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June 23, 2007



ooo first post!


Okay, now that I got that out.. whew! Anyways, I was actually just watching Pride and Prejudice last night and admiring how prominent Keira's collarbones are (actually it kind of grossed me out). But needless to say, I think there are much better things to do than criticize a famous writer on her appearances especially when the standard of beauty was much different back then. I agree with you Shannon, (again) on almost everything you commented about. Readers and writers, I think, tend to admire beauty in a different sort of way. We appreciate it, and cherish it, even if we do not overly possess it.

P.S. Last night I had dream (not kidding) that I met Shannon at a bookstore in NYC. Nothing special happened except I told her that PA was my fav book!!! Kinda creepy, maybe... but totally cool?? You bet!


I think everyone is unavoidably attracted to pretty-ness for movies and things like that, and expect people they admire to be... attractive - but would perhaps be disappointed that someone they thought they could relate to (Austen) was not "normal" looking like them. You know, not ugly, but ordinary.


That's absolutely right. I don't even know what that woman is talking about because Elizabeth wasn't even supposed to look like Keira Knightly in the first place.

Jim Di Bartolo

Laini and I woke to the beginning of the interview and really enjoyed it! What a treat to be featured on such a huge venue! I then went to your site this morning and read over some of your bio/info and was happy to see that you and your husband work together (on some graphic novel properties that we'll be seeing soon, no?). Laini and I are lucky enough to work together too from time to time and we love it -- so nice to know other creative couples can make it work too! :) Are you pitching to/working with Minx? I also saw that you're an Astro City and Invincible fan! Great stuff! Have you ever read Cages, early Hellboy stories, Gotham Central, or Kingdom Come? Some of my (many) faves :) A book I've worked on in fill-in capacity (by choice as I don't want to just do comics) just came out a few days ago from Dark Horse. Anyhow, I'll keep an eye out for your collaborative work with your husband and I hope the NPR interview blows your book to the top of the charts! :)

All best (and thanks for the kind words about Laini's book!!!) and many wishes for continued success,
Jim Di Bartolo


Jane Austen didn't need to be pretty or ugly. she looks like a normal person. Even if she was the most ugly woman in the world, who would care? Her writing would make up for it. she looks a lot better in that then I look like when I'M writing. she looks... real!


What a beautiful post. Thank you.


Personally, I think she *does* look pretty in that sketch her sister did. Sometimes, we don't need to have 40 lbs of makeup (not that that was an option for her anyway) or ginormous high-lighted, fake looking hair, or weigh a mere 100 lbs, like some famous people today. "...also intensely human" is a perfect way to describe how she looks.
P.S. Off to check out that NPR thingy... So cool!


Keira and her collarbones (I second Marie's take) would not be remotely interesting to us, pretty or not, if she were not inhabiting the skin of Jane's magnificent character, Elizabeth.


what a remarkable post. why do people have to be beautiful anyway? why must we think of them and judge them by their appearance when we have the wonderful opportunity to judge them by who they are?

everyone is beautiful or can be beautiful if they let themselves. and I am glad that Jane Austen wasn't this gorgeous girl--I like her better just a regular girl who wrote good books.


I transcribed the interview for those of you who aren't able to listen to it!
Flirting with fiction and fantasy in Austenland.
NPR: June 23, 2007.

