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How Jane Austen Inspired Much of My Work
On the anniversary of Jane Austen's death in 1817, I want to pay homage to one of my favorite authors of all time. Her novels have inspired me in so many ways.
Today is the memorial of one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen. Seeing as I’ve read her novels more than twenty times each, it’s not hard to believe that she influenced my own writing immensely.
Here are a few ways my novels are similar to hers, though I’m by no means arrogant enough to believe that they reach her quality. I still look to her as an ideal to emulate, though.
If you're a Jane Austen fan, or even if you've never read her works but are looking for the things she's known for, you should go on a journey through her works (and maybe mine, too).
What is Jane Austen known for?
1. Relateable, Realistic Heroines
Mansfield Park. Though one of my least favorites of Jane Austen's work, there are still elements that make it an enduring classic and that I enjoy.
Insecure heroine with few true friends
Morality highly esteemed and encouraged
Love is Not Arrogant or Rude, #1 in the “Love is” series, mirrors these these qualities, as well as including these similarities:
Like Crawford pursuing an unwilling Fanny, Tony pursues a mostly unwilling Morgan
Like Fanny is softened toward Crawford, Tony makes inroads on Morgan's affections
Tony’s character and conclusion mirrors Crawford’s
2. Strong Sisterly Relationships
Sense and Sensibility. One of my favorites....
Two sisters, bonded in love, with very different temperaments, values, and taste in men
Pride and Prejudice. My absolute favorite....
Two sisters, bonded in love, with very different temperaments, in love with two friends.
Northanger Abbey. A delightfully tongue-in-cheek gothic novel....
A sister and brother, bonded in love, both with strong affections for the heroine, Catherine.
The “Love is” series. All three, but especially the first…
Two sisters, bonded in love, live far apart but talk as often as possible.
3. Indirect Point of View
Free Indirect Speech. Jane Austen was a bit revolutionary in her day, with her realism and irony. Wikipedia defines her style as ”free indirect speech, in which the thoughts and words of the characters mix with the voice of the narrator.” She often gives a glimpse of a person's inner thoughts, though always telling the story in a third-person, omniscient, narrating perspective.
What I personally love is how she jumps into the story herself and reminds the reader of her as the author and sometimes of themselves as readers. It's what we now refer to as “meta.” I love it.
The “Love is” series is written in first-person POV. My idea started with loving the deeper physic distance Austen gave. I wanted to get deeper into only Morgan's thoughts for even more realism.
While not as prevalent as in Austen's works, irony is a tool I used in the “Love is” series to show Morgan's immaturity and insecurity at the beginning. The reader knows when her perceptions are wrong or incomplete, though (hopefully) not too spelled out to be a sermon.
4. More Dialogue
Less description and more talking. Jane Austen also pushed the boundaries of other 19th century novels with her use of dialogue, scripting distinctive voices for each character.
The “Love is” series does not have pages of description.
The “Love is” series has long dialogues, where the majority of the action happens in speech. In my own life, the main way I spend time with loved ones, learn about God, and make and solidify friendships is through the use of words. Proverbs says that the tongue has powers of life and death. Words are important.
There is a little action that doesn't require a lot of dialogue. But not much.
The lack of description is deliberate. I wanted to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks however would best relate to your world and worldview. This is also why I've been hesitant to put models on my covers. As a reader, I prefer to let my imagination also create the characters within the general framework provided by the author.
5. Deep Characters
Rounded characters with memory and history. I value deep characters more than any other story element, over setting and even plot. Though we need elements of the others, characters are where we learn about ourselves. It's where we see any worthwhile theme played out.
My “Love is” series is based on a few really deep characters, based on real people, though not exactly copying any one person.
Austen's characters also seem to be based on aspects of real people she had met, though not a one-to-one likeness. With only a few exceptions, Austen infuses most of her characters with slightly exaggerated traits to make a point. I do this, though quite to the same extent, in the “Love is” series, also.
6. Language Indicative of a Specific Time & Place
Regency Gentry and Conservative Christians. Like I said, I don't claim to live up to Jane Austen's quality, but she is my ideal. As Austen equals Regency, I hope my “Love is”series will equal fundamental Christianity.
Austen has become the standard for the Regency era. If we want to know what the “middle class” of the era was like in language, dress, manners, class distinctions, finances, legality, or technology, we turn to Austen.
I wrote the “Love is” series, especially the first two (Love is Not Arrogant or Rude and Love Does Not Envy or Boast), to showcase the mindset of ultra-conservative, fundamental Christian America in the early 2000s. I tried to capture the language and hypocrisies of that section of Christianity, because that was what I grew up in. I don't know of any other author or novel who has tried to capture this segment of American Christianity, though the Amish trend is similar and still going.
Though not “preachy,” right and wrong are highly important.
Austen didn't keep to the formal morality books of the time, but as the daughter of a clergyman, spirituality and morality are themes found throughout her novels.
I, too, put a lot of emphasis on approving what's right and punishing what's wrong. I am not ashamed to say that I wrote every book with a definitely Christian theme, and that I made strong faith threads throughout. You will be encouraged to know the Lord more and more and to follow Him with your whole heart.
Conclusion: If you're looking for a books with relateable heroines, close sisterly relationships, more than a glimpse into the inner thoughts of a deep characters, dialogue without lengthy description, themes of morality, and language indicative of a specific time and place, then I would urge you to try Jane Austen. And if Regency isn't your cup of tea, but you like more contemporary language and circumstances, then please try my “Love is” series.