Thursday, 3 March 2011


Susan Kaye lives in a small town in Oregon with her husband and children. She has published two Austen-inspired novels based on Persuasion,"None But You" and "For You Alone"
You can find her at Jane Started It  , a site she shares with  Pamela Aidan, Laura Hile, and Barbara Cornthwaite or at I Had To Laugh, her personal  blog. She also blogs with Austen Authors
Join us in the discussion. Leave your comments and e-mail address and you can win a copy of "None but you"  or For You Alone"  (you can choose the title you prefer) + a hand-stitched bookmark . The giveaway is open internationally and ends on Wednesday 9th March. when the winner will be announced. 
Well, it's time to welcome Susan Kaye on My Jane Austen Book Club!

Thanks for accepting to answer my questions, Susan! Here's my first one. Jane Austen wrote books that are about few  families in a country village and focused on  their courtships , friendships, gossip and discussions  in  their ordinary rather uneventful  lives and homes. Two hundred years later we’re still reading them. What is her secret for success?  
We’re still reading Austen all these years later because she’s honest. And she’s funny. Two vital qualities for an artist. Her characters are true to how people are. Her novels are populated with intelligent, witty, compassionate, bilious, angry, sly, mean, happy, and clueless souls looking to find their place. Aside from a few years in a small city, I’ve lived my entire life in small towns. I know the claustrophobia of the sameness, the gossip, and the forced acceptance. In a small population, everyone can be affected by one person’s actions, whether you know that person or not. There are harsh judgements and long memories, but I also know the ordinary and uneventful can be the most comforting thing you have in bad times. Austen crafted her people to reflect the world she saw. I think she was faithful to that world and was faithful to the highs and lows of it as well. Fortunately, she was also very deft at showing us the beauty of how love affects everyone as well.
When and how did you first meet Jane Austen and her world?
 I first read the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of Pride and Prejudice when I was about 14. I later saw the Garvy/Rintoul adaptation but lost interest midstream. When I was in my late 30s I needed a diversion from Real Life and a friend introduced me to the Ehle/Firth adaptation of P&P. I saw the ‘95 version of Persuasion, read the book, and was hooked. 

 It seems your favourite Austen major among her six is Persuasion , which happen to be mine too. What’s so special in it? What is different respect to her previous works?
I love stories of love-lost-love-regained. Second chances are almost miraculous to me. In most of life when we blow an opportunity, it’s over. But Persuasion shows us there are second chances, and even when we thumb our noses at those, God sometimes smiles and pushes us until we accept happiness. No character is free from some of the author’s characteristics, I believe, but while Austen’s other novels seem to center around the characters she created to be outside herself, I think Persuasion reveals her in both Anne AND Frederick. I think Jane Austen in many ways saw herself being like as Frederick Wentworth: underestimated and having only the confidence in herself to carry her forward. Anne Elliot is a woman who thought love would find her again after a failed attempt, but it didn’t happen. Jane gave Anne the second chance she never got, maybe. 

Ann Elliot is not as lively nor as self – confident as Elizabeth Bennet or Emma, but she is the Austen heroine I feel more sympathy toward. What about your opinion of her? 
Anne and her “elegant mind” didn’t lend themselves to liveliness. When we meet Anne Elliot she’s been six years resigned to life alone. But Anne has also been trained by her family’s indifference to her. Half of the time they don’t even listen to what she has to say. I don’t think she lacks confidence, she is intelligent enough to know casting her pearls before swine is fruitless. Anne knows she’s booked on a train headed for a wreck but with Sir Walter and Elizabeth at the controls, there’s no point in screaming. Her time is better spent watching the scenery go by and contemplating poetry. Seriously, Anne did the visiting around the estate and likely any other duties expected of the family. She’s the adult doing what needed to be done. It helped keep her mind off her own prospects. 

Now the hero you’ve chosen to write about in both your published novels, None But You and For You Alone, Captain Frederick Wentworth. What’s so special in him to make you prefer him to all the others Austen men?  He’s no gentleman! In the classic sense of having esteemed family connections or owning land that is. The other heroes had their lives laid out before them--with no freedom to deviate--while Frederick Wentworth plotted his own course despite the fact he had no family of importance or guarantee of success. Wentworth is funny, smart, and confident. And he wears a uniform. Wow. And he’s got staying power. He was ready to quit the field after the concert on Tuesday, but he kept up and when he had the chance, as much as he could without embarrassing her in front of the Musgroves, he started putting himself forward with Anne.

How does your Captain Wentworth compare to Jane Austen’s original? I pray I’ve done him justice and kept him true to Jane Austen's Wentworth. If she were to read my work, I don’t want to think she’d blush at what I’ve done. I don’t mind variations in the plot but I do bristle when Austen’s characters are changed, sometimes radically so. I think that’s the easy way out. By shifting the personalities of Austen characters to suit more modern sensibilities, I think a writer betrays Austen. If you change the basic stuff of the characters, why not just change the names and leave the Austen association behind? Because then the writer doesn’t have the Austen label to attract readers. Oops! Did I say that out loud? 

