Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Would Jane Do?

Jane Austen that is...

I was flipping through the pages of my current issue of RT (Romantic Times Book Reviews) with much concern at the changing market trends. Then I read my October RWR, which lists the romance sub genre's published in 2007 :

  • Contemporary series-25.7%
  • Contemporary-21.8%
  • Historical-16%
  • Paranormal-11.8%
  • Romantic Suspense-7.2%
  • Inspirational-7.1%
  • Romantic Suspense Series-4.7%
  • Other (chick-lit, erotic romance,women's fiction)-2.9%
  • Young Adult-2.8%
But what's hot and what's not-- right now? What will editors be asking for next year at this time?
Publishing directions, marketing trends, critique groups, contests, editors, agents, contracts, sell-through, publicity, book signings, blogs?? My head aches just trying to consider juggling it all and writing a marketable book.

I had just finished watching Becoming Jane for the hundredth or so time and I wondered...

What WOULD Jane do?

First I considered why we love Jane Austen. After all the woman was hardly prolific. I mean, do you think today's publisher's would stand for an author who only produced 6 novels and 2 novellas in her lifetime. (Why she never even won a Rita.)

Without writing a single blog post (How is that possible?) her books have been translated into over 100 languages. Readers who don't read historical fiction or even fiction-- read Jane Austen.

So why have Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion survived publishing trends?

Because Jane Austen's books contain these elements that make them relevent and enduring:

Character Driven Plots which allow the protagonists to travel a journey of self-knowledge or growth. What we today call the Character Arc.

Emotion on Every Page. Austen takes us through pain, sorrow, longing, desire, heartache, tears, joy and laughter. (Besides Jane, one of the best lessons I learned on emotion comes from Shelly Thacker's workshop, He Feels, She Feels: Creating Internal Conflict. Shelly coined the phrase, Emotion on Every Page.)

Relevant themes. Mother and daughter relationships. Daughter father relationships. Sibling relationships. Independent, smart single women angst. These are themes all readers can relate to. These are the very same sort of themes that made the Mary Tyler Moore show so popular.

HEA Principle. Girl meets boy. Obstacles arise. Girl gets boy. They live happily ever after. Along with this is the fact that all of Austen's heroines choose to marry for love.

World creating. Granted, Austen actually lived in the world she created, but her ability to put on paper the gritty realism of her locations, using the five senses, again draws the reader in and grounds them in her world.

Controlled passion, or the Moonlighting Principle. If you watched the television show Moonlighting in the 80's you remember Maddie and David and the great humor and sexual tension. Once the characters connect the magic just isn't the same. But as long as there are covert glances, touching hands, and almost- kisses, we the reader are completely engaged. Austen remains the master of controlled passion.

Comedy and Irony. The tone of most of Austen's books is light entertainment, laughing at society and its ironies. These topics are universal and bridge generations.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Pride and Prejudice

From a New York Times article, Making Jane Sexy, by Caryn James, July 27, 2007:
In Austen’s time, when arranged marriages and marriages of convenience were common, her extraordinary heroines held out for love, another reason they speak so directly to modern readers.

Marsha Huff, the president of the Jane Austen Society of North America (like so many Janeites, she’s not an academic; she’s a tax lawyer) points to the scene in “Pride and Prejudice” in which Lady Catherine tries to bully Elizabeth into giving Darcy up because she is his social inferior. “Elizabeth reacts exactly the way we would react: she is insulted, she’s indignant at the way this dinosaur from another era would try to tell this intelligent, beautiful young woman what to do,” Ms. Huff said in an interview.

And however much society has changed, Austen’s heroines — unlike the Brontës’ — deal with the believable, timeless obstacles of class, money and misunderstanding, which make her works adaptable to any era. As Ms. Huff said: “Everyone thinks she’s Elizabeth Bennet; not everyone thinks she’s Jane Eyre. Everyone knows a young woman trying to decide if the guy she’s attracted to is Mr. Right. Not everyone meets a Mr. Right who has a mad wife in the attic.”
So what would Jane do?

Instead of Googling market trends, Jane would write the best book she could. The kind of book readers dream about long after they reach, The End.


Tell us your thoughts on Jane.

