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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Becoming a Janeite | a Janeite Conversation

My fabulous group of JAFF-folk are back with the second of this year’s Janeite Roundtable Conversations! Today, we’re diving into what got us here in the first place. . . Click through to read the full discussion, and add your two cents in the comments!
When did you realize you'd made the transition from "a person who has read Jane Austen" to a "Janeite"? And how deep does the obsession go?

MELANIE: It came on sort of gradually, I can hardly tell you. But I think it was when I first saw Mr. Darcy's beautiful grounds at Pemberley...
MISTY: Ha! Touché.
RIANA: That’s an interesting question. My interest in Austenesque lit probably goes back to when I read a continuation of The Watsons that a friend lent me a gazillion years ago. But as to when I realized I’d crossed into a different world was when I began comparing everyday stuff (like what people were wearing, or how they were getting around the city) to Austen’s world. “We complain about subway delays, but if we were in London in 1812, we’d be sitting in carriages staring at a whole street full of horses’ backsides!” or, “Hah, you think those ripped jeans are risqué? Well Mary Crawford probably showed more skin with her ankle-length skirts than you’re showing now!”
MISTY: *laughing* Much to the chagrin of the people around you, I’m sure.
RIANA: I like to think I keep a fairly solid line between real life and lit life, but those little comparisons are always there.
ROBIN: Nine years ago, my sister Gayle and I were at a teachers’ convention in Myrtle Beach, S C.  During our free time, we went to a book store (because that’s what nerds do for a wild time)—
MISTY: Can confirm.

ROBIN:… and she pointed out a few Austen variations. We bought several, and I was hooked  immediately (though a few shocking ones had to be hidden from public view).

MISTY: My introduction to JAFF was via some of the “shocking ones,” and unfortunately, part of what was so “shocking” about them was how shockingly bad they were. It actually put me off fanfiction for quite some time.
ROBIN: I started writing  in 2010 and published my first book, Guardian, in 2011.
Because I write Austen variations, I don’t read many books in the genre anymore. I don’t want  to risk accidentally lifting an idea from another author. An odd thought, I know, as I have too  many ideas of my own to write, and there are limitations on my time.
However, I own a large collection of Austen film adaptions, several of each book. My  daughters, voracious readers like their parents, loved the films so much, they read all of  Austen’s works. My husband did, too, so he could interrupt every viewing with hundreds of  “That wasn’t in the book” comments. Hello? I KNOW that pond scene wasn’t in the book, but I  LIKE it. Same with the fencing scene. Just. Stop.
MISTY: The nerve! The affrontery!
ROBIN: I truly tried to limit my reponses to his criticism  to raised eyebrows, dark looks, deep sighs, throat clearings, and long-suffering expressions,  but he was unmoved. He persists in telling me what really happened – as if I didn’t already  know what really happened – because I read the books MULTIPLE times.
MISTY: So I think this means, your husband is a Janeite, too. His sew-on badge is in the mail. ;)
ROBIN: We still watch them regularly. I’ll just keep my favs to myself. I wouldn’t want to offend  JAFFdom. Or my husband. His favorite variation is Kate Beckinsale’s version of Emma. I know it has nothing to do with her startling beauty. He simply admires that screenplay. Right?
MISTY: Haha! At least, that’s the story we’ll go with. He can keep his Beckinsale, and you can keep your wet-shirted Darcies.
NANCY: In the summer of 2008, I was listening to Pride and Prejudice. I’m an auditory learner, and I often pick up things in audiobooks that I’d missed before, which is exactly what happened that summer. As I listened to Elizabeth’s exasperation over Darcy showing up everywhere she went in Kent, even though she had explicitly told him those were her favourite haunts, I heard Darcy’s voice in my head. (In somewhat mortified tones) “I had not realised that was meant to be a warning, rather than an invitation.”

