I am over the moon to be joining the Austen Authors. In my short time as part of the JAFF community, I have come to admire these authors and and their work, and feel so honored to be here today. I come very late to JAFF. For years I thought I was the only one who wanted more stories with these characters, and would eagerly devour the rare Austen-related title I’d come across in bookstores. I had no idea there was such a vibrant community happening online, and I love you all for making it real.
I put a lot of pressure on myself for my first post here. How could I make the definitive debut into this society? It was, quite frankly, paralyzing. What if I made a misstep? I fretted, and fretted, and then sat down to make myself a nice cup of tea.
A few months ago, during a very trying personal time, a friend sent me this gorgeous sampler box of “Literary Teas”. In it were tea blends themed for such luminaries as Louisa May Alcott (delicate and floral), Maya Angelou (strong and spicy), and Edgar Allen Poe (very dark and earthy). Of course, the first one I tried was Jane Austen’s blend, which the creators described as a black tea blend with vanilla, mint, and lavender.
I started wondering what it was that made these flavors so “Jane Austen.”
Black tea: The easy one. Is there anything more quintessentially British than a nice cup of black tea? Sometimes just making myself a pot of tea, and using one of the delicate little teacups I’ve collected over the years (instead of just throwing a teabag into a big mug) makes me feel like Lizzy Bennet or Emma Woodhouse. I pay close enough attention to the tea sets in Austen adaptations that one might mistake me for Fanny Dashwood admiring the service at Norland Park. (I’m particularly enamored of Chloe Sevigny/Mrs. Johnson’s silver set in Love & Friendship.)
Lavender: Tiny dried flowers stud the blend in the tin, evoking the pastoral setting of so many of Jane Austen’s books. The wind-swept hills of Devonshire, where the Dashwood sisters tried to create a life. The gardens of Highbury, the infamously “beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Often, I find lavender in tea too herbal for me, but this one is a light enough touch that it just reminds me of how fond her heroines are of walking outdoors.
Spearmint: Austen is known for her sharp, biting wit. Few targets escape her notice. From the hilarious obsequiousness of Mr. Collins to the unrelenting vanity of Sir Walter Elliot, her skewering of the petty or silly or evil characters populating her corner of English life have become immortal. People who come to Austen expecting only ballrooms and romance are quickly surprised. i once had to school a boyfriend who had the temerity to ridicule the famous opening of line of Pride & Prejudice: “You know she’s being sarcastic, right?”
Vanilla: Sweet and warm, this element of the tea evokes the feeling I get when I re-read Austen, and the one I’m searching for in the JAFFs I read and write. The romance, sure, but also, the enveloping sense of affection and friendship between all the worthy characters, and the happy endings. The righteous characters, and/or those who try to be better becoming better, and making their lives and communities better through their actions. That’s what I want in any book.
Maybe I’m overthinking a simple cup of tea. But also, JAFF itself is a kind of overthinking. We creators and fans of Austen-related transformative works are not content to just read a book once, or watch a movie, and move on. We want more of these characters and their lives! We wonder “what if.” What if Mr. Darcy had managed to propose again before they found out about Lydia running away (In Darcys Debt)? What if Lizzy had gotten sick at Netherfield as well as Jane (In Darcy’s Arms)? What if, What if, What if? The book I’m working on now asks what if everyone had found Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth? I so enjoy finding these pressure points in the stories, and remixing them to see how it would all play out again. It’s endlessly entertaining. And I’m so pleased to find a group of people who share my love for this. Thank you for having me here.
To celebrate my joining Austen Authors, I’m giving away a package of this Jane Austen Tea. Please leave a comment here to enter. Comments will be accepted until May 20, and then I’ll announce a winner on May 31st.