Lynn Shepherd, author of the lovely Austen-based MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK, is here again to talk Jane Austen with me. Check the first part of this long interview and don't forget to comment both posts. You'll have a double chance to win a signed copy oh her Austenesque murder mystery.
This week my questions are on Jane Austen in general, her works and their adaptations, teaching Jane Austen to teenagers nowadays and we even played at ... "Dream cast for a dream adaptation"!
Read through Lynn's interview. Leave your comments and e-mail addresses and good luck! The giveaway is open worldwide and ends next Thursday, August 26th.
1. What is the appeal of Jane Austen’s world to contemporary audiences according to you?
Part of it is about the enduring appeal of any good romance – her novels are wonderful escapism, and reassure us that all’s right with the world. Some of the rest is the sheer beauty of her writing, and the strength of her characterisation. As well as the chance to immerse yourself in another, more civilised period.
2. When did you meet Jane Austen and start loving her work?
I read Pride & Prejudice when I was about 15, and loved it, and then went on to Mansfield Park for my school-leaving exams. That novel has pretty much been following me about ever since!
3. As you know I teach English Literature to Italian teenagers. Introducing Jane Austen is not always that easy. It is easier with girls, but not with all of them. Boys instead tend to be prejudicial, considering her work “girlish stuff”. How would you cope with their objections? Any suggestion?
It’s funny you should mention that, because an English teacher in the UK has asked me whether I could talk about Murder at Mansfield Park to her class, because it has the sort of story that appeals more to boys! To be fair, Austen has always been a predominantly female taste, even though some of my closest male friends love her work as well. Perhaps what I’d say to a boy is that reading Austen will give him an unparalleled insight into how women’s minds work, and what women really want from a man!
4. What do you think of the many Austen adaptations we’ve had so far both on TV and at the cinema? Have you got a favourite one? One you don’t like at all?
I like some of them very much, others much less. I love the BBC Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root the best – beautifully done, very moving, and shot with an understanding of important things like contemporary lighting. I quite like the Keira Knightly Pride & Prejudice, though David Rintoul is the best Darcy I’ve seem. But I really can’t bear the Mansfield Park with Billie Piper. She’s a good actress, but very wrong for that role. In fact most recent screen versions of Mansfield Park have failed, in my opinion, because they don’t stick closely enough to the original. They just can’t resist the temptation to make Fanny a more modern and energetic heroine, when her meekness and passivity is the whole point.
5. Jane Austen’s use of language , irony and wit was superb but your faithfullness to the language in use at her time is stunning. How did you prepare yourself at that hard task?
Thank you for the lovely compliment! I have studied Austen a number of times in the past, and have a partly academic background, so I always wanted to do this aspect of the book properly. Thank goodness for computers, because I was able to download all her novels and check my vocabulary as I went along. And after a while it got easier, as I felt I was ‘inside her mind’. It was hard work, as you say, but a real labour of love, and I’m thrilled by how many dedicated Austen fans have praised the way Murder at Mansfield Park is written.
6. Let’s play a bit. If you had the possibility to get lost in one of Jane Austen’s novels (like Amanda , the protagonist of LOST IN AUSTEN) , which one would you choose? Why?
The easy answer is Pride & Prejudice, but I think I would enjoy being in Emma too (as long as I didn’t have to be Miss Bates!)
7. Let’s go on playing. Thinking of the perfect match among Austen characters. Which is the happiest couple among the ones Jane formed? The least happy couple?
Least happy couple is definitely Edmund and Fanny, though they’re so dreary I’m not even sure they’d realise how miserable they were! And I’m afraid I never really believed in the Brandon marriage very much either (though the exception is the screen version, as I’m sure any ‘Marianne’ would be quite content with Alan Rickman!). As for the happiest - perhaps the Darcys, but I think the Wentworths have a relationship built on very sound foundations.
8. Now let’s start dreaming. I’ve asked this question several times before but …I’m really curious to know. If they asked you to adapt your novel for a film or a TV movie would you accept?
Yes – like a shot! I’d love it!
9. Who would you cast in the main roles?
As I’ve said before I’d adore Philip Glenister as Maddox – he has just the right combination of charisma and danger. As for the rest, how about Helen Mirren for Mrs Norris? Now wouldn’t that be fun!
10. For the final question let’s go back to your novel, MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK. What would you write in about 50 words to convince people to read it?
It’s a Jane Austen murder mystery, written with complete faithfulness to her style, but with the added excitement of an intriguing murder. If you like Austen, I hope you’ll enjoy a new version of one of her great novels, and if you’re just looking for a good mystery story to read on the beach, I hope it works just as well!
THANK YOU SO MUCH, LYNN!
IT HAS BEEN AN IMMENSE PLEASURE TO TALK AND "PLAY" WITH YOU.
GOOD LUCK FOR YOUR WRITING CAREER!