May 282018
 

Hello readers! Today I’m so excited to welcome two contributing authors of the recently published Austenistan anthology to Austenesque Reviews!!! For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Austenistan is a collection of short stories written by various members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP) and edited by Laaleen Sukhera! The collection consists of seven stories inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan. I don’t know about you, friends, but I think this sounds terrific and wonderfully unique! 🙂 I’m so thrilled to have contributing writer and editor, Laaleen Sukhera, and contributing writer, Saniyya Gauhar, stop by for a little tête-à-tête.

Welcome, ladies! How about we begin by talking about Jane Austen! When and where did you first discover Jane Austen? Did you fall in love with her novels right away?

Laaleen: I did, yes. I grew up surrounded by books and had an early affinity for classics. My English aunt gave me my first set of Austens on my twelfth birthday and the very first one I read was Pride and Prejudice. I remember being fixated by the banter between Lizzie, Darcy and Caroline Bingley at that scene at Netherfield—I didn’t actually find Darcy crush-worthy until Colin Firth later portrayed him. Other first impressions of her novels: getting amused by Sir Walter Elliot keenly reading Debrett’s Peerage, relating to Catherine Morland, finding Anne Elliot a little sad, comparing Fanny Price to Jane Eyre, and preferring Willoughby’s glamour to Colonel Brandon’s decency. But of course, I was a child myself then.

Saniyya: I first discovered Jane Austen when I was twelve years old – Pride & Prejudice was required reading for our class and I started reading it very reluctantly because I never enjoyed books that school made us read! However, I found myself reading beyond the chapters that the teacher set and I still remember how Darcy’s first proposal took me by complete surprise- I really wasn’t expecting it and my reaction was to put the book down, smile and go “Wow!”

Thank you so much for sharing your first impressions, how lucky you both are to have encountered Jane Austen at such a young age. I think it is so wonderful that Jane Austen’s novels can be appreciated and admired by so many diverse cultures, she truly is timeless and without bounds! 😉 What are some aspects of her novels that especially resonate with you? What parts of the Regency culture do you find easy to relate to and understand?

Laaleen: I’ve been enamoured by the Regency ever since I can remember. I devoured Georgette Heyer novels in my adolescence, and have been rereading favourites since then. My fascination for Beau Brummel, Prinny, and Princess Charlotte hasn’t abated. While much of what I’ve read and watched about the Regency was fantasy and escapism for me, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to life around me. I suppose it struck me more when I was away at college in Massachusetts and realized how much more similar Pakistan was to Austen’s England when it came to social codes and etiquette than the USA and it ended up inspiring my honours thesis and then, two decades later, Austenistan. The parallels are endless—everything from our national obsession with ‘marrying well’ to the social season and being part of fashionable society and of course, inherent misogyny.

Saniyya: I agree – she is timeless. And I think part of the reason for that is because she focused strongly on the story she was telling. The conversations, relationships and stories resonate with us today because we can identify with so many situations that will always be timeless – the pursuit of love, happiness, dealing with jealousy, money, disingenuous people etc. I personally find so many things I can relate to such as the importance of marriage in our culture; the social aspects too really resonate with me. Pakistan is a very “social” society and in that respect is similar to Regency England.

Speaking of society, you are both members of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan, correct? Is that how you first met? Can you tell us a little bit of about the JASP and what being a part of it has meant for you?

Laaleen: Actually, we first met in London as university students through our very close mutual friend. We reconnected later and have remained good friends since. Saniyya is like a sister to me. She was the one who encouraged me to start JASP. We started off as the Jane Austen Society of Islamabad, where I lived at the time, and it was a Facebook page. We hosted the first dress-up tea party feeling quite eccentric and a little foolish until our guests finally arrived. It’s been great fun and I hope it continues for many years!

Saniyya: I have known Laaleen for the last sixteen years but we became close friends, almost like sisters, when she moved to Islamabad. JASP was her brainchild and she came up with the idea about two years ago. Being part of JASP has been a fantastic and very rewarding experience. It’s such fun! It’s a book club with a twist! I have met so many wonderful, supportive people because of JASP and a very special book called Austenistan came out of it. So it really has been amazing.

I love it! How wonderful that you started the group, Laaleen. What a brilliant way to connect with other admirers and celebrate Jane Austen. Let’s talk about Austenistan, what inspired this collection of stories? Can you tell us a little bit about each of your stories?

