Q & A with Jane Austen Made Me Do It Authors: Question 3 & Giveaway!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (2011)Continuing the JAMMDI author interview that started on August 3rd, we move on to the 24 contributors revealing insights into the stories they wrote for the anthology…

3.) Share with us the inspiration for your story. How did you decide on the theme, setting and characters? Which elements of Jane Austen’s style, humor or characterizations influenced you the most?  

  • Knowing that reform of one’s natural tendencies is difficult, I decided to explore a situation in which Darcy’s character might be tested again but from an oblique angle he would not recognize. The short story format also dictated using characters already known. – Pamela Aidan
  • My inspiration for the story all started from the thought that so many women have identified with Jane Austen and her works.  But even as I enjoyed discussing my favorite characters with like-minded female friends, I couldn’t help but wonder if Austen’s reach extended in any significant way, towards the males.  And if so, how would they be affected?  I decided to explore one man’s point of view in my story.  And this is where it started.  And from there, the ideas started to snowball.  Perhaps my most favorite piece of Jane Austen’s work is Frederick Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot—and it is a significant portion of prose that exposes us to the mindset of a man, as interpreted by the authoress.  I wanted a contemporary man’s point of view so I knew my story would take place in the here and now.  I wanted a man who, like Wentworth, was poised on the verge of starting a new and successful life for himself, yet who was haunted by the past.  From there, the events seemed to flow.  My biggest challenge was point of view, simply because I chose to express Mark’s thoughts from the first person and, being a woman, it was a challenge to make his voice believably male.  I tried some unconventional ways to channel my own “inner male” in order to make it sound authentic.  It also helps that I have read and loved many great contemporary male authors who write from first person point of view, such as Pat Conroy and Wally Lamb. – Brenna Aubrey
  • Since 1995, I’ve published a series of novels featuring Jane Austen as detective.  One of the most beloved characters in the books is Lord Harold Trowbridge, who meets a tragic fate in book number six.  I’ve missed him enough—and know that readers have, too—that I relished the chance to offer up an earlier episode in his friendship with Jane.  I chose Bath in 1805 because the episode fell neatly between two books in the series set around that time; and Bath is such a classic Regency setting.  When I write these stories, I’m most inspired by the acerbic quality of Jane’s writing in her letters to her sister, Cassandra—that’s the true first-person voice I’m imitating in the books.  She could be flippant, scathing and wildly funny, particularly in her observations of people she found absurd.  That’s the tone I strive to reach. – Stephanie Barron
  • A daring young naval officer earns promotion to post-captain for heroic leadership while commanding a sloop in enemy waters during the Napoleonic Wars . . . Does that sound familiar?  While researching the Royal Navy for my sixth Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), I happened upon a summary of a March 1800 battle in which Jane’s brother Francis (Frank) Austen was involved. The brief description intrigued me enough that after I finished writing the novel, I researched Frank’s encounter further, and soon realized that it was no ordinary battle—it was a tale of heroism that not only launched Frank’s naval career, but surely inspired Jane’s creation of Captain Wentworth.  Commanding only a sloop, Frank single-handedly captured five French ships in as many hours, with no injuries to his crew or damage to his own vessel. That achievement alone was enough to spark my imagination, but as I read Frank’s logbook, his report to the Admiralty, the lieutenant’s and master’s logs, and other primary sources, the details brought the story to life. The handwritten accounts, penned as events were happening, put me right in the middle of the action with Frank and his crew.  Frank’s story is a tale that truly captures the spirit of the Age of Sail. It is a story I had to tell—and so did his sister. If 200-year-old documents inspired me, imagine what it must have been like for Jane to hear her beloved brother relate his adventure in person, as Anne Elliot listens to Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. “The Chase” dramatizes that adventure. – Carrie Bebris
