Why is there so much Austen-Inspired fiction out there?
Hello, everyone. I’m Jack Caldwell, author of the re-imagined Western take on Pride and Prejudice, Pemberley Ranch. I would like to take a few moments to give my opinion of why so many authors are inspired by Jane Austen. They are writing sequels, placing Austen’s characters into different time periods, or simply choosing an event in the original novel as a point of departure and essentially re-writing the book.
Why do we do that? Can’t we come up with our own stuff?
Sure we can. However, why do it when Austen gave us such a gift as her body of work? It’s like a field, already tilled and fertilized, just waiting for a few seeds.
I’m not saying we’re lazy. Spend anytime with a writer and you’ll know they are often overworked. No, it’s the opposite. We have a story to tell, a point we’re trying to get across, and Austen offers a shorthand way to do it.
Take Pemberley Ranch. My goal was to write about a relatively little known time in American history—the Reconstruction Era in the conquered old Confederacy after the Civil War. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice gave me a framework to hang my story on.
Does that mean I’m stealing Pride and Prejudice? No, and I’ll tell you why. Jane Austen is considered a genius of British literature for many reasons, particularly because of her immortal prose. Her sly humor and her turn of a phase, coupled with her understanding of the human condition, makes her unique. But let’s be honest about her plots. They are charming, engaging, unforgettable—and derivative.
This is not a knock on Austen! Far from it. Everyone’s plots are derivative. The story of men and women trying to come together is as old as humankind. Many have compared the battle of wits between Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice with the bickering Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. But no one would accuse Austen of stealing from William Shakespeare. The plot is classic. Austen takes these plots and makes them her own.
Just like there are only eighty-eight keys on a piano, there are only a handful of truly original plot ideas. Just because two musicians use the same instrument doesn’t mean their compositions sound alike. It’s how they arrange the notes. Same with writing.
But why use Austen’s characters? It’s because they are so beloved and accessible. By reading Austen, you truly care about Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, Anne and Wentworth, and Emma and Knightley. You feel you know them, because of Austen’s skill as a writer. By ending her stories where she did, at or right after the weddings, there is room to think about them—and write about them.
The reader can think about Elizabeth’s life as Mrs. Darcy. They can wonder when Marianne’s affections were completely focused on Colonel Brandon. They can dream of Anne sailing with her beloved Captain Wentworth. Writers are fans of these characters as well. And we do something about it.
Austen also gave us a rich universe of supporting characters to play with. Figures like Georgiana Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Caroline Bingley, Elizabeth Elliot, Charlotte Collins, John Willoughby, and Anne de Bourgh. Even George Wickham. All clay that can, and has, been molded by writers into entertaining stories.
Austen is almost unique in this. A reader might like Dickens, but is there room to write more about Pip from Great Expectations? I don’t think so. A sequel to Robinson Crusoe makes no sense—you already know how Crusoe spent the rest of his days after his rescue. A return to the island is silly. What’s left to say about Jane Eyre after she marries Mr. Rochester? Nothing. A follow up to Moby Dick? Are you nuts?
In short, Jane Austen gave the world two gifts. First and foremost, a fantastic body of work. Each of her novels is a gem. Second, she unknowingly gave future writers a wonderful playground to amuse their muses.
It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. When it comes to us Austen-inspired authors, I can testify to the truth of that statement. We cannot write in her spectacular fashion, but we can honor her by using her creations.
We come not to bury (or steal) from Dear Jane, but to praise her.
What about you? There are a ton of P&P books out there. What other Austen novels would you like to see re-imagined/re-worked/followed-up? We’ve seen takes on Emma, but what about Persuasion? Sense and Sensibility? Northanger Abbey? Mansfield Park? Discuss!
It takes a real man to write historical romance, so let me tell you a story.
PEMBERLEY RANCH BY JACK CALDWELL – IN STORES DECEMBER 2010
When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.
In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.
But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…
“It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind—with that kind of romance and excitement.”
—Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy
About the Author
Jack Caldwell, a native of Louisiana living in Wisconsin, is an economic developer by trade. Mr. Caldwell has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. Pemberley Ranch is his first published work. He lives with his wife and three sons in the Minnesota. For more information, please visit http://webpages.charter.net/jvcla25/ and on http://www.austenauthors.com/, where he regularly contributes.
And now for the giveaway! Danielle from Sourcebooks has graciously offered 2 copies of Pemberley Ranch. Entering is easy.
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Hi! Thanks for linking up on the Read a Book Lately linky! Your reviews are so thorough! I'm still learning the review process but I think I'm getting better.ReplyDelete
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Tina "The Book Lady"
Great interview, thanks for sharing this! I think it would be great to see an updated take on Anne Elliot in Persuasion.ReplyDelete
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aikychien at yahoo dot com
What other Austen novels would you like to see re-imagined/re-worked/followed-up? I don't really have an opinion on that..I like to just wait and see what authors come up with.ReplyDelete
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