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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Why Writing Modern Jane Austen Fiction Is So Hard + Yuletide Mini Review!

Disclaimer: a review copy of this book was provided by the editor for review purposes. Affiliate links are not used in this post, but are used on this site. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.
Edited to add: as you can see in the banner below, this post was supposed to be up yesterday, but I apparently don't know how to 'days of the week'... That is entirely MY BAD, sorry about that, internet!

You may have already seen me talking about this book online, as I listened to it while I was decorating for Christmas, but today -- before we dive into a guest post from one of the book's authors, Amy D'Orazio -- I'm going to dig a little deeper into why I loved Yuletide, an anthology of Christmas-oriented Jane Austen stories. And love it, I did!

Generally when I read short story anthologies, I skip around to whichever story is calling my name most, with little care for the flow of one into the next. I also tend to only read them in bits and pieces, fits and starts, and never cover to cover. But because I was listening to Yuletide on audiobook*, and because I was flitting around the house, clipping evergreens that were politely pilfered from my neighborhood (ahem) and working them into wreaths and such, I just hit play and went along for whatever was in store.
*it is still possible to skip around to stories in an audio anthology, btw. Chapters still exist.

And man, I enjoyed this. The first story in the book actually gave me butterflies, but even when stories hit a flat note (which was rare), the immersive experience of listening to someone tell me Christmas stories about characters I love (who at this point feel almost like family, I've sent so much time with them), while working on Christmas myself? SWOON, it was so enjoyable. Harry Frost's narration was excellent, as well, even if I did occasionally chuckle at his "American" accent. ;)

I'm not going to give you my whole spiel about how short story anthologies are great for discovering new authors, or as palate cleansers between books, our any of that (except I kinda just did), but as Austen anthologies go, this is one of the stronger ones. Each story felt entirely unique from the others, while still cohesive in context of the theme, and the different approaches mean that there's likely to be a story here to suit most Janeites. The book feels tightly and thoughtfully curated, and I did, in fact, discover some authors whose JAFF I now want to look into! And the best part of all? Proceeds from sales of the e-book and paperback go to benefit Chawton House!

This mini review was turned out to be less mini and more review, but basically, I recommend this book, and I especially recommend reading it in the wintertime, when there's snow on the ground and the days are short, when your brain has turned towards Christmas but you're out of new Hallmark movies to watch... 10/10 experience, would recommend.

And now, a piece from our special guest, Amy D'Orazio!

Eight Reasons Why Writing Modern JAFF Adaptations is so Much Harder than Writing Regencies 

by Amy D’Orazio (contributing author to YULETIDE “The Wishing Ball”)

The Yuletide anthology [collection of five Regency era and two modern holiday stories] explored some new ground for me — it is the first time I have published a modern adaptation rather than the regency-based stories I typically write. Part of that was because this story was originally part of a Christmas challenge at A Happy Assembly. The idea for it came from fellow author Pamela Lynne who challenged me to write something to do with Christmas ornaments.

I know many people believe writing a modern adaptation is easier than a Regency. Both have their challenges but of the two…? Writing moderns is harder, in my opinion, and here are my reasons why:

These are my tax returns for the last 3 years...have a look and let me know if you love me later.jpg

    1. Prejudice. Okay so this is a big one and often one I find takes a good modern and makes it shaky. Heaven knows there are plenty of things people are prejudiced about in this day and age but translating that into a feasible Darcy & Elizabeth-type situation isn’t easy. Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t poor—yet— in P&P. She was part of the upper echelon of wealth in England, but Darcy was, by comparison, stratospheric. So, a story about someone wealthy marrying someone else who is uber-wealthy? —not really anything notable today

    2. Location, location, location. The first challenge any modern author faces is where to put their main characters. Jane Austen put hers in various spots around England, and when I am writing a Regency, I feel comfortable enough with my research to do likewise. But modern day? I’ve been to London a few times but that’s about it—I would have to do a LOT of research to find the exact restaurant on the exact street or the specific house with the certain features I need for my characters. The chances of getting it wrong are so much higher! In my story in this anthology I placed Darcy and Elizabeth in New York City (gasp… they’re American!)

