I always swore I'd never do it: write an Austen fanfic that is. So many wonderful authors already dot his so well - but, as so often happens in the #WritingCommunity (especially among Janeites), I was made an offer I couldn't turn down: develop an Austenesque novella for a charity collection.
We're raising funds for Breast Cancer!
This is a cause so close to my heart, I couldn't say 'no'. I ran a poll is the marvellous Jane Austen Fan Club regarding my story ideas, and ran with the winning one (excerpt below). So, presenting the Romance Cafe Collection's anthology that's held the No.1 #NewRelease spot on Amazon for several weeks now):
I'll admit that I initially misread the brief. I thought we had to create a story using Austen's side characters - and this is what I did. The stories are all romances - of course - and range from sweet to steamy so I hope that all divas can find satisfaction.
Preorders Now Live & I'm Sweet:
The collection is currently Available for Pre-order - and contains 25 novellas, all with Austen characters.
Another promise I made to myself is that I'd not write a sweet romance again - but I broke this one faster than a duke beds his mistress. As so many of my writer-friends know, the story is more important than my bollocks, and this one turned out sweet - possibly because it tells the tale of the sweetest character Austen ever created: Miss Eleanor Tilney, bff of Austen's heroins Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey.
My hope is that my novella, Leys Priory, is read as a sort of spinoff to Austen's Gothic satire. While I didn't attempt to satirise Gothic works like Austen did, I did enjoy a few little novelish in-jokes.
One of the last moments Austen's reader shares with Miss Tilney in Austen's novel, is her farewell to Austen's heroine, Miss Catherine Morland. Miss Tilney extracts a promise from Miss Morland that she'll send at least one secret letter - and my story shows this letter in full, along with another of greater import.
The extract regarding Miss Tilney's all-important secret note from her friend is below:
Extract from Ley's Priory:
Eleanor held silent as she considered what may be revealed as regards her brother and her dearest friend.
“Care, cur tam Perdita? Quid tantum dolor?” His lordship's gentle query had her smiling again in a moment.
“I do know this one,” Eleanor replied. “Homer’s Iliad, and he writes ‘dear one, why so desperate? Why so much grief?’” Her face heated as she laughed. “That’s Latin, not his Greek, and I wonder how you’re able to elicit my laugh in this moment.” He'd always been able to brighten her spirits.
“I’ll gladly allow you to think me a poor scholar if it brings your smile, Miss Tilney.”
Eleanor shook her head at him. “Henry assured me of your intellect years ago. He said you were the finest classicist at Cambridge.” Her gaze fell upon the paper once more, her tone faltering.
“Is your note of great import?”
“It is, though I’d not want you caught up in it.” Eleanor looked seriously into his face, eyes shimmering. “You’ve not mentioned this correspondence at all, my lord?”
The viscount shook his head.
“I thank you.” Taking his arm, she leaned a little towards a small bench, screened from the house by an ugly stone fountain. He saw her aim and willingly bent his steps thither. The small bench was designed for couples, and likely coupling. It was too close – and he was too broad-chested a man – to be seated beside her with propriety.
Nevertheless, Eleanor sat, staring out at the priory’s side lawns rolling down towards natural woodland.
“May I, Miss Tilney?” He appeared to measure the space beside her with his glance.
Romance Novels via Letter:
I've been advised against writing an epistolary novel for modern readers. It's a very historical-author-thing to do, but every editor I've ever had declared that no modern reader will stand the slower pace of a letter-based romance novel.
Austen's only novel in this style is Lady Susan (adapted into a brilliantly funny film starring Kate Beckinsale - have you seen it? If you're a historical movie buff like me I recommend it), so perhaps those more experienced authors have a point. Perhaps the letter-style isn't popular, but there are so many contemporary romances around at the moment with saucy texts and DM sexting in the stories...maybe we're back to falling in love via correspondence again?
What do you guys think?
Is a romance novel via long, Regency-style letters too slow in 2023?