If you had asked me a few years ago whether I wrote Jane Austen Fan Fiction, I would have said no. I enjoyed Jane Austen’s stories, on an annual basis, but I was no scholar, no expert in the regency period. How could I call myself a JAFF author when I felt a tourist at best, gawking at the flashy sights with no understanding of the history that had built them?
Fortunately, the JAFF world is a large and open one, and I found that even my modernized tales fit into the JAFF mold. Still, a historical Jane Austen? I could never dare.
Instead, I wrote in the vein if the historicals I liked to read…with bluestockings and beta heroes and balls galore. The kind that called to fans who enjoyed Regency but did not demand complete homage to the times.
My first series, The Gentlemen Next Door, did not feature arranged marriages nor gothic homes nor meddling young matchmakers. Its accompanying spin-off series, Kiss A Belle, debuts in February, and while creating it, I felt the same: this series is not Jane Austen Fan Fiction.
Kiss A Belle features the Belle sisters, five girls, each born on the same day one year part, who are impacted by their mother’s dying wish to see them well married. The stories overlap and intertwine over each a five year period as each Belle learns what it means to find their own wishes and dreams under the shadow of such an emotional responsibility to their deceased mother.
Imagine my dismay, when during copyediting, I discovered my Jane Austen Fan Fiction roots were entirely too strong.
While the series does not feature a Lizzie Bennet, I did create a headstrong girl, in love with books, who refuses to marry for anything but love. I don’t have a sensible Eleanor, but I do have a sister who shoulders an emotional burden for the sake of her sister’s happiness. No daydreaming Catherine, but an imaginative sister obsessed with finding the similarities between life and books. No Anne but instead a sister who turns away from a suitor she loves and finds herself living with regrets.
I could go on and on. And yes, some of these items are tropes, and not directly credited to Jane Austen, and just because one follows convention, it does not make one a fan fiction author.
But I think it’s safe to say, that regardless what the Me-of-Five-Years-Ago believed, regardless of whether my characters are named Bennet or Elliot, there is a little Jane Austen in everything I write.
If you’d like to read about five sisters who are not quite Austen (but practically are), then the series is available for preorder now! Here are some quotes to whet the appetite.