    3. Show of hands—who has had a family member voice an expectation that you should marry your cousin? But it was an important custom then and had super important implications for bloodlines and fortunes and etc. So, it’s sort of a hard issue to translate into a modern circumstance even though it was an important part of many of Austen’s books.
    Copy of Untitled (1).jpg

    4. Or for that matter —who has really allowed their family members to have much say into their marriage at all? I mean, sure, I wanted my family to like my husband but if Aunt Martha didn’t…well…I guess we’d have just cut her off the Christmas card list.

    Copy of Untitled (1).jpg

    5. The whole Lydia-Wickham and Georgiana-Wickham thing. Let’s be honest, in modern times, the only proper place for the likes of George Wickham (age 26/27) is jail for being a sex predator on teenagers. Would the military even take him? Let’s hope no one would force one of his victims to marry him! It’s storyline that is very tricky to translate to the modern era!


      6. Modern life changes fast which brings with it another pitfall of books set in modern eras (not just for JAFF but any modern story)—when you have your hero check email on his Blackberry, or your heroine snap her Razor phone closed, you automatically dated your story. If you mention a song, a book, a news event, or a particular celebrity, five or ten years from now someone reading your book might not get what it is you’re talking about. Horse technology, on the other hand, rarely changed throughout the Regency period and the main forms of communication—writing a letter or walking to your neighbors house to talk about it—were the same.

      7. By far, I think the most difficult thing about modern translations is how the characteristics of the our main characters are when placed into a modern setting. I’ve seen some intriguing takes on this — Elizabeth’s wit becomes almost supernatural intelligence, Mrs Bennet’s illiberality becomes racism or homophobia, Emma’s tendency to matchmake turns into a wedding planning business. To me, this is where writing moderns can really be tricky—in a Regency you don’t have to decide all of this but in a modern, you need to decide how you’ll bring it all into a modern era.

      8. Marriage. By far the trickiest part of creating a modern is the aspects of marriage. In modern times, there are dates, there are non-monogamous relationships, there are engagements that end with no dreadful outcome to either party—in short there are many complexities to modern relationships that didn’t exist back then (for better or worse). If you’re writing a Regency and your hero and heroine dance twice, have a whispered conversation behind a potted plant and then decide to marry— sure! True love! But a modern couple? I think most of your readers would think it was a bit unrealistic! So, there you have it! It should be noted of course that all the opinions expressed herein are solely those of me, the author! Love to hear your thoughts on the subject below!

      AMY D’ORAZIO is a former scientist and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in equal measure. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley, and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters devoted to sports with long practices and began writing stories as a way to pass the time spent at their various gyms and studios. She firmly believes that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily-ever-afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. She is the author of The Best Part of Love, A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity, A Lady’s Reputation and various anthologies.

      Below you'll find an except of Amy's story in Yuletide; find samples from the rest of the anthology here

      Yuletide: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection Of Stories, edited by Christina Boyd 
      190 pages / audio 5 hrs and 50 mins Published November 26th 2018 by The Quill Ink, LLC
      BUY HERE:
      “I went up to the Great House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably...” –Jane Austen

       A holiday short story anthology with some favorite Austenesque authors, YULETIDE is inspired by Jane Austen, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, and the spirit of the season. Regency and contemporary alike, each romance was dreamt to spark love, humor, and wonder while you dawdle over a hot cup of tea this Christmas. 

      Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Lona Manning * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams Edited by: Christina Boyd

       All proceeds from e-book and paperback sales to benefit Chawton Great House in Hampshire, former manor of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight and now the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600-1830.


      1. What a great idea to listen to the Yuletide anthology while trimming the house for Christmas!

        1. Thank you for stopping by Lona!

      2. And I think Amy D’Orazio makes some valid/interesting points about translating a period piece to modern. She shared some Hilarious images too.

        Thank you, Misty, for sharing your enthusiasm for our anthology and audiobook. I am glad it helped you bring in the season!

