Home  |  Reviews  |  Vlogs  |  Interviews  |  Guest Posts  |  Fairy Tales  |  Jane Austen  |  Memes  |  Policies

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Interview with Marilyn Brant, author of According To Jane

Today we've got a neato little interviewaith author Marilyn Brant; make sure you check out my interview of her book, According to Jane, and the accompanying giveaway!

marilynBook Rat: Thanks for joining us, Marilyn! Jane is seeing a resurgence in popularity in the last few years; why do you think this is?  
Marilyn Brant: I think there's something very appealing about the world of a Jane Austen novel to those of us in the 21st century--it's a quaint and more reserved era, yes, but it's also highly recognizable at its essence. Because Jane's characterizations are so universal and timeless, her work never really goes out of style, and I think modern readers appreciate these qualities a great deal. Jane had a tremendous gift for really seeing people--the way they acted in public vs. private, the way they revealed themselves through dialogue, the way they handled stress and insecurity, etc. She recognized the range and depth of human behavior and was a genius at showing it to her readers. Plus, since she didn't spend much time dwelling on the specifics of clothing or the political climate, her books have an intimate and relevant feel to them. When talking about promising relationships or annoying neighbors, there is not much difference between the conversations of Austen's time and those we could be having with friends or family today. So, her work comes across as remarkably contemporary, despite their Regency origins, and I think readers are increasingly appreciative of that. Admirers of Austen are also very passionate, and we want to share our love of her writing with everyone we meet--exponentially creating new, enthusiastic fans.

BR:  What attracted you to writing a Jane-inspired work?   
MB:  This is a really fascinating question for me. I'm interested in the term "Jane-inspired work" and have seen firsthand how Austen-esque fiction has developed into its own specialty genre. But, still, it's a relatively new genre to me personally. For instance, I actually had no knowledge that there was an Austen fan-fiction community until after I'd sold the novel (a four-year process from writing it to selling it), although I had come across a few works like Bridget Jones's Diary and the film "Clueless" that were a definite nod to Austen The idea to do something modern with an Austen slant, particularly something involving Darcy- and Elizabeth-like characters, had been percolating in the back of my imagination even before encountering those two projects, but reading Bridget Jones and watching "Clueless" inspired me to take my ideas more seriously. I wrote four other completed manuscripts (none of them remotely Austen-related) before even attempting According to Jane. I was absolutely floored when, after I'd submitted the book to agents and started winning some writing contests, I discovered there were other novels out there that were heavily influenced by Austen. Then, when a friend told me about the immense fan-fiction community, I was really stunned and impressed. I'd been operating under the uninformed assumption that only a handful of people were incorporating Jane's worldview or character traits into their books. Had I known there were THOUSANDS of aspiring writers playing tapping into her wisdom in their work, I'm sure I would've been very intimidated and, possibly, afraid to keep going with the story--LOL. So, I hadn't planned to write something geared toward the burgeoning "Jane-inspired" genre, I'd simply wanted to show how timeless and universal Jane's characterizations/insights into human behavior were to modern readers...and it turned out I found a new branch of fiction waiting for me!

BR:  What was the process like for creating Jane's "voice"?  
According To JaneMB:  It was a combination of the narrative tone she used in her novels, the style in which she wrote letters, a few real quotes, altogether too many Masterpiece Theater productions and the meticulous removal of all contractions in her speech. (I tried to get rid of anything that smacked of modern informalities. :) But, of course, it was my own impression of what Jane might have sounded like if I'd been chatting with her. I imagine others may well have a very different idea of her speech and the content of her conversation. One of the great joys of fiction is that a writer gets to explore his or her own little vision of the world and, for me, I had a lot of fun getting to play around with the Jane of my creation.

BR:  How much of "you" is there in Ellie?
MB:  Ellie is...kind of like me. She and I share a certain introspection and we each had a tendency toward perfectionism in school, plus, we were both children of ‘80s pop culture. However, I have only one sibling--an incredibly supportive and wonderful brother--so a lot of Ellie’s family issues were not drawn from real-life at all. As for dating, while I’ll admit to having made a lamentable boyfriend choice or two, I met my husband right out of college and was happily married pretty young. So, Ellie’s painful relationship problems were (thankfully) extrapolated from things I observed or they were exaggerated from some real events and grafted to modernized versions of scenes I found fascinating in Austen’s novels.

