Monday, August 15, 2011

Jane Austen and Me

Since beginning this series, my name was been intertwined with Jane Austen, having written fan fiction about her most famous novel and published it. Many reviewers have commented that I’m “nothing like Jane Austen” (were they expecting that? People always surprise me in this regard) and I’m not. I have my own writing style, I’m not a classic British novelist, and I don’t try to be her in the text and emulate her style. I can’t. I don’t think anyone can; the closer people try to get the more ridiculous they tend to sound. The best authors of fandom out there took what they want from her style and then went their own way, in my opinion, in an interesting fashion. You can’t make your dialogue sound like her dialogue, and things seem to work out better when you don’t, but still manage to capture the characters as they are, so they feel real.

There are some ways in which we are similar:

(1) We both tried/try very hard to sustain ourselves on our writing. Jane made a good amount of money for most of her books, until (amusingly) she self-published one of them when the publishing company didn’t give her a high enough advance, and on that particular one (it wasn’t Emma or Pride and Prejudice) she actually lost money. But by the end of her life she had 600 pounds to leave her sister Cassandra, which was enough for Cassandra, who wasn’t married, to live on. Meanwhile, I won’t state what my numbers are, but I am barely squeaking by on a combination of my writing and my two part-time jobs.

(2) We both never married. Jane probably would have if the right man had come along, because who wouldn’t? But nobody did, or nobody she could marry (we don’t really know what happened between her and Tom LeFroy, but it’s definitely been exaggerated). Or we don’t really know if she had other infatuations, because Cassandra burned the majority of her letters after Jane died. Meanwhile, I’ll marry if the right man comes along, but that has happened yet. And being an Orthodox Jew, my circle of potential mates isn’t much bigger than hers, though I am less likely to die in childbirth.

(3) We both have/had auto-immune disorders. Jane had Addison’s Disease, which today is treated with cortisone shots but in her time was untreatable but not deadly. (She died of something else, we don’t know what) I have Crohn’s Disease, which is also treated with cortisone, but there are now additional treatments like Remicade and surgery. One of my favorite charities to give to, in honor of Jane, is the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, which does general research on a host of diseases and disorders affecting the immune system. I recommend this charity, by the way, not just because it’s a charity, but because immunology is one of the few areas in medicine where we’re constantly making huge strides (as opposed to cancer, where we’ve more or less hit a wall). Today diseases are treated, but in the next generation they will probably be cured. We basically have a cure for Crohn’s now – Remicade – which wasn’t available when I was diagnosed in 1996, it just doesn’t work perfectly on everyone and we don’t know how to use it, but the next generation of biologics of it will knock it out.

Next time, I’ll discuss ways that we are different – Well, not all of them. The internet only has so much space in it.


Cherri T. said...

Very good blog, I too am amazed when readers expect authors to copy Jane Austen verbatim.

Amanda Mauldin said...

HaHa! I like the way your write Marsha. You make me laugh. I haven't had a chance to read any of your books yet (don't hold it against me), but I'm definitely looking forward to doing so. I have to admit, when I saw all the Kama Sutra hype about the first book I was kinda put off, but I quickly figured out it wasn't "that" type of book. You're on a very long list of authors I intend to read. Fortunately for you, as I alphabetize my list by author's last names, you're close to the top so it shouldn't be long.

Marsha Altman said...


I think I discuss the Kama Sutra business in the podcast about the first book, but that's basically the story, that it isn't that book.