Please help me welcome debut author Rachel Berman to Austenprose today on the first stop of her blog tour in celebration of the release of Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen published by Meryton Press. Inspired by actual events in Jane Austen’s life, Rachel has generously contributed a guest blog sharing her thoughts about her writing experience.
If you are as curious by the title of this novel as I was, you might want to read this preview and excerpt that we presented last month, and then join the blog tour as it continues through March 18. There will be reviews, interviews and giveaways along the way.
Violet Desmond has just learned from her dying grandmother that the life she’s been living is a lie.
Left with only a locket, a newspaper clipping, and a name–Atherton–Violet sets off to discover her hidden personal history. Simultaneously, the London academic begins to have vivid dreams in which a woman from the past narrates her life story involving the same locket, a secret marriage, and a child. A story intimately connected to Jane Austen.
Violet reluctantly agrees to receive help from cavalier treasure hunter, Peter Knighton. Blacklisted from his profession, Knighton can almost taste the money and accolades he’d receive for digging up something good on Austen; the locket alone is unique enough to be worth plenty to the right collector. It would be enough to get his foot back in the door.
The unlikely pair begins a quest for answers that leads them to Aerendgast Hallows. Knee-deep in hidden crypts, perilous pursuits, and centuries-old riddles, Violet must put her literary expertise to the test as she battles to uncover the secret that her loved ones died trying to reveal, before an unknown enemy silences her as well.
Jane Austen, Sidmouth and Inspiration
In my novel, Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, Austen narrates a version of her life that has remained a secret for two hundred years—a version in which she is married and had a child—and although my book is fiction, it’s based on a true story the Austen family told about Jane and the summer of 1801 in Sidmouth.
The story goes that Jane fell in love with a gentleman while on holiday there and was engaged to him, but the man died suddenly soon afterwards and the rest, as they say, is history. In Aerendgast, I asked the questions: What would have happened if Austen’s mystery fiancée had lived? How would her life have been different? How would her legacy have altered?
For me, one of the most exciting parts of writing is asking those questions and trying to find solutions to them. The words on the page become clues to an alternate history. The main character of my story, Violet Desmond, does exactly what I did when writing the novel, namely, attempting to piece together Austen’s story from the books and letters she left behind. It was a monumental task, but ultimately one that helped me understand why it is that we love Jane Austen so very much.
Austen’s perpetual spinsterhood is almost as famous in itself as are her novels. And I think there are multiple reasons for that; she’s a novelty of her era, a single woman who managed to find some small success and remain respectable while having a career. Her ability to write about love, and her insistence on rewarding the worthy with their happy endings even though she never had one her own, endears her instantly to her readers. Her keen sense of social injustice and her chronicles of the trivialities of Regency life continue to make her parlor-room observations seem distinctly modern. And, of course, her indefatigable wit and unwillingness to settle for anything less than love in a marriage, paint her in much the same light at many of her most famous characters.
Jane Austen straddles the line between real person and romantic character for all of us that are her fans and devoted readers. It would be impossible for us not to make connections between the author and her work, and thus we treat Austen’s novels differently than those of her contemporaries. Austen’s Persuasion and Shelley’s Frankenstein were published in the same year (1818), yet we speak about these two female writers with an entirely different vocabulary. Shelley ran away at the age of sixteen with an already-married man, Percy Bysshe Shelley—and did not marry him until years later after his wife committed suicide. However, when we talk about Shelley we only speak about her work: how Frankenstein was the result of a bet with Lord Byron and a dream she had one night. Her personal life doesn’t matter to the public, even though it was incredibly scandalous (both at the time and at present). The average reader might not even know about it.
That seems impossible with Austen, doesn’t it? Not knowing that she was never married. It’s part of her story as much as Mr. Darcy, as much as Colin Firth coming out of that lake. At least in part, this is due to the subject matter of her books: the marriage market, Society, and long, drawn-out days in the countryside. Unlike Shelley, Austen depicted life as it really was for women at the time. There are no monsters in Austen’s stories, (besides those awful, prejudiced people who try keep the heroes and heroines apart), and the stakes are never life or death, (instead happiness and sadness, wisdom and youth, love and loss). As a result, we relate more, not only to Austen’s work, but to the woman herself. We feel as though we know her personally, and are comfortable discussing her like we would a friend. This is her genius.
In Aerendgast, I give Austen the chance to be the heroine of her story, to step out from behind the writing desk and live. Using factual moments from her life, I’ve woven a story about love and loss, happiness and sadness, youth and wisdom: all the small trivialities, which make up an ordinary existence, and celebrate them as she did.
Thanks for joining us in celebration of your new novel Rachel. We wish you all the best with your tour and the release of the book.
Rachel Berman was born and raised in Los Angeles, which naturally resulted in a deep love of the UK from an early age. Reading and writing have been favorite pastimes for as long as she can remember. Rachel has a BA in English Literature from Scripps College and an MA in London Studies from Queen Mary, University of London. Her focus is 19th century British Literature. She enjoys hiking, musical theatre, fancy water, Pilates, vegan baking, good TV and movies, and researching new book ideas!
Jane Austen has always been an author near and dear to Rachel’s heart for her ability to tell a story so compelling, it remains relevant hundreds of years later. And, for creating Henry Tilney.
- 3/2: Guest Post at Austenprose
- 3/3: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club
- 3/4: Author Interview at The Little Munchkin Reader
- 3/5: Excerpt & Giveaway at BestSellers & BestStellars
- 3/6: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm
- 3/7: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen
- 3/8: Review at The Delighted Reader
- 3/9: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time…
- 3/10: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged
- 3/11: Review at Austenprose
- 3/12: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice
- 3/13: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
- 3/14: Review at Margie’s Must Reads
- 3/15: Review at Warmisunqu’s Austen
- 3/16: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
- 3:17: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
- 3/18: Guest Post at Laughing with Lizzie
Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, by Rachel Berman
Meryton Press (2015)
Trade paperback & eBook (298) pages
Cover image, book description, and author bio courtesy of Meryton Press © 2015; text Rachel Berman © 2015, Austenprose.com