Q&A with Love & Friendship Writer/Director/Author Whit Stillman

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016 x 200Austen scholar Devoney Looser joins us today during the Love & Friendship Janeite Blog Tour to interview ‘Friend of Jane,’ writer/director/author Whit Stillman, whose new hit movie Love & Friendship, and its companion novel, are on the radar of every Janeite.

Welcome, Ms. Looser and Mr. Stillman to Austenprose.com.

Devoney Looser: We Janeites know that you go way back as a Janeite yourself. (Would you label yourself that? I see you’ve copped elsewhere to “Jane Austen nut.”) You’ve admitted you were once dismissive of Austen’s novels as a young man—telling everyone you hated them—but that after college you did a 180, thanks to your sister. Anything more you’d like to tell us about that?

Whit Stillman: I prefer Austenite and I consider myself among the most fervent. Yes, there was a contretemps with Northanger Abbey when I was a depressed college-sophomore entirely unfamiliar with the gothic novels she was mocking — but I was set straight not many years later. Continue reading “Q&A with Love & Friendship Writer/Director/Author Whit Stillman”

A Preview of Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, by Whit Stillman

Love and Friendship Wit Stillman 2016 x 200Writer, director, and friend of Jane Austen, Stillman has written a companion novel to the film also entitled Love & Friendship with the added subtitle: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated.

For those who have read Austen’s original novella, you will remember that Lady Susan Vernon is described by Reginald De Courcy as “the most accomplished coquette in England.” and by others as devious, wicked and “with a happy command of language, which is too often used, I believe, to make black appear white.” To vindicate her scurrilous behavior is an intriguing premise indeed!

Love & Friendship, the novel, is told from the perspective of a new character, Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca, Lady Susan’s nephew. His voice throughout the book is very Austenesque, with tongue-in-cheek humor and inside Austen jokes that will delight Janeites.

Released in hardcover, ebook and audiobook, Love & Friendship debuted on May 3, 2016, by Little, Brown & Co. Here is the publisher’s description: Continue reading “A Preview of Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, by Whit Stillman”

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway – A Review

From the desk of Regency Romantic:

After being introduced to Jane Austen’s Lady Susan via A Soiree with Lady Susan, Austenprose’s rollicking cyber group read, replete with wagging tongues and fluttering fans, I delighted in discovering this ‘most accomplished Coquette in England’.  So different from other Austen heroines, I welcomed her all the more for her flagrant flaws and mercenary machinations.  Regretfully, as Jane Austen never got the chance to revise this novella, the limitations of the epistolary form did leave me with a desire for more.

Enter Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway’s novel Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, which certainly fulfills this desire… and more!  This clever re-imagining by a mother and daughter team turns my previous notion about this heroine on its head.  It intriguingly opens with an Austen inspired witticism: Continue reading “Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, by Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway – A Review”

A Preview of Lady Vernon and her Daughter & Guest Blog with Authors Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Novel of Jane Austen's Lady Susan, by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (2009)There are some great writers who wrote too much. There are others who wrote enough. There are yet others who wrote nothing like enough to satisfy their admirers, and Jane Austen is certainly one of these. Margaret Drabble

I love this quote by Austen scholar Margaret Drabble. It is the opening line of her introduction to the 1974 edition the Penguin Classics Lady Susan, The Watson’s and Sandition, long before the Austen sequel industry would become its own book genre. Little did she know that other writers would take the next step to satisfy Austen admirers.  Thirty-five years later, we have literally hundreds of prequels, sequels, spinoffs and continuations to choose from. Most are inspired by Austen’s most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice. Proportionally – too many. So when I read the announcement last March of a new novel Lady Vernon and her Daughter based on Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, my heart leapt. A fresh concept! I knew of only one other sequel based on Lady Susan written by Phyllis Ann Karr in 1980, and long out of print. It was past time for Lady Susan to have her turn again. The authors, appropriately a mother-daughter team, Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway have graciously offered this guest blog to share their insights about Lady Susan and their inspiration to write a new novel based on Jane Austen’s novella.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

In Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway have taken Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan, and transformed it into a vivid and richly developed novel of love lost and found–and the complex relationships between women, men, and money in Regency England.

Lady Vernon and her daughter, Frederica, are left penniless and without a home after the death of Sir Frederick Vernon, Susan’s husband. Frederick’ s brother and heir, Charles Vernon, like so many others of his time, has forgotten his promises to look after the women, and despite their fervent hopes to the contrary, does nothing to financially support Lady Vernon and Frederica.

When the ladies, left without another option, bravely arrive at Charles’s home to confront him about his treatment of his family, they are faced with Charles’s indifference, his wife Catherine’s distrustful animosity, and a flood of rumors that threaten to undo them all. Will Lady Vernon and Frederica find love and happiness–and financial security–or will their hopes be dashed with their lost fortune?

With wit and warmth reminiscent of Austen’s greatest works, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter brings to vivid life a time and place where a woman’s security is at the mercy of an entail, where love is hindered by misunderstanding, where marriage can never be entirely isolated from money, yet where romance somehow carries the day.

