To Be Frank

Frank Churchill. In the pattern of casting a Jane Austen novel, Frank is “the rake/rogue” in Emma, joining the company of Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford, John Thorpe, and William Elliot. He isn’t the hero, he isn’t the hero’s best friend, so that’s the spot allotted to him.

And certainly, after the despicable Eltons he is the least admirable character in the book. He’s selfish and self-centered, and his lies form the basis for the mystery at the centre of the plot.

But the first time I read Emma, I had another one of those moments when the voices in my head started saying, “What if…” (Long time Indie Janeites will remember I got the idea for my first Austenesque novel while reading P&P–Darcy spoke up as I was reading and started giving me his point of view. I call him the Darcy in my Head.)

You see, there’s something else interesting about Frank: Jane Fairfax loves him. Jane Fairfax, who is never portrayed in anything less than a flattering light. (Except by Emma, who is–frankly–jealous.) She is good and wise, as well as being exceedingly talented in almost all the ladylike virtues.

So why would a wise young woman fall in love with a feckless young man who never seems to give thought to anyone’s comfort but his own? Now, the cynic might say that even the Janes among us make mistakes. However, if you follow the course of the story, Frank eventually repents of his selfish behavior and comes back around to realising his own failings.

The answer, to me, is that Jane saw something in Frank that he didn’t even see in himself. She saw a seed of goodness, something she could relate to. But what was it?

I’m planning a novella about Frank Churchill called To Be Frank. Hopefully I’ll figure out some of the answers in the course of writing his story.

Friday Fun: Austen Fantasy Teams

Baseball Spring Training is officially underway! I realize that most of the US is still covered in snow, but Spring Training is the first official sign of “it’s almost not winter!” and therefore should be celebrated.  It’s also the first official sign that I will be getting nothing done for the next eight months while I watch hours and hours of sports programming.

 

 

 

I originally posted this Austen Fantasy Teams post way back before the Great Indie Jane Crash of 2012 and I thought it would be fun to revisit.  Because…and this may come as a huge shock to you…I’m kind of a baseball fan and will try to tie basically everything in my life to the sport.  (You’re totally shocked right now, admit it.)

 

Did you know Jane Austen liked baseball too? Well, I can’t state with any accuracy that she “liked” it, but she was the first author to write about it. Ever. True story. In Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland (tomboy that she is) played “base-ball.” This is the first recorded reference to America’s Favorite Pastime…which leads many to argue that baseball is British, not American, in origin. GASP. And right at the center of this controversy? Jane!

 

So as we get ready to celebrate the start of baseball season, I thought it would be fun to follow in Jane’s footsteps and combine Austen and baseball. If you know anything about sports, or if you work in an office with anyone who knows anything about sports, you’ve probably heard about “Fantasy (fill in the sport).” Okay, maybe it’s just football and baseball – is there fantasy basketball? I haven’t heard of it. Definitely haven’t heard of fantasy soccer…but I digress.

 

In Fantasy Baseball you make a “fantasy team” and fill your positions with as many of the best players from the various actual teams as you can. Kind of like your own All Star Team. You, of course, have to fight with whoever else is in your fantasy league/pool for the best players. Everyone gets drafts or picks…kind of like picking who you’re going to have on your dodge ball team in recess. If your players do well that week in their real games, then your fantasy team benefits. There’s usually money involved with everyone putting in a certain amount in the office pool.

 

I haven’t participated in Fantasy Baseball because I’m really, really loyal and would just fill all of my slots with players from the team I root for in real life (the Angels…and also Mark Trumbo who is no longer with the Angels but like I said, loyal…). Also, I’m cheap and don’t like losing money. However, I thought it would be entertaining to do a fantasy team Jane Austen style. So today let’s have some fun with…

 

Fantasy Austen Teams

(pretend you’re hearing this in the movie voice over guy’s voice, it makes it more exciting)

 

In the comments tell me who you would put on your Fantasy Austen Team – if you were creating a brand new Austen novel and could pick characters from any of the books to get the best/funniest/most romantic/most ridiculous mix who would you pick?

