Friday, 8 June 2012

TALKING JANE AUSTEN WITH ... AMY ELIZABETH SMITH - GIVEAWAY OF "ALL ROADS LEAD TO AUSTEN"


Amy Elizabeth Smith has an undergraduate degree in music and a masters and PhD in English. She teaches writing and literature (including a course on Jane Austen) at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. She loves travelling, dancing, classic cinema, and watching squirrel videos on YouTube.
With a suitcase full of Jane Austen novels in Spanish, Amy Elizabeth Smith set off on a yearlong Latin American adventure: a travelling book club with Jane. In six unique, unforgettable countries, she gathered book-loving new friends— taxi drivers and teachers, poets and politicians— to read Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.
All Roads lead to Austen is an interesting account of those experiences and of how she met her “Seor Darcy”...


Leave your comment + your e-mail address, add the country you live in and you can have a chance to win this new interesting Austen-dedicated travel book. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends  on June  16th.
Welcome to My Jane Austen Book Club, Amy, and thanks for visiting with us. Here's my first question  for you. Jane Austen and the 21st century. She lives in book clubs, conversations, sequels and movie adaptations. Do you think she has travelled through the centuries unchanged?
Yes and no. Her messages still speak to people, but a big issue now is that people’s reading habits have changed a lot --- I think it’s hard these days for people to slow down and accept the elegant, reflective pace of Austen’s works. You can’t skim her books like you would a Facebook post. There’s a lot going on, even if there isn’t a lot of action. Her books are always rewarding, but they take some concentration.
She’s loved and appreciated all over the world. Can different cultures find different messages in her work or is she actually so universal?
This is another “yes and no” for me. Friendship, family, love --- these things are universal, even if the details change from country to country --- so I think people everywhere can find something familiar in Austen. But even those of us who read Austen in English often take away very different messages: some love her for the “old-fashioned” values while others see her as a clever, subversive woman shaking things up. So with people reading her in translation, maybe knowing nothing about early 19th-century England, you’re going to get even more varied responses. In conservative, communal cultures, for instance, people might see Lizzy Bennet as unforgivably selfish for turning down Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal, since it would have really helped her family out.
You teach English Literature to young people at university while I am a teacher of English Literature to teenage students in state schools. So I’d like to ask you for tips. Have you got any special advice for me to introduce them Jane Austen and her world?
Well first of all, my hat’s off to you --- teaching pre-college is so important! And reading Austen with teenagers must be a huge challenge. To be honest, I think most aren’t ready for her yet. Like I said earlier, you can’t read Austen for the plot --- you’ve got to read her for the voice, the subtle social commentary, the way the relationships play out. Most high school students will think that’s boring. And unfortunately, if somebody has a bad experience with a classic author early on, they may never give that writer another chance. On the other hand, students are drawn to things they’re told to stay away from. So, maybe the trick to getting younger students to like Austen is to insist they absolutely cannot, no way, read her until they’re older! If that doesn’t work, you might use really good modern YA adaptations, which can lead them to the real thing later. Jennifer Ziegler’s Sass and Serendipity is one I enjoyed recently (and it’s got a Latino element, too). Alyssa Goodnight’s Austentatious is on my “to read” self right now --- I’ve heard that’s good.
Now let’s talk about the experience you describe in your new book, All Roads Lead to Austen. Can you tell us briefly what it was like to travel in six different Latin American countries reading Jane Austen in Spanish?
In a word, fabulous. Just think --- it was my job to sit down and discuss Austen novels with smart, interesting readers in fascinating places! Plus, people in the United States (myself included, when I first set out) often think all Latin American countries are basically the same, but they’re not. It was wonderful to be in each of these six exciting countries --- Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. I’ve got a bit more detail about the travels on my website, along with photos, if readers are interested (http://allroadsleadtoausten.com/).
Latin American people – like Italians – are “calientes”, meaning passionate, impulsive, creative. Can they really appreciate Jane Austen and the Regency good manners and self-control she describes in her novels?
This issue came up in a big way in Mexico, so I don’t want to give away too much from the book --- but I will say that the reading discussions themselves got a little “caliente” in some places. Emma is good for starting arguments, even among us supposedly “cool-headed” northerners. There were some readers who were surprised by how restrained and distant some of Austen’s characters seem to be, it’s true --- but others definitely appreciated characters, like Elinor Dashwood, who were always respectful of others.
What is a “Seor Darcy” like?
I know what mine is like --- we met while I was doing this Austen project! He’s proud, intelligent, well-read, opinionated, and very, very loyal. And handsome. I’m definitely a fan of dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes.
What kind of people took part in your meetings all over Latin America?
A huge range, all of them warm and wonderful, all of them with something to teach me about Austen. I read Austen with teachers in Guatemala, taxi-drivers, homemakers, and other workers in Mexico, some pretty well-off people in Ecuador and Paraguay, a group of poets in Chile, and a lot of book nerds like myself in Argentina. What a great bunch of people I got to meet!
All Roads Lead to Austen is non-fiction. Have you ever thought of writing a sequel/spin off story for any of the major six?
To be honest, no. There are already a lot of really good writers out there doing this (and some pretty bad ones, too . . .) --- so I like to sit back and enjoy their work. But if I had to, I’d pick up with Northanger Abbey.
What would you especially miss and what would you be extremely happy with if you could go back and live in Jane Austen’s era?
I wouldn’t do well in Austen’s era --- as a woman, being a second-class citizen with limited legal rights and access to education wouldn’t sit well with me. And I’m such a movie junkie, I’d really suffer without my DVD player. Life without a Kindle or a Nook would also be rough (and access to chocolate ice cream, god forbid, would have been limited, too). That said, I’m sure the natural beauty of the landscape would make up for a lot --- no noisy highways, no advertising on every corner, no power lines or cell towers everywhere. It would have been lovely.
What are your Austen projects for the future?
Still thinking about this. I never did readings of Persuasion, Mansfield Park, or Northanger Abbey in Latin America, so maybe I’ll pick up my travels elsewhere (Europe? Asia? Who knows?) and give those a try.
Thanks so much for having me stop by and visit the “club”!


