When I posted the second installment of my series “The Wives of Highbury,” which is a prequel to Austen’s “Emma,” I got a lot of positive comments. But as anyone that writes knows, you have to expect that some people are not going to like your work, for whatever reason. But I have to admit, what one person wrote I was not expecting. She wrote:
“Please leave Jane Austen’s works and other classics alone. They were not meant to be used in this way. Do not disrespect these authors…….”
You get the picture so I won’t give you more of what this diatribe contained. Now, my first inclination was to reply to this, but then I decided I would be breaking one of the golden rules of writer reviews, which is you don’t reply when someone gives you a bad one.
Then again, this wasn’t really a bad review on my story. It was an opinion about the Fan Fiction world in general. And if I were to reply, what I would say is this:
I don’t write fan fiction to disrespect or offend anyone. Myself and other fan fiction writers create these stories because they love these authors (in our case, Jane Austen) and the characters they created. I believe readers love these characters as much as we do, and appreciate us keeping them alive with the stories we create based on them.
I started my prequel “The Wives of Highbury,” because I always wondered about Emma’s mother. Austen does not mention her much in the novel. I wanted to create a history for Emma Woodhouse. Her mother was said to be a kind woman, but that was the extent of the development of her character. I wanted more than just her kindness. I wanted a real person. In the process of creating Emma’s mother, who now is Emily Woodhouse, I had to create her world, and her world was Highbury. In Emma, Highbury was the Westons, the Knightleys, the Bates, the Coles, and even Mrs. Goddard. In my story, I gave these characters and families a history. I wished to create a legacy for the Westons, the Knightleys, even for a minor character like Mrs. Goddard, in a way readers will enjoy.
Would Austen approve? That is a subject that has been debated over and over. But I must say I am not as concerned about that as I am catering to the interests of 21st century readers. I think readers of Austen’s work today enjoy reading about what may have happened to her characters in the past and future, and even variations that give a different view of the characters in Austen’s world.
Austen’s stories and characters are timeless. Her characters have meaning to us 200 plus years after her death. And I think writing stories based on her books not only honors her work, but lets us continue to develop and enjoy that work indefinitely. I guess that doesn’t make everyone happy. And they are entitled to their opinions. But I know many of us will continue to enjoy Austen fan fiction, and those of us that write it will enjoy creating it for our audience.
Interested in “The Wives of Highbury?” It’s on my website blog at www.girlwiththebook.com. Let me know what you think!!