I am delighted to have Laurel Ann Nattress as a guest on Diary of an Eccentric today. Laurel Ann is the editor of a newly released anthology of stories inspired by Jane Austen, titled Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which I will be reviewing here tomorrow. She also runs one of my favorite blogs, Austenprose, and helped me discover the world of the Austenesque novel. Without Laurel Ann, I never would have read Sanditon, and with her help, I tracked down all of Austen’s juvenilia in a single volume, so I am especially thrilled for her to have published a book. Laurel Ann is here today to discuss how Austen incorporated mystery into Emma without resorting to murder. Please give a warm welcome to Laurel Ann Nattress:
Jane Austen’s Emma: A mystery full of curiosity, suspicion, suspense and red herrings – but no murder!
Hi Anna, thanks again for hosting me here at Diary of an Eccentric during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
You are participating in my Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 at my blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog this year. You and I both share an affinity for mysteries, and Jane Austen. Combine the two genres and I am hard pressed to find anything I like better in fiction.
Before I delve into my own book, I wanted to focus on Jane Austen’s work and how she has influenced so many writers over the centuries, including my authors – specifically her masterpiece Emma, which not only deals with an over confident, misapplying, and frustrating heroine, but is indeed a detective mystery!
I think it quite interesting that Jane Austen’s Emma is considered to be one of the earliest mystery novels ever written. But, Emma contains no murder! Well certainly not. How could there be something so indelicate as the “unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought” in Austen’s genteel setting of two or three families in a country village like Highbury? Nevah! But it is indeed a mystery novel and one of the most masterfully plotted ones at that – full of curiosity, suspicion, suspense and red herrings.
In 1998, the great mystery writer P. D. James gave a talk on the very subject to the Jane Austen Society’s AGM at Chawton entitled, “Emma Considered as a Detective Story,” in which she explains why a book, without a murder or a crime, qualifies as a detective story. Emma may lack a serious crime or a premeditated death, but Austen plants many surprises and clues for the reader, keeping us in a state of puzzlement and moderate anxiety while matching our wits to unravel the plot, including: Why has Frank Churchill not visited his father Mr. Weston for years? What is his relationship to Jane Fairfax? What is Mr. Dixon’s relationship to Jane Fairfax? Who are Harriet Smith’s parents? Who gifts Jane Fairfax the extravagant piano forte? And, many more…
You can imagine my delight Anna, when I received two mystery stories and another inspired by Emma for my anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Each of the stories are unique and totally different from one other. Stephanie Barron, who has brought us her amazing Being a Jane Austen Mystery series of eleven novels that you and I are reading for the challenge this year, gives us what she pens as a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery – an intriguing escapade with the dishy gentleman rogue, Lord Harold Trowbridge, and his fangirl Jane Austen as a detective; bestselling authors, husband and wife writing team Frank Delaney and Diane Meier writing as F.J. Meier, bring us “Faux Jane,” an urbane mash-up alluding to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man characters Nick and Nora Charles that were featured in the popular movies in the 1930’s & 1940’s; and the popular Austenesque writer Monica Fairview adds new mysteries and matchmaking mixup’s to Emma Woodhouse’s life as the newly married Mrs. Knightley in “Nothing Less Than Fairy-land.” Here are descriptions of the stories:
“Jane and the Gentleman Rogue,” by Stephanie Barron
Jane and the Gentleman Rogue finds the unsettled Miss Austen in the spring of 1806, living in temporary Bath lodgings following the death of her father. An invitation to a ball at the Dowager Duchess of Wilborough’s home in Laura Place throws her into the company of Lord Harold Trowbridge: confidant of the Government, Rake about Town, and spy. The unmasking of a French Adventuress and her traitorous paramour leads to an unexpected meeting at dawn–when only Jane’s wit stands between England and disaster.
“Faux Jane,” by F. J. Meier (Frank Delaney & Diane Meier)
A rich young American actress anxious to marry an English Lord buys a “signed first edition” of Pride and Prejudice as a gift to impress his rare book collecting mother – which, of course, is a fake. The actress’s friends are the story’s two protagonists – a fashionable New York photographer and her chic-restaurant owner husband – they’re Nicola and Charles Scott. The story mirrors many of the snob and society nuances excelled in by Jane Austen – on whom the restaurateur, Charlie (as his wife calls him: he’s “Charles” to everyone else) is encyclopedic. With the help of their butler-manservant, a former hood named Uncle Julius, Charles and Nicola crack the fraud.
“Nothing Less Than Fairy-land,” by Monica Fairview
In this gently humorous story inspired by Jane Austen’s novel Emma, the day has come for Mr. Knightley to move into Hartfield, but Mr. Woodhouse is still not reconciled to the marriage. Trouble looms on the horizon, unless Emma can quickly come up with a way to convince her papa to accept Mr. Knightley’s presence.
This is just a sampling of the diversity of stories in Jane Austen Made Me Do It. From historical to contemporary, romance to comedy, paranormal to mysteries, there is something new to sleuth out and discover in my new Austen-inspired anthology. I hope your readers will be tempted to give it a try.
Thank you Anna for graciously hosting me today at Diary of an Eccentric. It was indeed a pleasure.
Cheers, Laurel Ann
A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com 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.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966
Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Enter for a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by Sunday, November 6, 2011, stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. Winners to be drawn at random, notified by e-mail on November 7, and announced on Diary of an Eccentric shortly after. Shipment to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!
Thanks, Laurel Ann! I wish you much success with Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and I hope there’s another Austenesque anthology on the horizon!
**Please note that this giveaway is now closed**
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