Hello and welcome, Sarah. It's a great pleasure to make your acquaintance and present you to our Austenite friends here at My Jane Austen Book Club. My first question for you is: Why Jane Austen? I mean, what are the reasons of the appeal of Jane Austen’s world for the 21st century reader?
I’ve always been a reader as well as a writer. I read Jane Austen’s books so many times over the years, starting as a young girl. In today’s world, I believe more people are starting to read again after a lull. However, I also believe that in the world of 140 characters or less statuses, we have lost an appreciation of the classics. Many of my regular readers have not read books like Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. This was my way of blending my love for the classics with my deep appreciation of the Amish. It was a way of showing readers that the themes in Jane Austen’s books transcend far beyond one particular time period. It was also my way of introducing my Amish genre readers to Jane Austen and vice versa.
When people learn that I have written so many books about the Amish, they often make a comment about this genre. I admit that some less-than-scrupulous authors simply slap a bonnet on a girl’s head or hire ghost writers to throw together a short story which they sell as a “book”. But there are some of us who truly care about the craft of writing as well as the culture and religion of the Amish. I want to share my passion for writing AND the Amish with those readers who care about literary quality as much as I do.
Jane Austen and modernity. What would her wit’s favourite targets have been if she had written nowadays?
I think she would have two main target. First and foremost, the fact that this generation is so fascinated with social media and sharing everything with the rest of the world. Yet, at the same time, they are also very focused on themselves. This is the “me” generation. It’s not necessarily about social status anymore. It’s about popularity on the social media circuit with people whom we never meet in person. I think Jane Austen would find that strangely amusing.
I think the disconnect from reality would be a point of interest to Jane Austen. It sure is to me.
Which is your favourite among the major six?
Emma. I simply adore Emma. She is the most imperfectly perfect heroine. Of course, I’m biased because I, personally, relate to her the most. She wants to help others and sees that as her duty. Yet, in doing so, she ends up doing more harm than good in some cases. While all of Jane Austen’s characters go through a metamorphosis in the books, I felt that Emma really experienced change on a deeply personal level. It’s hard to admit when one is wrong. Emma has to do that repeatedly and, as a result, she grows because of it.
You know I’m a teacher to teenage students. Do you think she can still teach/be a model for nowadays youth?
I’d like to think so. Unfortunately, as a fellow educator, I can assure you that many students enter college without having read these classics. There is a lack of appreciation for literary finesse and writing in general. Personally, I have also noticed this with a lot of writers, too. The ability to independently publish books is both a blessing and a blight.
If I say ... Mr Darcy, what is the first image that comes to your mind?
My husband. When I first met my husband, I didn’t like him at all. He’s an older man, born in France, and very polished…in an old-school European type of way. He runs an equestrian academy and my daughter was riding there. I thought he was very strict and stern. I also tended to imitated him and his accent (which, by the way, I have perfected over the years) in order to make my family laugh. However, there was a moment…just one single moment…when I caught a glimpse of him that made me realize that I was completely wrong. He was playing the guitar in a horse paddock, not even knowing that I was watching him. I took a photo of him and when I later looked at it, I saw a depth to him that I had never noticed before. You could say that I realized my first impression of him was very incorrect. When I released my prejudice of my initial impression, I realized that he was completely different. Two years later, we married…on horseback at his farm with thirty attendants…all on horseback. It was very romantic.
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?
I find the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to be incredibly romantic. I would definitely want to get lost in Pride & Prejudice. I always loved a rags to riches story and, while the Bennetts were not exactly poor, Darcy was certainly socially superior. The fact that he married her for love instead of following the mandates of society at that time just makes smile and sigh. THAT is romance. It’s similar to my Plain Fame Trilogy with an international superstar falling for an Amish girl. He could have anyone in the world but he follows his heart, even when the social media and his inner circle tell him that it will never work. That’s what love is about…making it work.
Why should we still read her novels according to you? What can we learn from them? (a question my students often ask me, why do we have to read the classics?)
I find it disturbing that my two children are not reading classics in school. The literary finesse with which Jane Austen, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, etc. write simply cannot be duplicated. I’m very pleased that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series tipped the scale to make reading cool again. However, there is nothing like the appreciation of a classic book. I read them and feel myself becoming intellectually stimulated. While I love to get lost in other books (I’m reading Fangirl right now by Rainbow Rowell and One Last Blind Date by Erin Brady… LOVING THEM), I try to balance my reading to include different classics on a regular basis. They are more difficult to read, of course, but that’s one of the reasons I like them. My brain has to think when I sit down with my tattered copy of Persuasion or Sense & Sensibility. And when the brain thinks, we grow.
The huge spreading of spin-offs, sequels, mash-ups is due to a desire to preserve and 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?
Clearly, the overwhelming love of readers around the world for Jane Austen has fed this enormous demand for spin-offs and sequels. I feel that the interest is due, in part, to a desire to preserve the messages, atmospheres, and techniques that Jane Austen gifted to us through her work. In addition, these sequels, adaptations, and spin-offs prolong the pleasure of her delightful characters and timeless storylines. There are central themes in all of her books that transcend time and place-love, obligation, duty, loyalty, friendship, pride, prejudice.
How would you advertise your book in less than 50 words?
A new genre of Amish Christian fiction that focuses on the literary aspects of story-telling by sharing aspects of Jane Austen’s classics expertly blended into an Amish environment to demonstrate the timeless nature of Austen’s books.
Is there a minor character in Jane Austen’s work you’d like to write a spin-off story for?
I’d love to write about Charlotte from Pride and Prejudice. I think she was an interesting character and, unfortunately, very familiar. How many women find themselves making sacrifices…whether for their husbands, their children, or even themselves…in order to “make it” in the world. We, as people, are constantly reinventing ourselves. I’d love to see Charlotte emerge from her marriage to Mr. Collins. She settled in order to survive. I’d like to see her survive in a way that she finds the happiness we all seek in life.
About Sarah Price
An Amazon Top 100 Author for Books and eBooks: December 2012, January 2013, February 2013, April 2013, May 2013, August 2013, September 2013)
The Preiss family emigrated from Europe in 1705, settling in Pennsylvania as the area's first wave of Mennonite families. Sarah Price has always respected and honored her ancestors through exploration and research about her family history and their religion. At nineteen, she befriended an Amish family and lived on their farm throughout the years.
Twenty-five years later, she now splits her time between her husband and children in the NYC Metro area and a home that she shares with an Amish woman in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where she retreats to reflect and write. As a masterful storyteller, Sarah Price prides herself on presenting an authentic Amish experience for her readers. Many of her stories are based on actual people she has met and her own experiences living among the Amish over the years.
While she started out as an Indie author, she signed on with Realms, an imprint of Charisma House and Waterfall Press, an imprint of Brilliance Publishing. Her first book for Realms, First Impressions: An Amish Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was released in May 2014.
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