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Tag Archives: Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion

Today’s guest is someone I’ve known online for sometime but met in person just this last weekend at the JASNA-AGM in Fort Worth, TX: Laurel Ann Nattress, the editor of a fabulous anthology of Austen-inspired stories, Jane Austen Made Me Do It (and I’m one of the authors!). We had a terrific book launch party for JAMMDI, my Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, and the newest release from another anthology contributor, Carrie Bebris’ The Affair at Lime.

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

Tell us the story behind the story–how did this anthology come about?

As a long-time Jane Austen fan, I had read all of her novels numerous times, moved on to the movies and sequels, and started my blog, Austenprose, in 2007. While working with Austenesque authors on publicity for their books, I began to see a thread that connected them all together. What if I edited an anthology of short stories inspired by Austen? At that time, there were many sequels and Austen-inspired novels in print, but no short story collections. My biggest challenge was how to get it published. I had no idea, but asked authors Diana Birchall, Margaret Sullivan and Laurie Viera Rigler for advice. Before I could reach out to anyone with my book proposal, I received an email from an agent of an author who I was working with on my blog thanking me for the great job I had done his client publicize the book. I saw an opportunity and immediately wrote back and pitched my anthology. He was an Austen fan too and immediately loved the idea. Within a week, I had my deal with Ballantine. It was just too surreal.

You’ve anticipated my usual question of whether your book was a hard sell, but that’s an awesome story. Congratulations!

My “road to publication” story is one in a million. When I started my blog years ago, I never dreamed that it would culminate into a book, but it did. One hears horror stories of how authors pitching their novels for years and enduring painful rejections and multiple rewrites before they capture the deal. Many times it never happens. The industry can be brutal. After my deal with Ballantine closed, I felt terribly guilty for about five minutes. I had to remember that I had been working diligently for years and give myself credit for developing relationships with so many of the Austenesque authors. I also had to credit the Fates. My number was up and all my stars and planets were in perfect alignment.

The thought of doing what you did (and dealing with people like me) terrifies me: was it really like herding cats?

Oh Janet. You are such a card. Authors difficult? Naw! You are not the first person to liken authors to herding cats. I am a cat lover, so it was not a challenge. 😉

I was all prepared for diva dramatics, but they did not materialize. Sorry to disappoint, but you were a charm to work with, and so were all other twenty-three authors! Luckily, we had many months to develop stories and edit them. I credit my editor at Ballantine for giving a newbie editor the extra time. It made all the difference in getting stories that the authors had a chance to contemplate and refine before they submitted them. We also allowed a bit of time for rewrites. It was the perfect storm.

Lizzy and Darcy … why do they continue to fascinate us endlessly, as opposed to, for instance, Anne and Wentworth? Do you think another Austen couple could be the next big thing?

Lizzy and Darcy are a hard act to follow. I think that they are legendary because their romance is hard wrought and so satisfying. Lizzy goes from disliking Darcy intensely and rejecting his proposal, to being transformed after seeing his great estate at Pemberley! It may sound mercenary, but in Regency times, a man’s estate was a reflection of his integrity and style. Darcy saving her family’s social reputation by finding the naughty elopees, Lydia and Wickham, and then buying off the groom did not hurt either. It’s hard to pinpoint which of Austen’s couples could ever match them. I don’t think it is possible, but I do root for Catherine and Henry Tilney. Northanger Abbey is terribly underrated and I hope that readers will come to love it and the young hero and heroine more in the future.

Who is your favorite Austen couple?

I tend to like the antagonists in Austen oeuvre more that the feature romantic couple. They can be so much more interesting. Brother and sister Mary and Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park are just twisted enough to be intriguing, and Lady Susan Vernon and Reginald De Courcy in Lady Susan are about as far from innocent star crossed lovers as you can get. I guess you can say I like to be shocked by breaches in propriety – all within the realm of proper Austen decorum mind you! If I had to choose a nice couple to root for, it would be Harriet Smith and Robert Martin from Emma. They end up together after a few detours and their personalities leave the door wide open for some bumps in their married life.

Which is your favorite Austen? Why?

