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Monday, August 23, 2021

All About JAFF: A Janeite Roundtable

It's Janeite Roundtable time again! We've only got two Convos left for this year's Austen in August! (And to be honest, I've done so many of these over the years, that's probably a good thing -- what on earth haven't we talked about?? Leave me question suggestions in the comments!) Today, I asked: 

One of my favorite things about JAFF is how seeing someone else's interpretation can reopen the possibilities for the original books, and make me see something in a new light, or have an a-ha! moment about something that I may not have noticed before. What have been some of those moments for you in JAFF (your own or ones you've read)?  

MARILYN: I greatly admire Jane Austen, not just as the brilliant author of my favorite novels, but as the clever, perceptive woman and devoted sister/daughter/aunt that she was. That said, Jane was still human. She was capable of making mistakes in her impressions of other people, being judgmental and critical (often with good reason, I'm sure, but nonetheless...), and having bad moods, just like the rest of us. I respect her all the more because she acknowledged the way her main characters had to face their own foibles and flaws, see themselves and their actions in a clearer light, and above all, change. 

MISTY: Yes! I often say that that's what non-Janeites miss when trying to understand the appeal of a character like Darcy, for example. So many people think modern readers swoon over him because he's rich, but HARD NO! We love that he's willing to do the hard work of taking a look at who he has been, and reconciling it with who he wants to be -- who he thought he was. That's what we love!

MARILYN: Not to become perfect people, but to simply become better -- a little wiser, more compassionate, less prejudiced, etc. 


MARILYN: So, one of the key things that occurred to me while I was writing According to Jane was that I wanted to show that Jane herself could make an error in judgment -- not only Ellie, the novel's protagonist. That no one, not even our beloved Jane Austen, was exempt from making very human mistakes.

MISTY: A good thing to remember.

CHRISTINA: J. Marie Croft wrote a backstory about Miss Bates in the anthology “Rational Creatures” and forevermore that is the truth to me about Emma’s old friend. A total a-ha moment for me.

MISTY: No spoilers, but yes! 

CHRISTINA: Gobstruck but made so much sense! 

MISTY: Actually, that's one of the things I love about JAFF in general -- the ability to get believable backstories that add depth to peripheral characters.

ALEXA: My favorite books are those that redeem the seemingly unredeemable, especially when they’re women. 

MISTY: God, yes! We all know I have feels about this!!

ALEXA: These takes on Austen have made me a more empathetic person, and they have inspired me to try and write from the point of view of Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, and even Mrs. Norris. 

MISTY: Uh... I don't know if there's any redeeming Mrs Norris, tbh. 

ALEXA: This perspective was almost entirely inspired by two of my favorite JAFF authors: Jane Odiwe and Laura Hile. I must have read Jane Odiwe’s early novel, Lydia Bennet’s Story, at least five times--

MISTY: *rushes off to Amazon, sees that it's only 99 cents...* Welp, guess I'll be reading this one soon...

ALEXA: *smiles* While the hero of Laura Hile’s Mercy’s Embrace trilogy is so marvelous that it feels near miraculous Elizabeth Elliot can possibly deserve him, but she does. I love that.

LONA: Allie Cresswell's Highbury Trilogy shows Frank Churchill at Weymouth, where he met Jane Fairfax. I always wondered how those two fell in love, as they seem to be such opposites. Or really, I didn't know what Jane Fairfax saw in Frank.  

MISTY: They really do seem kinda mismatched, don't they?

LONA: Allie's novel showed what was endearing about the optimistic, buoyant, mischievous side of Frank Churchill's nature, and also showed what he put up with from his Churchill relatives.

MISTY: I will say, as much as I sometimes want to shake both Frank and Jane F., there does seem to be a lot of hinted-at backstory that is rich for the mining; I could see falling for them falling for each other...

RIANA:I am always intrigued by the variations that have Elizabeth (and sometimes Jane) not be Mrs. Bennet’s biological children. 

