Books: austenland
  Dear Janeites,

Since I've written a novel inspired by Jane Austen, I think I should make a full confession.
  • I am not an Austen scholar or literary critic.
  • I am not a historian of the Regency period.
  • I am merely a lay-fan, a girl who loves to read Austen novels and watch the movie adaptations.
  • austenland is not an attempt to write a modern Austen novel (perish the thought—I would never presume) or to create an accurate account of what it would be like to be a Regency woman. I just wanted to tell one story about one woman and her obsession with a fictional man.
  • And I wanted to laugh.
  • I've only read the six main Austen novels, not her Juvenilia, fragments, or biographies.
  • My favorite novel is Persuasion, followed closely by Pride and Prejudice. I love Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Emma, though admit that I had a hard time with Sense and Sensibility and never went back to it.
  • I believe Austen is the pinnacle of the novelist. I believe she in some ways invented the modern novel and certainly perfected its structure, and was the first writer to understand and write brilliant characters and character arcs in prose. And for me, she doesn't age. Her stories are just as accessible today as they must have been in her own time.
  • At different times in my life, I read her books in different ways--romances, comedies, femminist commentaries, tragicomedies, satires. In college, I wrote an essay on why Pride and Prejudice is NOT a romance, but at other times in my life, I've disagreed with myself.
  • I believe categorizing her novels simply as "romances" is dismissive and untrue; nevertheless, it is precisely this aspect of her stories that I wanted to explore with this novel, particularly in how they are portrayed in movies.
  • I don't think of myself as an Austen purist. For example, I adored the 1999 movie of Mansfield Park even though it deviated from the book.
If any of this information bothers you, austenland may not be for you. I write books for my internal reader, so it's hard for me to guess who might like it and not like it. But I would guess that both Austen purists and Austen skeptics might not feel at home in my story. Be so warned.

And note, Jane Hayes (my main character) is not me! I do not share all her opinions and attitudes.

Yours truly,
Shannon Hale



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