• Jane Austen

    Interview with a vampire

    … and Contest. As promised, an interview with a vampire and I’ll be giving away signed copies of Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, to two lucky people chosen at random at midnight EST on Saturday, October 8. You can also win copies at other stops on my blog tour, win a collection of Austen-vamped themed stuff, and find excerpts and so on at my website.

    I’m thrilled to have as my guest today Mr. Luke Venning, one of the Damned and a close associate of Jane Austen. (And ladies, he’s hot.)

    Luke: Close associate?

    Janet: OK. Consort, bearleader, pain in the neck. (Note: there is a Glossary of the Damned on my website and in the book. A Bearleader is the mentor of a fledgling–that is, recent–member of the Damned.)

    Luke: But Bearleader in no way implies a paternal or even fraternal relationship.

    Janet: Tell us about Jane.

    Luke: She was fearless, funny, sharp-tongued, opinionated. By the standards of the Damned she was rather gauche. I found her very handsome–she had the sort of good looks that showed in animation. She looked nothing like the pop-eyed, bad-tempered creature in Cassandra’s famous sketch.

    Janet: People were rather cross with you and me about the way Jane and the Damned ended. They wanted a HEA.

    Luke: I hardly think anyone will believe you squeezed a HEA out of this book either.

    Janet: Do you see yourself in her heroes? Any one in particular?

    Luke: She claimed I was all of them although I strongly object to being the worthy clergyman of Mansfield Park. The earlier version of that book was all about the Damned but her brothers persuaded her to change it and so Henry Crawford, who I believe was based on me, played a lesser role. I also find Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley stuffed shirts. I think I’m most like Henry Tilney, because that book is set mostly in Bath where we first met and which she started shortly after our liaison.

    Janet: I’d say you’re more like Willoughby or Wickham. None of the gentleman you listed have that sleazy side.

    Luke: Sleazy side?

    Janet: Feeding off maidservants.

    Luke: Oh, that. Madam, I am one of the Damned. I am what I am. Jane was a greedy girl; she quite weakened me. I needed sustenance.

    Janet: And then you encouraged her to feed–or dine, I should say–from a footman.

    Luke: It may have been a tremendous sacrifice on her side–I doubt it from the grin on her face. The poor fellow could scarcely walk after, but he did not seem to object too much.

    Janet: Moving on … describe a typical day for the Damned in Jane’s time.

    Luke: We rise about two in the afternoon–it is vulgar, although by no means dangerous as some may claim, for the Damned to encounter sunlight. Those from whom we have dined are sent to the kitchen to be revived so they may get on with their work. We pay calls, usually on foot, for animals do not take kindly to the Damned. Occasionally we gather for music with our neighbors although mostly this is as a foreign language to the Damned. Finally we are able to dine–we like to entertain, for our guests make themselves available to us after dinner–and we indulge in cards and dancing. We enjoy the night most, you understand.

    Janet: I know Jane enjoyed society, but wasn’t she bored?

    Luke: Absolutely; when the dear girl was not depleting my strength, she sulked and fretted somewhat and I was most relieved when she began Mansfield Park. I think she found our conversation lacking.

    Janet: I believe you went to the Americas in the 1820s.

    Luke: I did. I mostly stayed there for some years–I went west as soon as the continent opened up and I did rather well in gold and silver mining, as well as some other business interests. You understand, of course, that I had to move frequently for generally our kind has not been kindly accepted. It becomes so tiresome having garlic and crucifixes thrust in one’s face (a charming yet useless tradition) and dealing with angry husbands.

    Janet: And what are you doing now?

    Luke: Ask your blog visitors.

    Janet: Good idea. Where do you think Luke is now and what’s he doing? (Note: “waiting for me in my bed” does not count and will disqualify your entry.)

  • Jane Austen

    Rocking and rolling news

    First, big news that Diane hinted at last week and that finally I found out about a day later. Jane and the Damned was picked as one of Booklist’s Top Ten Horror books of 2011. I’ve no idea who that Stephen King guy is or how he got on it. Here’s Booklist’s blurb:

    Mullany rewrites history in more ways than one in this novel, which sets up Jane Austen as a vampire. A fast-paced adventure for those who don’t mind the vampire craze impinging upon historical events and beloved authors.

    A mass market edition of Bespelling Jane Austen comes out September 27, available for preorder at Amazon or Bookdepository (where it’s on sale with free shipping worldwide). I really love this cover.

    Other than that, the big news here is the earthquake and although I’m becoming anxious for another topic of conversation I did want to talk about it a little. However I think the next topic of conversation will be the storm of the century, year, month, or even week–as the Washington Post eloquently predicts it will be “dumping inches of rain.” I love that precision. Inches, eh. Two inches? Six? I guess wet is wet.