I will be presumptuous and assume that you mean my favorite Jane Austen book, right? Oh this is so hard to choose. I could give the politically correct answer and say that my favorite Jane Austen novel is the one I am currently reading, but I won’t, and will go out on a limb and say it wavers between Mansfield Park and Lady Susan. Are you shocked? Oh, I do dearly love to laugh with Pride and Prejudice and get pierced through my soul with Persuasion, but I am one to root for the underdog, so I will stick with my first choices. Both stories have very strong antagonists that are actually the protagonists. I love that dichotomy.

Which biography of Austen would you recommend?

Definitely Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life. Great research and scholarly detail, but told in an interesting fiction-like manner.

Tell us about the contest and the judging process for it.

The Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story contest was an incredible challenge for me all around, but it was also great fun too! Jane Austen was devoted to her craft and has been inspiring writers for centuries. A short story contest for unpublished authors was in spirit with her ideals, so I pitched the idea to my editor and she liked it also. We never expected to receive eighty-eight stories! With the help of Myretta Robens at The Republic of Pemberley , we proofed, formatted and posted on the contest board about three quarters of those stories within the last three days! Talk about writers procrastination! The voters narrowed down the list to the Top Ten and my editor and I chose the Grand Prize winner. It was a tough call. I trusted my initial gut reaction to the winning story. The Love Letter by Brenna Aubrey made me cry. It was an incredible debut story that I hope many will have the chance to read.

What’s next for you?

Hmm? That’s a tricky question Janet. If I answered you honestly, I would let the cat out of the bag. Since I like to herd cats, I will leave that to your imagination.

Thanks for hosting me today on Riskies during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of Jane Austen Made Me Do It. It was a pleasure.

Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by Sunday, October 23, stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. Winners to be drawn at random and announced on October 25. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!

I went to a historical program this week, but it was much better than Diane’s and also appropriate to Amanda’s on Valentine’s Day (and Carolyn, sigh. Carolyn, do try and get your mind out of the gutter). I’ve finished my chocolate–I ate half of them at five minutes after midnight and the other half that evening of the 14th and here’s the evidence.

But I digress. I went to a chocolate program at Riversdale House Museum and although I was volunteering I didn’t spill anything on anyone and I managed to eat a fair amount too. There were some awesome chocolate fans there who ate their way through four centuries of chocolate and probably would have been good for more.

You can find the recipes at Cooking Up the Past, the FB page that Riversdale’s Food Historian runs, and which has some great stuff on it.

So, chocolate. First it starts off as a tree with a fruit, with seeds (pods), from which you extract the nibs (the things that look as if a mouse has visited). It’s a very labor intensive product and you can see a video made by the foodways historian at Williamsburg on a site devoted to the history of chocolate in North America, American Heritage Chocolate. There are some more recipes and also products if you wish to try some authentic cookery.

Chocolate is NOT sweet. You have to add sugar and I found that the historic recipes had a bitter kick to them rather like coffee–cacoa does have a high caffeine content. This is why chocolate was a popular breakfast drink–we used a latte machine to froth up spiced and (slightly) sweetened chocolate in hot water and added in milk to taste just as you would with coffee. This 1731 chocolate pie, one of the delicacies served at the chocolate event was deliciously bitter.

Into the nineteenth century, things got sweeter. Here’s a whole plateful of chocolatey thrills, including ice cream, a layer cake with chocolate icing, chocolate pudding, a heart-shaped cocoa biscuit, a cake with chocolate icing and some chocolate candy.

We went into the twentieth century with tollhouse cookies, and into the twenty-first with white chocolate and chocolate flavored with chili. Yum. Then we kitchen staff did the dishes. If you’re anywhere near the Washington, DC area, check out the schedule of events at Riversdale: there’s a complete weekend of women’s activities on May 5-6, The 1812 Woman, one of the many events commemorating the war of 1812.

So let’s talk about chocolate!

And go visit The Bookish Dame who’s given Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion a great review today and is giving away a copy!

Here is my corset! Brand new, picked up last night from the staymaker, an amazing lady who outfits many museums and costumed reenactors in the area. She machine stitches anything that’s not visible and hand stitches the rest and the quality of her work is awesome.

