Oct 082018
 

Hello my dear friends!! I’m so very exited to welcome back author Jessie Lewis to Austenesque Reviews today! And I’m especially thrilled about this visit because it is part of the Rational Creatures Blog Tour celebration! (Rational Creatures will be released on October 15th!) Jessie Lewis is here to share about her contribution in this magnificent anthology (by the way, Jessie, we are so thrilled to see you taking part in a Quill Ink Collective anthology!! Writing about one of Jane Austen’s most infamous and selfish female characters, Jessie shares how she tackles Lady Susan Vernon! (I must say, I love that Lady Susan is included in this anthology and I am very eager to see her character fleshed out!)  We hope you enjoy Jessie’s post!

Thank you, Meredith, for having me back here on your wonderful blog to talk about Rational Creatures. The anthology celebrates Austen’s female characters and explores the ways in which they challenged the social mores of their time. One of Austen’s greatest achievements was creating characters who were all unique and yet each still drawn with great depth and complexity. Courage abides with timidity, servility with pride; indeed, all manner of vices and virtues are to be found intermingled Austen’s women.

Among them, Lady Susan is conspicuously and unrepentantly callous, with very little good to mitigate it. She is a widowed woman in possession of a handsome countenance, in desperate want of a good fortune. In her pursuit of it, she displays no regard for others’ feelings, very little shame and about as much maternal instinct as a chamber pot. All in all, not a woman doing much to advance society’s respect for women.

So, when Christina Boyd invited me to write a story for an Austen-inspired feminist anthology, I couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to account for Lady Susan’s journey to becoming the pithy, manipulative coquette we see in the eponymous novel.

There is, of course, a darker side to Lady Susan’s behaviour. Though the original story is amusing, told with Austen’s usual flair for wit, the basic premise of a woman fighting to for her place in the world is one common to all Austen’s works. I wanted to keep it light-hearted, though; both in homage to the original and because celebrating womanhood should not be a miserable exercise! With my tongue firmly set in my cheek, I set about exploring why and how Lady Susan might have come to believe the only way to achieve what she wanted was to manipulate everyone into giving it to her—and The Edification of Lady Susan was the result.

As fans of Austen will know, the original story is epistolary. I chose to follow suit because letters are a such a wonderful way of revealing intent. A character’s duplicity is easily demonstrated when he or she writes several different letters to several different recipients, each with wholly contrary messages. Though dishonesty is obviously unpardonable, I loved working with Lady Susan’s resolve and ingenuity to whip up a hornet’s nest of deceit, all the while celebrating her cleverness in “getting one over” on all the people (men and women) who do to her as she later learns to do to others.

For a bit of fun, I thought I’d share with your readers one of the plans I laid out to help work out the order of the letters in the story. This being a prequel of sorts, the outcome will be no surprise, so it’s not a spoiler—and hopefully it’ll make you smile to see how Lady Susan’s pithiness permeated even the planning stages of the story.

LETTER 1

LADY SUSAN TO ALICIA

Lord Doyle is flirting with me! Also, only been here two days and Claire has already fallen in love with this Frederick Vernon chap. 🙄

LETTER 2

LADY SUSAN’S MUM TO LADY SUSAN

Superb that you have the hots for Lord Doyle. Now hurry up and secure him.

LETTER 3

ALICIA TO LADY SUSAN

Ooh! Flirting? How marvellous! Flirt back and write to tell me about it—I’m so bored!

LETTER 4

LADY SUSAN’S SISTER-IN-LAW TO LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER

Come home, it’s boring as sin here and your mother is an ogre. She’s making your sister marry Lord Doyle! 😱

LETTER 5

LADY SUSAN TO ALICIA

Turns out Lord Doyle was just toying with me. 😒 My brother thinks I should marry his friend Mr Cohen instead.

