Happy Monday, readers! I am very excited to welcome author Rosalie Stanton to Austenesque Reviews today! While Rosalie has several books under her belt already, she published her first Pride and Prejudice inspired story a few months ago – A Higher Education. (Which I am currently devouring and reviewing later this week!) Since Rosalie was a new-to-me author I asked her to share a little about herself, her writing, and what inspired A Higher Education. I hope you enjoy learning about her as much as I did!!
I cut my writing teeth on fanfic.
That used to be something no serious author would admit. When I was writing it, it was that shameful, dirty secret I kept to myself. I’d be introduced to new friends as an “avid writer” by those who knew me, and while this was true, it often provoked the uncomfortable question: “What do you write?”
How, exactly, do you announce that you write Buffy fanfic? Specifically, Buffy fanfic in the Spuffy (Spike/Buffy) subfandom, and there is lots and lots of sex?
Answer: you don’t. You smile and say, “Paranormal. With vampires.”
When I say I cut my writing teeth on fanfic, I mean it. I’ve been a writer since I knew how to hold a pencil. In my youth, I’d steal scratchpads from my grandparents’ print shop and doodle flip-book-style stories. I filled countless spiral notebooks with longhand YA stories I was sure would actually be published one day. When my mother broke down and supplied our first computer—a piece of ancient alien technology that was ready to be put to pasture by the time it landed in our home—I taught myself how to type. I learned about spaces after periods. I wrote epic-long Star Wars stories (which I thought I could publish, because the EU was a thing). I wrote a combination of short horror stories, novel-length fantasy, and the occasional piece of lofty Mortal Kombat fanfic (Liu Kang/Kitana were my jam).
When I was fourteen, though, and after our dinosaur computer had been exchanged for something with internet capabilities, I discovered that people actually published stories set in established universes online.
Up until this point, I had been absolutely terrified of anyone reading what I wrote. While I wanted to be a published author, I was shy about my content. I liked—gasp—kissing stories. My favorite movies and TV shows were my favorites because I had people I ‘shipped in them (well before I knew what ‘ship meant). I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, but I seldom let people read, because, eek! How embarrassing. To be the chubby, shy kid who, yes, had romantic aspirations, enough to write about things I was convinced I’d only experience through fiction.
Fanfic took that away. No one knew I was a shy, chubby kid online. Hell, no one knew my age. I inflated it to be taken more seriously. And I began churning out content like I never had before. When I was sixteen, I discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or, rather, was forced to watch it despite my protestations), and I launched into writing Spike/Buffy fanfic—a place I’d stay for years.
To quote Lin Manuel-Miranda, I wrote like I was running out of time.
I majored in Creative Writing. It’s in my diploma and everything. But everything I learned about writing—story, structure, pacing, characterization, show don’t tell, everything was from the college of Buffy Fanfic. And for a long time, that made me feel like a fraud. Especially after branching out into original fiction. Stories with my characters, not someone else’s.
Thankfully, fanfic has become more mainstream, more acceptable, downright cool.
Though I was hypersensitive to the stigma, it wasn’t long after I entered the writing world as a “real” author that I discovered something utterly delightful.
Fanfic actually did exist in the publishing world, too. Pride & Prejudice fanfic. Well, public domain fanfic, but the Pride & Prejudice fanfic was something that pulled me, a girl who lost her heart to Mr. Darcy when at seventeen, into its tractor beam. I’d read P&P fanfic on old sites like fanfiction.net, but never dreamed that you could actually publish this stuff into real books. I was not new to writing but very new to publishing, so concepts like “public domain” still needed translation.
Needless to say, I began devouring variations like it was my job, but I never thought about writing one of my own. Historicals are not my forte, even if they’re set in a world I know. I don’t trust myself to get the language or societal nuances right. So I’d read the variations, but it never occurred to me to try my hand at writing them. I can only guess this is because I hadn’t looked hard enough. I mean, I knew Bridget Jones was a modern P&P retelling. I knew this, I did, but the lightbulb failed to flick on.
My first book (aptly titled Firsts) was released in 2009. It was (and remains) a scrubbed AU (alternate reality) all-human fanfic I initially published as a Buffy author about a girl and the best friend who’s head-over-ass in love with her. And while, yes, it was all-human, it was still fanfic in my eyes. I wasn’t sure I could write non-paranormal with any degree of confidence. It took years before I’d pick up books that didn’t have vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, or other sorts of otherworldly creatures in the leading roles, and when I transitioned at last into writing original material (that is, material that had never been fanfic in any incarnation prior to being published), I was most comfortable in the paranormal realm. I began writing my Sinners & Saints series. I began separating the parts of Joss Whedon vampire-lore from my internal lexicon and developing my own rules. All the while, I kept reading.
The first concept of A Higher Education, my own modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, came to me in a flash in 2012. I’d published a few books by then, but was still very much immersed in the paranormal subgenre. At the time, I’d finished reading a book published by Totally Entwined Group in their Clandestine Classics line. What was a Clandestine Classic? Simply: the original text of a public domain work interspliced with sexy times as written by a contemporary author.