Anyone who posts a favorite line (quote) from any Jane Austen book or the movie Becoming Jane, or shares a favorite moment from the book or movie, will be entered in a drawing for:

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
by Laurie Viera Rigler


The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
by Syrie James


  1. I suspect Jane would not have lost the all-important cup for the coffee grinder first thing in the morning.

    I am about a quart low on coffee this morning. Pray for me.

    "Persuasion" was my favorite of Jane Austen's. One of my favorite characters was Anne Elliott's father, who described her cost cutting plan as "unendurabel!" Almost like she told him to cut up his credit cards.

    So, in my mind there is a timeless quality to her work because she so closely observed the people around her.

  2. everytime i watch Becoming Jane I always get a kick out of this exchange by Rev and Mrs Austen.

    Mrs. Austen: That girl needs a husband. But who's good enough? Nobody. Thanks to you.
    Rev Austen: Being so much the model of perfection.
    Mrs. Austen: I've shared your bed for 32 years and perfection I have not encountered.
    Rev Austen: Yet.

  3. Oh, Tina, I LOVE Jane Austen!!! Have you read Just Jane, by Nancy Moser? If you haven't, RUN to the book store and get it now! It is so good.

    Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, although I love them all. The extra long movie with Colin Firth is my favorite movie adaptation. My only problem with it is that Mr. Darcy never smiles all through it, until the end, and in the book he did smile. And I thought Elizabeth laughed too much, kind of snickering behind her hand at everybody, but other than that, it's perfect. ;-)

    Yes, Jane would write just the sort of book that would tickle her own fancy. Jane was brave that way. She would write the book that stirred her own emotion, characters who were brave and ahead of their time, true to themselves and their beliefs. Jane wouldn't care what the "trends" were. She'd write a parody of the trends, perhaps, as she did with Northanger Abbey.

    I like to think that I'm like that, too. I don't search out the trends, I just write what I'm passionate about. And to me, it's entertainment, first and foremost. Whether or not I should, I don't set out to write a book that will change people's lives. I just write what is exciting and entertaining to me. And although I've thought about writing whatever will get me published the quickest, I find that I just can't do that. It's too much of a turn off, since that's not what I like to read. Writing is too hard to do it just to break in.

    Sorry so long-winded today! But I love Jane Austen. Love, love, love her!

  4. Morning ladies...sending coffee prayers to Ann.

    I love Jane too..am ordering the book now Mel.

  5. Okay, I had to find a quote. Here it is, some excerpts from Darcy's proposal.

    "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
    Elizabeth's reply: "...I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly." And later she says, "You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner."

    LOL! I love that. Such courage in a writer, to have a couple come to such a moment, and then bring them together so perfectly a mere 160 pages later!

  6. Oh, what a wonderful post! Tina-cakes, as always you have brought to the forefront the lovely art of the eternal wordsmith.

    I'm in the middle of Emma right now, and find myself tripping over words and descriptions, but laughing at how funny these people are and how alike we are despite mode of dress.

    "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment." Pride and Prejudice...

    I think this quote sums up current romance novel land-speed records, LOL!

    Great thought provoker and I'm grabbing that book too, Mel.

    Also Ann, I'm sending coffee your way. I've got a new sampling of chocolate amaretto with vanilla amaretto creamer.


    And a tray of warm, chewy chocolate chip cookies. I'm a happy gal.


  7. I like the abreviated version of Jane's books. Sometimes she's a bit long-winded.

    One thing I do love about her stories is that she developed her secondaries well and used them purposefully. Nice.

    I agree that Jane wouldn't write for the market. But I also think she wouldn't spend time and heartache on trying to sell an unsaleable story. Hmm. How to know if it's unsaleable?

    Serial killer romance hero...

    Erotic inspirational...

    Oh, btw, last month, a lady I know from church told me she thought Deeanne Gist's stories were "erotic." No joke. I never practiced more self-control in that moment when I refused to hysterically laugh at her opinion.

    I very nicely told her she should avoid Julie's novels.

    Let it not be said I'm not a kind-hearted person.

  8. GINA!!!

    You're alive! Praise the Lord and pass the tray of cookies! Our Gina has returned forthwith.


    Hey, kid, I'm here to tell you that the variety of disparity within inspy circles amazes me. I'm not sure if some of these people simply have no libido or perhaps have little control over said gift from God and thereby have a difficult time admitting its normalcy.

