The Vintage Jane Austen is nearing its conclusion with my friend Emily’s Persuasion retelling. Like most people, I’ve been anticipating this book for a long time. I was fortunate to read a pre-release copy and can safely say you’re going to love Perception.
Perception is now available on Kindle (print to follow later) and I thought you’d like to meet author Emily Ann Benedict a little bit more. So welcome to the interview.
How did you get involved in the Vintage Jane Austen Project?
My longtime friend and fellow author, Sarah Scheele, invited me to join the group. She knew what I fan I am of Jane Austen. This project was actually a chance to try a lot of new things; collaborative writing, historical fiction, traditional styled fan fiction. It didn’t take me long to decide this was a good opportunity to stretch my current limits.
How big of a Jane Austen fan are you?
I’m a pretty big Austen fan. I was introduced to her books through the 1995 mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice when I was 12 old and started reading her novels at 14. Her ideas and values were formative for me during my high-school years. I longed to be as witty as Elizabeth Bennett and as kind and selfless as Fanny Price. I’ve developed a love of Jane fan fiction as well. Six books just aren’t enough! Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman Series in particular has been very influential on my writing.
Is there a reason you choose Persuasion to translate into the 1930s?
By the time I joined the project the only unclaimed titles were Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. I choose Persuasion for two reasons. One, I’ve read several fan fiction versions of Pride and Prejudice, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to lend too much creativity to the it. Two, I feel like there is something unique about Persuasion in the lineup of Austen novels. It was the last book Austen completed and I think you can really see the maturity she had developed through it, especially in her choice of an older heroine who is a little worn by life. If I had originally been able to pick any of them, I probably would have chosen Mansfield Park, because it is my favorite of all of the novels. But in hindsight, I’m glad I ended up with Persuasion.
How well do you think Persuasion translates to the Great Depression?
Persuasion is a perfect fit for the 1930s! Two central themes of the original novel are the return of the army/navy after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the loss of wealth and status by a once prominent family. In 1930, many families lost everything to the stock market crash and WWI veterans were a major part of the changing society. The Elliots and the Wentworths fit nicely into this new decade.
What kind of research did you do to prepare yourself?
I’ve always been a fan of books and movies from this time area, so I already had a good atmospheric background when I started out. I find the best form of research for me is reading books published during the actual time frame I want to learn about. Perception is heavily influenced by the Agatha Christie, writing as Mary Westmacotts, novel Giant’s Bread. Published in 1930, this fictional autobiography of a musician gave me a good sense of what the culture was like both at that moment and during the childhood/young adulthood of someone who lived to see 1930.
Did you stick pretty closely to the source material, or did you find ways to deviate and/or add new scenes?
Structure wise, I did stick closely to the original novel. I felt like this project called for a little more truer adaptation. However, I did expand the novel by making some things only mentioned in passing in the original into full scenes in the book and I also deviated a bit with the way I transformed Ann (now Abbey) from the beginning to the end of the book. There were still many restrictions on women in 1930, but not nearly as many as there were in 1817, so I was able to free her character, and few others, up a bit. And I decided to make a bit of a change to the famous “fall” Louisa (now Lilly) takes.
What did you find most challenging about this project?
The parameters of the original book, which I was committed to sticking to, were my greatest challenge. I constantly worried over ways to make the book both true the original and yet new and creative. Hopefully I found that balance, but it was tough.
What other books do you have on the market?
I have four other books on the market, none of which are anything like Perception, which is my first historical. Previously, I have mostly written suspense/humor, usually with a bit of a supernatural twist. I have two suspense titles, Only Angels Are Bulletproof and The Moment Max Forgot Me (free if you sign up for my newsletter), and a two book Christmas collection called The Father Christmas Series.
Thank you for joining me today. Please check out Perception – A novel of Persuasion on Kindle. (Hard copies coming soon.) And don’t forgot the other great books in The Vintage Jane Austen Series!
Thank you for visiting my blog, Emily! And you’re right. There’s a website for the project. To learn more about Perception and about the upcoming Pride and Prejudice retelling, visit http://www.vintagejaneausten.com