 

You need to fill the following positions:

 

  1. Heroine
  2. Hero
  3. Best Supporting Girl Character
  4. Most Evil Character Male or Female
  5. Most Annoying Character Male or Female

 

Here, as an example, are my picks:

 

Jessica’s Fantasy Austen Team

 

  1. Elizabeth Bennet
  2. Frederick Wentworth
  3. Miss Taylor (Mrs. Weston)
  4. Isabella Thorpe
  5. Mr. Collins

 

Why did I pick these characters? I think it would be fun to see what different decisions Lizzy would have made if she had met with a Wentworth and not a Darcy (and he’s also super dashing, so yay). I also think Lizzy would have had way too much fun with – and lots of benefit from – a Miss Taylor. Who doesn’t want to see Isabella Thorpe meet someone like Lizzy who could take her down a few pegs? That would be FUN to watch. And lastly, Mr. Collins is so wonderfully ridiculous, I can’t help thinking Wentworth would have had more leeway than Darcy to react in hilarious ways.

 

So, give me your Fantasy Austen Team in the comments. Unlike Fantasy Baseball we can let characters get picked more than once (and there’s no cash involved) so have as much fun with your team creation as you want!

 

Play Ball!

Emma Group Read!

With Emma Approved, this has the potential to be the Year of Emma. (Never mind that Emma’s 200th birthday is still two years away.) What better way to celebrate the novel than by hosting a group read?

If you haven’t participated in one of our group reads before, they’re fairly straightforward. In a minute, I’ll post the schedule. On the dates listed, come to the chatroom prepared to discuss the chapters for the week. The group read always ends with a group watch of a film adaptation of the book.

As per usual, we’ll meet in the chat room at 6:00 pm PST on Sunday evenings, starting March 2. Chats usually last about an hour, depending on how much we find to discuss about the hero, fruit baskets, and cookies.

3/2: 1-8
3/9: 9-15
3/16: 16-23
3/23: 24-31
3/30: 32-39
4/6: 40-47
4/13: 48-55
4/20: No Book Group–Easter Sunday
4/27: Group watch

I tried to break it down into even sized pieces, while keeping important plot breaks in mind as well. SparkNotes has a great breakdown, if you want to know more about the characters before we get started.

If you don’t own Emma, it is available as a free ebook from Kindle and Barnes and Noble. You can also get the audiobook free from Ambling Books, or if you have the Kindle version and wish the audiobook to Whispersync, you can get it from Audible.

During the group read, we’ll be featuring Indie Jane authors who’ve written Emma adaptations. There will also be some Emma related Friday Fun posts, and who knows what else we might come up with?

 

Friday Fun: What Is the Worst?

I recently read a blog post that declared that Northanger Abbey was Austen’s “worst” novel.  Thankfully, they did put “worst” in quotes.  They also provided very little supporting information (it basically came down to pacing and character growth) and neglected to mention any of the things that make NA a great read (in my humble opinion).

Of course the writer did end by saying you should still read it just because…

 

My immediate response was, “You know, when I think ‘worst Austen novel’ Northanger Abbey is not at all what comes to mind.”  In fact, I bet you can all guess what does come to mind.  Both Nancy and I have been…vocal…about our dislike of Mansfield Park.  There have been blog rants and Instagram posts and one of us even gave it two stars on Goodreads (holy crap, that’s almost like declaring war).

 

 

Here’s the real truth: It all comes down to preference.  Maybe someone who thinks that Northanger Abbey is juvenile crap would find Mansfield Park to be a subtle, nuanced look at human frailty.  Maybe there are those who cannot stand Anne & Wentworth (gasp, how? what? who? Rebecca, I’m looking at YOU) but aren’t at all annoyed by Marianne’s dramatics.  It’s all about personal preference and as readers we are ENTITLED to it – no real explanation, no defensiveness, or feeling like we need to explain ourselves.

 

So, as a reader only (please leave your scholar or writer hats at the door if you have them), what is your least favorite Austen novel? Which is the absolute worst?  This is a judgement free zone, I promise…(unless you try to tell me that Edmund Bertram is God’s gift, then I will smack you upside the head, but then we can hug it out and I’ll tell you it’s okay that you believe such nonsense).

It’s All About Collaboration

The internet is awesome. With it you can meet people that you may have never met due to distance…and sometimes you meet people you’re surprised you never managed to meet in real life.  Such is the case with me and my good friend Melissa Buell.  We have lived right near each other (like within 15 minutes) for most of our adult lives, are close in age, have similar interests, and are both writers.  And yet we didn’t meet on Twitter until I’d moved 1,100 miles away from Southern California.