Interviewer (Linda): We have a new edition to the five foot shelf of books inspired by Jane Austen, the English novelist. More than 100 years ago, Ms. Austen wrote Pride and Predudice, a novel which combined social commentary with every young woman's dream of romance to devestating efffect. Millions of women of every age, read and reread the books partly because of the love story between Ms. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and partly because of the very funny situations and characters around them. Shannon Hale has written a frothy [think rootbeer, everyone] about those readers, especially the women who are reading for romance, concentrating on the dark and stormy character of Mr. Darcy. Ms. Hale joins us from Salt Lake City from NPR station KCBW. Welcome!
Shannon: Thank you so much, Linda.
Linda: Now, what you've done in this book, which is what makes it a funny book, is that you created an Austen theme-park for all those obsessed ladies who never quite met their Mr. Darcy.
Shannon: Yes.
Linda: Now where did that idea come from?
Shannon: Well, when I first became somewhat obsessed with Mr. Darcy, I just started thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice to go somewhere where you could put on the outfits and live in that environment and just see what it was- would've really been like?" And, uh, that was about, oh, 10 years ago, when I first began to contemplate that I didn't; it took that long for me to develop a story out of it...
Linda: So, it's sort of a Disneyland for Darcy-philes?
Shannon: Oh, yes! If only there were such a place!
(Laughs) Linda: Well, no, in Austenland, you, as you describe it, everyone has to take a quick lesson in the matters and history of Regency England. They dress in the Empire styles; they dance the figures that we see in all of the Jane Austen movies. It's a very expensive theme-park for the obsessed, but do you think there really are people like that out there? People who would pay the big bucks to, uh, to have that kind of fun?
Shannon: Oh, absolutely. I've had so many requests from already people, saying, "Do you know of such a place? Is it real? Can I go there?" It's interesting because the Regency period was such a short period, relitively, but, uh, we're so interested in it just because of Jane Austen. And it's not so much that we want to wear those really uncomfortable corsets, and rather hideous Empire-waist gowns, but, we want to be in the place where Jane Austen's novels took place.
Linda (giggling): You decicated the book to Colin Firth, who played Mr. Darcy in the most recent but one movie version of Pride and Predudice-
Shannon: Right.
Linda: -the most recent being the one with Keira Knightly. Um, why'd you dedicate it to Colin Firth?
Shannon: It's really Colin Firth that this is all about, because, Jane Austen's books are fabulous, I mean, I really think, probably, Pride and Predudice is the greatest novel ever written. But, what changed was when that BBC version came out, that movie came out starring Colin Firth. And, by taking away the narrator, and just having the story, it became this most lucious romance, and Colin Firth became Mr. Darcy, and-he- he's embodied the romantic desire of so many women over the last decade. I've received, um, scads of emails, since this book came out just a couple weeks ago, saying that they'd been shocked when they read my book because they thought they were the only one in the world who watched and re-watched again and again those, that BBC miniseries version, and fantasized about-
Linda: Just, just-
Shannon: and fantasized about Mr. Darcy.
Linda- In fact, just, uh, your character in the book watches and rewatches that one little section where Elizabeth is visiting her friend, and, uh, he comes to the house and makes his declaration, and she basically says, "Say what? What are you talking [about]?"
Shannon: Yes, (giggling) there are those parts the true fans of that movie know exactly where those- the best parts are. They will rewatch them, again and again, Colin Firth coming out of the lake, Colin Firth looking over the piano-
Linda- in a wet shirt.
Shannon: -yes, in a wet shirt, yes. (laughs) That sealed his fame.
Linda: (laughs) so, did you have an quams about, uh, undertaking, uh, even, even in a sort of satirical way, uh, taking Jane Austen on?
Shannon: Uh, do you know, I didn't even think about it until I was almost done, uh, with the book. I really just had this idea, this, character, the story I wanted to tell, and, I just thought, "Oh, other people have experienced this odd obsession with Mr. Darcy and I want to explore that and tell a story that might make us laugh at how absurd that is. And then, when I was, when it was nearly up, people started pointing me to these fan websites, which I had never attended before> I realized, the amount of worshipfullness that people had for Jane Austen, and I thought, "Oh, they're going to hate me. They're going to hate me: this is sacred ground!" And, uh, it is interesting to see the reactions I get, and some people, some people just, you should not touch, and should exhist in a separate sphere. And other people, who've experienced the same kind of infatuation as I have, with Mr. Darcy and these movies, are happy to be able to step back and laugh at it. But there's been, really, two extreme reactions.
Linda: Shannon Hale, thank you so much for speaking to us. You should picture me making a tiny little curtsy. Um, the book is called Austenland. Thank you.
Shannon: Thank you so much, Linda.
Linda: You can read an exerpt about the stately, make-believe elegance the Jane Austen themed resort at our website, npr.org/books.


darn it I just wrote a really long post and then something happened and it dissapeared. *Deep breath* here goes.


This is the perfect timing. My mother and I are reading all of Jane's books. So far we have read Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Emma. We just started Persuasion. After that, for the seldom heard of books like Love and Freindship and The Watsons. I love every one I have read, especially Emma. You can't help but love that girl. While its fun to watch the movies, no movie could ever really capture her writing.Hands down. No onscreen Miss Bates could ever be as hilarious, no Fanny Dashwood as infuriating. Not to mention all of her clever observations. The people who say her books are dry or outdated or boring don't know what they are talking about. And I don't think that they are only beneficial to girls either. How are women supposed to find their Mr. Darcy if men don't read them and find how to be Mr. Darcy? Hmmm?

Has anyone seen the movie Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway? I'll probably watch it when it comes out on DVD, but I must say that I am surprised that they chose Anne Hathaway to play Jane Austen. I mean, come on.


I just found out today that my cousin and her family got to go to Shannon's Barnes and Noble book signing in Orem!

*sigh* Someday, I shall attend a Shannon book signing. Someday.

Anyway, I agree with you, Calliope1of9. I think Jane Austen looks pretty in her sister's sketch. I love the curls!


What's wrong with Anne Hathaway? I think she'll do a fine job, but that's the point. Fine, but not exceptional.

I think Austen looks pretty in the sketch, also.