LETTER 6

ALICIA TO LADY SUSAN

Don’t marry Mr Cohen either, he’s engaged to Jennifer! 😱

LETTER 7

LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER TO LADY SUSAN

Don’t panic, Cohen isn’t engaged… technically. You should defo marry him, he’s awesome. 😎

LETTER 8

LADY SUSAN’S MUM TO LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER

Butt out Samuel! I need Susan to marry Lord Doyle or we’ll all be ruined! 😡

LETTER 9

LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER TO LADY SUSAN

Mother is using you to settle a debt to Lady Doyle! 😱 Luckily you have me to look out for you.

LETTER 10

LADY SUSAN’S MUM TO LADY SUSAN

Susan, how could you think I have anything but your best interests at heart? Marriage to Lord Doyle is the best thing for you. Trust me. <😇

LETTER 11

LADY SUSAN TO ALICIA

Mother thinks I’m a fool. And now Claire is using me as well. She’s asked me to marry her buffoon of a brother to better her family name. 😒😒

LETTER 12

JENNIFER TO LADY SUSAN

Please marry Mr Cohen so that I don’t have to. Then I can marry Mr Vernon before Claire gets her claws into him. 🙏🏻

LETTER 13

LADY SUSAN TO ALICIA

Seriously, everyone’s on the take! On top of Mother, Claire and Jennifer, have discovered my brother is using me as well! 😒😒😒

LETTER 14

ALICIA TO LADY SUSAN

You poor thing! It’s so unfair that everyone is treating you so badly, but what can you do? 😢

LETTER 15

ALICIA TO LADY SUSAN – AGAIN

Well, yes, you could to that. Ingenious! Count me in. I have passed on your letter as requested. 😈

LETTER 16

LADY SUSAN’S MUM TO LADY SUSAN

Splendid idea to bring Claire and her brother back here with you when you come! Glad you’ve finally seen sense re the latter. 😉

Letter 17

JENNIFER TO LADY SUSAN

You’re right, Mr Vernon is a cad! Of course I’ll come to Great Mandeley to forget about him and make up with Claire, good idea! 😃

Letter 18

LADY SUSAN’S MUM TO LADY DOYLE

It’s all going to plan. Susan has your son eating out of her hand. She’s definitely a chip off the old block. Give it a week and they’ll be engaged.

LETTER 19

LADY SUSAN’S SISTER-IN-LAW TO LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER

Lord Doyle is here and I’m fairly sure that he’s in love with Susan. 😍

LETTER 20

LADY SUSAN TO ALICIA

Lord Doyle has proposed to me. 🤯 Idiot. It’s ok though, I’ve convinced him Jennifer is better for him. Thanks for the letter. Please pass on the enclosed reply.

LETTER 21

LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER TO LADY SUSAN

I told you not to marry Doyle! I’ve sent for Cohen, he’s on his way. Do as you are told you ungrateful wench! 😡

LETTER 22

ALICIA TO LADY SUSAN

Sounds a mess, but I have faith in your plan. Shouldn’t be difficult—Claire and Cohen are both simpletons.

I’ve met Mr V and your letters have definitely done the trick. 😉

LETTER 23

LADY SUSAN’S MUM TO LADY DOYLE

Not quite what I had planned, but it’s all worked out for the best. Your son AND your daughter are both engaged to be married and you are saved. Happened under my roof so…we good now? 🤗

LETTER 24

LADY CLAIRE TO LADY DOYLE

I’m engaged! Forget Mr Vernon, I love Mr Cohen, and he’s four times as rich! 🤑

LETTER 25

LADY SUSAN’S BROTHER TO MR COHEN

So, yeah, I dunno what’s happened but Susan tells me that you’re with Claire now. Happened under my roof, so…we good now?

LETTER 26

LADY SUSAN TO ALICIA

Whaddayaknow? I’m engaged to Mr Vernon. 😏

I love it!!  So brilliant that you chose to convey this story through letters and I love the comedy of all the schemes and cross-purposes!! Sounds like Lady Susan has a manipulative mother as well! Also, the emojis are so perfect!

