I may be an Austen author

I may be an Austen author

I may be an Austen author.

“Well, duh!” I hear you say. “That’s pretty obvious considering this is Austen Authors.” But it isn’t obvious to me. In fact, I was pretty surprised when asked to join Austen Authors because I didn’t quite consider myself to be one. After all, I had this image of an Austen Author as being a woman of a certain age, whose children have left the nest, goes to teas and wears Regency costumes at Jane Austen conventions.*

austen-mugI preferred to think of myself as a world-class thief/archeologist who wrote cryptic science fiction that has become the basis for many of the movie franchises of today—a sort of Buckaroo Banzai/Lara Croft/Philip K. Dick mashup.

Seriously though, I never thought of myself as a Jane Austen Fan Fiction author because I’ve never been brave or clever enough to write a pastiche or continuation of any of Austen’s novels. My first vaguely Austen novel has no characters from her novels but instead is inspired by her writing and the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (although Holmes and Watson are not in the story).

My second Austen-related book was a little more blatant. Jane Austen herself was the main character, but it’s set in modern day and she’s dead and communicating on the Internet, so I think it probably falls outside the spectrum of what most people consider Austen fan fiction.

As a consequence—and not too surprisingly—I never sold many copies of either. I had a lot of fun writing them, however, and I really enjoyed attending two annual general meetings of the Jane Austen Society of North America and attending the Decatur Book Festival in Georgia. I’ve made some good friends because of my decision to become a writer, but I’ve always felt like an Austen fan fiction outsider.

Like Darcy, “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess of conversing easily with those I have never seen before,” although I should modify that with “conversing easily online with those I have never seen before.” I’m OK in small groups or one-on-one conversations in the real world, but I’m hopeless at promoting myself in the social media world. I am constantly wondering how Austen might have handled social media. All I know is that I’m not good at it and thus I’m very impressed by the far more savvy authors here.

After my third book, I stopped writing. I began to ask if I ever really wanted to be an Austen author and wondered if my foray into that world was just one of my many enthusiasms, like my few attempts at rock climbing (I threw out my back getting up from the couch at the climbing gym), ninjutsu (although black is my favorite color) or learning electronics (you can seriously burn yourself with a soldering iron). I continued to attend local JASNA meetings and drink tea on Austen’s birthday (although the novelty of high tea is wearing off), but I wondered how long before I would move on.

I tried to disguise my work stoppage by throwing myself into home improvements and began fixing up my garage workshop. This winter, I descended into the basement to build starship models. If you’ve read The World According to Garp, you’ll know that, like Garp, I was building shelves.

While working in the garage or while on long bike rides, I would idly imagine what sort of great novel I should write, and it would have nothing to do with Jane Austen. I’ve always wanted to write a mind-blowing science fiction novel like Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End or something like the magical realism of Robertson Davies’ Deptford trilogy.

Of course, these are all symptoms of writer’s block (I feel your pain, Alexa). I had fallen into the cliché of wanting to write the great American novel instead of the lives of “three or four families in a country village.” But even in the throes of writer’s block, I’d have ideas for other Austen-related stories, which really wasn’t helping. Whole plot outlines for stories would appear unbidden in my mind, but the idea of writing them seemed unbearable. I was in a dark place, not made any better when an ambitious woodworking project went pear shaped and a month of work went down the drain.

My friend Mike would notice at the monthly meetings of Doctor Watson’s Neglected Patients (the Denver Sherlock Holmes scion society) that I was awfully quiet. I’m afraid that during this time I was rather resentful of Doyle’s prolific output. My favorite author, P.G. Wodehouse, is another source of irritation. I’m reading Sophie Ratcliffe’s P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, and Plum often writes to a friend (and far less successful author) stuff like: “Dashed off a quick 20,000 words today to the good ole Saturday Evening Post. Will lunch with Cole Porter today. Have you read my latest?”

I’m afraid I was often in a foul mood and I apologize to my friends and especially my husband for being a misery guts over the holidays. In my defense, it’s been a rough winter in Colorado.

Fortunately another cliché has rescued me: the New Year’s Resolution. It took a few days before it kicked in, but I am writing again, fueled by a few continuous days of sunshine, the end of the holidays and the promise of spring. By happy chance, the invitation to join Austen Authors arrived about the same time (here’s hoping I don’t get kicked off).

I’m writing the sequel to My Particular Friend, which was my second book, and I’m once again spelling color with a “u” and looking up whether an earl’s a better catch than a marquess or vice versa. There’s precious little Jane in Our Mutual Friends, but I did just have a character speak this Austen quote: “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” My better guide may be telling me that even if I am I am on the fringe, I am an Austen author (with a little Dickens and Doyle thrown in).

