Happy May Day everyone! Please join us today in welcoming author Lori Smith on the launch of her blog tour in celebration of the publication of The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, released today by Globe Pequot Press. Lori has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her second Jane Austen-inspired book and offered a giveaway to three lucky readers.
I’m thrilled I was able to write The Jane Austen Guide to Life, but I can’t fully take credit for the idea. A while back, an email unexpectedly popped up from an editor I hadn’t heard from in a while, one I’d always wanted to work with. She’d been thinking, she said, about a book that would combine a light biography of Jane Austen with practical “life lessons” for the modern reader, drawn from Austen’s life as well as her books. I thought for about fifteen seconds and concluded, “Yes! That book should be written!” And that was the beginning.
As normal as it seems to me to take advice from Austen—I’ve loved her writing for years, even followed her life through England for my last project, A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith (2007), —I thought it might seem strange to some. After all, Austen was a 19th-century spinster. She wasn’t terribly concerned about fashion, knew nothing about platform heels, and, if she’d had the chance, she very well might have married a first cousin (as was common practice back then). So what could she possibly teach our modern selves?
In some ways, Austen was more modern than we might think. She embraced the 21st-century idea of making your dreams a reality. After all, in her day, a lady should not have written fiction. Not only was writing un-ladylike, but novels were frivolous and of questionable value. But Austen had to tell her stories—she had to write—so, acceptable or not, that’s what she did.
In other ways, Austen challenges us, her own good sense in contrast to current cultural extremes. Many of us strive for our fifteen minutes of fame, while Austen didn’t even want her name to appear on her books. As a nation, we’re saddled with pervasive credit card debt; Austen lived within a tight and carefully kept budget. She would encourage us to cherish our true friends rather than focusing on building extensive and ephemeral social networks. And Jane Austen never had sex—so what would she say about a culture that has a word specifically to describe meaningless sexual encounters. (Hookup, anyone?) Continue reading “The Jane Austen Guide to Life blog tour with author Lori Smith & giveaway!”