baby is 19 months old). And yes, my Ipad is tuned into the Austen channel all the time! Thanks for being another writer for the program!

    • Most of my favorite bags are messenger style. That would always fit my netbook. Now, I have more traditional style purses, still large, so they carry my composition notebook and my digital recorder. Oh and extra batteries for the recorder.

  5. “It’s like your favourite TV show never being cancelled” and “imagine if someone decided to create additional episodes of Firefly so that the story would continue past that one season…”. What fantastic ways to describe JAFF! And as for having an Austen Channel…..where do I sign up? Mind you, my husband has used that term many times when he’s found me watching one of my Austen DVDs.

  6. Thanks for a delightful piece, Elizabeth. I needed something “light” today.
    I do not read much JAFF online. It is weird, I know (no haters, please), but I do have a large number of self published and traditionally published Austen pieces from a variety of writers on my Kindle. I HATE reading on my computer. I guess it is the left over feelings of editing on the computer (which I am doing ONCE again for my new release). I prefer a book (but will settle for my Kindle). I prefer to curl up in bed for my leisure reading.
    As to people asking me of what I am reading, it is usually “What are you writing?” I still write my pieces in long hand and customarily carry the spiral notebook with me to write when I am sitting at the doctor’s office, etc.

    • I do my outlines in composition books. 🙂 My daughter would be so excited to see you writing long hand Regina! These days, I mostly dictate because of my nerve problems in my neck. Pretty soon, I might just have to introduce myself as the bionic author! 🙂

  7. My opinion is to each their own. My best friend/roommate pokes fun at me for my love of JAFF but turnabout is fairplay as she largely reads YA fiction. That’s what’s great about books -there’s something for everyone. And yes on the buying purses that fit a book (sometimes even a hardback)! So glad AuAu is back up and running -and now I have even more writers’ books to read! Maybe I’ll get to meet some of you in Louisville. I’ve never been to JASNA’s AGM before but it’s almost too close for me not to go (I live in SW Ohio) 🙂

  8. Great response, Elizabeth Ann. I’m fortunate that people don’t ask me this questions because they just aren’t interested in me. If they do, they will not tell me to read the original.

  9. Love the analogy – I too have struggled to convey the delights of JAFF to people at times, and have defended my genre more than once to people who simply don’t get it. I may just borrow your spin on it down the road sometime!

    • To this day, I still tell my kids and hubby when they’re all “What do you want to watch?” I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got a new book, so I’m going to sit here and read while you watch whatever mindless dribble you want on the television.”

  10. Hey EAW! I really like the idea of an Austen Channel. Yes, wouldn’t it be great if we could watch all of our favorite stories instead of just reading them on line, kindle, hard copy audio…. Minor detail, I know, cost. As for bags, I always have a giant quilted bag with me…fits the I-pad, a book of course, water, the wallet and all kinds of emergency stuff for like when DH cuts his finger and needs a band-aid. Lol. Thanks for your blog today and best wishes with your new publications. Jen Red

    • We need to just set up a direct line I think with the BBC. Can we make that happen? LOL! I actually write my Seasons books like Downton Abbey, I imagine each novella is an episode, you can read it in about 1-2 hours and at the end want to throw a pillow at me until someone hands you next book. LOL 🙂

      Thank you for always being so positive! You help so many authors stay strong and keep writing, you’re awesomesauce JenRed!

  11. Linda Berdoll was my introduction into JAFF. And it was rare for me to leave the house without at least 2 books in my purse. When I was in school, they didn’t know what dyslexia was. I didn’t read much back then. I have to admit, it was the Harry Potter series which hooked me into reading. I started reading them just after book 5 had been released, and I read the first 3 books in one week. Since then, I read constantly, and the majority of the books are JAFF. Now, instead of packing books in my purse, I carry my laptop, my Kindle, cords if I am going to be gone all day, and my cell phone which is a Galaxy Note3. Gone way digital.

    • I LOVE the first 2 Linda Berdoll books! I wasn’t a big fan of Book 3, so for me the series is 2 books. LOL.

      I cannot even imagine overcoming dyslexia. You are an inspiration Melanie to not only be such an avid reader, but a prolific writer too! Wait, what was that? I can’t? Watch me. You are my kind of kick some butt woman! 🙂

  12. I love the analogy of the favorite show not being cancelled. I am the only Janite in my personal sphere, however I am surrounded by Firefly aficionados and I’ve just decided I’m going to liken my love for JAFF to “imagine if someone decided to create additional episodes of Firefly so that the story would continue past that one season…”. They’ll get it then. =D

    I used to buy purses that would fit my books, and pack around my books…I was also screaming that I didn’t WANT to go to an ereader, but my sister-in-law didn’t listen and got me a Nook anyway and I have to say it was life changing. The whole idea of carrying 800 books with me at all times is intoxicating. LOL I carry a little bitty purse now but carry a backpack with my planner, Nook and purse inside it.