Laaleen: The collection is inspired by Austen’s novels, characters, or settings, and set in Pakistani society. I edited the stories and wrote one myself as well. My story, On The Verge, was inspired in part by Jane herself, reimagined as a blogger with picky taste in men, torn between being practical and trying to marry well and following her heart. Roya also has some of Lizzie Bennet’s love for the ridiculous and fascination with a Pemberley-like fairytale estate. There are several love interests in the story and it’s comedic tone is embedded with social commentary and a bit of satire.

Saniyya: My story is inspired by Miss Bingley and a line towards the end of Pride & Prejudice that says, “Miss Bingley was very deeply mortified by Mr. Darcy’s marriage.” This line had always intrigued me. When I first read it many years ago as a pre-teen, I had felt a sense of triumph on behalf of Elizabeth that the jealous girl had failed in her machinations. But now as an adult, I thought it was an interesting choice of word because “mortified” means to be embarrassed or deeply humiliated. So I asked myself why? Surely, if Miss Bingley had been in love with Mr. Darcy, she would have been heartbroken or upset – but not mortified. It was then that Miss Bingley, or rather, Kamila Mughal, kind of stormed into my mind and I realised that she was mortified because she had made her feelings towards Darcy so obvious that everyone around her would have been patently aware of them and to a proud character like her, this would have been intolerable. Furthermore, because Darcy and Elizabeth were in her close social circle (and Jane was married to her brother), she would be exposed to them and their happiness very often – how would she cope and deal with the jealousy and humiliation? How would she move on? What kind of face would she present to society? So I wanted to explore those feelings because these are feelings that people are often too embarrassed to articulate. Jealousy is not only a lonely emotion, it’s an embarrassing one too that nobody likes to admit to.

It all sounds just so terrific, ladies! I love the themes of both stories and cannotwait to read the whole collection! Not only do your stories bring Jane Austen to Pakistan but they also bring her to our modern-day society. What were some of the challenges you faced while writing your stories? What aspects of writing your stories was the most fun?

Laaleen: Initially I found myself writing excessively about the back story, Roya’s upbringing and family, how she met her fiancé and so forth. And then I ended up focusing more on other events and rewrote it entirely until I felt the characters were so real that they took over. I find it maddening that I get my best ideas either when I’m in the shower or when I’m about to drop off to sleep and then forget most of them when it’s time to write them down. It can also be quite gut-wrenching to edit ruthlessly and delete thousands of words, but I feel my honours thesis prepared me for slashing pages and pages without crying too much. I was fortunate to be working with such wonderfully innovative writers and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. It was a labour of love with very low expectations so the buzz (it’s a bestseller in Pakistan) has been a delightful cherry on top.

Saniyya: The funny thing is that I had initially intended telling a story about Charlotte Lucas and I had actually mapped it all out. But when I opened my laptop to write, Miss Bingley literally barged into my mind and I just started writing. It was as if I was watching the events that occur in the story in my mind and I was struggling to get it all down because the characters were talking so fast! The fun part was that I was so immersed in Kamila Mughal’s story that it kind of cushioned me from some of the dramas of my daily life! The challenging part was that even though it took me two evenings to finish – it was a physically exhausting process.

I love that your characters felt so real to life, Laaleen, and Saniyya, I think it is so like Miss Bingley that she took over all your plans and changed them! 🙂 Can you tell us what is next for you?

Laaleen: It’s too soon to say, but just maybe a screen adaptation. I’m also in the early stages of writing a novel.

Saniyya: I am in the process of writing something else but it isn’t related to Jane Austen.

We wish you the best with your future projects. How about we switch it up with some Quick-Fire Questions:

  • Which Jane Austen character do you best identify with?

Laaleen: Lizzie Bennet because she “dearly loves a laugh,” is loyal to her loved ones, and because she got over Wickham really quickly. I just wish that I had her athleticism, though.

Saniyya: For ages it was Jane Bennet but now I think its Elinor Dashwood.

  • Which Jane Austen character do you intensely dislike?

Laaleen: Lucy Steele, the frenemy from hell! Two faced, manipulative, schmoozy and snide.

Saniyya: John Thorpe from Northanger Abbey – I think he’s ghastly. A real trouble maker.