PS One of my planned Austen-related novels actually does combine characters from Austen and Sir Arthur and the other novel puts Austen on Mars.

* For the record, I’m three for five, not having had kids and I will probably never wear a costume because that’s a rabbit hole I shouldn’t go down.

MPF-Petkus JaneActually

PPS To celebrate my return to writing (and to empty my warehouse of unsold books), I’m giving away a copy of my two Austen-related books. Just leave a comment here before midnight Sunday (Feb. 8) and you’ll get a physical copy of the book.

17 Responses to I may be an Austen author

  1. A mix between Austen and Doyle sound very good, indeed 🙂
    I would love to be able to write, it is a frustration that I have always had. Maybe in a few years, when I am settled and have mroe time, I need to try, even if it is for my own reading, what advice can you give me?
    Thank you 🙂

  2. i love jumbling times, places and famous people. I want to go back to Tudor times and tell Henry 8th it is the guy who decides the gender of a child, but I can’t, so I imagine him Time Travelling here and throwing a tantrum on Jon Stewart, but all that is neither here nor there, I have tried a Jane Austen Time Travel, just completed. I had Fun with it…I would love a copy of your book, and good luck!

  3. Jennifer, my reading preferences are Jane Austen + adventure, Jane Austen + mystery, and Jane Austen + the outlandish. So, I am happy that you are part of a site that provides an introduction to authors that I might not have heard of without it. Thanks so much for your post.

  4. I’m one of the JAFF readers who’s also a sci-fi geek, and not a closet one either! Jennifer, your books sound very interesting and though I haven’t read any of them yet, they are now on my TBR/Wish lists after reading your post. Looking forward to the Austen on Mars project.

    Like others, I’m a reader, not a writer, so I can’t begin to imagine what writer’s block is like when it strikes you or your colleagues but it must be awful for you. It’s good to read that you’ve managed to get through it.

  5. See Jennifer, while you were wondering why we invited you to join Austen Authors because of your off-beat spin on JAFF, that is precisely WHY we invited you! Sure we love our variations, continuations, and modern adaptations of JA novels, but what your novels offer is so completely unique. I think it is brilliant!

    I believe Austen lovers come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps most of them stick close to the source, loving those high teas and dress up gowns, reading Regency romances and not much else. No problem with that. Thank goodness, or I would be in book-sales trouble! LOL! But I personally know quite a number of Austen fan-fic readers who are closet sci-fi lovers, hate tea, probably rather attend Comic Con dressed like a Klingon than an AGM, and prefer Darcy in vampire mode. I suspect there are loads of them out there, and now they know of your unique Austen vision, if they didn’t already.

    Thanks for taking the leap with us. We are delighted to have you.

    And now, say it out loud along with me… all together: I AM JENNIFER, AND I AM AN AUSTEN AUTHOR!

  6. Loved this, Jennifer! I can relate to so many of the thoughts and experiences you shared. I can tell it’s going to be fun getting to know you (or at least more of you) better.

  7. I’m happy to meet you, too, Jennifer and wish you luck and inspiration in your writing career! Part of the strength of Austen Fan Fiction is it’s diversity, and your unique approach adds to the mix, it seems to me!

  8. Like you, Jennifer, I was never a part of the JAFF communities. I had my son late in life and so when fan fiction rose in popularity, I was busy playing Power Rangers. It was about 2006 before I read my first JAFF story and even then, it was a self published piece.
    My stories often mix Austen with Agatha Christie so I get the whole genre confusion thing. I do love science fiction (especially the kind where science fiction might one day become science fact). Many years ago, I taught “Childhood’s End” by Clarke as part of a science fiction unit.

  9. I am a reader not a writer so I am thrilled you are willing to put your creative mind on paper and do all the work. As I blog with my Austen authors, I step back from my selfish need of seeing my next favorite book in print to the other side of the process, the ups and downs of writing and publishing and the person behind it. Thank you for your efforts and I look forward to hearing more from you. Thank you for the giveaway.

  10. I think you come from a unique perspective Jennifer and will add so much to our group. I am looking forward to reading My Particular Friend too. And, I am so glad your muse has risen up and derailed your shelving project!

  11. Jennifer it’s lovely to meet you. I think you fit in perfectly with the rest of us quirky people ????. And BTY I’m a reader not a writer so I’m looking forward to hearing more from you!

  12. I have enjoyed getting to know you. Your books sound interesting and My Particular Friend is on my TBR. As for winter blues, boy do I know them. Hibernation, like a bear, would be wonderful this time of year. I look forward to seeing more of your posts.

  13. Your books sound interesting. I can’t write anything original to save my life even if I can put most anything written in understandable English into Spanish,

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