Hello readers! I’m so excited welcome back Shannon Winslow to Austenesque Reviews! I’ve had “known” Shannon for several years now online, but it was only a little over a year ago that I got to meet her in person when we traveled to Seattle, Washington! I greatly admire Shannon previous novels, Return to Longbourn, her sequel about Mary and Kitty Bennet is definitely one of my favorite minor character stories! And I’m so happy to have Shannon here celebrating her brilliant new release, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen.
I’m sure many a literary purist has from the moral high ground cried, “Don’t mess with Jane Austen!” I might have been inclined to say the same at one time… but no more. Now, I’ve not only tampered with her stories by writing sequels. In my recently released novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, I’ve meddled with her life as well.
My goal at the outset was to write a plausible alternative for my favorite authoress. I wanted to give her the same kind of romance she provided for all her heroines – and possibly the happy ending as well – all without contradicting any of the known facts.
That’s a tall order. First, for me to learn everything that is supposedly “know-able” about Jane Austen would take years. At the same time, hard facts and specifics about her are in limited supply. I’d barely begun when I came up against a question none of the expert sources I consulted could answer. It was simply this. Did Jane Austen attend her brother Henry’s wedding to their cousin Eliza in London on December 31, 1797? No one seemed to know. Instead of an obstacle, however, this “blank” in the record became the first of many opportunities – things left open to my interpretation.
In case you’re wondering, I decided that Jane did indeed attend the wedding and, furthermore, that’s where she met the man who became the one true love of her life: Captain Philippe Devereaux. Their rocky romance actually became Jane’s inspiration for Persuasion, according to my theory. So, using that novel as my guide, I was off and running with a story of lost love and second chances fit within the framework set by the timeline of Jane’s own life.
It all came together beautifully in the end, achieving (imho) the plausible and preferable alternative outcome I sought. In fact, I think it’s theoretically possible it really happened the way I’ve written it.
Consider this. Much of the pieced-together information about Austen’s life comes to us via family remembrances and the surviving letters Jane wrote herself. These sources are incomplete, open to interpretation, and potentially biased. It occurred to me that if Jane Austen, for whatever reason, wanted certain facts expunged from the record or carefully constructed falsehoods added, she would likely have found ready co-conspirators in her own family members, as I suggest in the story line. What we are told about Jane, therefore, is only what they wanted us to know or believe, not necessarily the whole truth. More creative opportunities!
If, however, some are so disobliging as to reject my conspiracy theory, I can always take refuge in my other inspiration (or justification) for rewriting history.
In Atonement by Ian McEwan, an adolescent girl’s false testimony divides her older sister from the young man she loves, leading to every kind of disaster. Later, as an adult, that adolescent girl writes their love story as a novel, only providing the ill-fated pair a better ending this time. She saw it as her gift to them, her way of making atonement for the wrong she’d done all those years before. In the last chapter, she explains:
Who would want to believe that they never met again, never fulfilled their love? Who would want to believe that, except in the service of the bleakest realism? I could not do it to them… No one will care what events and which individuals were misrepresented to make a novel. I know there is a certain kind of reader who will be compelled to ask, “But what really happened?” The answer is simple: the lovers survive and flourish… I like to think that it isn’t weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end.
In that spirit, I hope The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen stands as a compliment – an act of kindness – to her, to the authoress who has given me and thousands of others so much enjoyment.
But what is your opinion? Do my theories hold any water? Do our efforts (modern-day authors) add something of value to Jane Austen’s legacy, or would it be better to simply let her rest in peace? Are all sequels, variations, tie-ins, and mash-ups legit, or do some to go too far? How are we to judge? What do you suppose Jane Austen herself would think of all this?
Having read The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen I’m so happy to know what parts of the story fact and which are fiction. Thank you for sharing this with us today. You ask a great question – I love stories like yours that fill in the holes of Jane Austen’s life and create a romance that we readers all feel she deserved. 🙂
Shannon kindly brings with her 2 LOVELY ebook and 1 signed paperback copy of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen for me to randomly give away to THREE lucky readers. Woot Woot!!!
To enter this giveaway, answer Shannon’s questions, leave a comment, a question of your own, or some love for Shannon!!
- This giveaway is open worldwide (for the ebooks) and to US residents (for the paperback). Thank you, Shannon!
- This giveaway ends September 17th!