Thursday, 15 September 2011


Her PERSUADE ME, second book in the Darcy & Friends series, has just been released today, 15th September. Meet Juliet Archer, read our chat about Jane Austen and her work, leave your reply to our final question and win a copy of this brand new novel!

Hello Juliet and welcome back to my little corner of the blogosphere! 

It’s wonderful to be back at My Jane Austen Book Club! Thank you for inviting me, Maria, and ‘Hi’ to everyone out there. To introduce myself, I write updated versions of Jane Austen novels. So far, I’ve had two published: The Importance of Being Emma and Persuade Me. I describe myself as a 19th-century mind in a 21st-century body – actually, some days it’s the other way round!

Jane Austen and modernity. What would her wit’s favourite targets have been if she had written nowadays?

In some ways, I don’t think there’d be much change. Her novels are brilliant studies of how people interact with each other, especially how they fall in and out of love. But the social context is very different, and that’s where the change would be. For example, I can imagine her being intrigued by internet dating and social media! I also think the modern workplace would have provided plenty of material.

What would she have appreciated the most in our world, instead?

Plumbing, medicine and travel.

You know I’m a teacher to teenage students. Do you think she can still teach/be a model for nowadays youth?

Absolutely! I wrote The Importance of Being Emma with my then teenage daughter in mind. Once you remove the social context, you’re left with all the things that still influence relationships between men and women: the social/economic divide, first impressions, keeping/betraying secrets, jealousy, the attraction (and abuse) of power and status, etc.

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?

This is a really tricky one! I think perhaps the most fascinating would be the introspective, at times stifling world of Mansfield Park. I’d get to know Edmund and Henry better, then decide which of them deserves Fanny more – and meddle shamelessly to bring that about.

You wrote “The Importance of Being Emma”, your first successful Austen modernization. Many critics agree Emma is Jane Austen’s most successful literary achievement. Do you agree with them? Which is your favourite among the major six?

Another tricky one! Yes, I agree. I think Emma is Austen’s most flawed and least sympathetic heroine (although it’s a close call with Fanny on the second point!). So the fact that she gets her comeuppance when she thinks Mr Knightley is going to marry Jane, then Harriet, makes the novel more satisfying. The plot also has elements of other genres – farce and detective story – which disguise what’s really happening. Maybe that’s why I chose to write my modernisation in the first person, alternating between hero and heroine. They present the reader with such conflicting accounts of reality!
My favourite among the six? Whichever one I’m modernising! In each one, Austen’s genius works in different ways. But if I could take only one to a desert island it would be Pride & Prejudice.

The huge spreading  of spin-offs, sequels, mash-ups is due to a desire to preserve Jane’s messages, atmospheres, techniques and prolong the pleasure, or more to the ambition to correct and adapt. What in her work is considered too distant or different?

Apart from the whole social context, very little – because she wrote about things that never change, the interactions between men and women. However, I regularly take ‘liberties’ in three areas. First, few of her characters have both parents around, and even then they’re rarely role models! That’s still true today – but because of the increase in marriage break-ups and step-families, rather than early death. Second, most of her brothers and sisters live together; in the modern world, however, we have the means and expectation to live away from our families. To address both of these differences, I usually fabricate a parent or two – even if they’re largely off stage, like George Knightley in The Importance of Being Emma – and reduce the degree of ‘fraternisation’: for example, in Persuade Me, Anna lives apart from her father and sister, and Wentworth only stays for the odd weekend with his sister and her husband. Finally, there’s the sex. In Austen it’s lurking under the surface (you can tell I’m a fan of Andrew Davies’s adaptations!) but never expressed; in my books it finds some expression, although I hope it’s never out of keeping with the story.

Isn’t the romantic aspect of her novels over-emphasized in the film versions or TV series we’ve seen so far? (not that I mind romance, but those romantic scenes in the movies are so often  not at all Austen-style!)

Well, although I’m a big Andrew Davies fan, I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch his and other people’s adaptations, whereas I can always pick up one of Austen’s books – her writing style is understated and unsentimental, leaving so much to the imagination! Of course, the film/TV versions are portraying Austen through modern eyes, and often with commercial reality in mind. What they can’t really convey is the actual context of the books; they gloss over – often literally – the hardships of life in early 19th-century England, and the limited options open to most of Austen’s heroines. How many of Austen’s contemporaries would have turned down Darcy’s first proposal – especially if he was anything like Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen?!   

The protagonists of your modern re-telling of Persuasion are Anna Elliot and Rick Wentworth. Do you think Anne and Wentworth are Austen’s most successful match among the many she tells about?

Yes. They are the only couple who’ve fallen in love before the story starts. In Persuasion, Austen describes how they work through the pain of their past, and address the distractions of the present, to earn that love all over again. So their relationship, though broken, is on a more solid footing from the start – because in the intervening years they’ve never found anyone else who measured up.
However, as Darcy and Lizzy go through a huge journey of self-discovery during Pride & Prejudice, I have to say that I think their match is equally successful.

Thanks a lot, Juliet, for being my guest. Good luck in your writing career and fingers crossed for the launch of Persuade Me, just published today!