And…for those of us that are eager to see a little bit more of this story, Jessie Lewis has kindly shared this excerpt for us to enjoy!

THE EDIFICATION OF LADY SUSAN

JESSIE LEWIS

Letter 5, LADY SUSAN BEAUMONT TO MISS ALICIA FFORDHAM

Kirkbank

Your jealousy is unfounded, Alicia. I hold court over nobody. Lord Doyle is not in love with me. My brother has written, warning me that his friend’s reputation about Town is that of an incorrigible rake. I was never of any value to him, other than a means to indulge his own sense of importance. Worse still, his attentions have convinced the world that I wish to marry him! Why it should be assumed that a young woman’s greatest aspiration should be marriage I shall never understand. Of course, one day I shall marry, else I should have to live with Samuel and his mouse of a wife for the remainder of my days—few though they would then be, for that is the best method of which I can conceive of robbing a woman of her will to live. I have no wish to shackle myself to the first single man across whom I stumble, however, and certainly not one whose credibility has been exposed as wanting.

Neither my mother nor his can suspect Lord Doyle of such dissipation as my brother describes, else they would never have encouraged the match. Yet Samuel has ever had the measure of his set and I would be a fool not to heed his warning. I am furious at my own credulity! To think I had convinced myself capable of influencing him! Nevertheless, one ought always to search for the profit in any situation; thus, I shall say this of the matter: if he is a rake, all the better for me, for it will relieve me of any guilt I might otherwise have felt in working on him.

Be not alarmed by this declaration. The explanation is simple. I see no reason why I should not make him love me, given that so many people deem me capable of it. It is no worse than his toying with me. Indeed, it would be fine retribution for his duplicity were I to make him love me in earnest, only to abandon him for the next man. And as fortune would have it, just such recourse has recently become a possibility. In his letter, Samuel made mention of another of his friends, Mr. Cohen. “If marriage is your design, Sister,” wrote he, “might I suggest another option?” It was not my design, of course; yet what an opportunity to punish Lord Doyle and, at the same time, test the efficacy of my newly learned charms! Samuel has promised to bring Mr. Cohen to Great Mandeley when I return next month. I insist that you do whatever it is you must to hasten your recovery that you might join me there to set all the challenges you please.

Yours &c.,

S. BEAUMONT

Oh well done! Her plan to make Lord Doyle fall in love with her and then abandon him reminds me a little of Henry Crawford…now there is a crossover I’d like to see!  Thank you so much for sharing and for being our lovely guest, Jessie!

About Jessie

JESSIE LEWIS enjoys words and wordplay far too much for her own good and was forced to take up writing to save her family and friends from her incessant rabbiting. She dabbled in poetry during her archetypal angst-ridden teenage years, but it was her studies in literature and philosophy at university that firmly established her admiration for the potency of the English language. She has always been particularly in awe of Jane Austen’s literary cunning and has delighted in exploring Austen’s regency world in her own historical fiction writing. You can check out Jessie’s musings on the absurdities of language and life on her blog, Life in Words, or see what she’s reading over at Goodreads. Or you can drop her a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on her Facebook page, Jessie Lewis Author.

~ GIVEAWAY TIME ~

There is a FANTASTIC GIVEAWAY prize pack in conjunction with this blog tour!!! The prize pack includes these 21 prizes:

  • Winner’s choice of one title from each authors’ backlist (that’s 16 books, ebooks, or audiobooks)
  • The Rational Creatures bespoke t-shirt/soap/candle
  • A brick in the winner’s name to benefit #BuyABrick for Chawton House
  • The Quill Collective anthologies in ebook or audiobook

One lucky winner will win this mega-awesome prize! Can I get a woot woot?

To enter for this prize leave a comment on this blog post below!

  • These giveaways are open worldwide.
  • These giveaways end November 15th!

My gratitude and thanks to Christina Boyd and all the authors in this anthology for making this blog tour possible!

