The world has truly gone vampire crazy! Blame it on the Stephenie Meyer Twilight series which made hearts and flowers all over a genre which had traditionally been more bloody and less appealing to tweenage girls, and *ahem* ladies. Her aloof and pensive vegetarian vampire Edward Cullen may make hearts swoon by the thousands, but Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy has been doing the broody heartthrob thing long before Edward became an immortal, and he didn’t have to suck any blood to do it!
It was only a matter of time before the two genres collided and vampires invaded Jane Austen’s genteel world (or, had they always been there?). Besides fan fiction that has been around the net for years, the announcement last year of Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford is officially the beginning of the Austen vampire genre. As a bookseller and Austen enthusiast, all this genre-bending amuses me exceedingly. When Jane Austen Today reported on The Immortal Jane a new series of vampire-themed Austen inspired books in the queue, I was intrigued. Here we go, I said to myself! This latest paranormal offering is by Austen-esque author Janet Mullany. Her cheeky, sexy Rules of Gentility proved she could write about the Regency era with aplomb. It’s a good beginning. She has kindly joined us today to chat about not only The Immortal Jane series but a second Austen paranormal novella in the works!
I have a new two-book contract with HarperCollins, starring Jane Austen. May Chen, my editor on The Rules of Gentility, asked if I could come up with an idea for something paranormal about Austen. So I said “Duh,” which is my usual writerly reaction, and went off to England to visit my aged father and did some thinking.
I’d been thinking for some time about why historical romance authors consider Jane Austen the granny of us all, and it’s because she is a master of subtext. The only way she could express sexual tension, because of her time and place in history, was by inference and subtle clues. It seems now the explicitness of historical romance means we have to find our own subtexts. (I should put in a plug here, so to speak, for the workshop Pam Rosenthal and I give, Writing the Hot Historical, which we’re giving at RWA Nationals, where we talk about this sort of stuff, and I urge everyone not to use the term pebbled nub and to read Mansfield Park.) So, I discovered another subtext throughout Austen — vampires.
I admit this probably couldn’t have come about before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But I realized that there are characters in Austen’s novels who are clearly vampires –Willoughby, the Crawford’s and Wickham. They exploit and feed off others, they’re amoral and handsome and they wreak havoc. So obviously Austen knew about vampires as well as sex. In my world, vampires = the ton. I absolutely admit that I came up with the most outrageous idea I could and ran with it.
In The Immortal Jane (working title) she joins forces with vampires to battle the invading French while she’s in Bath to take the waters. It will come out in the summer of 2010, so I’ll be very busy. The second one is ink on the contract and a twinkle in my eye.
Also in 2010, October from Harlequin, I have another Austen exploration, a novella in an anthology tentatively titled Bespelling Jane, the brainchild of Susan Krinard, who persuaded Mary Balogh to make her paranormal debut as our headliner along with Colleen Gleason, author of the Gardella vampire hunters. We each took an Austen novel (Mary’s is Persuasion, Susan’s Pride & Prejudice, and Colleen chose Northanger Abbey); mine is Emma, my favorite Austen novel. It is a contemporary novella about a Washington DC dating agency catering to the paranormal population. Of course I was influenced by the Harry Potter books, where an alternate society of magicians exists side by side with the real Muggles world, so I have a witch on retainer to the White House, and all the lawyers are, of course, vampires. So are the cab drivers. Naiads and dryads populate the Tidal Basin and cherry trees. It was a lot of fun to write.
So, yes, I’m becoming known as that writer who does terrible things to poor dear Jane. My theory is that Austen is a big enough girl to survive whatever I or others do to her; in fact, I think she’d find the harrumphing that’s already begun online pretty funny.
Thanks for joining us Janet. I look forward to reading your paranormal adventures with Jane Austen in Bath, and your contemporary retelling of Emma in the new anthology. Janet has just revealed her beautiful new website Janet Mullany: Where Wit and Passion Meet designed by Haven Rich at Enchanted Web Style. It is certainly eye candy.
In celebration she is offering a contest with two prizes, antique prints from ca. 1818, which came from the Warwick Leadlay Gallery in Greenwich, London, specializing in maps and Nelson memorabilia. She tells me that the prints look far better in real life than they do as illustrated here, with exquisite detail and color. The contest ends August 1st so don’t delay. The immortal Jane is watching!
About the author: Janet Mullany was raised in England on a diet of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, and now lives near Washington, D.C. She’s worked as an archaeologist, classical music radio announcer, performing arts publicist, copyeditor, and bookseller. Her first book, Dedication, won the 2006 Golden Leaf for Best Regency, as well as other awards.
© 2009, Janet Mullaney & Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com