She is the only person to whom I say upon arrival, “Shall I take off my bra?”

She also made me a linen shirt and altered my gown, because (ahem) I’d put on a bit of weight AND with two layers of sturdy twill plus boning you need some extra space.

Interesting things about my corset:

  • It’s front-lacing.
  • It really is that short and wide. So am I.
  • It fastens with a single length of tape threaded into a bodkin that Homeland Security may not like.
  • When it’s on I can’t see my knees and
  • in true Regency style I could balance a can of beer on my bosom

I’m taking a camera so next week expect many interesting pics of me and Amanda in our finery. I have a fabulous headdress made out of Christmas stuff. I’m so excited about this conference–seeing Amanda, meeting Laurel Ann Nattress who’s my guest next week and having a book launch party, so if you’re in Fort Worth, TX please come on over tomorrow and say hi! Details here (scroll down) and on my website where you can also enter my contest, find me on my blog tour and read about JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION.

… 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.)

My next book, the second about Jane Austen as a (part-time/temporary) vampire, Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, is released in October, 2011 and I thought you’d like to see the beauteous cover. I love it! Note the bat-shaped pen and Jane’s fang.

It’s set in 1810, when Jane, with her mother, sister and best friend are living in Chawton and Jane is about to get down to some serious writing. But then, as so often happens in Austen’s own novels, new tenants lease Chawton Great House, owned by one of Jane’s brothers.

Here’s the beginning of the book:

Chawton, Hants, 1810

“She’s an extraordinarily troublesome girl,” the Reverend James Austen said.

Jane watched in fascination as the girl in question, her niece Anna, pulled a hideous face at her father, an expression that lasted only a second before her pretty face resumed its normal sweetness.

“Come, brother, you’d rather have her commit folly at twenty-seven than seventeen?”

“I was sixteen when it started, Aunt Jane,” Anna said.

“Indeed, a whole year of foolishness.” James stood as his mother entered the drawing room. “How goes the garden, ma’am? I have brought you some cuttings; your garden boy has them.”

“You did? Heavens, he’ll probably kill them by looking at them. What possessed your brother to send me that boy I cannot imagine. He’s all thumbs and none of them green. Come now, James, give your old mother a kiss. And you, too, Miss Anna, you must help me in the garden.”

James frowned at the display of affection between Mrs. Austen and her granddaughter. “She is here to reflect upon her foolishness and inconstancy, ma’am, not to enjoy herself.”

“Oh, of course,” Jane murmured. “But you hate gardening, do you not, Anna? And going for walks, and playing upon the pianoforte, and talking nonsense, and reading novels, for that is all we do here, I fear.”

“Hmm.” As James spoke Jane saw a quick glance of affection between father and daughter, quickly masked. “I had in mind some improving literature and early nights.”

“Naturally. Bread and water we can supply too, James. Never fear. We shall be the consummate jailers.”

“Oh, stop talking nonsense and make tea for us, Jane.” Mrs. Austen removed the wide-brimmed, unfashionable straw hat she wore for gardening. “We shall keep Anna busy, you may be assured, and fortunately there are no eligible bachelors in Chawton.”

“Indeed, yes,” Jane said, measuring tea into the teapot. “For Mr. Papillon is destined for me, you know. If you set your cap at him I shall be most displeased, Anna, and send you packing off home to Steventon again.”

“Really? You have a beau, Aunt Jane?”

“Your aunt is funning you.” James, softening a little, winked at his sister. “How goes the scribbling, Jenny?”

“Fair enough. Gallons of ink, acres of paper, and every morning my sister and mother and Martha have to wade through my torn out hair a foot deep on the dining room floor. I thank you for asking, brother.”

“I’m not so sure it wasn’t novels that caused all this trouble in the first place,” James said. “They contain much romantic silliness.”

“Oh, heaven forbid we should act as rational creatures,” Jane said. “Do you think we do not know the difference between fact and fiction, James? That all we read in novels is but a fantasy of the life we lead, and we such poor creatures we cannot tell the difference? And,” she added, “mine don’t contain romantic silliness. Silliness, possibly. Romance, possibly. But the two together? Impossible.”

Enjoy and hope to see many of you in NYC next week!

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