    One last note: When I found out I had the opportunity to drive to Ft. Worth (about 3 hours) so I could meet Sharon, I jumped up and down I was so excited. LOL She’s just a sweetheart! Still have pics from that day (nearly 2 years ago maybe?) on my office cork board. O:-) Yes, I’m a fan.

    Looking forward to reading some of your JAFF!! Thanks for sharing your daughter’s escapades, that’s hilarious! Change your job title from writer to typer lady. LOL

    • Yes! Explaining it that way, I’ve even brought some people to the Jane table who only read fantasy or scifi! A great story world like Firefly, or Harry Potter, or Jane Austen, has such universal components, there’s a character and situation for everyone to identify with. Now, obviously, not all series and story worlds manage that amazing connection to millions of people. I don’t see anyone writing Babysitters’ Club spinoffs by the thousands (because let’s face it, unless you grew up in suburbia America in the 70s-90s, there’s not many characters and situations there to identify with). But who knows, maybe in 200 years, there will be a whole Sweet Valley High, Babysitters’ Club, fandom expanding on the story worlds. 🙂

      I too was a late bloomer to ereading, stubborn as well. It makes NO sense in hindsight, because I’ve devoured online fanfiction for almost 2 decades now. I bought my first Nook in late 2011, and my first Kindle in 2013. I now own like 4 devices, and LOVE that all of my books are with me all the time. They’re like my little digital security blanket. 🙂 I even have a solar charger, so even that “If you’re on a deserted island what 3 books do you take with you?” hypothetical is a no brainer for me. I take my phone and the solar charger and enjoy my vacation away from society, that’s what! 🙂

      And I will change my job title right away! 🙂

  13. YES!! And luggage was the same: how do I pack enough clothes to wear around the 7-10 books already packed. Thank goodness for Amazon and the Kindle, I now have !,000+ books in my much smaller purse to carry with me all of the time(about 40% are JAFF). I was always a fan of Jane Austen and loved the 1995 BBC production with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Unfortunately, the 2005 film too too many liberties with the book to screen adaptation and I did not enjoy it all. I do read the originals again, not only to remind me that plot is not the only thing she offered but her wonderful use of language to forward the action without useless embellishment. Thank you for your contributions to our JAFF world. I await your imaginings with pleasure.

    • My entire life I’ve had a paperback at the ready! My favorite day was going to the library, and I was lucky to have a mother that took me and my sisters weekly for new books to read. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was one of the few kids at my school without cable TV most of the time. So I learned early on that a book is sooooo much better than a TV show or a movie. 🙂

      It’s neat how the circumstances of your introduction to various things shapes your opinion. We watched the 1995 version in my English class in 2000, but as a senior, and it being spring time, that was like FREE period! 🙂 In our heads, we were already graduated, and my grades were high enough and I was already accepted to college that poor Mrs. Wadsworth just tried to keep us from running amok in her 7th period Honors English class. LOL. Reading the book in 12th grade, I had no appreciation for the context of the story. I was more into contemporary literature at the time, all about chick-lit. Well, by 2005, I had some life experience to help me see more clearly that without authors like Jane Austen who subtly worked their social commentary about the lack of rights for women into their stories, I don’t know how progressive my society would be today. Now, I had a reference point to accept and process her stories. The 2005 movie version, I agree, takes many liberties, but it was those liberties that helped me form a connection with the original text.

  14. “JAFF is like your favorite TV show never being cancelled.” That has got to be the best explanation as to why I started (and continue) to read fanfiction of all kinds!!

    • After explaining it and explaining it and explaining it, that’s what I have reduced it down to. 🙂 That’s a concept those who are not Darcy addicted . . . yet ::smiles devilishly:: . . . can understand. And it’s all about bringing everyone and anyone to Jane! 🙂

  15. Yes, my purses are small suitcases, and I still travel with a kindle and a couple of “real” books. I need both. I have an entire bookcase of JAFF and I got a lot of questions when reading it in public back in the day, but never the kind of ruddiness you seem to have encountered. I had one person ask me, “Why don’t you write your own JAFF,” long before I even contemplated the notion (or maybe that was a tuning point?). Maybe the fact that I immediately begin lecturing on Austen with all the pomposity of an English major effected people’s reactions? Now hen I tell people what I write, they mostly seem really interested and supportive. Unfortunately, it is my mother-in-law who continues to press: “Why don’t you write original work?” Well, I am, but it all keeps coming back to Jane.