    But what I found really interesting was the reaction of people to it, what they felt and heard. I was at work. My office is about three blocks from the White House, so we tend to get rather nervous about the unexpected, particularly on fine autumnal days. My experience was this: there was a tremendously loud bang and a jolt. I noticed my legs were shaking. Much later I realized that it wasn’t my legs. My first thought was that a truck had smashed into our building but we could see nothing outside. Then we noticed everyone else was leaving the building. So we did too. Wrong! Bits n pieces could fall on your head. They didn’t.

    So we hung around outside and enjoyed the sunshine. Everyone was on their cell and, naturally, posting to FB. By then we’d figured out it was an earthquake although the only one I’d experienced before was much quieter. After a while our boss ushered us back inside and sent an email that the next time it happened we should huddle with him beneath a table (no thanks).

    And that was it. I can’t say I was scared particularly but a lot of people who experienced more dramatic shaking and swaying of their locations were; I was on the second floor of a fairly solid 1930s building. Everyone’s perception of the event was different and everyone’s story of it is changing and will change.

    And that’s pretty much what happens when you take on one of the beloved tropes of mass market fiction and make it your own–do it well, and it will change.

    In preparation for the rigors of the weekend I went to the library to pick up some reading material in case the power goes out–this is my version of emergency preparedness, folks–and left with that special warm glow you get for paying your fines up to date.

    My emergency reading matter–other than a kindle full of Austen–are books I’ve been meaning to get to for some time, so they constitute some sort of guilty pleasure wishlist: Faithful Place by Tana French, North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris (love that title! And I’m meeting her at the JASNA conference in October) and Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner.

    What’s your emergency reading matter?

  • Uncategorized

    An Etiquette Guide

    Good morning! Today I’m going to talk about some of the research I did for JANE AND THE DAMNED which released a few days ago and I’m going to give away two copies of the book. I’ll announce the names of the winners on Monday, so please feel free to comment on yesterday’s post about BESPELLING JANE AUSTEN too.

    So who were the Damned in Georgian England? They were the fashionable vampires who were regarded with awe and envy and lust by the ton, and were the favored companions of the Prince of Wales who later became the Prince Regent. Because being fed upon–the euphemism for the Damned’s feeding was dining–was intensely pleasurable for mortals, and because dining was inevitably accompanied by skillful sexual activity (they had had centuries of practice) without any risk of pregnancy and disease, their parties were legendary.

    Naturally, etiquette books regarding correct behavior with the Damned became best sellers and I was fortunate enough to acquire a copy of this guide from 1795:

    The Gentlewoman’s Guide to

    The Damned

    being a guide to the Manners, Habits, and Pleasures of the Fashionable Immortals; including a full Set of Instructions for those who are invited to Dine; and Useful Instructions on Matters of Dress and Deportment and Methods of Revival the Morning After

    It’s an extraordinary record of social behavior, with some information I found very useful. For instance:

    It is advised that a Lady’s gown should display the neck and shoulders in as revealing a way as possible without actually resorting to Vulgarity, which the Damned abhor, for those areas of the person are naturally of greatest interest to them.

    And

    It is unwise to speculate upon the true age of one of the Damned. Generally one should converse on the weather, fashion, and politics.

    It appears the Damned did actually provide food for their human guests, as both courtesy and as a matter of practicality to keep up the strength of those who would later provide them with their dinner:

    For a guest to remark upon the lack of appetite displayed by the Fashionable Immortal Host is considered Impolite; moreover, a guest is supposed to dine heartily, for the menu will have been prepared with the utmost consideration, as providing the most pleasure for the Damned themselves.

    This advice was given for the actual dining experience:

    While in the Transport of Sensual Delight which accompanies the Host’s Dining, a lady should remove her necklace, for the teeth of the Damned enjoy Remarkable Sensitivity at such a time. She may also, if she wishes, remove her gloves.

    As for the morning after, when the fashionable lady might feel a little wobbly from blood loss, the guide advises that

    …although many consider a glass of wine with a drop of Immortal blood dissolved in it to be infinitely superior to any Apothecary’s Brew, the blood will most probably be provided by a fledgling, a lesser member of the society of the Damned. It is most uncivil to refuse on the grounds of the fledgling’s rank, and consider that even a drop of fledgling blood will bring Improvement to the Complexion and Brightness to the Eyes.

    What recommendations would you have for an etiquette guide to those consorting with Regency-era vampires?

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