September 18 ~ My Jane Austen Book Club ~ Guest Post

September 20 ~ Long and Short Reviews ~ Guest Post

September 25 ~ Books & Wine are Lovely ~ Playlist

September 27 ~ Fangs, Wands and Fairydust ~ Guest Post

October 2 ~ Babblings of a Bookworm Guest Post

October 4 ~ From Pemberley to Milton ~ Guest Post

***October 9 ~ Austenesque Reviews ~ Guest Post***

October 11 ~ Silver Petticoat ~ Guest Post

October 15 ~ Just Jane 1813 ~ Book Review

October 16 ~ My Love for Jane Austen ~ Guest Post

October 18 ~ Rosie’s Review Team ~ Book Review

October 23 ~ More Agreeably Engaged ~ Guest Post

October 25 ~ The Book Rat ~ Guest Post

October 30 ~ Margie’s Must Reads ~ Book Review

November 1 ~ My Vices and Weaknesses ~ Guest Post

November 6 ~ Diary of an Eccentric ~ Book Review

November 8 ~ Of Pens and Pages ~ Book Review

November 13 / Let Us Talk of Many Things ~ Guest Post

 

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  101 Responses to “Guest Post + Giveaway with Author Jessie Lewis!!!”

  1.  

    This just popped up as I was shutting down to go to bed but I have to say I am so looking forward to read this anthology. I will be back in the morning to read this blog in depth. Sweet dreams.

  2.  

    “So, when Christina Boyd invited me to write a story for an Austen-inspired feminist anthology, I couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to account for Lady Susan’s journey to becoming the pithy, manipulative coquette we see in the eponymous novel.”
    Jessie, I am so grateful that you were so enthusiastic to write a story for #RationalCreatures. Lady Susan is a challenge to write for this theme about strong women because she really has no redeeming characteristics. And though her story here doesn’t redeem her or excuse her, you masterfully show how strong willed and extremely cunning she came to be. She certainly knew how not to be taken advantage of—even if she always manipulates everyone and everything about her to her own will.

    Thank you, Meredith, for hosting this blog stop and for supporting the project from the very beginning. I am thrilled you are enjoying the collection. I am hopeful it is as satisfying a read as we aspired to create!

    •  

      It was great fun to do, Christina, and I’m sure fans of JA will love the collection of stories you’ve put together.
      I second your thanks to Meredith for hosting us!

    •  

      It is such a pleasure to host you, Jessie! I am thrilled to read your post and very honored for the chance to spotlight Rational Creatures!!! Congrats on all this wonderful anthology, ladies!!

  3.  

    Sounds great

  4.  

    those letters are so clever…further proof Jane Austen is timeless

    denise

  5.  

    Wooo… hooo… That sounds wonderful. Regardless if I win or not, I cannot wait to sink my teeth into this anthology.

  6.  

    I can’t emphasize how HARD it is to be limited to just letter-writing to craft a fully-developed story. Jane Austen does it brilliantly in Lady Susan. I am so impressed that Jessie follows the same epistolary format, and she pulls it off like a champ. Bravo, Jessie! The reader certainly learns that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in Lady Susan’s case! Everyone in her family has an agenda!!

    •  

      Ha ha, thanks Debbie – you’re right, in this story Susan learns her arts and allurements from some stellar teachers, all of whom should have known better than to allow her to follow their example!

  7.  

    This was such a witty, sardonic, bitingly realistic portrayal of Lady Susan! I absolutely loved it!

  8.  

    Oh I love the correspondence between these ladies! “Superb that you have the hots for Lord Doyle. Now hurry up and secure him.” => so funny 😀

  9.  

    That letter scheme was hilarious! Now I’m dying to read all of it!

    •  

      Tee hee, glad it gave you a laugh. There really is an emoji for everything – who knew you could annotate an Austeneque novel with them to such amusing effect?!

  10.  

