A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM
All her heroines find love in the end—but is there love waiting for Jane?
Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.
Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years—did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us—to a greater or lesser degree—are head over heels for Jane.
“A Jane Austen Daydream” by Scott D. Southard is a very uplifting and enjoyable reading experience for me. I was not brought up with Austen’s books. Only when I came to live in an English speaking country did I start to become familiar with Jane and her marvellous work. My knowledge of her novels and her life is very fragmented and admittedly more hearsay than subject of proper research.
I was pleasantly surprised and relieved to learn that this book does not require excessive knowledge of the facts. The book is written very much in the style of Austen and is populated by the kind of characters that would feature (and one or two at least actually do feature) in her novels.
Light hearted and yet witty this is a great illustration of what her life might have been like, or possibly was like exactly.
For me it was the perfect way to find out more how to imagine her social background and to learn what kind of life she might have led herself – all with the wonderful flair of her writing. I find the idea of a biography of sorts written in the own style of the object of the book incredibly clever and Southard carries it off incredibly well.
An excellent concept and a great achievement, a must read for Austen fans open for a playful read and those who wish Austen had written more. This is like a little welcome encore for us fans.
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
First of all my compliments to such a great idea. I take it you are a big Jane Austen Fan?
Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it. I really enjoyed reading the review.
I have a lot of respect for Miss Austen and her writing. There are few perfect works in literature, but I consider Pride and Prejudice one of them. It’s always been fascinating to me how many other writers dare write sequels to it. I would never dare. It’s like painting a companion portrait to go alongside the Mona Lisa. An impossible task.
Where did you get your knowledge about Jane? From school, literature classes or research?
I first discovered Austen in college; it was at Aquinas College in a class taught by Doctor Brent Chesley. That experience inspired me to take on her other books, and in one summer I devoured everything I could.
I’ve always been about a student of writers and literature. For a time I was in a MA program that was to lead to a PhD in literature; I transferred out to an MFA in creative writing when it became obvious to me that fiction writing was more my passion. It’s my artform–writers are my people!–I always want to know more.
I spent years reading and re-reading, preparing for Daydream. I took years before I even had the courage to attempt it. But it was really her fiction that guided me in its creation more than anything else.
How did the idea for this novel / biography / fraction come to you?
It was in reading a biography on her that I realized how little her life actually mirrored her books. She did not have a Darcy waiting for her at home, and died far too young and only with her sister and mother for company. So at the heart of A Jane Austen Daydream is my hope to give Jane an adventure she might have wanted for herself… with a few post-modern twists to it. The big twist in the book (which I won’t ruin here) actually grew out of a joke I made once. I still can’t believe I had the guts to do it. But there you go, it’s out there now forever. Let’s see what happens.
Was it hard to separate fiction and fact or did it all just happen?
I made a decision early on that this book would be inspired more by her own writing than her life. So when a choice had to be made in its creation, fiction (her books and/or what I needed for my own plot) would win out over fact every time.
I liked to use the word “tribute” a lot in my description of it, which I think helped justify the choices I made from day one in its creation. Looking back, those moments when I had to decide between fiction and fact were kind of fun.
Yet, I knew I was walking a new line here in literature and it is the reason the book has the preface, emphasizing that this is, at its heart… well… a daydream.
How did you choose the characters for the story?
Her books first influenced the plot and the tempo of the story I wanted to tell.
There were some characters I knew from the start that had to be there. I turned to her biography for some of these, then turning them into characters like you would see in her books. Whenever I was adding someone who wasn’t part of her life, I would turn to her own novels coming up with characters that are conglomerates in a way of her own creations.
Who is your favourite character – in Jane’s work and in your novel – and why?
Well, in my book it has to be Jane. Not even a question there. I like to think that this Jane is someone all of us writers can relate to. She is passionate about her writing and feels no one understands her, almost doubting and questioning her decisions to put pen to paper in the first place.
When it comes to her novels, I have to point to Elizabeth Bennet. I admit that there are times I don’t think even Darcy is worthy of her!
Which is your favourite Jane Austen book?
Pride and Prejudice. However, when it comes to the actual writing in her books, I think Persuasion to be more moving.
Do you think much of the TV productions?
I have some I like and some I really… don’t. The great Pride and Prejudice mini-series from the 1990’s is a classic.
It’s an awkward thing adapting a book for the screen or stage, you are dealing with different mediums and each expect different things from their audience (and the audience expects different things from the product). It is impossible to adapt any work perfectly. It is a lot more of a science than people and writers may realize.
Did you have any say in the cover art and what was that process?
The cover art was my publisher’s doing (Madison Street Publishing). I did see some examples at the start of the process. I think the artist did a wonderful job.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
Usually my writing is very organic, but not for A Jane Austen Daydream. This was all very structured from the beginning, each beat planned in advance since I was juggling so many different balls at the same time (which quotes to references, her characters, plots, real people, etc.) I believe, I spent a year just on mapping this book out carefully. This was definitely the most difficult (and most time consuming) of all of my books. But I always love to challenge myself as a writer.