And now a question for everyone: based on Anne and Wentworth’s broken engagement first time round in Persuasion, what do you think Jane Austen is saying about young love? If you want to be entered into the draw for a worldwide giveaway of Persuade Me, please include your email address when you reply in your comment! Giveaway ends  on Sept. 21st. 


Laura Ferrari said...

I'm not sure we can generalize about young love when talking about JA's view: after all, she wrote about couples of young lovers who went through with their impetuous feelings and turned out quite bitter for it, see Mr and Mrs Bennet or Lydia and Wickham, and those who tried, got burned in the process, but eventually found true love as Marianne with Willoughby and Colonel Brandon).

In Persuasion, I find myself to be sympathetic with Anne's decision: she's young, trying to keep her family together, motherless and trusting her dearest and oldest friend, Lady Russell (who sort of acts like a mother to her).
We already know she'll regret her decision because Wentworth will later turn out richer, wiser and in career, but she doesn't. She trusts her elders. And, seriously, we would all give that advice to a barely 20-years old girl, in the throes of her first love.

And, in the end, it was the best decision because their relationship, after seven years, can be based on true love, forged by time and suffering, on both parts, not only on infatuation.

I believe Austen was more partial to this kind of action: think well, follow your elders' advice and do not rush things, and you'll be rewarded.

Kate @ Musings said...

I think that Jane was actually being satirical about young was de rigueur for a young lady to marry, typically an older gentleman. It may have to do with Jane's own age, and her possible early crush, that she made young lover marriages fail. (If both parties were young. Take Colonel Brandon with the younger had the potential for being good.)

And as we all know, hindsight is 20/20, we also know that in our youth we are more it is better to be mature before getting married.

Persuasion happens to be my favorite of Austen's. I love how Anne and Captain Wentworth had loved, were torn apart, and still carried the flame of that love inside of them. What was even better, is that they were given the opportunity to rekindle that flame and be together after all.

Thanks for the great interview and the chance to win!

oreannie at yahoo dot com

Margaret said...

I think she is saying simply young love is fickle. Who we think we love when we are young doesn't always indicate who we will love in the future as we grow and change and move on. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the giveaway!


marilyn said...

It may be that she is saying that young love can turn into mature love given the right circumstances. The book sounds like fun! Thanks for the giveaway.


Jennifer W said...

I think she would say that young love is often thought to not last the test of time. But that is not always true.


Laura Ferrari said...

I've just realized I haven't written my email :-/ does it count if it's in another message?


@Laura Ferrari
Yes, I'll count your two messages/comments as one. Don't worry. Thanks for adding your e-mail address. MG

Margay said...

I think she's saying that you're never too young to experience true love. That sometimes what others think might be unwise due to age and/or circumstance can actually survive - and thrive - over the years.


Lúthien84 said...

I think JA is saying young love sometimes can result in regret or the other way around if it has stood the test of time. We can see from Fanny Price's parents that they were too hasty in marrying and look at their financial situation years later with so many children that they could not afford to keep the family happy. On the other hand if given enough time, it may develop into a successful match. Just look at Anne & Captain Wentworth and Jane Bennet & Mr Bingley.


Claudia said...

Speaking about JA's adaptations, I agree with you they're often not in Austen style, and not only literary. I understand that movies are commercial products, and they have to be "desirable" for many, but sometimes I'd appreciate a little more consistency with the 18th Century manners. For instance, why do so many women wear their hair down loose in the wind? So bohemien (and telegenic!), of course, but in 18th Century they would have never done (as they would have never gone out without gloves!).

Thanks for the interview and the giveaway :)

Jo's Daughter said...
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Sophia Rose said...

Persuasion is my favorite JA book and one of the reasons is how she handled the topic we are discussing. I think falling in love at a very young age can be risky as so much is unsettled and still growing in your own life and in the life of the one you love. But there is always the case that it really is love and it will remain though it grows into something deeper that makes the original love look like nothing more than initial attraction- like what I see when I read Persuasion.
Thanks for the opportunity for the give away.

Misusedinnocence said...

This sounds like a great read, and I think Jane is saying that love is fickle unless it's real.

Faith Hope Cherrytea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Faith Hope Cherrytea said...

all that and i forgot my email! i've trashed and re-entered my response ~
blstef1 at mts dot net

like you, Maria, i too am an anne elliot! and my love of Persuasion is immense! 1st above all JA's writings...
i'm delited to find this new book & will read with pleased anticipation....thank you, Juliet for the writing and the giveaway generosity!

based on Anne and Wentworth’s broken engagement first time round in Persuasion, what do you think Jane Austen is saying about young love?
that love, if true, will last.... and i'm so glad their love was true and lasted for their 2nd chance! hope giving...

Patty said...

Persuasion is my favourite book.
I've read it many times and I've often thought that if Anne and Wentworth had married 8 years earlier, maybe it wouldn't have been a wise decision after all. Anne could have had the same destiny of Fanny's mother in Mansfield Park or be a sad widow neglected by her own family.

patti-wolit at

winrar free download said...

The post was twice as interesting for me to read, as I am a fan of both Jane Austen and Juliet Archer