GUEST BLOG

Lady Susan is the title character of an early epistolary work written by Jane Austen in the early- to mid-1790s. Lady Susan Vernon is a beautiful young widow, a “dangerous creature” and “the most accomplished coquette in England.” In a series of letters, principally between Lady Susan and her friend, Alicia Johnson, and Lady Susan’s sister-in-law Catherine Vernon and Catherine’s mother, Lady deCourcy, we extract a portrait of a woman of pleasure, flirting with three admirers while disarming her wary in-laws and arranging a loveless marriage for her daughter. It’s a work that’s difficult to characterize; it is too sophisticated to be considered juvenilia, and it isn’t a fragment; yet, while it’s a complete work, it isn’t a fully realized novel.

It is not unlikely that some inspiration for Lady Susan came from the sensational French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which appeared in England in the decade before Lady Susan was written. The Marquise de Merteuil’s, “…it seems to me scarcely possible for a woman who is offered such a golden chance – with so little risk – to reduce a male to despair could resist indulging in such a treat” is not very different in sentiment from Lady Susan’s, “There is an exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike acknowledge one’s superiority.” The Marquise’s contempt for the youthful affection of Cecile and Danceny resembles Lady Susan’s disdain for her daughter’s admiration of Reginald deCourcy, and Lady Susan’s scheme to force Frederica to marry Sir James is as coldly calculating as the Marquise’s plot to have Valmont seduce Cecile.

Jane Rubino had written a contemporary mystery series, and happened to be reading Lady Susan at the time she was thinking of writing a second series. The “Lady Susan mysteries” were quickly abandoned, and we began discussing turning the work into a historical novel with elements of mystery; that plan gave way to reconstructing the work – converting an epistolary novel to a third person narrative, as Austen revised Elinor and Marianne into Sense and Sensibility. In fact, we discovered a number of similarities between Lady Susan and Sense and Sensibility.  There are the dual heroines, dual romances, and a mother and daughter(s) displaced when the family estate passes to an heir.  We decided to approach the book as a “what if Jane Austen had revised Lady Susan, as she had done with Elinor and Marianne”?

In order to conform to Austen’s canon, we resolved to use Austen’s novels as our primary reference.  Austen’s heroines are flawed, but not malicious, so Lady Susan became a sympathetic character. Her conduct is not radically altered, but is motivated by economy, rather than “exquisite pleasure” – with that in mind Lady Susan became Lady Vernon.  While there are supporting players in Austen’s canon who are widows of independent means – Lady Catherine deBourgh, Mrs. Jennings, Lady Russell – Austen’s widows are more likely to be anywhere from women of modest means to downright indigent – Mrs. Dashwood, Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Norris, Mrs. Thorpe. Austen’s heroines, moreover, are not women of high rank, and to have Susan Vernon the daughter of an earl (as suggested by that “Lady Susan”, but never stated in the work) would have taken her out of that tier from which Austen’s heroines are drawn.

The format, of course, had to go – the novel-in-letters is unwieldy – but we converted as much of the letters as we could into dialogue or exposition.  The use of letters was retained, however, as Austen frequently used letters to advance the plot, or reveal critical information. There are the letters of Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice, Isabella Thorpe’s self-centered correspondence to Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey, and, of course, Frederick Wentworth’s proposal in Persuasion.

Finally, we decided to dedicate Lady Vernon and Her Daughter to one of Caitlen’s favorite professors, Mary Ann Macartney.  While Jane has always been an Austen devotee, Caitlen’s love of Austen really developed in college, in an intensive Austen seminar.  Ten Austen fans in a small room every other day will fuel your fanaticism no matter what, but it was Dr. Macartney’s passion and attention to detail that really inspired Caitlen.   Our dedication is a small way of saying thanks for hers.

AUTHOR BIOS

Jane Rubino is the author of the Cat Austen mystery series, as well as a volume of Sherlockian novellas.

Caitlen Rubino-Bradway is the author of the middle grade novel, Ordinary Magic, and contributed to the story collection, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. She lives and works in New York City.

  • Lady Vernon and her Daughter, by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
  • Broadway Books (November 2, 2010)
  • Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (336) pages
  • ISBN: 978-0307461674

Cover image, book description, guest blog, & author bios courtesy of Broadway Books © 2010; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2009, Austenprose.com

Announcing – Lady Vernon and her Daughter Book Trailer

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter: A Novel of Jane Austen's Lady Susan, by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (2009)Austenprose is very honored to have the privilege of announcing the exclusive premiere of the Lady Vernon and her Daughter: A Novel of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan book trailer. This new retelling of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan was co-written by mother and daughter team Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway and is due out on October 6th, 2009. You can read a complete preview of Lady Vernon and her Daughter here at Austenprose.

Stay tuned for more great information on this exciting new release as Jane and Caitlen will be guest bloggers on September 7th during ‘Soirée with Lady Susan’ event here at Austenprose September 1st through the 14th. If you would like to join in the fun, check out the invitation and the group reading schedule. Continue reading “Announcing – Lady Vernon and her Daughter Book Trailer”

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