  • The story came to me, so there wasn’t any planning, but I think the root inspiration was that I see Jane Austen as a romantic in the deepest sense of the word. It’s been clear to me for a long time that she wrote Pride and Prejudice from the passion and pain of her relationship with Tom Lefroy. She found closure, to use that modern term, by creating another clever young lady of little fortune but giving her the triumphant ending she could never have. Therefore I feel sure that she enjoyed seeing other people’s relationships come to a happy conclusion, and would assist when she could. – Jo Beverley
  • It was my mad love for cats that made me think of the title. I originally wanted to do “Jane Austen’s Cat” showing her life from the cat’s viewpoint, as Virginia Woolf wrote Flush about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but there was a catch:  Jane Austen didn’t have a cat.  So, imagination had to enter in. – Diana Birchall
  • Our (husband Frank Delaney) story’s inspiration came from a flourish of intelligence and knowledge as displayed by our own Austen heroine: Laurel Ann Nattress, our editor. Last year an “inscribed” Austen came onto the auction block in London. Was this signed by Austen herself? Or her fast-thinking publishers? Laurel Ann helped to set the record straight. She identified the volume, the friend to whom it had been inscribed, and pointed up the difference in the inscription from Austen’s own hand.  Frank and I had been looking for a project to work on together and had settled on a pair of un-intended, if not unwilling, sleuths. We wanted to create an entertaining couple who embodied the idea and detail of contemporary glamour, style, wit and world-view – something about which we’ve felt the lack in modern and culture – sort of Jane Austen meets Graydon Carter. We looked at Nick and Nora Charles in the books and movies of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, and asked what kind of crimes might their modern successors solve? Laurel Ann’s depth of knowledge, reiterating the point that there is no autographed copy of a Jane Austen volume, became our starting point. If a major auction house couldn’t tell this without research, then what might your average, garden variety movie star know about such things?  And wouldn’t a con man find an easy, fair-game audience in such a mark? – Diane Meier
  • I love writing mysteries, and although I’ve not written any since I came to live in the U.S. (too busy with my Irish novels), I’ve been longing to get back to them. “Faux Jane” became a perfect toe in the water, and chimed with some ideas among the extensive notes that I had already made for some U.S. based thrillers. – Frank Delaney
  • The new production of Emma with Romola Garai had just come out, and I really enjoyed it. I thought it brought out some of the psychological dimensions of the characters very well indeed. It brought home to me in particular what a sacrifice Mr. Knightley is making for his new wife Emma by moving to Hartfield. It’s a very curious thing, really. Mr. Knightley seems such a stodgy person, you wouldn’t think he’d be willing to give up the comfort of his own home to accommodate the woman he loves, yet there it was. You could say he was simply being practical, but it wasn’t, not at all. He could have always insisted that Mr. Woodhouse should come to live at Donwell Abbey. Even for a modern man it would be quite a step to take, let alone someone in that time period. I wanted to look at this issue a bit more, though I wanted to stick to Jane Austen’s lighthearted treatment as well. I find Emma very funny, and I wanted to capture that lighthearted, playful spirit. – Monica Fairview
  • I’ve always wanted to know why Mr Bennet married Mrs Bennet and so I decided to write about their courtship. I was very much influenced by Jane Austen’s humour and her irreverent yet realistic way of looking at life. – Amanda Grange
  • I knew I wanted to write from Jane’s POV, as I did in my novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I love Jane and her characters so much, I thought, why not combine them? What would happen if Jane was undecided about what to write next, and was both haunted and guided by her own characters? What fun it would be to hear what her own characters thought of themselves! – Syrie James
  • My inspiration was mainly from the movie An Education, which so brilliantly evoked the atmosphere of England in the 1960s and brought back memories of my own schooldays. If there’s any relation to an Austen book at all I think the main character bears some relation to Fanny in Mansfield Park finding her way as the most junior member of staff in a very hierarchical school system. – Janet Mullany