  • What is one of your favorite quotes from Jane Austen’s novels?

Laaleen: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”

Saniyya: “Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins and I will never see you again if you do!”

  • What is one of your favorite quotes from your own writing?

Laaleen: “He went from Jameel Tanveer Butt of Gujranwala to Sir Jimmy Tanvir of Surrey.”

Saniyya: “Darling, it’s the nerds that make the best husbands. Always marry the nerds!”

  • What do you love most about Jane Austen’s novels?

Laaleen: Her readers may get older but her stories and characters always stay fresh and endearing. In fact, I’ve found myself noticing new things with each new read and appreciating her work all the more. Her dialogue and humour is unparalleled and it’s a delight to see it adapted to the screen and stage.

Saniyya: The stories are written so beautifully and with such wit. Practically every sentence is a gem as are the conversations between the characters. Each of the stories are timeless. All the characters are very strongly fleshed out from the main characters to each of the supporting characters.

  • What is something Jane Austen has taught you?

Laaleen: That people are not always what they appear, that there is no happily ever after as such, and that the best men are found in books.

Saniyya: I think a little bit about human behavior and motivations – her wry observations about her characters, many of which we see everyday – are spot on!

  • Which three Jane Austen characters would you like to invite to your next JASP meeting?

Laaleen: Well, since our meet-ups have so far been entirely female, I think it’d help to fix the gender balance, so I’d invite the yummiest Austen heroes and entertaining cads to drink tea with us ladies: brooding Darcy, romantic Wentworth, funny Tilney, dishy Willoughby, and chatty Frank Churchill. What a salon that would be!

Saniyya: Colonel Brandon, Mr. Darcy and because my story was inspired by her, I have to say Miss Bingley.

  • If you were to meet Jane Austen, what would you like to hear her say?

Laaleen: Something biting and witty and very naughty, the content of all the letters that her sister Cassandra sadly burnt into oblivion!

Saniyya: I don’t think I would have any preconceived ideas about what I would to hear her say. I would just love to have the pleasure of hearing her say whatever she wants to say!