MISTY: For some, hearing voices in your head is a sign of… bad things. But for a Janeite? ALL GOOD. 😂
NANCY: That was the spark that became His Good Opinion. And once you start writing fanfiction for a thing, you really can’t deny the fact that you are much more than a moderate fan.
DEBRA-ANN: My obsession started a long time ago (high school) but I had to put it on hold for a while but made do with watching the movies and reading the books when I could.  Several years ago I came across several wonderful variations and reread all JA books again and the true obsession was born.  My husband was traveling and I was home alone with our dogs and I had read a book that had disappointed me so I decided to try my hand at writing in November 2017 my first book was published.
MISTY: I feel like the “That’s not how I would have done it!” thought is a huge motivator in taking that next step in fandom.
LEIGH: I think the time I drove 12 hours round trip to see one of my favorite JAFF authors and we geeked out over the hundreds of books both of us had read might have been the moment. I still haven't had the chance to go to a big JASNA event or anything, but when my friends all make fun of me for my "Jane Eyre" obsession I feel like I've made it.
MISTY: That has got to be one of my bigger pet peeves, when people confuse Jane Eyre with Jane Austen. Before I had even read Jane, a girl in my Honors English class (I say that not to humblebrag, but to emphasize that she should have known better) was doing her assigned famous-author presentation on “Jane Eyre,” and I was like, ‘Oh, so you’re doing it on Bronte?’ And she looked at me like I was crazy and said, ‘No, I’m doing it on the author, Jane Eyre.’
Can you feel my eye twitching from where you are? Because I think they can see it from space.
LONA: The first sign is if you bristle if someone says something about Jane Austen that you disagree with, or is historically wrong, like calling her a “Victorian-era” author.
MISTY: *eye twitches intensify*
LONA: Another sign is if you’ve come across the reference to the “little bit (two inches wide) of ivory” about a thousand times.
MISTY: Now that’s a truth universally acknowledged, right there… ;)
MARIA: The first fan fiction I dabbled with left me thinking, yeah, I’m just a normal fan. I’ll get this out of  my system and be done.
MISTY: Er… Maria? I hate to tell you, but most “normal fans” don’t "dabble in fan fiction. Hahaha! I think you were already a goner.
MARIA: *nods* Sometime in the middle of the second I started wondering and by the  third, yeah, I was pretty hooked.
How far does it go? Well, my husband and I have taken up English Country Dance as a  hobby—we both really enjoy it, who knew!—and we’re considering planning out next vacation  around a regional dance event. How do you count that?
MISTY: First of all, that is amazing, I am jealous, and I probably won’t fit in a rolling suitcase because I’m, like, Darcy-tall, but... if you find a big enough suitcase, take me? Second: your husband is definitely a keeper.
LAURIE: Actually, until I was researching my first novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, and inadvertently learned of the existence of the Jane Austen Society of North America—
MISTY: Wait, how many of you are there out there, that were writing JAFF without knowing JAFF was a thing? I find that idea so precious, that you were all just out there, wandering around in the wild, so compelled to pick up a quill and take on the noble work of sexing up Darcy & Lizzie, destined to one day run smack into each other in a series of litnerd meet-cutes. *dreamy sigh*
LAURIE: I had no idea that there were other people out there like me. People who read and re-read Austen’s six novels ad infinitum and always find something new and exciting in them, some new insight or connection to their lives, as well as something familiar and comforting in them, every time.
MISTY: *waves*
LAURIE: People who can talk about those six novels for hours on end.
MISTY: *gestures broadly*
LAURIE: People who will proudly wave their Janeite flag in the face of those who would call her work fluff or froth or belittle it as being all about snagging a husband or dismiss its author as a sheltered spinster who couldn’t possibly know about life and love and the big questions.
MISTY: Preach!
LAURIE: People who know that Jane Austen’s work is the antithesis of sentimental fluff. People who know that her work is flat-out brilliant commentary on the follies, flaws, and glories of what makes us all human and the search for self-realization and true happiness. People who rant like I just did. I guess that’s the difference between being a person who has read Jane Austen and being a Janeite.
MISTY: *claps*
ALEXA: I was in college when I took to conversing with Anne Elliot as I strolled the campus. I didn’t know the term “Janeite” yet, but I knew this was a special kind of madness.
MISTY: See? Strolling blindly, wrapped up in Jane, just waiting to run into a fellow Janeite and form an instant attachment. I’m telling you: Janeite Meet-Cutes are out there, just waiting to find you. Alright, as for me. . . I already mentioned that I stumbled upon some of the smuttier retellings, but I feel like I need to go back a bit.
Actually, I feel like I can contain my Janeite-ness to a Convo soundbite, so. . . I think I’ll be making a chit chat video for you guys! So this conversation is TO BE CONTINUED. . .

This year's Janeite Conversations features the following authors. Please give them some love in the comments, and support them by checking out their books!

Alexa Adams, author of Being Mrs Bennet, et al
Leigh Dreyer, author of The Best Laid Flight Plans
Riana Everly, author of Teaching Eliza, et al
Maria Grace, author of the Jane Austen's Dragons series, et al
Robin Helm, author of A Very Austen Christmas, et al
Nancy Kelley, author of His Good Opinon, et al
Debra-Ann Kummoung, author of Falling for Elizabeth Bennet
Lona Manning, author of A Contrary Wind, et al
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, et al
Melanie Stanford, author of The Beast of Pemberley from The Darcy Monologues, et al

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. Yup! These ladies are Jane-loving keepers. :)

    Fun conversation. :)

  2. Loved the chat, ladies!

    And I also love the idea of people writing fic without knowing what it is. I was already up to my neck in multiple fandoms by the time I started to write, so I knew exactly what I was doing. (Having done the same thing for multiple other fandoms already.)

  3. Enjoyed the conversation. I am still waiting for my meet-cute but am satisfied that even if I never meet another Janeite in person, at least I have this online community of them.

  4. I long to meet you all for tea. There's a wonderful place in Charleston, SC. Hmmm...

  5. Was so much fun chatting with you all!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. It sounds like a delightful obsession! I'll have to look up more on "The Watsons," since that's pretty new to me!

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience on becoming a Janeite, ladies. I'm like Robin who loves to visit bookstores whenever I can. Love to be surrounded by books especially Austenesque literature. I think that's where my obsession grew from there.

  9. Lovely conversation! Thanks for sharing all these details about your own connection with Jane Austen's works and how it changed your life.

  10. Thank you ladies. It is fun to know how Jane effected each of you.

  11. When mu autocorrect turned Bing Crosby into Bingley Crosby....


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