    What is attraction besides a normal, human and biological function? I love the dance of romance, the give and take, the struggle to overcome and pretending that sexual tension isn't part of that is sophomoric at best.

    And fairly dishonest.

    But I'll get off my soapbox and simply welcome you back! You had a crazy, crazy summer. Nice to see you.

    And no, I didn't forget that assignment you gave me. Time's been scarce so I do apologize.

    With love.


  9. Tiiiina, You are soooooo talented. I love how you had all the graphics and pictures to go with your mpost. And a drawing. How fun.

    Sorry to say, I'm not a Jane Austen fan so can't give you a quote. I remember having to read Pride and Prejudice in college and it about did me in. I guess I like the faster pace of today's writing. I'm sure we'll have timeless classics in our era too. Because she did deal with timeless emotions and issues.

    So which one of you will be that writer???? I hear it all the time from editors. Write from the heart. Stay true to your own voice.
    Its hard not to be tempted to write what you think will sell. That is one thing I love about writing this time around. I am writing what I love, not books that will bring in the money. Don't get me wrong, I am proud of those books, but my heart was not in them like now. Someday we'll land on that editor's desk that loves it.

  10. Wouldn't Gina make a great Austen heroine?

  11. Gina is the star of her own chick-lit.

  12. "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment."

    There are few truer words written :)


  13. Praise God from whom all blessings flow ...

    Found the rest of the coffee grinder.

    The quip about a lady's imagination speeding to matrimony within a second is still so, so true!

  14. Tina, you're too funny. Me an Austen heroine? Is that because her heroines tend to say things other people wise keep inside their heads?

    Last week, my kindergartener walked around the house wearing a pair of blue panties as a shirt and a long-sleeve shirt tied around her waist as a skirt. Her 18-mth-old sister was running around naked. I asked her what they were doing.

    Rhyinn: I'm Jungle Girl and Niley is a vegamaterian.

    I wisely chose to smile and say, "How fun! Carry on...after you've put a diaper on Veggie Girl."

    Oh, here's something I learned this summer.

    A male's smarts is in direct proportion to where he wears the waistband of his pants.

    After I told that to my 9th-grade son, he wisely found a belt to wear.

    His grade point rose instantaneously.

  15. TEEENNNNNAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do you know that I ALWAYS know it is YOU posting before I ever read the bottomline -- another FANTABULOUS post, my friend!! Love your style.

    And Jane Austin's as well, although I must admit I have never seen Becoming Jane, but will definitely have to after this post.

    Gina said: Oh, btw, last month, a lady I know from church told me she thought Deeanne Gist's stories were "erotic." I very nicely told her she should avoid Julie's novels.

    Dear God, thank you SOOO much, Gina!! I certainly don't need anymore 1-star reviews, so it's better to ward them off at the pass. And by the way, WELCOME BACK, GINA!!! We've missed you and get a wee bit crabby when you're not around ... especially Ruthy.


  16. so here are my thoughts on an awful lot of old literature.

    not Jane Austin...so much.

    But seriously, have you ever READ James Fennimore Cooper? Nathanial Hawthorne?

    Give me a break. If I was their editor those manuscripts would BLEED red ink.

    Hello too much scenery.
    Hello too much backstory.
    Hello too much internal musing.
    Hello too preachy.

    Have you read Jane Eyre? There is the MOST fantastic book buried in Charlotte Bronte's endless sermons.

    have you read the House of the Seven Gables.
    Here's a clue, read the first sentence of each paragraph. You won't miss a thing.
    Honestly, read the first and last sentence of each CHAPTER and you'll hardly miss a thing.

    At the very, very, very end of The House of the Seven Gables...the book made a point.
    I was stunned.
    "Hmmmmmmm Hawthorne was actually going somewhere with this. Who'd'a thunk it?

    The Last of the Mohicans?
    a seven hundred page long chase scene through a really pretty woods.

    No like the movie...I promise.

    So, here's my take...
    Old literature? It boiled down to, "Do you own enough paper and a pen."
    That's it.
    You got enough paper and ink? You're published.

    No one did apparently except Fennimore, Hawthorne, the Brontes and Austin.