BR:  Any plans to incorporate Jane in any future novels or expand on According to Jane?  
MB:  That's something I'd love to do, but the time would have to be right for it... Someone asked me last fall if I'd consider writing a few scenes from the book in Sam's point of view, and I know I'd have a LOT of fun doing that! (It would have to be when I'm not in the middle of another book deadline, though.) I did leave open the possibility of a sequel to According to Jane but, again, that's a decision that will have to be made later--between my editor, my publisher and me. For now, I have two novels already slated to come out: Friday Mornings at Nine (October 1, 2010), which is about three married suburban moms who shake up their lives and their marriages when one of the friends starts corresponding with her college ex, and the book I'm currently writing, The Grand European (working title, October 2011), which is a modern nod to E.M. Forster's "A Room with a View" and heavily involves Italian ice cream and the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I'm very excited about these releases, and Austen fans should be able to spot a few subtle Jane references in them both!

BR:  If you were casting the movie version of According to Jane, who would you cast?  (including Jane's voice-over)  
MB:  Realistically, I know that if the film rights to the book ever sell, I'll have NO say whatsoever in this decision--not that it stops me from thinking about it! But this has always been a tough question for me for another reason--in my mind, as I wrote the book, none of my characters looked like actors I knew. They were always just individuals that I'd imagined. So, I found myself asking other people what THEY thought. In the past 8-9 months, some of my favorite responses were: Emma Thompson (for the Jane voice), Cory Monteith from Glee (for Jason), Robert Pattinson (for Sam), Emma Watson (for Ellie). Who do YOU think would be good??
BR:  Follow up: If you were compiling the soundtrack, which song/s would feature prominently? Oh!! I have a whole LIST! I put some them on my website (http://www.marilynbrant.com/MBbooksJANE.html) because no book I write exists without a soundtrack...the two are always very much linked for me.

Who is your favorite JA character?  Elizabeth Bennet (who wouldn't be charmed by her?)
Favorite side-character? Georgiana Darcy (I also find Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Captain Wentworth especially fascinating, but I think of them as 'heroes' not side-characters! :)
Character you most want to shake? Emma Woodhouse (so much intelligence, so many good intentions...such an insatiable meddler--LOL)

If you could visit any one location in one of Jane's novels -- besides Pemberley! -- what would it be and why?
MB:  Bath, England with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth! I'd want to visit the city for a day as it was back then, wander around the Pump Room, see and be seen...

BR:  Picture yourself as Charlotte (Lucas) Collins -- now, swallow back the horror of that and give us a brief idea of your day-to-day...How do you keep your sanity?  
MB:  With both Mr. Collins as a husband and Lady Catherine as an overbearing neighbor, I'm afraid any hope of sanity would be impossible. I would do my best (as Charlotte did) to keep to a fairly uninhabited part of the cottage, to encourage Mr. Collins to garden for long periods and to avoid crossing walking paths with Lady Catherine. I could also try to bury myself in books, take up needlepoint and invite diverting guests to visit. Perhaps I'd need to add another couple of hobbies--like drawing or writing. I'd imagine Charlotte would've been capable of composing excellent verses of poetry (that Mr. Collins would, invariably, not wish to listen to and Lady Catherine, if she deigned to read one, would be most critical of, of course).

BR:  Would you rather spend the day with Lady Catherine or Mrs. Bennet?  
MB:  Mrs. Bennet. However mind-numbingly annoying she might be, I don't think of her as having bad intentions. As perplexed as she is by life beyond her circle of gossip, she's really trying to do what she feels is best for her daughters. She loves them. Lady Catherine--though far more intelligent a woman--seems to primarily love her own sense of power.

BR:  Which "bad boy" would you rather end up with: Wickham or Willoughby?  
MB:  Willoughby, if I MUST end up with one. He strikes me as the lesser of two evils. I think of Willoughby as more misguided, socially over-ambitious and selfish than cruel. His genuine love of music gives him a few extra brownie points, in my opinion, and his regret at losing Marianne at the very end of the novel seems real. A man with a sense of remorse has SOME redeeming features. Wickham, on the other hand, is my definition of despicable. His hurtful actions are often premeditated. He is thoroughly manipulative. He repeatedly uses his charm to deceive and steal, fully aware of the consequences. He's beyond just being a "bad boy"...he's very bad news.

BR:  Thanks for doing this and being part of Jane in June! 
MB:  My pleasure, Misty! Thanks for inviting me ;-).


  1. Great interview! This book is definitely going on my wishlist! :)

  2. Lovely interview. ^^ I'm going to have to look out for the book.

  3. Giada M and jedisakora~I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview! Wishing you both (and Misty, too ;) a wonderful weekend!


Tell me all your thoughts.
Let's be best friends.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...