 

 

We’ve become great friends and have actually met in real life…and now we are collaborating together!  I’m excited to announce that I’ve teamed up with Melissa to write a modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation this year.

 

 

The retelling is as of yet untitled (we call it P&P 2.0 for fun) but you can follow along with us on our pinterest inspiration board as we bring the Bennet clan to life in modern day Orange County, CA.

 

Have you ever co-written a book? Do you have any tips for us?

Brides of Pemberley Marketing Experiments

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for my professional life is to be more proactive about marketing. With a few notable exceptions, I’ve been rather lackadaisical in this, but that can’t continue. Since part of the mission of Indie Jane is to provide resources to other indie authors, I’ll be sharing my efforts throughout the year.

I launched stage one on Monday, when I published the box set of the Brides of Pemberley. Why is this a marketing effort? For two reasons: First, the additional title adds to my virtual shelf space which in turn makes me more visible and findable online. Second, this gives me my first chance in almost two years to enroll a title in KDP Select.

I’m also playing with the price. Right now, the box set containing all three of my novels is available for $4.50, which is little more than the cost of one of the ebooks by itself. On some levels, this might sound insane–I’m essentially giving away two books for free. However, I’ve sold more copies of His Good Opinion than I have of Loving Miss Darcy and Against His Will put together, and that doesn’t even take into account the free copies I gave away.

As an author, my primary goal is for people to read my books. As someone who makes a living from it, I want to be paid… but mostly, I want people to read the books and enjoy them. All those people who’ve only read the first book might be tempted by a volume that contains both sequels if the price is right. That’s the thought anyway; it remains to be seen if I am correct.

Stay tuned for next month’s marketing update, when I explain my foray into KDP Select.

Guest Post: ‘Tis the Season – For Selfless Acts!

“I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle.” (P&P, Volume III, Chapter 16)

So says Fitzwilliam Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet near the end of Pride and Prejudice, after they have become engaged.  Personally, I think it is another instance of him taking a bit too much on himself – he has a tendency to accept blame and self-guilt easily – but that’s another discussion for another time.  Certainly his remark serves well to illustrate the changes in his behaviour that his relationship with Lizzy brought.

The word “selfish” is used hundreds of times by Jane Austen in all her novels.  “Unselfish” by comparison, was found only once (in Emma) and that to suggest that Emma was wrong in having believed Frank Churchill to be unselfish, after she heard he had travelled all the way to London just to get a haircut.  The word “selfless” does not appear at all in her novels; understandable as per my etymology dictionary, it did not come into use until eight years after Jane Austen died, about 1825.

But Jane Austen understood well the concept of selflessness – “having, exhibiting, or motivated by no concern for oneself; disregarding your own advantages and welfare over those of others” – and she endowed her characters with varying degrees of the trait often.   Consider Elizabeth Bennet walking three miles to Netherfield to visit her sister Jane who had taken ill – Mr Knightley dancing with Harriet Smith after Mr Elton snubs and humiliates her, or sending his carriage to bring the Bates ladies to the dance, and supplying them with “all [his] store of apples” – Captain Wentworth, still somewhat resentful of his history with Ann Elliot and yet insisting she ride home in his sister’s carriage when he notes how tired she is – Mrs Allen sponsoring Catherine Moreland for a season in Bath – Colonel Brandon offering a living to Edward Ferrars – Edmund Bertram’s kindness to Fanny Price when she first comes to live at Mansfield Park.

Sometimes, the inconvenience is slight, costing nothing more than a moment of time; at other times true sacrifice may be called for.  Often, the performer of a selfless act also gains rewards, whether it be an intangible – a sense of pride or accomplishment – or a monetary gain or some other benefit.  But this needn’t lessen the value of the act when the motive for it is the welfare of others over your own, even if you also profit to a degree.  Large or small, these acts humanize and draw us to Jane Austen’s characters.

Perhaps the most overt example of a selfless act is that taken on by Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.  When Lydia Bennet runs off with Wickham, the reputation of all the Bennets is risked, any prospects for the remaining daughters dashed as well.  Darcy’s intervention does nothing less than save the entire family from ruin.  It is true that his role comes to light (and he certainly “profits” from it in the eyes of Elizabeth) but not through his own agency – or wishes!   One might argue that guilt spurred his involvement.  But I believe his motivation was his love of Lizzy, with no expectation of gain and in the process of which he sacrifices significant sums of money and, more notably, swallows his pride to negotiate once again with a man he has every reason to despise.

