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Thursday, August 29, 2019

GIVEAWAY & Guest Post: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time... from Jessica Grey!

Author Jessica Grey has been sprinkled throughout Austen in August this year, from our Janeite Conversations to a number of our AIA Mega Prize Packs! Today, she's stopping by to talk to us a bit about the Holidays with Jane series, and just how all of that came to be — she's also giving you one more chance to get your hands on the books (this time, the entire set!), so make sure to click through and enter! 

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: The Writing of the Holidays with Jane Collections

by Jessica Grey

I recently told my mom that when I die I want “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…” on my gravestone. She laughed and told me if I die before her that she’s having it made to read “Wait, I’m overthinking this too.” I wasn’t even mad, because both describe my life (and writing) style pretty well.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time” is my number one response when people ask me about the Holidays with Jane series. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love these books and I am so freaking proud of what my fellow authors and I accomplished. But I’m going to admit that in the middle of the two and a half year process of adapting all six of Jane Austen’s main novels into modern short stories/novellas, I had a few major meltdown moments that I didn’t see coming.

Before we take a fun stroll through Jess Meltdown Land, you might be wondering what exactly the Holidays with Jane collections are. Each collection contains six novellas which are adaptations of all of Jane Austen’s novels (so you get a Persuasion, P&P, S&S, Northanger Abbey, Emma, and Mansfield Park adaptation in each collection!). The collections are themed around Holidays or seasons: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Spring, Summer, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. These are modern adaptations and range from Young Adult(ish) to Romance and include a little taste of magic or mystery, depending on the season or story. The stories have tons of crossovers within the collections and they have pretty covers! (If I do say so myself.)

I always read guest posts of authors doing fun and clever things and everyone always sounds so confident and put together - like of course our ambitious project came together seamlessly, we are AUTHORS!! This is not at all how my writing process works, and I thought it might be fun to see how fun and amazing things can still come out of chaos. So here, book by book, are my mini dramas over adapting all six of Jane’s novels for this project.

You lucky things, you.

Book One: Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer. This was our first collection and I was so excited to start the project with my friend Melissa Buell and then ask some of our favorite Austenesque authors to be a part of it! This was before we decided to do six total collections.

My Stupid Move: Offering to adapt Mansfield Park so no one else had to do it...AKA my secret plan for getting authors involved. I figured they’d be more likely to do it if they had a chance at P&P or Persuasion or Emma...I’d fall on my sword and take Mansfield Park.

Problem: I HATE MANSFIELD PARK (particularly Edmund Bertram). Our publication date was looming and all my fellow authors were turning in amazing stories to me and I was like…”I have a cleverly named location and no plot. This is fine.” It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Book Two: Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever. The luck of the draw gave me Persuasion (yasss) and because it was spring and I’m a baseball fanatic, I decided to set it at a minor league baseball stadium and make Captain Wentworth a coach. Wentworth + baseball pants = Jess is a happy camper.

My Stupid Move: Thinking it was going to be easy because HELLO, SEE ABOVE.

Problem: Previous to this story everything I’d published had some element of magic in it. I had published several young adult fairy tales, a novel where the main character gets magically transported to Pride and Prejudice, even my Holiday’s with Jane: Christmas Cheer story had a dash of magic because it was Christmas. About halfway through this story I had a massive meltdown and convinced myself I am incapable of writing modern romance. Luckily, due to an intervention by my friend and story editor, Angela, I realized that I was actually wrong. Sometimes you need to be told to get over yourself and just write the story. The result was much happiness and Captain Wentworth swoony moments.

Book Three: Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet. I had Pride and Prejudice! It was Halloween so I allowed myself to be a little magicky! Everything was going to be smooth sailing, what are deadlines? They are only vague constructs…

My Stupid Move: Deciding to write this from Darcy’s point of view.

Problem: DARCY’S POINT OF VIEW. Is it that a problem though, Jess? Plenty of great books have done it (haha, hashtagnopressure). People love Darcy’s point of view! But wait, I also had set the whole shebang in high school and made Darcy a senior jock. Because nothing says loveable internal dialogue that I am totally capable of writing like an eighteen year old male lettering in four different sports. Yup. Oh, and I set it at a high school dance. Little ol’ “never went to real high school” me is super prepped for this. Luckily for me, it turns out that my Darcy, Will Harper, and his precocious sister Ana, are so sweet and entertaining together that I couldn’t have screwed them up if I tried (and I did really try once or twice).

Book Four: Holidays with Jane: Summer of Love. I love summer. Summer is my favoritest time of the year. I am basically Olaf from Disney’s Frozen singing and dancing in a field of daisies every darn minute of summer.

My Stupid Move: When we were divvying up Jane’s novels the ONLY ONE I insisted upon having for a specific season was Emma for summer because wouldn’t it just make a great summer camp story? It’s screaming to be a YA ‘cause she’s just so immature and yes, maybe I love Clueless a little too much.