  • Writing the introduction to this anthology was a big challenge for me. I had so many points I wanted to make about Jane Austen, her writing, the Austen sequel genre, and the twenty-two stories that were included. How could I make it interesting without it reading like a laundry list?  I ruminated and stewed over it for months. Finally, I decided to write about how I was introduced to Jane Austen, some of the reasons for her incredible popularity, a brief history of the Austenesque sequel genre, and a teaser to what was included inside. It was a lot to fit into 1,500 words, but the stories in this collection are the real treasure. I was just the warm-up act. – Laurel Ann Nattress
  • As with all of Jane’s novels they tend to finish quickly, and leave you wanting more. I really wanted to know how Anne Elliot’s family would take the news that she and Captain Wentworth were to be married at last. Would Sir Walter welcome his new son-in-law with open arms, or would there still be a certain amount of tension between them? I always wanted to know more about Anne and the Captain’s relationship in the past, and wanted to include Anne’s thoughts and fears for her unknown future as she looked back to the past. Contrasting the gentler, rural background for their first meeting with the harder, city environment of Bath was a special consideration in the settings, and I wanted to show how much more comfortable I felt Anne and Frederick would be in the natural, country landscape of a vicarage garden. The characters in Persuasion are so rich with possibilities; each with their own characteristics, and trying to emulate the particular foibles of each one was fun. I’m always conscious that I’m writing for a modern audience, but I want them to recognize that Jane Austen inspires the writing in the use of language and tone. – Jane Odiwe
  • My story is inspired by an actual walking tour that I was fortunate enough to experience.  If you’re ever in London, I highly recommend Original London Walks.  Our tour guide, Janet, turned up in full Regency costume even though my daughter and I were the only two people on the tour that day.  I loved experiencing London through Jane Austen’s eyes, and with Janet’s help, we were transported back almost two hundred years.  I wanted to share some of that experience with readers, and so I incorporated elements of it into “When Only A Darcy Will Do.”– Beth Pattillo
  • My story was inspired by my novel Me and Mr Darcy. I wanted to revisit the characters and explore what would happen if we picked up on the story four years later. In my original novel, Emily and Spike get together with the help of Mr Darcy, and move to New York together. In this short story we meet them again, only to discover that there are problems in the relationship and Emily has come back to London for a short visit. Only to bump into Mr Darcy again… – Alexandra Potter
  • Although I write Regency Romances, I’ve never been tempted to use Jane Austen’s characters for my books.  Probably because I’m pretty sure that whatever I come up with would not be the characters I’ve grown to love.  But I was intrigued with the idea of using one of her novels as a jumping off point for an idea that mirrored one her stories in certain ways.  In my story “The Mysterious Closet,” I took the opportunity offered by this anthology to try my hand at a story set in the present but based on Northanger Abbey, her funniest novel. – Myretta Robens
  • We (Caitlen Rubino-Bradway) initially decided that we wanted to “do a 180” from our Lady Vernon and Her Daughter – something contemporary, and YA. One important element of Austen’s work is her knack for using dialogue to reinforce character. Dialogue (word choice, vocabulary, use of idiom) is influenced by age, gender, education/literacy, parental or cultural influences, social status, and profession. Austen, like all good “dialogticians”, gets that. Thus, despite being raised in the same household, the five Bennet sisters have distinctive language styles, shaped by differences in inclination, influence and education. So what we tried to do is to develop a distinctive narrative style for our main character, James Austen. – Jane Rubino
  • When we (Jane Rubino) first started talking about our contribution, we agreed that there would probably be a lot of Austen sequels and period pieces in the anthology.  So we decided to do something completely different.  What’s more different from Jane Austen than a modern teenage boy?  It all came together when we paired our teenage boy with an idea we’d had for a while.  We’d tossed around the idea of a modern person hooking into Jane Austen and discovering that following Austen made them stand out from the crowd.  While the style is definitely different, the modern setting still let us tap into a lot of Austen-type humor. – Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
