I’ve recently heard that apparently some in the Austen-related industry believe we are currently seeing a renewed interest in all things Austen due to the 200 year anniversaries of her six major novels, beginning in 2011. The fear, I suppose they would call it, is that Austen is just a passing fancy and not only are readers not in it for the long haul but that writers are quickly jumping on board to make a quick buck.
I have to admit, I scratch my head at this concern. 1995 saw Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, the now-iconic BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, a feature film of Persuasion and Clueless- a modern adaptation of Emma. 1996 saw TWO adaptations of Emma. 1998 gave us a feature film on Mansfield Park. 2001 brought Pride and Prejudice to the modern setting with Bridget Jones’ Diary, and its sequel in 2004. P&P even mixed in Bollywood in 2004 with Bride & Prejudice! 2005 brought P&P to the box office with a much Award-nominated film. 2007 blew the limit with TV movies of Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and feature films of The Jane Austen Book Club and Becoming Jane. 2008 mixed more fan stories with originals with a TV movie of Sense and Sensibility and Miss Austen Regrets and a mini-series of Lost in Austen. Emma became a BBC mini-series in 2009. The ultra-modern vlog Lizzie Bennet Diaries arrived in 2012 followed by Emma Approved in 2013. Austenland and Death Comes to Pemberley also aired in 2013. So far for 2016, we have had Unleashing Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (releasing nationwide in the US tomorrow, 2-5-16) and Love and Friendship based on Lady Susan is to release in May.
And that’s only some of the film adaptations.
Now, let’s talk books. This is not remotely comprehensive. Off the top of my head, Linda Berdoll published her first variation in 1999. Elizabeth Aston (may she rest in peace) was recommended to me by my favorite English professor as I craved P&P sequels and was readily available in bookstores circa 2005 (earliest publication date I found was 2003, but I’m going from memory of my conversation with the professor). A quick scan of Amazon reveals well-loved authors that still publish often began in 2007 and 2008- but from what I understand, they wrote for years before then.
So, when exactly since 1995 has Austen not been “in fashion?” I don’t see it. I do see an increase in writers–specifically independent publishers– even since I began writing in 2013. But that’s a GOOD thing. Every JAFF fan I’ve talked to has the same story: they liked Austen well enough, maybe even loved her. They were hesitant to try fan fiction. Then they got hooked and went on a shopping spree and inhaled every single book they could get their hands on.
Are all the readers who first picked up Linda Berdoll’s first book in 1999 and enjoyed it still JAFF fans? Probably not. Becuase they didn’t have something to sustain their interest.
I found JAFF in February of 2013. I had terrible insomnia and couldn’t sleep. Between then and when my daughter was born at the end of May I read almost 200 books. That’s with two toddlers running around (I had one and babysat one). As soon as I finished one I was buying another. I would see several that interested me, and I’d buy them all. If I read one by an author and liked them well enough, I’d buy all the rest. Having the baby didn’t really slow down my reading (her learning to crawl slowed it down).
Then, something happened. I ran out of things to read.
I even read the 99 cent stories that you can see in the sample are poorly edited with glaring grammatical errors but seemed to have intriguing story lines that were more adventurous than their more well-loved brethren. If it had Darcy and Elizabeth involved and wasn’t kinky, I read it. But still, one day, I ran out of options. And that was after there was six years worth of several authors producing a book or two a year, AND after I found the free forums. That’s when I listened to the Darcy and Elizabeth in my head and decided to try my hand at writing.
Not everyone cares to write, though. I had toyed with writing several times in college. It was always kind of on the outside of career options for me. Some are readers through and through, and writing a JAFF tale isn’t an option. Do I want that reader to venture off into another genre? No! Who knows when they will come back to try another JAFF!
So, I open my arms to all the new writers. To all the ones that publish quickly. To the ones that don’t sit on their stories for a year, convinced they’re writing something as renowned as Austen herself because I’ve got news for you: the fans have to read something tomorrow too. I love the writers who “cop out” and write novellas and short stories, because I do want to read something in one sitting still, but these days I don’t have a full day for reading like I did when my kids were mostly immobile.
I love the flavor and variety that has come to the JAFF world in the last few years as well. Here’s a list of independent authors that debuted post-2013 that I can think of off the top of my head.
In the mood for a hunky fireman? Cat T. Gardiner’s done it!
Do you want a story where Darcy truly saves Lydia from Wickham’s perfidy? Check out Sketching Character by Pamela Lynne.
Imagine Lizzy as a little girl acquainted with the Fitzwilliam family and outsmarting a viscount. That’s Oxford Cottage by Leenie Brown.
What if Georgiana came to Netherfield and became best friends with Elizabeth? See The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams.
What if Mr. Gardiner was good friends with Mr. Darcy senior and a younger Elizabeth is in need of protection and a husband? Go read I Promise Too by Zoe Burton and be sure to follow up with the novel-length sequel: Promises Kept.
Can you imagine Darcy married to someone other than Elizabeth, but against his will? Or Elizabeth married but reported dead? Do you need more drama in your life? Thank you, Brenda Webb.
What would happen if Elizabeth never heard Darcy’s insult, as Diana J. Oaks imagines in One Thread Pulled?
Can a forced marriage without love gradually lead to it? That’s what Jeanna Ellsworth considers in Mr. Darcy’s Promise.
What happens if Georgiana marries Wickham? Race for Elizabeth Ann West’s Moralities of Marriage series.
Do you need a contemporary mystery? Penelope Swan might interest you.
Or how about contemporary comedy? Barbara Silkstone brings the laughs.
In short, as any book lover knows, more books are always a great thing.
So, my job as a writer is to not only keep writing as fast as I can for you but it’s to support the many others who write in this awesome, if addicting, genre.
But there’s something you can do for us so we can serve you. Leave a review so we’re encouraged to continue, lest us insecure writers get the impression we’re not here for long.
And leave your thoughts on this so-called Austen bubble. I’ve been an Austen fan since my first exposure to her, and I think more and more people are coming to Austen that way as she is now a mainstay in American secondary schools and seems to be gaining recognition globally as well.