    Oh, and we totally need a 24 hour JAFF channel!!!!! How do we make that happen?

    • Hear, hear on the 24 hour Austen Channel! 🙂

      I truly enjoy playing in Austen’s sandbox, coming up with my stories is such a fun logic puzzle! Because we all have the same pieces to play with, we all get a Wickham, a Caroline Bingley, a Darcy, etc. etc. and then the pictures we create with the puzzle pieces are all different! I’ve written original fiction as well, my first novel was 100% my own characters, settings, and premises. But that’s easy. If I want a character to be XYZ, I just make it so. When I write JAFF, if I want a character to be slightly different than in the original, I have to justify what changed to make that happen. That’s tough at times.

      Right now, I’m trying to devise a way to write a story where Lady Catherine is not a total B word, and it’s proving to be an interesting exercise. I have a couple of ideas of places she and Elizabeth can find some common ground to just stomp the smithereens out of London society. Of course, time wise, I won’t be able to write that until like 2016 since this year is all full with projects and deadlines. LOL.

      • Lady C is actually almost a hero in my trilogy, which involves Darcy talking her around to accepting Elizabeth as his wife before she has ever met her. By the third book, it is she who devises appropriate punishments for Wickham and Caroline Bingley. She’s a blast to write. Have fun with it!

        • I will! Right now I’m so addicted to Lady M! 🙂 She’s my bread and butter OC almost since she plays such a minor role in the original. I mostly model her off my favorite aunt in real life if she had been a Countess. LOL

  16. I enjoyed your journey into writing. I was also guilty of buying my purses big enough to carry multiple paperbacks. Now I make sure it will at least fit my 7″ NOOK but preferably my 9″ NOOK. I never read P&P until after my husband introduced me to it by, yes , the 2005 P&P. I then for the first time, in my mid forties read P&P. Unlike you, I don’t write, but, I do devour JAFF. I love how you expanded your daughter’s favorite story with her and I love your description of JAFF….”it’s like your favorite TV show never being cancelled….”
    Thank you, Elizabeth.

    • My daughter is my #1 cheerleader! She is a hoot! What’s fascinating to me is being 5, she has limited life experience, of course. When I say I write stories, she frowns and corrects me! Catelynn says “No, Mommy, you type stories. You’re a good story typer.” 🙂 It’s astounding how we have the verb write, meaning creating as well as actual pen to paper. For her, never seeing me write with my hands, the process of creation is typing. I love witnessing a little slice of language evolution!

      Oh, and when I have my word count notecards on my desk that tell me my goals for my typing sessions, she is like a little elf. She sneaks into my office and ADDS numbers to them, then leaves. I will just find signs of Catelynn, a little scribble on my outline page, a number that’s 22478 because she doesn’t know that’s 22 thousand words (a bit too much for me for one day!). Etc.

      I love my job! 🙂

      • I have seen the doodles she leaves you and numbers she adds. Date them and store them in a shoe box…even write a memorable thought of what may have transpired between you and her that day. What a wonderful keepsake they will be. They are treasures.

        • I do keep most of them. And I keep all of my notebooks. She JUST came in my office while I was here and gave me an A and a check mark on my outline for A Virtue of Marriage and told me “Good job, Mommy!” She tickles me pink! Catelynn's grade

  17. Elizabeth you hit the nail dead on! I feel the same way except I don’t write I just read everything I can find JAFF and now it’s almost overwhelming but that’s a good thing.

    • I am utterly Darcy addicted myself! Yes, I do write, but I consider myself a fan first and foremost. When Sharon Lathan, THE SHARON LATHAN, emailed me to join this group, I screamed like a little girl who received boy band concert tickets! I mostly write stories I would enjoy reading, and I’m lucky that more than just a few other readers share my taste. 🙂 The acceptance by the community as an author has been a true blessing, and I cannot WAIT to meet Sharon, THE SHARON, in person this autumn at JASNA’s AGM in Louisville! 🙂

      For me though, I am definitely that girl who has all of these OTHER authors’ paperbacks and ebooks on my Kindle, because I just started writing and publishing my own JAFF last summer.

  18. Elizabeth, Thank you for your fun point of view. I love your outlook and your books. Your variation novels read as if Jane Austen took a brief moment in time for tea and and returned to her desk energized by the caffeine. How adorable that you have expanded your daughter’s favorite book to become a mother-daughter adventure. That is so sweet.

    • Babs, you are too sweet! I love your 5 AM Facebook messages that spur me to get my lazy bones out of bed and to writing! 🙂 Here, I send you some essence of Energizer Bunny your way, now, more Mr. Darcy’s Dogs please! 🙂

Your thoughts are precious!