    I thought Jessie did a fab job of channeling Lady Susan. Her letters were witty and wry. Loved it.

    So kind of you to host Rational Creatures, Meredith. Your hospitality is warm and friendly as usual. 🙂

  11.  

    The letters are such fun. Thank you for sharing.

    •  

      You’re welcome. I’m always intrigued how other writers go about plotting their stories. When you see the size of the table Austen wrote her stories on, it’s a wonder how she did it at all!

  12.  

    This was one of the first stories I read in the anthology because I couldn’t wait to see how Jessie pulled it off 😀 And I can say – she did it masterfully! Loved the “outline” too! *Karen ponders using emojis to plot stories* Thanks, as always, for hosting us, Meredith!

  13.  

    I am so glad that Lady Susan is included in this anthology and liked the outline of the letters you shared. She is certainly very good at manipulation.

    •  

      Well you know I thought of writing a story explaining how she ended up so vile almost straight away – but it was only as I was writing it that it became clear there would be absolutely no redeeming her! 🙂

    •  

      I agree! It is so great to see Lady Susan featured in this collection, even if she isn’t redeemable! 😉

  14.  

    Pithy, breezy and ever so witty. No one could write Lady Susan better than the author who invented Tabitha Sinclair. Love your Post-it note plotting, Jessie. I can’t wait to read the whole (unredemptive) tale of Lady Susan. Actually, I can’t wait to read anything you write. 🙂

  15.  

    Meredith, thanks for your enthusiasm for Christina’s Rational Creatures project and for spotlighting Jessie Lewis today. The spotlight is well deserved. Jessie’s contribution to the anthology is brilliant. Such snide remarks! Such manipulations! Jane Austen, I’m certain, would love The Edification of Lady Susan.

    •  

      Thank you Joanne, I’m really happy you enjoyed my contribution to this exciting project 🙂

    •  

      Thank you for your lovely visit, Joanne! It is such a pleasure to host Jessie and feature the Rational Creatures anthology! I have so much admiration and excitement for this project!

      I quite agree, I think Jane Austen would love this back history to her character!

  16.  

    Oh my! This is a new-to-me author and I look forward to exploring more in RC and other works.

  17.  

    The letters are wonderful. So creative and smart. Letters add so much to this delightful feature.

  18.  

    I have always thought that Lady Susan is one of the most witty characters, and I always laugh when I read her letters. Thank you for including her in the Anthology!

  19.  

    I do love an epistolary story! Your emoji filled highlights and the excerpt, certainly leave me wanting more! Congratulations to all!

  20.  

    Oh Jessie I loved your story planning with those short letters and corresponding emojis 🙂
    I’m looking forward to reading this story as well as the rest of the book. Thank you for sharing Meredith.

  21.  

    I have the book! Now to have time to read it. Thank you for the lovely peek! 🙂

  22.  

    That was brilliant! I can’t wait to read the anthology!

  23.  

    What a fun post! So many letters in that calendar and it was fun to read the excerpt. I look forward to reading the anthology. Thanks for stopping by.

  24.  

    I’m really looking forward to this book. It’s great to have stories about other characters that Jane wrote about. Fun post here!!

  25.  

    Congratulations to all of the authors, I have been looking forward to this anthology. So excited to read it. It will go on my TBR pile.

  26.  

    I like the idea of Lady Susan’s backstory, especially as she’s an Austen character I’m less familiar with. I think the mini versions of the letters for your planning are an ingenious idea! Doing it that way must have really helped in your writing process.

    I’m looking forward to reading your story in the anthology, Jessie. 🙂

    •  

      Thank you Elaine. Every writer is different but I’m definitely a planner – I need to know where I’m going before I can write it. A facetious, emoji-riddled spreadsheet is always an added bonus! I hope you enjoy the anthology 🙂

  27.  

    I love the letter writing style. I feel like I am peeking into others private lives. I am looking forward to reading this one.

  28.  