  17. Tina, this is such fun! I've loved reading everyone's quotes. Here's one of my favorites from Pride and Prejudice.

    Elizabeth has just declined Mr. Collin's marriage proposal, and Mrs. Bennett - who is oh so distraught - asks her husband to intervene. He says,

    "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. -- Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

    You gotta love Mr. Bennett!

    Thanks for the great post, Tina. :)

    - Anne

  18. Mary, keep in mind, in the olden days of literature, people had no TV, no movies, no cell phones, no Internet, no Play Station or Wii. It was either read really long books or play another boring game of Whist. Or else they could give a ball and hope Colin Firth would ask them to dance.

  19. Myra LOL that's probably right. I can see the editors of old.

    Rejected. We only buy books weighing more than fifteen pounds.

    Return when it reaches at least 1500 pages.

  20. Oh, and I read a really, really, really, really fascinating biography of the Bronte sisters once.

    Extremely interesting family.

    riveting book, actually. Those people came from a really WEIRD place...psychologically as well as physically. It was a haunting look at them.

  21. I was laughing so hard, Mary. But you know, I loved the classics when I was a teen. I even loved those James Fennimore Cooper books.

    But a few weeks ago I tried to read Great Expectations to my nine-year-old, and it was just too weird. Too many tangents.

  22. Does anyone get this?

    "Chickens? There were chickens in The House of the Seven Gables?"

    This is a sign you skimmed to much.

    And while we're at it, my daughter Katy, reading furiously, skimming madly to finish the Lord of the Rings before the movie came out. To my older daughter, a LOTRs fanatic.

    Katy, "Gandolph dies?"

    Josie, "Go back. You skimmed too much."

  23. Oh, and I have my hero in Gingham Mountain read Oliver Twist to each of his newly adopted orphan children. While his older adopted children sit and listen.

    He believes it helps the children to know this treatment of orphans is so widespread there was actually a book written about it.

  24. Deborah, I love that line and the one that Anne mentioned also...

    "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. -- Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

    Love the Bennetts

  25. I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.
    Jane Austen

    I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.
    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

    Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.
    Jane Austen

    The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.
    Jane Austen


    Deborah and Anne Barton have won our Austenian books.

    Thanks for dropping by Seekerville to all our guests today.

  27. Oh gosh, this was wondeful. I enjoyed reading the post and the comments. I love Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility is my favorite, but I just bought Persuasion so that may change.

    I should gather my books and offer my favorite quote, but I fear the late hour has imposed upon me a lack of ambition. Sufficed to say that I love the longsuffering men in S&S and P&P. They are, as we say, a hoot.

  28. Okay, my post got eaten when my INternet service froze up. So here's the quick version.

    Loved the post.
    Amen to what Julie said--I can always tell a Tina post. :)
    Love Mr. Bennett's quote, too.
    Loved Becoming Jane!
    Love Jane's books (have read 4 of them--P&P multiple times).
    Amen to not trying to anticipate trends.

    Thanks, Tina!

  29. Wow--what a fabulous post. And I'm thrilled that you're giving away my book, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Congratulations to the winners!

    I agree that Jane Austen did not care about following trends. If she had, she would have written books like her contemporaries. Instead, she was light years ahead of them, in my opinion.

    And that, I suppose, fits in with one of my favorite Austen quotes:

    We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.
    --Fanny Price, Mansfield Park

    Thanks again for a lovely post!

  30. EEEEKKKKKK SCREAMING IN SEEKERVILLE, Laurie Viera Rigler stopped by.

    Thanks so much for visiting.

    We'd have brought out the good china if we only knew you were coming.


    Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw recently:

    "Most well-behaved women never make history."


    Excellent post, Tina!


  32. Welcome, Laurie! So glad you dropped by!


  33. O I looooove Jane Austen's writing, so there are so many quotes I can take! There's one of my favourites from Pride and Prejudice: "Think only of the past as its' rememberance gives you pleasure" by Elizabeth
    "Mrs Jennings was a widow with ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world." - about Mrs. Jennings (S and S) - this quote makes me laugh so much - it reminds quite a bit of Mrs. Bennet, actually...
    Thank you so much for that EXCELLENT post! I always wondered what drew me to her...

  34. Laura, great posts and thank you for visiting us in Seekerville.