Thank you very much indeed for visiting,  Amy. Great success to your book and good luck to our readers in the giveaway contest!

27 comments:

Krista Raven said...

I too think that everyone can really appreciate what Jane Austen gives in her novels. And I can see her point on how people could take Lizzy turning down Collins as selfish. But as an literary art everyone who loves to read can appreciate something in Jane as a writer. Loved the interview, love Senor Darcy!!! Thank you
Krista US
bookreviewclubblog@aol.com

Gisele said...

Hi Amy! What about El Salvador? You were so close! ~sigh~ It would have been a pleasure to meet you! A think that for young students is really hard to concentrate while reading some of Jane Austen books, but if you show them a good movie adaptation, you can score a small book club there. Even in my country it's difficult to find fans of Jane Austen, I personally have only meet 3. Sad, right? I also prefer my Señor Darcy, with black hair, well-read and opinionated! I think I -probably- would be a terrible citizen in the Austen era but I love to read about the woman in that time! I'm adding the book of Jennifer Ziegler’s to my TBR pile! I'm crossing my fingers for this book! Good luck all! :)
Gisele - El Salvador
ilepachequin(at)hotmail(dot)com

Monica said...

I am really looking forward to read this book to hear what all this people with different backgrounds have to say about Austen and how they relate to her "voice", and also to read about your travels.

Monica - The Netherlands
moon.card(at)yahoo(dot)com

Caitlin Lore said...

Oh my, I LOVE the concept of this book. A traveling Jane Austen book club sounds like a wonderful time.
Great interview! I'm looking forward to reading this book!

Cait - United States
cait.lore(at)gmail(dot)com

Gayle Mills said...

I agree with you that it would have been very difficult being an independent woman in Jane Austen's historical era. All those rules. All those layers of clothes!

Gayle
scmema at yahoo dot com

Janet Kerr said...