Guess which one I read. No, seriously, guess.
This was my lightbulb moment. I didn’t so much want to write fanfic for Pride & Prejudice as tell the story again, but my way. For me, fanfic was fixing things I wanted fixed in canon, and I loved the P&P canon. This is also why I, a rabid Potterhead, was never tempted to write Harry Potter fanfic. Harry + Ginny, Ron + Hermione were my OTPs. But it hadn’t occurred to me, despite having read at least two modernizations, that I could author one until this point.
The first thing that came to mind after this epiphany? Darcy and Elizabeth arguing heatedly in a college debate class.
Now, if you’ve read A Higher Education, you’ll know this doesn’t happen. Well, they are in college, and they share an Ethics course in which debates are expected, but that was the most that made it from the original conception to the finished product. I found that I didn’t want Darcy and Elizabeth to clash over philosophy or politics in such an obvious way, but rather their own misconceptions about each other. You know, like in the book.
“But Rosalie,” you say. “Wasn’t 2012, like, six years ago?”
Yes. Yes it was.
“So what was the holdup?”
Well, friend, several things. It just so happened that 2012 was also the year I got married and accepted a job as an editor for Samhain Publishing. Also known as the year I stopped writing like I was running out of time.
Now, I never stopped writing altogether. I published books between 2012-2016 (when Samhain closed), but I didn’t prioritize writing like I once had. But my P&P book was never far from my mind. Proof: I’m an avid plotter. I actually wrote the outline to A Higher Education in 2015, where it sat, lonely and neglected, until January 1, 2017. I’d established myself as a freelance editor by this point, and dealt with things I hadn’t thought I’d have to experience for many more years (the death of a parent). I was also comfortable in my original writing voice and the publishing world, having worked in it; I knew who I was, I embraced fanfic, and anyone who wanted to tell me that romance books were trash was in for a fight. I felt ready, for the first time, to write my version of Darcy (or Will, as he’s called in my book) and Elizabeth’s story.
How much of my original outline from 2015 survived? Well, you’d be surprised. I never specified Will’s or Elizabeth’s ages in my original outline, or in the first chapter I wrote and subsequently trashed. I’m an author of erotic content and I knew I would include erotic content in this book, but being much further from a college age kid in writing A Higher Education than I had been when I penned Firsts (where the characters are actually college age, 18-20), I was no longer comfortable with writing that demo. But a couple older, wiser people who have gone through some pretty rough sh*t? That I could do. It was also important to me that Will and Elizabeth be on even ground—not only to follow canon (Darcy being the new arrival at Netherfield), but also to establish from the offset that they are equals. So I opted to make them roughly the same age, and both freshmen, despite the fact that they were the old students on campus.
I knew in publishing A Higher Education, I’d both please and offend some people. My interpretation of a modern Elizabeth is an outspoken feminist, because the original Elizabeth was so outspoken and forward thinking—I couldn’t conceive of her as anything else. I also saddled her with baggage that soured her outlook on relationships. She’s argumentative, opinionated, and rigid in what she believes is right. So yes, she can be kind of bitchy; she’s also not unwilling to eat crow when she’s wrong. Will is the same way, though viewed through a lens of privilege afforded to him by his upbringing, and informed by his protectiveness of Georgiana. They have different triggers, and their triggers don’t make sense to each other, but their passion for the things they believe in is remains a cornerstone of each character.
At the time of this posting, it will have been a little over three months since A Higher Education hit Amazon. It’s a book I’ve been working on, in one way or another, for six years, so yes, it was an emotional undertaking. The reception has been overall positive, though there are readers who flat-out hate this Elizabeth Bennet, or take issue with the erotic content. This doesn’t bother me—I knew what I was getting in to.
Writing fanfiction or variations or whatever you want to call it is always a gamble, because these aren’t just any characters. They’re these characters. We share something pretty damn spectacular: a love of Darcy and Elizabeth, of Austen, and Pride & Prejudice. The fact that we’re still talking about them, that we have our own interpretations of characterization, content, motives, and so forth is what makes this community so special. It’s what makes Austen’s work stand the test of time. It’s what drove me to fanfic in the first place. And if my versions aren’t a reader’s cuppa, I’m thrilled to know that there is an endless library of variations and modernizations out there that will be to their taste.
I loved hearing your story, Rosalie! I am always fascinated by hearing all that happens before a book is published – the sometimes winding road it takes, the nuggets of inspiration that sparked the idea. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, I am so glad you continued to work on A Higher Education all these years! It is a terrific addition to the Jane Austen Fan Fiction/Austenesque genre!
Connect with Rosalie
In conjunction with her visit to Austenesque Reviews Rosalie brings with her ONE ebook copy and ONE paperback copy of A Higher Education for me to give away to TWO lucky readers!!
To enter this giveaway leave a comment, question, or some love for Rosalie below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide (ebook only, US only for paperback). Thank you, Rosalie!
- This giveaway ends July 23rd.
To double your chances of winning come back Wednesday and leave a comment on my review of A Higher Education!