The Problem: That was it. That was my whole idea. Emma. Summer camp. End of Jess’s ideas for this story. I had no plot. I’d only ever been to Girl Scout camp. I actually contemplated breaking a limb so I didn’t have to meet our deadline for the book. You know what saved me? Emma and Knightley. They’re so easy to want to smack but so terribly loveable all at the same time. And that, as it turns out, sums up high schoolers.

Book Five: Holidays with Jane: Thankful Hearts. Thanksgiving! It’s great! True, it’s only an American/Canadian holiday, but it’s also a time when families get together and that is peak Austen.

My Stupid Move: Setting my story North by Northanger (yes, there are references to the movie) in Brooklyn (by way of Georgia, no less).

Problem: Friends, I have been to no part of NYC or Georgia. Thank goodness for Google maps and friends who let me pick their brains. Was this story written, (in its entirety) in a fever dream of Starbucks and Cary Grant the day before deadline? I invoke my fifth amendment rights.

Book Six: Holidays with Jane: Will You Be Mine. Valentine’s Day! Romance! Austen! ‘Tis a perfect mix….

My Stupid Move: Existing in the same universe as Sense and Sensibility.

Problem: This was the biggest come to Jesus moment I’ve ever had writing. Not because the story was particularly difficult to write once I got started. In fact, I had the easiest time with this one. But first I had to decide what kind of Sense and Sensibility story to tell...and I had to (this is still hard for me) admit to myself that I am…A MARIANNE. All of these years I’ve been lying to myself and others while insisting that I’m a calm, logical Elinor and in reality, I am a hot mess Marianne (you’re shocked after reading this guest post, I can feel it.) However, once I admitted it to myself, and I stopped hating Marianne for all the things that make her so me, I enjoyed the heck out of her getting a second chance at love with a really decent guy.

And that, my friends, is my Holidays with Jane experience in a nutshell. It sounds like a lot of lows, but each of those lows was followed by some really great writing highs when the stories worked themselves out and the collections came together with all their crossover goodness.

You may ask yourself, why is Jess sharing all her meltdowns and drama while writing these stories? Well, firstly, nothing sells books like a long, hard look at author self-doubt! Okay, maybe not.

I’m sharing because all this drama (while fun to whine about) highlights the number one thing I learned during the Holidays with Jane process: trust the original stories. There’s a reason that Jane Austen has been adapted like no other author. She knew people. She was insightful as all heck - sometimes uncomfortably so. There’s a reason why you can take Persuasion or Emma or Sense and Sensibility and pick a new place and time for it over and over again: because those people exist in every generation, in every time period, and in every type of society. I may have made Marianne a high school drama teacher in Southern California circa 2017, but she’s still Marianne. Whenever I had a question about how to make something work in the setting I had chosen the answer was always in the original text.

And that is why we wanted to adapt Jane Austen in this way. Why I raised my hand and said, “Yes, I want to adapt every single one of these novels.” It’s also why Misty’s Austen in August is so much fun every year. You can read Jane over and over, you can adapt her time and time again, and still discover new things about the originals that you missed the first hundred times. This experience made me a better reader and a better writer, so thank you Jane, again, for these stories.

Because she's just generally awesome like that, Jessica has offered up another set of the Holidays with Jane ebooks, this time with all of them going to 1 lucky winner! (Alternately, if the winner is in the US they can choose 1 book from the series to receive a signed paperback of instead, if they'd prefer.)
This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.
To Enter, fill out the Rafflecopter.
Full terms located in the Rafflecopter.
Ends September 5th, 2019, at 11:59pm EST.

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. What a hoot, Jessica! I love getting your 'behind the scenes' thoughts aka panic on writing each of these. I've read one and have them all. Can't wait to read each and know what went into them for you.

    1. Thank you so much for supporting this series, Sophia!

  2. Oh my! Great post. Thank you for sharing. I have had my eye on this series. Thank you for a chance to win.

  3. I have two of the books in the series and love them so would love to have the entire set. The one that tops my wishlist is Spring Fever since it has Wentworth as a baseball player. Since I'm a fan of baseball, I love the premise of him as a minor league player. Thanks for the chance to win.

    1. Coach Wentworth is hot, not gonna lie. Good luck!

  4. I only have one so far in the series, love the short stories. If I am given the chance to choose - will be Holidays with Jane: Christmas Cheer or Holidays with Jane: will you be Mine? Thanks for the chance to win

  5. I love all your stories, Jess! I had several panic writing moments too. And the worst panics ended up creating my favorite stories. I could have done without the panic part though.

  6. Great post Jess, I love behind the scenes stories. Thanks for your generous giveaway.

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience (the good and bad) of adapting Jane Austen's novels into your anthology of modern short stories. I think it's insightful to read the struggles an author has to appreciate her work. I hope you will think about continuing this Holidays with Jane project and come up with new themes. And I adore all the pretty looking covers too.

  8. I think I'd most like to read Trick or Sweet. I think I have the Spring Fever one. That's the only one I have.

  9. Such a lovely giveaway! I wish there were more Emma and especially Persuasion adaptions out there, and it was great to see them included!


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