As we continue on in the interview of my twenty-four JAMMDI authors, the seventh question widens the scope to beyond Austen’s canon. After two hundred years in publication, Jane Austen is still inspiring and influencing writers. I could not resist asking my Jane Austen Made Me Do It contributors to share their thoughts on her long standing “persuasion” of fiction and their favorite fellow authors.
We obviously all admire Jane Austen and have been inspired by her works. Do you see her influence in contemporary authors today? If so, can you recommend any of your favorite author’s books and share their connection?
- Although she is not strictly contemporary, Georgette Heyer was obviously influenced by Austen. Heyer’s many Regencies are marvelous. My personal favorite is Venetia. – Pamela Aidan
- Helen Fielding and her Bridget Jones’ Diary books, which she closely based on Pride and Prejudice are on my keeper shelf. I love those books and whenever I’m feeling down and need a laugh, they never fail me. The works of Jane Austen have strongly influenced the genre of romance. Since her novels were the early prototypes of today’s hugely successful genre, there are so many authors I could name. Some of them are Loretta Chase, author of Lord of Scoundrels, this anthology’s own Lauren Willig and her Pink Carnation series, Sherry Thomas, Tessa Dare really capture Jane Austen’s humor and focus on relationships. I must also give a nod to the many authors devoted to Austen-inspired contemporary fiction as well as sequels to Jane Austen’s works. Many of these intrepid authors are publishing them independently and enjoying success. – Brenna Aubrey
- Harold Bloom states in The Western Canon that Persuasion marks the turning point in the evolution of the modern novel—which would suggest we’re all Jane’s children whether we acknowledge that or not. But more specifically, Anita Brookner’s style and subject matter is frequently compared to Austen’s, with good reason; her books capture the quiet desperation and intelligent observance of so many women. The late Georgette Heyer, who singlehandedly created the Regency Romance, clearly mimics Jane’s style in some of her novels—Regency Buck comes to mind. I’m equally passionate about the late Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books, however, which despite their immersion in the Napoleonic Wars and the Royal Navy, are brilliant evocations of Austen’s world. – Stephanie Barron
- Well, my “day job” is reading contemporary fiction; I am the “book person” story analyst for Warner Bros Studios and read novels to see if they’d make movies. So, since I have to read so much popular modern fiction for work, I don’t read it for pleasure (I tend to read 18th and 19th century authors and memoirs for pleasures, and early 20th century middlebrow authors). I can’t say I see that Jane Austen’s writing has influenced any contemporary authors, unless you mean the movies. They seem more influenced by J.K. Rowling, to be honest. – Diana Birchall
- I’ve just been reminded that my favorite “contemporary” writer has been dead for forty-one years. Like Austen, John O’Hara consistently and fully delivers the world in which he lived, through the characters he brings to light. From subtle, beautifully realized details of status, position or acceptance, we feel the texture of that life and time, and feel connected to characters, so remarkably familiar to us in their insecurities or their longing, or failing to find success or love – or failing to find themselves. That we can see these men and women in the people around us, in our own time, is probably the mark of their humanity, if not genius. If I recommend all of O’Hara, it is with the caveat that like any prolific author, his work may be a tad uneven. But in its totality, and not unlike Austen, it adds up to nothing less than a social history of his age. – Diane Meier
- The great English novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard springs to mind; so does Anne Tyler; and Anna Quindlen; and Elizabeth Berg; and Cathleen Shine – women who have Austen’s clear, sharp, objective and not unsympathetic eye, but, like Austen, their books are never larded with sentimentality. Otherwise I don’t see enough of Austen’s influence. In Italy, I’ve always enjoyed being able to visit a museum and on the street later search for the faces that I’ve just been looking at in the works of Piero Della Francesca, or Leonardo da Vinci or Vittore Carpaccio or the Bellinis. That’s what makes Jane Austen so enjoyable – you’ll meet one of her characters any day of the week in England. – Frank Delaney
- I think every time someone picks up a Mills and Boon romance they’re seeing her influence, since she laid the blueprint for the strong powerful rich male (unattainable) meets average young female who manages to capture his attention through some special quality she has. I know the literary elite would be horrified at the comparison, but there it is. One of the writers Jane Austen influenced was Virginia Woolf, a very different writer in many ways, but one who also liked to represent the world of women in its everyday details. Perhaps it’s best to have Virginia Woolf herself tell us what she likes about Jane Austen. Like me she is fond of Jane Austen’s comic characters: “One after another she creates her fools, her prigs, her worldlings, her Mr. Collinses, her Sir Walter Elliots, her Mrs. Bennets. She encircles them with the lash of a whip-like phrase which, as it runs round them, cuts out their silhouettes for ever. But there they remain; no excuse is found for them and no mercy shown them.” In addition, Woolf draws attention to Jane Austen’s value system, which as you can see she clearly admires. “The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste. Her fool is a fool, her snob is a snob, because he departs from the model of sanity and sense which she has in mind, and conveys to us unmistakably even while she makes us laugh. Never did any novelist make more use of an impeccable sense of human values. It is against the disc of an unerring heart, an unfailing good taste, an almost stern morality, that she shows up those deviations from kindness, truth, and sincerity which are among the most delightful things in English literature.” Such high praise could only mean that Virginia Woolf was influenced by Jane Austen, but I’m not about to go into that right now — I’ll keep my Comparative Literature background tightly under wraps for the time being. – Monica Fairview