I agree. I thought Austen looked pretty in that sketch. Maybe not beautiful, but pretty, and it doesn't matter anyway since Austen had talent. And that's the important thing. ;)

And besides, Jane was proposed to. She just chose not to accept.


Great interview, Shannon. We were all so thrilled when Felicity posted the link. ((thanks felicity!)) And great post, too.

Kelly Fineman

I agree with your points, but there's one that you missed, which has come up repeatedly in my research for a biography of Jane Austen that I'm writing -- Jane was universally described as pretty. Very pretty, in fact. And the family seemed to feel that Cassandra's sketch didn't actually do her justice, which is why it was initially suppressed (to the point that the Austens denied having any sketches at all).

Enna Isilee

Amen sista! Amen! Boy Shannon do you know exactly what to say or what? Jane may not have been a beauty but... wait. There's really nothing more for me to say! You said it all!

Oh and thanks for the wonderful time at B&N. It was so fabulous to see you again and talk with all my LittleRedhead friends.

Have fun in Austenland "Miss Sassitude!"


For the life of me, I can't remember where, but I know I read a quote from one of Jane Austen's acquaintances that described her as very pretty. Not that it matters! All I care about is how wonderful every single one of her books is.

It bothers me that people can be so petty as to think that her looks matter!

I've always held the secret belief that the one reason Jane Austen didn't marry (and she had her chances) was because she could never find anyone to live up to Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Edmond Bertram, Henry Tilney, Mr. Knightley, or Edward Ferrars.

Faith #2

no one can live up to Edward OR Fitzwilliam.
I choose to be on first-name terms with them. ;)


yeah, I just saw a thing about "Becoming Jane" with Anne Hathaway. I like Anne (cool name) but I don't know how she will be as Jane Austen. I can't wait to see it, though! We'll have to wait and see.


Enna Isilee--You went to the Orem signing? How was it?


My friend's already seen Becoming Jane, and she liked it. ((it already came out in australia.)) She said Anne Hathaway did a really good job as Jane Austen.

Enna Isilee

The Orem signing was FANTASTIC! It was a absolute delight to hear Shannon speak again. Each time she speaks it's something new (Which is why I keep coming, it's just so fun!). And then I was able to stand in the line with some of Shannon's fans (Which was SO fun).

Except a note to all of you, DON'T BRING YOUR MOTHER.


So are you going to the one in Provo as well? And why should we not bring our mother?


Did you ever find out what was said, Enna Isilee? ;)


I was kind of unsure about Anne Hathaway as Jane, too...so it was good? Anne Hathaway didn't seem to me like she'd do a good job. There's just something about her. Not bad, but...Jane Austen???

Enna Isilee

Q- I was planning on being at the one in Provo. (Though I'm afraid Shannon may think me a stalker now ;) ) Why? Are you going? That would be fab!

Anilee- No *sigh* I did not ever find out what was said. But Shannon will tell me. Won't you Shannon? Won't you please?!


I personally think Anne Hathaway will do a fine job as Jane Austen. And that is the point as Felicity pointed out. Fine but not exceptional. I think Anne, who always really seems to live the character in a movie, will do so.

In that sketch by Jane Austen's sister I think Jane looks all right. She looks like a normal person in these days and a beauty in her days over a hundred years ago. Beauty changes meaning over the years and, therefore, Jane Austen is not considered beautiful by those who don't know and understand that.

By the way Enna Isilee why can't we bring our mums to a signing?

Enna Isilee

Well in my case, my mother (ah! Mother!) Leaned over and began whispering in Shannon's ear, much to my protests of "Mother? Mother? Get away from her Mother!"



This may go down in history as one of my favorite Shannon-blogs ever.
I don't have a whole lot else to add here but thank you, Shannon.


That's awful! Unless she was saying something along the lines of "My daughter is awesome and deserves chocolate!" or something.


I would very much like to agree with you. But don't you think that's a lot of speculation? It seems that you may be speculating about miss Austen and her demeanor as bad as the people who made you want to write this blog. and the only evidence they have for their speculation is that she didn't get married. hey when was the rule made that if you are pretty you definitely will marry. Even in Austen's time, was that true? who knows, and whoops it looks like i may have been doing a little speculation myself.


Humph. Physical appearance isn't important. Not nearly as much as ideas or intelligence. Don't know what the kerfuffle is about. Besides, why would a man want to be like Mr. Darcy too much? He acts horrible to Elizabeth and in the end it turns out he has another girlfriend. Rotter. Appreciate males (or females) for who they are, not how well they compare to literary characters.


While I agree with the general sentiment on Jane Austen's lack of stunning good looks (besides, with a wit that stunning, who needs beauty?), I just want to point out that Jane Austen's family thought Cassandra's sketch to be a rather bad representation of her.