  • Once I had chosen my character, wonderful Jane provided all the settings. As for the theme, I was inspired by Lydia Bennet’s wild speech to Maria and Elizabeth when they meet after the fateful stay at Hunsford: ‘Have you seen any pleasant men? Have you had any flirting? I was in great hopes that one of you would have got a husband before you came back.’ It was obvious that Maria, like Lydia, would be fascinated by everything to do with romance, and this had to form the theme of my story. Though Maria is a very minor character in P&P, she is the subject of lively humour, and Jane makes vivid fun of her impressionable naivety. So I built up that side of her.  The question of style is problematic. With my Darcy novel, I was careful not to copy Jane’s style, but to make Mr. Darcy’s writing more masculine, muscular and also more influenced by his classical education – the sort of writing a man would do in the Georgian period. I read works by other Georgian writers for inspiration. Writing as Maria Lucas, I did re-read the sparkling dialogue of Lydia Bennet and Isabella Thorpe in particular, and couldn’t resist including some of their expressions in Maria’s artless letters. – Maya Slater
  • Persuasion is my favorite of her novels (as described above). I like the novel so much that I became interested in reading novels about the Age of Sail, particularly C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels. When I read Peter Simple by Captain Frederick Marryat, who was a real-life Royal Navy captain of Wentworth’s generation, I was enchanted by a very funny passage about some midshipmen auctioning off the rights to woo the prettiest of Peter’s sisters. The way they talked about pretty sisters made me think back to the passage in Persuasion in which Captain Croft, while discussing the speed of his courtship of Mrs. Croft,  said he had heard her spoken of as a pretty girl, and thought to myself that something like the scene in Captain Marryat’s book was probably how that had happened! When Laurel Ann asked me to participate in the anthology, I remembered that scene and decided to write a story about the Crofts’ speedy courtship, bringing in some elements from Captain Marryat’s book. – Margaret C. Sullivan
  • I was inspired by the delicious written letters of the time.  I love the process of writing a proper letter, the paper, the ink, the care, the folding of the letter to make an envelope, the lovely wax stamps- the insignia- it’s all very formal and thoughtful. – Adriana Trigiani
  • The idea for my story, “Intolerable Stupidity,” took me by surprise; I had intended to write something quite different. I certainly didn’t intend to write what amounts to a commentary on the act of writing an Austen-inspired story in the company of others writing Austen-inspired stories. The vision of the courtroom in which Darcy was suing people like myself just popped into my head, and I started laughing out loud. And wrote it all down. I saw the court as a comic metafictional madhouse that was as twisted as the Chancery Court of Bleak House, or the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of Alice in Wonderland.  One of my favorite Austen lines, which is from Northanger Abbey, provided the title of my story: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  I also never thought that I would write a story that included any of Austen’s characters, though my novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict includes a cameo appearance by Jane Austen herself. And I have to say that having Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a character in my story was even more fun that having Darcy as a character. Who would be more appropriate than Her Ladyship to preside over this poor excuse for a justice system? After all, Austen did describe her as “a most active magistrate.” – Laurie Viera Rigler
  • When Laurel Ann approached me about writing a story for the anthology, I’d just finished writing a book on Jane Austen’s own turf, Bath in 1803.  In fact, Austen had been a character in the story even though I’d sworn right and left I wasn’t going to do that—but that’s another story.  I had about six months before the short story was due and I vaguely supposed that I would set it in that same world.  I’d already written eight books set in the early nineteenth century, so it felt like home turf.  My Austen book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, had been loosely based on Austen’s The Watsons.  The cranky sister, Margaret, could use a redemptive short story—or maybe I should do something about Austen herself?  I have no idea how I came to write a story set in 21st century Britain about an American journalist on a low budget TV program called Ghost Trekkers.  Blame it on Northanger Abbey, blame it on too many formative childhood watchings of Scooby-Doo, blame it on that last gin and tonic, but when Laurel Ann emailed to ask what I’d be writing about, it just popped out.  I settled down to watch a few episodes of Ghost Hunters for inspiration, re-read Northanger Abbey, and there you go. – Lauren Willig

Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Enter a chance to win one signed copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress by leaving a comment answering if you were to write a short story inspired by Jane Austen, what or who would you choose to write about and why? Deadline to qualify for the drawing is 11:59 pm, Wednesday, August 22, 2012. The Winner will be announced on Thursday, August 23, 2012. Shipment Internationally. Good luck!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Ballantine Books (2011)
Trade paperback (446) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

Read: Question 1, Question 2

Please join us next Friday for the fourth of the fifteen questions and answers that will be posted over the next several weeks.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

40 thoughts on “Q & A with Jane Austen Made Me Do It Authors: Question 3 & Giveaway!

  1. If I were to write a Jane Austen short story! Oh the possibilities! I truly couldn’t say what my favorite Austen book is though most of the fan fiction I find is from P&P. I think that I would want to write, not necessarily based on one of her books or characters, but of the great authoress herself. I would love to write a short story set in modem time where an ambitious, young college student first discovers Austen and while doing further research, discovers more about herself, her past, and her future! Perhaps she could find she is from the Austen lineage or just create a work of essay genius about the great author and her affect on the world of literature. Either way, the reader would be able to relate with our heroine as she discovers Austen and be sent back to the moment they first discovered Austen as well! Also, it would (of course) be historically accurate!

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  2. I think I would have to write about Anne and her life before Captain Wentworth, her childhood and her relationship with her mother. Kinda get a look at Anne and see what makes her who she is.

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  3. I think I might write about Captain Wentworth and his experiences at sea and on land during the years between his botched engagement and his renewed love for Anne. I’ve always enjoyed the untold stories, and as Captain Wentworth is one of my favorite Austen heroes, it just makes sense!

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  4. I’ve always wondered about Mr. Bennet and what he was like before we meet him in Pride and Prejudice. I’d love to know why he is the way he is!

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  5. The one thing that always bothers me about Jane Austen is that she did not get the happy ending that she was able to give her heroines. I would have to think that, if given the task of creating a short story, I would want Jane to find her own happy ending.

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  6. Ooh this is a hard one. I would have to say Admiral and Mrs. Croft’s love story. They are wonderful characters in Persuasion that I always hoped Anne’s love was as good as theirs.

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  7. I LOVE Mr. Knightly and I would love to have his side of the story and hear more about what he was feeling towards Emma and Frank Churchill. I want to know exactly when his feelings for Emma changed

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  8. I have a title for a short story but very little else: “The Bingleys at Home.” We know Jane and Mr. Bingley “remained at Netherfield only a twelvemonth” before moving closer to Pemberley. A young, elegant and charming artist arrives at the new estate to paint a portrait of the beautiful Mrs. Bingley and promptly falls in love with the angelic lady of the house…

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  9. All of these ideas are great and I, too, would read them. My favorite them in Pride & Prejudice is the theme of humility that I don’t hear people write about. Both Darcy and Elizabeth must first be humbled from there present world views to that betters them, which is the conflict between both of them. Humility in our culture today seems to be viewed as humiliation, which is not the same thing. Humility is about a person being willing to hear criticism and actually look into their soul to see if there is something that needs adjustment. Humiliation is a feeling experienced when we feel like we’ve been made to look the fool. The former is an experience of a person of good character. The latter is a challenge to rise above someone else’s judgement of us, while looking for any truth that may have been brought to light because of the humiliation. I’ve experienced this in my life and I think that was the reason I’m such a fan of P & P. Both Elizabeth and Darcy are people of strong character and both are willing, in time, to hear criticisms against them and try to find the truth in them so that they may reform themselves. This is not a novel of , “I’m the victim” which is so much the way our culture seems to be. This novel is about “what have I done that might have been a result of my pride or my prejudice?”