MISTY: This? This is my shocked face. I don't know if I've read one like that! Although I guess it explains (beyond age) why Jane and Lizzie are so different from their sisters.

RIANA: Sometimes they’re from a previous marriage, sometimes from an affair-- 

MISTY: Shocked. Face.

RIANA: -- or sometimes one of them is adopted. This doesn’t fit with canon, but it does open up the door for wondering why Mrs. B seems almost antagonistic to Lizzy sometimes. What makes her put all her hopes on her eldest and dote on her youngest, rather than pouring that attention on Lizzy, who by Austen’s accounts is second in beauty only to Jane? 

MISTY: Fair point. That fraught relationship really does give modern fanfiction authors a lot to play with.

RIANA: I also find the Bad Jane variations fascinating. Again, there is nothing in Austen’s text to suggest that Jane is anything other than sugar-sweet, but it can be fun to think about what’s going on under that perfect and serene surface. It can give her more of an interior life and provide her with more dimension.

MISTY: Riana... You're clearly reading some things that I am not. I'm going to need you to make me a list... Speaking of, anyone wanna take this opportunity to recommend one more favorite work by another Austenesque author?

MARILYN: Ohhh, there are so many fantastic Austenesque novels and authors! Personally, I love Katie Oliver's modern voice and am really looking forward to her upcoming mystery series. The first story -- Pride, Prejudice, and Peril (A Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery, Book 1) -- is coming out in December!

MISTY: We'll have to keep an eye out for it! 

LONA: If you try Christina Angel Boyd's Quill Ink anthologies, you can enjoy a smorgasbord of Austenesque authors and maybe find some new favourites! 

MISTY: My favorite thing about short story anthologies! 

LONA: There are collections of Darcy stories, Elizabeth stories, Rakes & Rogues, Rational Creatures (Austen's strong women) and the Yuletide anthology which is a fundraiser for Chawton House.

MISTY: And excellent, to boot!

CHRISTINA: For other eras: Karen M Cox

MISTY: I loved her story, "Resistive Currents," in Elizabeth: OHG. And Beau North's old-Hollywood tale, "Love in Limelight"! I need, like, a thousand "other eras" retellings of Austen, pronto. 


You all know Austen in August is as much an ode to JAFF as it is to Jane, something I've been talking a lot about this year. Let us know your favorite JAFF a-ha moments -- and favorite JAFF books and authors -- in the comments!

BIG THANKS to this year's roundtable of contributors:
Alexa Adams, author of The Tales of Less Pride and Prejudice series, et al
Christina Boyd, editor of  The Quill Collective anthology series
Lona Manning, author of the Mansfield Trilogy and the blog series "Clutching My Pearls"
Marilyn Brant, author of Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match, et al.
Riana Everly, author of the Miss Mary Investigates series, et al.

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. I wish I could help think of fresh questions for your rountable discussions because it is a blast to see everyone chiming in. I'm good with you rehashing questions from ten years ago since I probably wasn't reading your blog then. :)

    Anywho, I love when JAFF authors put a spin on a plot moment or character that makes me go aha. I went on something of an Mansfield Park variation/sequel binge this past January and I was tickled to read all that folks could do with Fanny and the gang. Lona's A Contrary Wind offered a fab new Fanny,Roslyn Russell's Maria Returns redeems Maria Bertram, and The Crawford Scandal was an interesting take on Mary Crawford's early years. Mrs. Tilney by Gretel Hallat was a fascinating peek-in to NA's characters and how their lives might have gone forward , and I thought Sons of Pemberley by Elizabeth Adams was a nice exploration into what if Mrs. Darcy had lived and Mr. Darcy had passed away. Oh and Christina Morland's The Year in Between does a fab job of following up on the lives of the S&S crowd after the major events in that story. So many wonderful explorations in JAFF.

  2. I prefer my JAFF when the characters are recognizable as Austen’s original, regardless of what the author spins. Does that make sense?

    Round table discussions? I always like when people throw out their dream casts. I also would be interested to know how they think Austen would have ended Sanditon...did Charlotte end up with Sydney?


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