It is wonderful that you met your true love while you were doing what you loved especially since the Austen books are so romantic.
Please enter me in your draw. I would very much like to read your book.
Jan from Canada

janet_kerr(at)msn.com

~Brandy~ said...

A travel log dedicated to Jane - I am intrigued and inspired!

blr098@hotmail.com

Canada

MaryKate said...

This book looks absolutely amazing! All roads DO lead to Austen ;)

marykate(dot)sullivan711(at)gmail(dot)com

Heather M. said...

What a cool concept! I'm impressed that you read Austen in Spanish: my school room Spanish would never hold up. It's wonderful to know that love of Jane can cross so many cultures and languages.

Heather M.

hmoll at nycap(dot)rr(dot)com

USA

Marlyn Beebe said...

Innovative idea. I'd love to read the book and find out what happens!

Joslyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joslyn said...

I love the idea of combining travel and Jane Austen. I'll definitely be reading this book!

mione_bookworm@yahoo.com
USA

cyn209 said...

a definite add to my WishList!!!
i'm in the US!!
thank you for the giveaway!!

cyn209 at juno dot com

Kelli H. said...

The more I hear about this book, the more eager I am to read it! To visit all those amazing places and discuss Austen the whole time you're there. That is my kind of trip! Thanks for the giveaway!!=)
I am in the US.
kellik115@yahoo.com

Jo's Daughter said...

Seems like a great book, count me in. Don't think I could live in Austen's era, icecream is delish and I probably would miss it too. Though the slow pace of life might be relaxing for a while.

devapajo AT gmail DOT com

I'm from Holland

julienne said...

an austen-inspired travel, sweet!

nephithyrion@gmail.com

greetings from the Philippines!

Helen said...

This book is so high on my TBR list! The interview was fantastic - TFS! It's so true, you read Austen for her 'voice'!

Thank you for making it worldwide!!!

Helen in Australia!

helen at hancock dot id dot au

Amy Elizabeth Smith said...

Wow, it's great to see such wonderful comments here! And yes, I would have loved to visit El Salvador, too -- there were so many fascinating places in Latin America I wanted to see. Thanks so much! Amy Elizabeth Smith

Samantha K said...

Great interview! Very interesting points made, great book concept =]
sammiekparkland@sbcglobal.net
USA

Anonymous said...

Jane Austen and travel! What could be better?! It does indeed sound like a dream job- and a wonderful book.
jbubics at hotmail dot com
USA

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to read the Mexico/Emma chapter!

Emily In USA
MellyJoey at aol dot com

Gem said...

I admit Austen and her books have been re-told so many times - and sometimes altered too much - it's a bit confusing for other people who have not read or know the original story. The sad truth is, no one's really interested in Austen's works anymore in my country (not that I know of). I swear the books are collecting dusts in the library :/
Anywho.
This book however seems different than the other Austen-inspired books. I'm most definitely interested!
Thank you so much for the giveaway! I really hope I could win this as my birthday present! :)

Sadrina
gemonymous(@)hotmail(.)com
Brunei Darussalam

Kirsten said...

I so wanna read this book! It combines travel and Jane Austen, some of my fav things...

The Netherlands

lotsofgingers (at) hellokitty (dot) com

Margaret said...

The whole traveling idea mixed with Jane sounds wonderful. Very unique. I'd love to read it!

Canada

Margaret
singitm(at)hotmail(dot)com

Lúthien84 said...

Please add me to the drawing, Maria. I absolutely enjoyed reading the interview and learn different viewpoints about lessons from Jane Austen's novels. I'm from Malaysia btw.

evangelineace2020(at)yahoo(dot)com

Danielle said...

This sounds like such a good book! I have seen a review of it on another blog and can’t wait to read it!

B.D.Cruz said...

Hi I would have loved if you came to puerto rico. About highschool students not loveing jane is a maybe there are some who will and some who won't. I love introducong austen to new people. I would love to read the book and see how travels and the readings went. I'm from puerto rico dairigirlpr@gmail.com