    OMG!!! That was hilarious. The more I read of the short-list of letters… the more I laughed. That was a hoot. Thanks to Meredith for hosting… and to our author Jessie Lewis for her part in this marvelous work and for this hilarious post. Also, thanks for the generous giveaway. This book is going to be a smash. Thanks Meredith for your comments and say hello to Mr. Bingley. I hope you guys will be OK with this next storm. Dang!! The east coast can’t seem to get a break.

  29.  

    Jessie, you made such a beautiful use of language and humor in your story!

  30.  

    Oh my these rational creatures are great collection of great ladies, authors and prizes. This is something we will be looking forward to.
    I was trying to search for this but this is the only place i can find this. Thanks Meredith. Thanks to all the authors for this opportunity (book and give-away

  31.  

    About as much maternal instinct as a chamber pot => lol !! This story promises to be a hoot 😀

  32.  

    This anthology sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to read it! And Lady Susan deserves another look!!

  33.  

    I didn’t know chamber pots had instincts! Can’t wait to read this!

  34.  

    Yippee Authors found that are New to me!

  35.  

    I love it when a story is written through letters!

  36.  

    Epistolary literature is an acquired taste and Lady Susan was responsible for me acquiring it. As well as having read it a number of times, I love listening to the audio version I have, featuring Harriet Walter as the eponymous ‘heroine’. It’s beautifully performed by Dame Harriet and others. What a fantastic way to plan a story, Jessie. Got to love the emojis!

    I’m glad that not all of the Rational Creatures are redeemed (in the same way that I was with the subjects of DtK). I guess it could be done with Lady Susan, but it sounds as though it’s going to be a lot more fun finding out how she came to be the lady we know from Jane Austen’s work.

    •  

      Thanks so much Anji. It’s funny – it never really entered my head to try to redeem Lady Susan. And interestingly, in this changing world, I think it’s safe to say that many men in positions of power are magnanimous or moral. Power is a dangerous thing and women need to be as careful with it as men, as we fight for our share of it. Lady Susan is a prime example of finding, but then misusing power.

  37.  

    Woot woot, Meredith! What an amazing giveaway package!

    I love the idea of telling Lady Susan’s story with letters — such fun to read. Thank you for sharing, Jessie! The anthology sounds like an excellent read.

  38.  

    I’ve always loved books where letters tell at least some of the story. I very much look forward to reading this!

    •  

      I agree. They’re so revealing (until you don’t want them to be, then they can be frustratingly secretive!) I use them quite a lot in my writing and love doing so. Good luck with the draw!

  39.  

    You did such a wonderful job with letters in Mistaken – both in making them hilarious or moving and in using them to advance and complicate the plot – that I can’t wait to see what you do with letters here!

  40.  

    I love Lady Susan! She is so humorous. This Anthology sound as fabulous as the previous ones. Thank you for an incredible giveaway.

  41.  

    Loved the correspondence! I can’t wait for this book. Thanks for the chance to win so many goodies!

  42.  

    I love the plan, can’t wait to read the story ☺

  43.  

    My pleasure, Glynis! It was such a great story and I am thrilled to learn more about Jessie’s experience creating it!

  44.  

    Lady Susan is so intriguing to me. I don’t enough guile in me to tie her shoelaces

  45.  

    Thank you for this post! I always laugh when I read Lady Susan. Now, after reading this post I’m thinking about a modern retelling…how many things would do Lady Susan with Facebook and What’s up!?!?

  46.  

    I would have thought that writing the rational side of Lady Susan would be hard but Jessie makes it sound fun and easy if the short letters/notes are anything to go by. I look forward to reading the full story.

  47.  

    We have a winner for our #RationalCreatures blog tour giveaway!
    Congratulations, Schilds.
    Thank you to all who participated. (Please claim before November 20 or we will have to draw for another winner…and that would be disappointing for all…except the new winner.) https://www.thequillink.com/blog/rationalcreatures-epic-blog-tour-ends-announces-grandprize-winner

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