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: Pick Your Emma

Last Friday Nancy talked about several of the hotties that play Mr. Knightley in various adaptations.  We all have our favorites (I’m torn between ALL OF THEM).


This week it’s all about Emma..who is the best at playing Jane’s most unlikeable heroine?


Gwyneth Paltrow:



Romola Garai:



Kate Beckinsale:



Joanna Sotomura in Emma Approved:




And for fun, Alicia Silverstone as Cher:



So who is the closest to your mental image of Emma?  Or maybe you have another actress in mind that you’d cast in your perfect version…let me know in the comments!

Friday Fun: Knightley Off!

This week, I found a Buzzfeed quiz asking, “Which Jane Austen Hero is Your Soul Mate?” Well, of course I took it, and as expected, I got Mr. Knightley. Yes, I love Mr. Darcy, but to be honest, he’s a bit high maintenance. Knightley is much more my speed.

So then the question is, which Knightley do I get?

I watched a handful of Emma Approved episodes last week, and hands down, Alex Knightley is my favorite part of the show. Just like the Knightley we know and love, he knows Emma and can predict some of her more unique behavior patterns. He obviously loves her too, which made me swoon a bit.

Jonny Lee Miller played Mr. Knightley in the 2009 BBC miniseries. Four hours of Mr. Knightley… yes please!

And finally, my choice–Jeremy Northam, who played Mr. Knightley opposite Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma. Why is he my favorite? Because of this scene. He really nails the delivery of the best line: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

Which version of Mr. Knightley is your favorite, and why? Have you enjoyed his interactions with Emma in the book so far? Don’t forget, we’ll be in the chat room on Sunday at 6 pm PST to discuss chapters 9-15.

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!

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).

Friday Fun: Maid Marian

“And now for something completely different…”

I love Jane Austen. I will always love Jane Austen. Writing Austenesque fiction gave my career a huge head start and let me quit my day job much sooner than I would have been able to otherwise.

However, right now I’m ready to do something different. A few years ago, through a long, drawn-out process, I got the idea to do a Robin Hood trilogy. Though my current outline looks nothing like the original idea, it is still based in the Robin Hood legend. Maid Marian is the main POV character, and I cannot wait to get started.

In fact, I’ll be starting on Tuesday! I haven’t actually written a book in 15 months, and I am so eager to jump into this. This will be my first “new” project (not related to something I’ve worked on before) since 2010.

This week, I asked a couple questions on my blog regarding names. If you could pop over there and help me out, I’d be ever so grateful. Tuesday, I asked for help naming places–should I keep Sherwood, Nottingham, etc even though the story is in a made up world? Yesterday, I pondered the Merry Men. I need a name for the group, but my tongue keeps tripping up over that one.

I’m not done with Austen by any means. There are currently three Austen-related projects rattling around in my brain that I’ll probably flesh out into full outlines over the next year. In the meantime, look forward to lots of posts from me on how this experience is similar or different from writing Austenesque fiction.