Charles Dickens would not be considered attractive in contemporary circles, but I have yet to see anyone improving his pictures. At the risk of sounding overzealously feminist I will state that the only reason anyone gives in the slightest for Jane Austen's looks is that she is a successful woman and thus is expected to be beautiful.


I think Keira Knightley and Anne Hathaway shouldn't be criticized. They did well in their roles; they're only human. You can't expect them to become totally who you want them. Make up can only do so much.

I was pleased with Knightley's performance as Jane. It fit my image of her. But the one who played Darcy did very well, I think. I liked him better than Colin Firth or Laurence Olivier. (Yes, I am prepared for the rebuttal of those who disagree.) He seemed the epitome of proud, silent Mr. Darcy.

I don't think we can even say that Knightley has that diet, Shannon. Sorry to disagree. But I feel bad judging celebrities who are subjected to slander and flat out lies by the media. Half of the things you hear about them are just rumors! No reason to judge them on anything but their acting skills, unless you know them personally.

Anyone who thinks Jane Austen was ugly is just judgemental. No one alive knows how she really looked. And I doubt her looks affected her spinsterhood that much. I think it was probably her attitude.

I can't imagine her wanting to marry anyone but a perfect match. Maybe she never found him. Maybe he was already married. Maybe he died of a rare case of the black plague returned. That's the fun of not knowing, you can make up your own end!


^ Personally, I think Austen just never found her Mr. Darcy.


Not everyone has or wants a Mr. Darcy! Not everyone wants that kind of person. If by Mr. Darcy you mean perfect match, then yes, sure maybe she never found him. But if by Mr. Darcy you mean the real Mr. Darcy, than maybe she didn't want a silent, proud, and frankly cold man. Maybe she was more one for the athletic type. Or Italian dandies. We don't know.

I personally think she might not have found someone who agreed with her and her writing. And if she did, maybe there were class issues they couldn't get past. (Ah ha! The truth behind Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage. It was therapy for her own lack of such a marriage with her rich lover.)
I'm just speculating (and having a fantastic time doing so).

But, whether she was drop-dead gorgeous or mirror-shattering ugly, she didn't marry for her own secret reasons. Unless someone finds her very detailed and in-depth diary, we'll never know. I don't think it's fair for ANYONE to say she was ugly or pretty. It doesn't matter. I agree that I love her for her writing, her humor, and her general voice. And not for her martial status or looks.

Callie the Strongbad Fan

Wow, you said those words so well, Shannon. Congrats for being on NPR!

Ruby Diamond

Fabulous observation, Shannon! i didn't recognize the distinction until you said it -- but you're right, Jane Austen is our friend and not our love interest. And that's why we love her! Looking forward to the Provo signing.


Burning- I meant it figuratively, that she just might not have found the *right* person.

Janette Rallison

Which of us, wearing no make up and with our hair up like that, would look like a beauty anyway? I don't recall actually seeing anyone from that era that I consider a real looker--and besides, standards of beauty change over the ages.

I'm still waiting for chubby to be in again so I can live on bacon and Almond Joys.

Anyway, I stopped by to say that I notice both Austenland and How To Take The Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend in BookDivas--and was it there that I saw your interview, or somewhere else? Anyway, very cool.

Enna Isilee

Hey Janette! That's so cool that both HTTtEOoE-b and AL are in BookDivas. Can't wait to get my hands on your latest! Super schweet.

Isn't it just so cool how authors post on other authors blogs?

Enna Isilee

Oh, and Janette, I think EVERYONE is waiting for chubby to get in again. Except those really annoying people with bullet-train metabolisms.


The new Newsweek includes an article by David Gates on Jane Austen and her recent popularity - and Austenland and Shannon Hale are featured in the first paragraph!

While the article's tone is mostly academic, the last sentences show that the author may really, like Shannon, see Jane as a friend. "If admirers of...whatever exemplar of High Seriousness or harsh edginess or meta-coolness you want to name, pass up Austen because of the prevalent notion that she's a literary fashion accessory who can be cozied up to as "Jane"...well, what? The sky won't fall, the books will survive, but the culture will ratchet down another notch, and the best readers will never know what they're missing."


What a lovely post--it actually brought tears to my eyes. Friends the caliber of Jane are priceless.


Keira Knightley actually played Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen's character, not Jane herself. Just felt I needed to point that out. Now that my stickler self has been appeased, about Anne Hathaway: I just don't like her in general, for some reason. She seems to me to be kind of annoying onscreen. And I just can't see why the chose her to play Jane Austen. I mean, she's an American and the role is the farthest thing from what she's done in the past. Not that that's any reason to doubt her; I respect people whose abilities have a diverse range. But still, I just don't like her that much. Just a personal thing.


I know what you mean, but I try hard not to dislike people for no reason. But sometimes you just dislike a person for no reason. Like seeing them annoys you, ya know?


I don't get it. How can you dislike a person for no reason? That's kinda dangerous.

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