How did you come to writing in the first place? Was it always going to be Historical Fiction for you or did you have other genres in mind, too?
I don’t consider myself really a historical fiction writer since I changed so much of history for the sake of the fiction. I’m sure that is a no-no in that genre’s guidebook someplace.
To be honest, when it comes to my writing, I don’t like to think of myself as part of any genre. See, my goal, at the heart of all my books, is to give my audiences something new, something they wouldn’t expect; and the idea of genres feels kind of limiting to me. So when you grab one of my other books, you might have a time-travel adventure or a gothic mystery or historical romance/alternative history (like Daydream). Everything is different. Maybe I am shooting my career in the foot by thinking this way, but it does make each book a fun new experience for me as a writer (and hopefully for my readers).
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
I hope this doesn’t come off as odd or arrogant, but when I am writing, it feels like a home. Does that make sense?
I can turn off the world around me, get lost in my stories, in all of the possibilities and it just happens. It is all consuming and all wonderful. I can lose hours with a notepad or a computer keyboard. Even with the stress of planning Daydream it was still a lot of fun.
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
I made the mistake in my career at one point of just focusing on my writing and skipping the marketing. I did that for five years and it was a big, big mistake. A writer should always be thinking of options to get their work out there into the public eye.
One thing that has been working really well for me is my blog (sdsouthard.com). I write about two to three original posts on it, on whatever topic that captures my fancy at the moment. It’s fun for me and I think for the people that follow it/me.
Today, I think I spend more time on the marketing than the writing. Hopefully, if my career takes off and more readers discover my writing, I won’t have to think about the marketing as much. Well, that is the dream.
What do you do when you don’t write?
Well, I am the dad of two little kids, they demand a lot of attention. A lot of my other activities are usually around turning my brain off or giving myself the opportunity to work out ideas in my head. I bike a lot, I play video games. It’s not as exciting as some might want to imagine.
I’m also the book reviewer for my local NPR station, WKAR, and it’s daily news show Current State (here-http://wkar.org/
Who are your biggest influences?
It really comes down to which book I am writing, since I write in so many different styles. Another book published this year, for example,Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare was influenced by Poe and Conan Doyle. Right now, I seem to be obsessed with the writing of Neil Gaiman, so we’ll see what that does to my fiction.
Which are your favourite books and authors?
I think every book leaves a mark on a reader. It’s like a pot with new ingredients always being thrown into the soup. For me, my favorite writers are Vonnegut, Austen, Dickens, Twain, Wodehouse, Brautigan, Joyce, Woolf, Fitzgerald (I could go on, a lot more). Not that I will write books like them, but they inspire me.
Ray Bradbury encouraged me at the beginning of my writing career in some really nice letters. I will always be appreciative of him for that.
What would you take to an isolated island?
I never really thought about this before, I am so rarely on boats. Is there electricity on the island? I would love to have books around, but I am so wired in with my iPhone and the kindle and music on it; but once the juice is out of it, it would be worthless (and I could always call for help, right?).
If there are animals on the island I might need a sharp stick though, right?
A tent or a comfy chair sounds like smart options as well. Maybe sunscreen? Could get big sunburns.
Tell us about your other books.
I have three books out right now that people can check out besides A Jane Austen Daydream. They are:
My Problem With Doors is the story of Jacob and he is lost in time. He has been lost since he was a toddler. See, he can not always guarantee when he steps through a door where he will end up or when. The book is filled with surprises and adventure, as well as some fun cameos like Lord Byron and Jack the Ripper.
Megan is the story of Megan Wane. During the day she works as an event planner in a boring 9-to-5 job, but in her imagination she is a superhero princess ruling a kingdom called Prosperity, a magical world where each morning the moon and sun need to battle for the sky. Megan covers a day where everything changed in her fantasy and in her reality.
Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare is a very mad experimental novel hiding in a victorian period mystery. This is the fifth book in a made-up series of thrillers (the introduction walks the readers through the other “books”), and in this episode Maximilian and his loyal biographer Bob are set to stay in a haunted castle; but what they find there might break their very reality.
Permanent Spring Showers is my most recent book (and I am right now looking for an agent or publisher for it) and it is a multi-cast contemporary work about the clash of artists and academics. That line where art crosses reality and the impact it can have on people’s lives and loves and relationships.
What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?
My hope whenever I take on a subject or a book, it is to do something new, something surprising. Yes, A Jane Austen Daydream can be considered a treasure trove for Austenites, but it is not just for her readers. There are some pretty unique twists and surprises that you won’t find in her work (or possibly in any other novel). So if a reader wants to read a different kind of a book, I would recommend checking out one of them.
And if anyone wants to learn more about me, my thoughts, and my books, they should check out my site “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” at sdsouthard.com. It’s all there… in blog form.
Amazon author page: http://amzn.com/e/B002EDX5VC
biographie, Jane Austen, review, Scott D. Southard, writer