This is a time of year when we see all sorts of stories about people performing selfless acts.   The news media have been running a story about a gentleman who randomly goes to Wal-Mart stores and approaches total strangers to give them a hundred dollar bill to help make their Christmas a little happier by easing the financial strain the season can bring.  Another story (also at Wal-Mart… hmmm, I see a trend here) spoke of a woman who went to make a payment against some lay-away items for her children only to find that an anonymous benefactor had paid off the entire account!  There’s a television commercial that shows a couple decorating an apartment for the holidays, only to slip back into their own in the nick of time as the resident, an elderly widow, opens her door in wonder to find her home transformed.   Lifetime and Hallmark channels nightly air films of a generosity of spirit – selfless acts – opening people’s hearts during Christmas-tide.

It’s easy to see why the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving in considering all we have to be grateful for, and continuing through Christmas, lends itself to highlighting selfless acts.   But I certainly don’t believe that selflessness is only alive and well around this time of year; rather, that the season makes media outlets more likely to seek out and feature instances.   At any given time, you can find examples in a neighbor who shovels the snow from your driveway while you’re at work; a school child who shares his or her lunch with a new kid whom no one else will sit with; a truck driver who stops on the road to help you fix a flat tire; myriad things both large and small that people do for others with little or no regard either for what they get from it or how it might inconvenience them.

Authors have for generations built plots, or resolved them, around selfless acts.  Perhaps the most famous example of this at Christmas time is “The Gift of the Magi,” a short story written by O. Henry (aka William Sidney Porter) in 1905.  Much less subtle than Austen’s employment of selflessness, this tale of a young married couple, each of whom sacrifices a most prized possession  to buy a Christmas gift for the other, has sparked a great deal of discussion over the years as to how wise the spouses were in their choices.  Della sells her remarkably long and lovely hair to purchase a watch fob for Jim.  He in return has sold his watch to purchase some hair combs for Della.  Each ends up with a gift of little use to either.  But as an illustration of the lengths each would go to demonstrate their love, this story has spawned films, songs, lesson plans, even an off-Broadway musical.

One of the many storylines I included in the plot of my current two-volume novel,  A Fitzwilliam Legacy – the primary one, in fact, for much of the first volume – revolves around a possible romance for Colonel Fitzwilliam.  This narrative begins off-stage with a selfless act on his part: his inclusion, through Lizzy Darcy’s office, of a young widow at a Pemberley house party to save her being alone at Christmas-tide.  Naturally, the course of romance cannot run smooth in an Austen-based Regency novel, and this one is no exception, when a series of selfless acts on the part of both the good colonel and the widow, perhaps (like Jim and Della) also not wisely employed, threaten the possibility of real understanding between them.

   “You must [tell him]!  Fitzwilliam must know why your interest changed so abruptly.  If you are deceitful in this, then you are little better than Lady Catherine.”
      Amelia drew back at this as thought she had been slapped.  “How so?”
     “By depriving him of a choice that is his to make.”  Lizzy softened her tone then.  “Richard deserves to make his own decision, freely, and without the influence of others whether it be in their own interests or in a misguided tenderness for his.  If you reject him from lack of feeling, it is at least an honest result.  But do not do so from misguided love and make both wretched in the end.”  (Volume I:  Seasonal Disorder, Chapter 26)

Will Lizzy’s advice, in itself a selfless act of kindness, move Amelia to speak openly to the colonel and prevent unnecessary sacrifices on both their parts?  Volume II (New Year Resolutions) has that answer (and more!)   To find out, my Christmas-tide novel, A Fitzwilliam Legacy, is available in paperback or ebook  through Amazon, as well as at Barnes and Noble.com and Smashwords.

And with that shameless – and most distinctly UN-selfless – plug, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, mindful of myriad selfless acts being performed for and around us every day to carry us into a banner new year!

*****

Tess Quinn admired Jane Austen quietly since being introduced to the novel Pride and Prejudice at the age of thirteen.  Her admiration took a more public turn in recent years, reignited by the wide resurgence of interest in everything Austen generated by films and social media.  Inspired to try her hand at writing Austen-based fiction, she posted on a website with intimate readership and drew sufficient encouragement (and courage) to come out ‘officially’ as an Austen-based author.  You can find Tess online on her website and on Facebook.