Janet Mullany was raised in England by half of an amateur string quartet and now lives near Washington, DC. Persecuted from an early age for reading too long in the bathroom, she still loves books and is an avid and eclectic reader. She has worked as an archaeologist, classical music radio announcer, arts administrator, and for a small press. Her latest publications are Jane and the Damned
and a short story included in the collection Bespelling Jane Austen . She's kindly accepted to answer some questions and to talk Jane Austen with me! Enjoy our intersting chat and get ready to enter a great double giveaway open internationally!
When was your first encounter with Jane Austen?
I quite successfully managed to avoid Austen until I lived in Bath for a time after I’d graduated from college. I discovered the city and Persuasion and Northanger Abbey simultaneously. There was something quite thrilling about being able to walk where Austen and her characters did.
What do you think are the most successful points in her work ?
Her voice, her ironic commentary, and her understanding of human behavior. Or, as Virginia Woolf famously said, (I love this quote): Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching.
Since I am a teacher I often like asking about teaching JA. Do you think it is important that JA’s works are read and taught in schools and universities?
Absolutely! She’s one of the major figures of western literature and her work changed the shape of fiction. Even if you come to her after your formal education has ended, you’ll find that your perception of her work changes as you change and grow.
Now , as for your own fiction, how did it come that you started writing?
Years of reading and time on my hands! I’d written a lot of promotional copy for various day jobs so I thought I’d like to try writing fiction. I was really interested in writing the sorts of books that I wanted to read. A lot of this is about my own entertainment. I was a bit surprised to end up a romance novelist.
In Jane and the Damned you follow a very successful, new trend: mashing up Jane Austen and supernatural beings like vampires (we also have ghosts and monsters in other books). Tell us something about your novel.
It’s not a monster mash in the sense that it’s one of Austen’s books with paranormal material added. It’s a vampire novel starring Jane Austen with a little alternate history and romance thrown in. In my version of 1797 England, vampires (the Damned) live openly in fashionable society. Jane is created a vampire at a provincial assembly, and her family takes her to Bath to take the waters, the only known cure. While they’re there, the French invade, and Jane delays her cure to fight them. But eventually she has to choose between love and immortality or writing and her beloved sister Cassandra.
6.What do you think JA’s reaction to all these mashes-up would be if she were alive?
I think she’d be amused. She was a woman with a sense of humor.
You’ve also got another recent Austenesque release , a short story in the collection Bespelling Jane Austen.
Bespelling Jane Austen is an anthology where we (Mary Balogh, Susan Krinard, Colleen Gleason and myself) interpreted Austen’s novels with paranormal elements. I chose Emma, my favorite Austen, set in contemporary Washington DC, where Emma is a witch who runs a dating agency for the paranormal population of the city. It was a lot of fun to write!
Which of JA’s novels would you like to rewrite and in a mash-up with …?
I don’t know whether it would be a mash-up, but I would like to write something on Mansfield Park, which is such a fascinating book, an experiment that didn’t quite work.
Who are your favourite Austen hero and heroine?
I love Henry Tilney—such a flirty guy!— but I’ve never really thought of a favorite heroine, although I do like the wicked, witty Mary Crawford.
Which are the most and the least successful couples among the matches Jane made in her stories? I mean which couple will actually live happily ever after and which one instead will face troubles of any kind?
Is this a trick question? Because the only long-term married couple Austen portrays favorably is Captain and Mrs. Croft from Persuasion! So I think Ann and Wentworth are probably the best bet. You have to wonder whether Catherine and Henry Tilney are destined to become Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.
Do you like the several JA screen adaptations? Have you got a favourite one?
I love the 1995 Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Everything in it feels and looks exactly right, even though the soundtrack includes Bach and Fritz Kreisler and there’s a moment near the end where it almost turns into a Fellini film! I think one interesting thing that’s happened, particularly as a result of the A&E Pride and Prejudice, is that there’s a whole new group of Austen fans who haven’t actually read the books.
Are you working on a new project at the moment?
I’m working on the second book about Jane Austen as a vampire (no title yet) and I have a short story in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It (Random House, October, 2011).
Well, thanks a lot for being my guest, Janet. It's been very interesting to discuss some Jane Austen- related issues as well as your works with you.
Thanks so much for having me as a guest today, Maria Grazia!
You can find Janet Mullany on Twitter too
GIVEAWAY TIME!!! Janet Mullany is kindly offering a copy of JANE AND THE DAMNED and one copy of BESPELLING JANE AUSTEN to commenters from all over the world. Leave an e-mail address where I can contact you in case you win. The name of the winners will be announced next Wednesday 17th November. GOOD LUCK!