You decided to publish your re-telling of Persuasion in two different book? Why? 
I started telling Wentworth’s side when he goes to Portsmouth to tell Captain Benwick Fanny Harville has died and that took two or three chapters. I thought, and a lot of readers agreed, it would be interesting to know what happened during that time. Did being holed-up with Benwick for three days shake loose memories of Anne? If it did, how did that affect him when he learned that Sophia and the Admiral had chosen Kellynch Hall, of all places, to settle. There is also a natural break in Frederick’s side of the story, and in his emotional state when he leaves Anne at Uppercross after Louisa Musgrove’s fall. That made the segue to his three weeks in Lyme and then six weeks in Shropshire crucial. 

Ciaran Hinds or Rupert Penry-Jones? HINDS

What did you like best in the two different Persuasion adaptations and what the least instead? 
Least first. 07’ version: The portrayals of Mary and Charles Musgrove were just atrocious and cartoonlike. The writers were clumsy and ham-handed in the way they stuffed Mrs. Smith’s storyline into the melodramatic, aerobic ending. The woman was an invalid for crying out loud, and having her hustling after Anne, panting out the nefarious plottings of William Elliot--plots she wouldn’t have known--was just silly. I didn’t care at all for Anthony Head’s Sir Walter. The Baronet is a ridiculous, one-dimensional character and I think Head tried too hard to make him a complex villain. I did though like the scenery, particularly the shots of Lyme. In the ‘95 version I didn’t care for the writers making William Elliot a fool who had lost his fortune rather than a truly evil man. Many think of him as merely being guilty of Sunday travel and  that marrying Anne would have shaped him right up. To me, he is one of Austen’s most frightening characters because of his ability to insinuate himself into the good graces of people. He was nestling deeper and deeper into the Elliot family all the time, and his betrayal of Mr and Mrs Smiths’ trust was reprehensible. I did like Hinds’s portrayal of Wentworth. The barely concealed sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek way he delivered most lines was great. I think Amanda Root is an actress who can say so much with only her eyes and is perfect for the ever-thinking but silent Anne. And I like Fiona Shaw, who played Sophia Croft. She was great as the older sister and a real presence in the one scene in which they really exchanged any dialogue.    

What do you think, Susan? Isn’t  it time we get a mini-series for this novel? Something like the latest  BBC Emma (2009)? 
Hey, it’s got my vote. And if the BBC wants some Frederickcentric scenes, I’d be happy to help!! 

Now, I’m just being curious. What is it that you do when you don’t read, write or watch something Austen – related? Joking , of course! But, seriously, what are your other favourite hobbies or pastimes? 
Our 18 month-old granddaughter lives with us so she’s a constant source of entertainment. She’s in that stage of taking everything out of my cupboards so I’m always rearranging them. And, I love cop shows. I wanted to be in law enforcement for a long time. Bones is a favorite right now, as is Criminal Minds and the hip and clever Burn Notice. I like the comedy, The Middle. I’m a blue-collar girl to my toes so this one strikes home for me. My writing is influenced a lot by the storytelling arc of TV and so I like to study good shows to get a handle on that. 

Are you working on any new Austen-related project?  

A Word, A Look is going to be the third in the Frederick Wentworth, Captain series. I’ve scraped one version because it wasn’t working. I figured if I was bored with it, the readers likely would be as well. The new version begins with Frederick and Anne just returning to Bath to face the consequences of their elopement. From there Frederick has the first serious failure of his naval career, they suffer a betrayal by a member of the Elliot family, and as a couple they have to learn to support one another through a very public scandal. I think it will be a little more interesting than my first attempt.

Good luck with your writing, Susan. I'll wait for you back  on My Jane Austen Book Club soon to present A Word, A Look once it is out. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer all my questions. 
And now ... GOOD LUCK to all commenters. You can choose  your prize between Susan Kaye's two published novels  you'll also get a hand-stitched bookmark from Susan herself, and the giveaway is open worldwide!


Linda said...

I like to read a series in order, so I would like to be entered for None But You. And, thanks for the giveaway. BTW I just ordered the 1995 film.

Susan Kaye said...

Hi, Linda. I think you'll like the '95 version best. It captures the feel of Persuasion in a way the others miss. Thanks for stopping by.

Regina Jeffers said...

You know my take on the 1995 version of the film versus the 2007 one. I like Rupert Penry Jones and Sally Hawkins in other things, but there was no chemistry. Coming from a naval family, I love a man in uniform!

Anonymous said...

Maria, great interview! Persuasion is my favourite JA novel too. I've never read any Captain Wentworth's sequel and I'd love to read one.
If I'm the fortunate winner of the prize, I choose "None But You".
Thanks for the open worldwide giveaway!

Margay said...

I love Captain Wentworth! it would be nice to read more about him.

Susan Kaye said...

@Regina--I was in the Air Force but still think the uniforms of even the US Navy are, by far, the best!