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  10. The suggestions above are all simply terrific! I think I might write about Colonel Brandon’s earlier life, his first love, his rotten brother, subsequent travels, etc. I think there is story to be told there: his choices, the choices forced upon him by family and society. That has plot-line always touches me. Thanks!

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  11. Maybe this has been done, but I would like to read about a modern young woman finding herself back in time in a Jane Austen story. It would be fun to see what would be the most shocking or challenging -or pleasurable – about being in that time period with the reality of everyday life. Imagine how willful and unmannered most of us would seem in that setting! The “fish out of water” story has lots of possibilities. It’s also a story about fantasy vs. reality and appreciating both what you have now and what women in the past went through. Maybe it could tie into the “humility” theme kfield2 raises.

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    • If it’s not weird to comment to myself – I was thinking it might be interesting to find yourself as a modern woman, in a Jane Austen novel. But some of the commenters here made me think, “what if you found yourself back in time in an Austen novel, but as a minor character?” For instance, Mary or Charlotte in P&P, or even a clever servant.

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  12. I’d love to know more about Col. Brandon’s life before we meet him in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Perhaps as a young man in love & then shipped off into the army because it was an unsuitable match.

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  13. I would write a story about Kitty. I would love to write about the lessons she learned from Lydias behavior and how they apply to her life in the future. =)

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  14. I think Northanger Abbey is the neglected one, but my favorite and the one I would use as my backdrop.. I’ve always wondered more about Eleanor’s relationship with the man she ends up marrying. How did they meet? Did Henry provide many opportunities to meet in secret? How did she react when she learned they could marry? So many possibilities…

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  15. That’s a hard decision. I think I’d pick a minor character, Mrs. Bates perhaps, and tell their backstory and views on the main novel that we all know.

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  16. I thoroughly enjoyed Brenna Aubrey’s short story in JAMMDI and her recollection here on how Jane Austen might have affected male readers. Well, Miss Austen did a significant job on influencing THIS male reader!

    I also enjoyed the way Lauren Willig starts off her short story with a literally chilling account of the participants nervously chatting up their feelings. Talk about setting a supernatural mood!

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  17. I’ve always been a fan of mysteries, and I know there have been mysteries written about various of Miss Austen’s characters, and even Jane Austen herself. There have been different questions and reasons given regarding Jane’s final illness and death and why Casandra destroyed so much after her sister’s death. There’s also been speculation here and there of whether some certain characters could have been molded from real persons.
    What if they were? What if certain characters were crafted from persons living in the same time period as Jane Austen? What if they knew they were the subjects of these books? What if they discovered it was Jane Austen who had written about them? What if they were less than pleased with how they were perceived? And what if they decided the stories had to stop?
    It seems the less than amiable characters would have issue with some of what Miss Austen would say about them, and perhaps the heroes and heroines portrayed were the heroes and heroines of Miss Austen’s life, dutiful friends who made every attempt to protect her. What if Casandra knew it all? As the sisters were the heroines of each other in life, could Casandra be her sisters heroine at her death?
    It would be told from Casandra’s point of view I think. The reasons behind all the intricacies of our favorite author’s life that we never even had a clue about.
    …Could be interesting.

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  18. I’d probably write about Elizabeth and Darcy or Captain Wentworth and Anne and it would be after they are married. Or I’d write a story about Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. The gothic angle could make an interesting story, either before or after she marries Henry. Maybe they could travel to Italy and Catherine’s imagination would make her think that someone they met was in danger of being murdered.

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  19. Sense and Sensibility is a favorite of mine, so I’d probably like to do something on Margaret Dashwood (since I feel like she gets dropped off a bit at the end of the book). Either what she’s up to during the story (I’ve always wondered what she was getting up to), or a short story about her visiting Marianne/Brandon and Elinor/Edward after they are married. I’d like to see their married lives through Margaret’s p.o.v.

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