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.
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
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.
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!
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