I think I am noticing some trending toward Wentworth in the overall Darcy vs. the other Austen heroes. I say HUZZAH! Thanks for dropping by maichi3 and Margay.

Laura Hartness said...

I'm ashamed to say that I've neither read Persuasion nor watched a dramatic version. Do you think someone like me would still enjoy your books, despite my ignorance?

I'd love to give it a try-- enter me for None But You to get me started!


Laura Hartness
The Calico Critic
CalicoCritic at gmail dot com

BeckyC said...

Laura, I think you would love Susan's books! But I still think Austen to we well worth your time!

Susan, I definatley share your perpective on the movie comparisons! And I share your love of Persuasion!

Susan Kaye said...

@Laura--Jane Austen writes from her heroines' pov so we diverge somewhat, but apart from a six week period when Wentworth and Anne Elliot are separated, you could read my books without reading Persuasion. I shadowed the novel as faithfully as possible.

@BeckyC-Thanks for the kind words. And I agree that reading Austen is always worth it. As for the movies, opinions vary but that's what keeps the Austen World interesting.

Thanks, ladies.

Claudia said...

This is a very good day-start, with a Persuasion post! I won't never be tired of saying Captain Wentworth is definitely my favourite JA hero, the emblem of ethernal love... Oh, I think I'm melting down, I must stop!!! Thanks for the giveaway, and compliments for the book covers, they're gorgeous :)

Laura Hartness said...


That's good to know-- I do want to read Persuastion as well, but I'm glad I can choose to read yours first if I prefer.


Laura Hartness said...

Sheesh--- bad spelling!


Mystica said...

I love it when I see worldwide!!!!! Thank you for sharing.


Kulsuma said...

What a lovely giveaway! Please count me in:)

katayoun said...

i love persuasion too, though must admit that pride and prejudice is just as much of a favorite. and oooooooh so agree about a bbc miniseries, would love that!

Alexa Adams said...

Yet another Persuasion adorer, and Susan's series is my favorite Persuasion-based story. She captured Wentworth so well. I have read it twice, and will surely read it again, so no need to enter me in the giveaway. Just wanted to share me love for these books, and congratulate Maria on yet another wonderful interview!

Laura Ferrari said...

I too love Persuasion and believe the 1995 is the best adaptation so far. Even though Rupert Penry-Jones reading the letter is one of the best JAmovie moments I can think of (sometimes I just watch that part because it's perfect! except for Anne running through Bath like a madwoman..)

Wentworth is probably my favourite hero (Mr Darcy will always have a special place in my heart but a man who can love for so long is irresistible), and the uniform just adds pros

I'd love to win a copy of For you alone
Great interview!

Laura Ferrari

Kelly said...

Great giveway, especially when it is worldwide!
Could you enter me for: None but you. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Susan Kaye said...

@Claudia-Thank you, the covers are always stand outs. I swore I would not use photos but those were the only ones that seemed to say, "Frederick and Anne."

@Mystica-Goodwill is priceless in my book so I thought why not cultivate some international understanding!


@Laura Ferrari-I do wish the 1995 version had not gotten artsy with The Letter. Hinds's voice is wonderful in the voice over and the addition of Root's voice just wasn't.

Thank you all for stopping by.

mbreakfield said...

The 1995 version is my favorite, too. I would love to read your books.

Marcie said...

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I'm so glad Susan has decided to write more about Anne and Captain Wentworth. I love Hinds performance too.

Lena said...

Thanks for this giveaway! I have read (and loved) None But You and would really like to have For You Alone. I will also eagerly await Susan's A Word, A Look.
I agree with you about the 2007 Persuasion, some parts just left me dumbfounded (like Anne's crazy running through Bath), but I have to say that I got caught in it anyway, mostly because of the soundtrack.
nehlee at hotmail

Kirsten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer W said...

I read Persuasion only recently and immediately read both books from Captain Wenthworth's point of view. I absolutely adored them. I have seen the 2007 movie version but based on everyone's comments I am not determined to watch the 1995 version. Thanks!

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

This series has long been on my TBR list and I would love to read it. Recently, Persuasion has become one of my top favorite Austen novels. I am a softie when it comes to men in Blue! Wonderful interview Maria & Susan.

Susan Kaye said...

@mbreakfield- I hope you'll like the books when you get a chance to read them.

@Marcie- I'm glad I've taken up Anne and Frederick's story as well. I miss them when I'm writing other things.

@Lena- The Aerobic Anne Persuasion has a few good points. Still, it's not to my taste.

@Kristen- Hinds and Root have done movies and plays together and I think their familiarity shows in this adaptation.

@Jennifer W.- I think you will very much enjoy the '95 version.

@Laurel Anne- I think the uniforms are one of the many reasons I like the '95 version best.

The winner is being announced tomorrow so good luck to you all. It's been great trading insight into Austen with you.

And thank you to Maria for her gracious hospitality!

Take care--Susan Kaye