Oh, your answers were so wonderful! Thank you so much for participating in this interview, Laaleen and Saniyya! It has been a real treat to have you answer my questions!!  I so appreciated this opportunity to chat with you both!

~~~

Connect with Laaleen

Website    ❧   Twitter    ❧    Facebook        JASP

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

In celebration of Laaleen’s and Saniyya’s lovely visit to Austenesque Reviews we are giving away one ebook copy of Austenistan to one lucky reader!

To enter this giveaway leave a comment, a question, or some love for Laaleen and Saniyya!!

  • This giveaway is open worldwide.
  • This giveaway ends June 4th
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  48 Responses to “Interview + Giveaway with Authors Laaleen Sukhera and Saniyya Gauhar!!!”

  1.  

    I love it! These women prove how when it comes down to it, we are all so similar. To think that women growing up in modern day Pakistan can so easily relate to 19th c woman writer who never left her little part of the world is an amazing tribute to JA’s talents and our common ground as humans.
    thank you ladies!

  2.  

    Congrats!!! I was glad to read that Jane Bennet received a mention in one of the answers. Cheers!

  3.  

    What a delight to be introduced to two lovely JAFF authors. Congratulations on your release and the success of your organization. Best wishes to you both.

  4.  

    Enjoyed the interview. Congrats on the release and thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  5.  

    It’s always nice to meet the different authors from around the world who are also interested in Jane Austen. Thank you for the enlightening interview and the giveaway. Wishing you the best.

  6.  

    Wow, a Pakistani interpretation! I never once even imagined such a thing. I had no idea Pakistan was so literate, although I know I’m showing my own ignorance when I say that. At first, I didn’t think such a comparison was possible, but as I continued to read through the interview, I began to see more and more parallels as the ladies explained them! Thank you for the chance to win a copy!

  7.  

    It’s my birthday on June 4 and I would love to read this!

  8.  

    What a lovely interview! Jane Austen really inspires people the world over, doesn’t she? Thanks so much for the chance to win this very original book of Austen-related stories. I’d love to read them.

  9.  

    I loved this interview. The wonderful and the fact that Austen’s 200+ year old novels not only bridge the gap of time but also of culture!

    I am crossing my fingers, hoping to win an e-copy!!

    Congratulations on your delightful success, Laaleen and Saniyya!!! 😀

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂

  10.  

    I love the idea of this anthology! Are there any “Mansfield Park” fans in Pakistan?

  11.  

    I’ve been following the progress of this book ever since I first heard about it from Laaleen when she mentioned on FB that she was assembling her dream team of Pakistan authors for this project. I’m fascinated by the idea of the culture of modern Pakistan being compared to that of Regency England. I hope to win a copy!

  12.  

    My birthdate is June 29th so I would love to have a new book to read. I had read about India having many young men interested in Jane Austen but never thought further about the region. The photos show all of you to be beautiful in your own rights. Good luck with your writing. Thank you for sharing.

  13.  

    I was so impressed with this interview and news about this new book. What a beautiful story about Laaleen’s, and Saniyya’s longstanding friendship and sisterhood with their fellow JASP writing partners. I am really eager and curious to read the stories translated into a different culture than ours. (Ours in the West.) Connecting to a group of women through this beloved common ground is especially meaningful….our love for Jane Austen. I love it.

    •  

      Thank you so much for checking out our interview, Michelle! I love what you said about it being meaningful to connect like this and I completely agree with it!

  14.  

    This looks like such a fun book! Thanks for the giveaway!

  15.  

    I was caught immediately by your cover art. I think it is one of best modern Jane Austen inspired covers I’ve seen because the subject seems forthright but so much is hidden. It leaves me wanting to find out the story inside.

  16.  

    Brilliant interview, Meredith and ladies!

    I’m always curious to see Austen’s stories translated into modern settings. Looking forward to reading this one when I get the chance.

  17.  

    What a wonderful idea to have these new Austen stories set in Pakistan. I must admit not knowing much about this country, but would love to find out!

  18.  

    Wow! Such a fabulous interview ladies and lovely to hear all about your book, as well as your thoughts on our favourite author. I love how there are clearly so many parallels between Regency England and modern day Pakistan. Best of luck with the new release, hope it does well. Looking forward to reading it soon – hopefully by winning the giveaway!

  19.  

    This is so cool and different–I love it!

    denise

  20.  

    Ahh! This sounds so good!

  21.  

    Really enjoyed the interview ladies. What a unique take on a JAFF novel this is. It seems like a fabulous read, I am really curious about it! So please count me in, thank you 🙂

  22.  

    wow that take on Miss Bingley sounds like an amazing story!
    Enjoyed the interview, this anthology is on my TBR list, for sure. Thanks.

  23.  

    Thanks for a fantastic interview ladies. I was a similar age to Laaleen and Saniyya when I discovered Jane Austen so I can relate to that – but it’s rather longer ago for me than it is them! Many congrats on forming JASP, too.

    I love seeing Jane Austen’s works transferred to other times, places and cultures. One of the reasons I enjoy watching Bride and Prejudice so much, I think, so I’m very much looking to this anthology.

  24.  

    I am so excited about this one! I saw a blurb about it on Goodreads one day, and keep circling back to it — this Q&A has definitely given the book a bump up on my To Read list 😉 🙂 Love, love, love the premise so much! And major kudos for starting JASP — that’s such an awesome tribute 🙂

  25.  

    What a delightful book this is! I very much look forward to reading it and have added it to my wish list.

  26.  

    They are many lessons that we can get fromJA’s work, I also think that “it is not what it seems to be about apearence and don’t judge a book by it’s cover are also good ones.
    As a French Pakistani, there are situation in JA’s world that we can relate too. I’m also very happy for Leeleen and Sanaiyya for publishing the book and it’s honestly quite a big deal!!

  27.  

    Austenistan , I love the title “the country of Pakistan” XD

  28.  

    Thank you for featuring this new (to me) authors, Meredith. I can gather that there are wonderful and supportive, just like the other Janeites that I met online. I wish there is a Jane Austen society in my country that I can become part of so that we can physically meet up and discuss all things about Austen. Sadly there is none that I know of.

  29.  

    Congrats ladies! I’m looking forward to reading your debut book!

  30.  

    What wonderful comments. Thank you, everyone! Hope you enjoy it and maybe take a few moments to revie Austenistan on Amazon/BarnedandNoble/Waterstones/WHSmith etc. Thanks SO much!

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