        1. Thank you Christina and agreed -- thanks Misty!

      3. Hi Amy, I think you make some great points. I've noticed myself that moderns are harder and take me longer to write than P&P variations set during the Regency. I think in part it's because you have to change everything (everyone needs a profession, the setting is different, etc.) Also, character motivations that work in the Regency don't work in modern books. It doesn't make sense for Charlotte to marry for security or that Mrs. B. is constantly trying to marry off her daughters. And, as you mentioned, today we'd be less concerned about Lydia's "reputation" and more with the fact that Wickham should be arrested. I find that I'm always looking for "modern" justifications to keep the characters' behavior close enough to Austen's originals that they are recognizable.

        1. Those points are so true! But most of all the character motivations -- I love when I see a modern that has a clever spin on things, an analogous motivation that fits well!

      4. Well Amy, moderns are easier to edit - no worries about language! But you make great points about how difficult they are to write. After being involved in the JAFF world for more than 20 years, I'm so impressed with how authors still manage to come up with unique story lines - both modern and Regency - for our favorite characters.

        1. Unless like me you fall into writing in your "JAFF" voice and then have to go back and change every "do you not" to "don't" ect. ��

        2. So very true to you both!

      5. So glad no one ever suggested I marry my cousin! Great review! I think I'll continue listening as I hang garland. :-)

      6. Great review, Misty - and great topic post, Amy! I had a friend once tell me she thought any type of "inspired by" writing was more difficult that just going wherever your muse took you - because you had to write within parameters. In some ways, it might be more difficult, but also when you write Austen-inspired fiction, you do have a roadmap of sorts. Perhaps regarding plot, but regarding characters - definitely! For me, if I have a handle on the characters - what I want their foibles to be, what they love/hate, what strengths they can draw on to effect their changed selves - the plot points are illuminated along the way. The hardest character I myself have ever adapted to modern times was *drum roll please* Anne Elliot :D

        1. I TOTALLY agree with your friend... there are those who might get a little sniffy about *fanfiction* but it really is such a challenge to take on a beloved character, modern or historical!

      7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book. I love anthologies and this one sounds like one I would really enjoy.

        1. Its such fun especially for this time of year!

      8. A tempting mini-review - and a great guest post by Amy! Very relatable and spot on, I very much recognised all the issues covered in it. I've written one longer modern set in the UK and it really was tricky to get the feel of if it right - I solved a lot of my location problems by following JA's lead and setting the events in the fictitious town of Meryton. Less worry about mixing existing streets and building up the whole town in my mind was actually a lot of fun. :)

        1. A great fix! THanks Anniina!

      9. I listened while flitting about the house, too, Misty. It will warrant many listens over the years I think. :)

        Great list, Amy, and as one who dipped into brief attempts at moderns and historicials, your remarks resonated with me.

      10. I have read so many P & p variations and I appreciate variations that maintains the attributes of the original characters (coz that's one reason why we fell in love with the original story). It's amazing how changes in time/scenarios may change them but there remains their true self.

      11. It’s a wrap for our mini-audio blog tour. Thank you to the bloggers and tour followers who helped make it a success. We are so inspired by all who continue to support “YULETIDE: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection of Stories”. ❤️💚❤️ #YuleLoveIt The winner of our $15 Amazon gift card, selected by the web tool Random Name Picker, is Emmaline Lavender Fields. Congratulations!
        Thanks to The Book Rat, Misty Braden, Bellows Audio - Harry Frost, Joana Starnes, J Marie Croft, Elizabeth Adams, Amy D'Orazio, Caitlin Williams, Anngela Schroeder, and Lona Manning.

      12. Thanks for the information.
        A Mica rodent spray that smells like peppermint? It seems like an oxymoron, but in a good way!
        I have a pretty awful rat problem at my home, and I always feel guilty while using chemical pest sprays around my kids and my dog.
        But I think this spray can help me out in terms of keeping my family safe from toxic chemicals. Thanks a lot for posting this!


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


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