- I see Jane Austen’s influence everywhere. The basic plot of Pride and Prejudice forms the basis of almost every romance. I think my favourite is Bridget Jones’s Diary. – Amanda Grange
- They call Jane Austen the “grandmother of chick-lit and the romance novel” for good reason—I think her influence is reflected in every single work of romance today. I read voraciously, and enjoy the work of so many contemporary authors that I can’t pick a favorite; but for truly great writing, I keep going back to Jane and Charlotte Bronte! – Syrie James
- Top of the heap for me is Anna Maxted, who has an extraordinary comic voice and a keen, cynical, wicked eye for characters and relationships. The first line of Being Committed (HarperCollins 2004) is pure Austen: Every woman likes to be proposed to, even if she means to refuse. – Janet Mullany
- I cannot sing the praises of Georgette Heyer enough. I am a recent convert and she just makes me laugh out loud. Her historical detail is amazing and her characterizations are priceless. I would recommend The Grand Sophy and Venetia as two of my favorites. Cut from the same cloth is contemporary author Stephanie Barron (one of the contributors to my anthology). Her Being a Jane Austen Mystery series is superb. Start with the first in the series, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. You will then want to rush out and purchase the next ten in the series. Next on my list would be Syrie James, (also one of my contributors), whose The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (2007) moved me so deeply that I decided I needed to post a review of it online and then began reading and reviewing Austen-inspired novels regularly. Lastly, but by no mean least, is the fabulous Lauren Willig (also one of my contributors). Her Pink Carnation series is a delight. I am happy to say that my fan-girl ravings about her series on my blog has converted quite a few new readers to the series. It really makes my day when my readers let me know that they enjoyed one of my recommendations as much, or even more, than I did. – Laurel Ann Nattress
- I tend to read authors’ work from about 1900-1960, and amongst those wonderful writers who were clearly influenced by Jane Austen are E. M. Forster, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Barbara Pym, Dodie Smith, and Dorothy Whipple. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith has resonances with Sense and Sensibility, Barbara Pym writes about the interaction between a small village group in England whilst at the same time making her own social commentary in books like Jane and Prudence, and Excellent Women. Frances Hodgson Burnett does a similar job in novels like A Fair Barbarian, and The Shuttle. I wonder how Jane’s work would have developed had she lived longer. She was beginning to address the subject of the merging classes in Persuasion, and as we know E. M. Forster loved her work, I wonder if he took his inspiration from that novel for A Room with a View. Certainly, the relationship between the sisters in Howard’s End, and their plight of losing their home has similar echoes in Sense and Sensibility. Lastly, Dorothy Whipple’s perceptive and psychological novels like, Someone at a Distance, and The Priory, offer character studies and stories in an intimate setting that Jane would surely have enjoyed. – Jane Odiwe
- I always love reading contemporary books with a Jane Austen connection. Years ago, I picked up a copy of Melissa Nathan’s Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmine Field and I was hooked. In addition to Nathan, I’m a fan of Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, and Helen Fielding. They don’t all have a direct Austen connection, but her influence is there. For readers who enjoy historical romance set in the Regency era, I always suggest Mary Balogh, Mary Jo Putney, and Loretta Chase, although that’s just the tip of the iceberg. – Beth Pattillo
- Bridget Jones’ Diary has to be an all-time favourite. I first read it back in 1996 and completely identified with her tangled love-life, her self-deprecating sense of humour, her desire to find love. As for the movies that starred Renee Zwelleger as Bridget – I have watched them countless times and they are still the funniest films I’ve ever seen… – Alexandra Potter
- I do not doubt that most writers of Regency Romance owe some debt to Jane Austen. For many she was the doorway into that particular period. In most cases, I would be hard pressed to identify a more specific connection. However, Mary Balogh has explicitly taken Pride and Prejudice as her jumping-off point for her novel Slightly Dangerous. I recently wrote a blog about how she has used the story and made it her own. – Myretta Robens
- I have met many writers who admire Jane Austen, but I can’t think of any author whose writing indicates a Jane Austen influence, (other than the obvious Jane Austen paraliterature). – Jane Rubino
- Why, yes. I believe Lady Vernon and Her Daughter has captured the spirit of Austen’s works, while highlighting one of her lesser-known early works. Did I mention it’s available in local books stores and online? Seriously, though there’s Austen’s obvious influence on the authors of the sequels and paraliterature. And I supposed you could say she influenced, say, the entire modern romance genre. I’d have to say favorites are young adult retellings of Austen’s classics, like Scones and Sensibility, and The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love. – Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
- An author whom I adore is Georgette Heyer. She has plundered Jane’s works and reproduced quite a few of her plots, but with a difference. Her knowledge of the Georgian and Regency period is impeccable, and she includes a wealth of fascinating contemporary detail –and, having done a lot of research myself, I am more and more impressed by the accuracy and richness of hers. Of course she is much less accomplished in her creation of character, and the plots are far more extravagant, but time and time again I get a sense of Jane when reading Heyer. All the Regency novels are tremendous fun; my favourite is The Grand Sophy. When writing Mr. Darcy I kept well clear of Heyer: I thought I might start plagiarizing her unconsciously if I wasn’t careful. – Maya Slater
- Two of my favorite authors who obviously have had Jane Austen as at least one of their influences are Georgette Heyer and Naomi Novik. Most of Heyer’s novels are set in the same time period as Austen’s, though of course Heyer was writing over a century later. She includes all the period detail that Austen’s novels don’t really need—though the careful reader should know that some of Heyer’s period detail is of her own invention. (As an author, I find that interesting—that even a stickler like Heyer sometimes made up or exaggerated detail for her own convenience.) Heyer’s novels are not just romantic but full of adventure, fun, and humor, and I’ve never been disappointed by any of her books. However, having read her biography, I have no particular desire to hang out with Miss Heyer as I would love to do with Jane Austen! The setting of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series—an alternate history of the Napoleonic wars in which dragons fitted with weapons and crew provide Britain’s military with an air force—is a combination of fantasy and history: a little Austen, a little Patrick O’Brian, a little Anne McCaffrey, and a whole lot of Novik’s own great sense of humor and gorgeous world-building and characterization. The dragons, who are sentient and can speak, are the most delightful characters in the books, and the style and prose have a true period feel. I suppose they would be more attractive to readers who enjoy high-fantasy novels, but the Temeraire novels read a lot more like O’Brian than like Tolkien. Of course the Duke of Wellington talked to dragons, and exactly like that! – Margaret C. Sullivan
- All we do is pick up the threads of the past and reinvent the stories for the current times. If we’re writing historical fiction, we imagine the details of another day, calling on our sense of connection, regardless of era or year. Human emotions don’t change, what drives our souls and fills us up does not change. All the writer does is supply the context, so in that way, a well told story is timeless. – Adriana Trigiani
- Two of my absolute favorite authors, both of whom remind me of Jane Austen, are Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith. On Beauty, Smith’s novel that won the Orange Prize for Fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is actually a homage to E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, but it is also a quintessential “three or four families in a country village” sort of story. It is very Austenian in its biting wit and its fascinating and highly amusing observations of human nature. It’s also beautifully written and tremendously entertaining. Nick Hornby also displays that deep understanding of, compassion for, and hilarious exposure of human beings at their best and their worst that I love so much in Austen. I highly recommend each of Hornby’s novels, with an emphasis on A Long Way Down; Juliet, Naked; and About a Boy. – Laurie Viera Rigler
- The most obvious are the direct Austen take-offs. Back in my grad school days, in the late, lamented Wordsworth Books in Cambridge, I stumbled across a British import called Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field. I was enthralled, so enthralled that I missed my stop on the T and accidentally wound up in Alewife. But I didn’t mind because I had Jasmin (aka Lizzy) with me. The conceit was that a modern journalist was acting in a charity version of P&P. Her Darcy was the director, an actor from a famous acting dynasty. I loved the way Melissa Nathan managed to track P&P onto the modern without making it feel too contrived, but, most of all, I loved her bright and lively prose. I think we see Austen’s tracks wherever we find social commentary hidden in humor, or a love story surrounded with quirky side characters. We always get our happy ending, but we learn a lot along the way. – 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 stating which of your favorite authors do you feel were influenced by Jane Austen? Deadline to qualify for the drawing is 11:59 pm, Wednesday, September 19, 22, 2012. The Winner will be announced on Thursday, September 20, 2012. Print edition available to US addresses or eBook edition 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
Please join us next Friday for the eight of the fifteen questions and answers that will be posted over the next several weeks.
© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose