Hello and thank you for joining us at My Jane Austen Book Club, Katie! It’s awesome to have you as a guest and to celebrate the release of your Austen-inspired, “Dear Emma”. Ready for my questions?
First one is a “twitter game”: How would you present your book in 140 characters?
Harriet, a tender know-it-all, gets her heart broken, makes an enemy, makes an unexpected friend, and learns she doesn't know everything.
How did the idea for “Dear Emma” come to your mind?
I was inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, but also by friendships formed between women who’ve dated the same man, or been interested in the same man, which is a situation I found myself in several times when I was younger.
How much does your heroine, Harriet, shares with Emma Woodhouse?
She would think nothing, but they are both very absolutist in their views of other people, and what’s “right,” and how people should behave. But she shares more with Harriet Smith (her namesake) in her sort of underdog-ness, and tendency to act passively, or as a sort of sidekick sometimes.
Is Emma your favourite Austen heroine?
Well, I love Lizzie Bennet of course, but Emma is my favourite to love and hate. She would be the most fun to hang out with — like, talking shit in the corner of the dance hall.
If you could live in one of Austen’s major novels, which one would you choose and which character would you be?
I mean, of course I want to be Emma. That’s the motivation, in part, for this whole thing — my fascination with, and envy of, girls like Emma.
What is your favourite Austen hero? Why? Does he resemble Keith in your “Dear Emma” in any way?
I think Mr. Knightley is great and a true gentleman. So no, he does not resemble Keith at all.
Have you got a favourite quote by Jane Austen?
Truly too many to pick just one.
What is it that still appeals even to young readers in Jane Austen’s World?
I mean, falling in love, making and losing friends, gossiping, getting anxious about parties and social gatherings — these are all universal and permanent themes, no matter the century.
What would you miss the most if you could live in that time? What would you like the best, instead?
Oh, I’d miss everything. I’d never want to actually live in that era. I only pretend to. I enjoy my rights, and wearing pants, and also my iPhone.
Have you got a favourite Austen film/adaptation?
I love the BBC miniseries adaption of Emma.
Now, my last question is a very tough one: what is it with Mr Darcy? Is he really to blame for our high expectations on men?
I’m afraid that Mr. Darcy romanticizes coldness, distance, and even rudeness in men. In real life, if a man treats you the way Mr. Darcy treats Elizabeth early on, there will not be a second act in which he is sweet to you and loves you. He’ll just stay a jerk.
Poor Mr Darcy! But I understand your reasons, Katie. That's all for now. Good luck to you on realising Dear Emma and thanks for being my guest.
ABOUT DEAR EMMA (Grand Central Publishing Trade Paperback, March 1, 2016)
College junior Harriet, the anonymous creator of the advice column Dear Emma, imparts weekly wisdom to the students around her struggling with relationships, academics, and existential crises. But her own life isn't in such great shape, especially since her Spanish Civilization classmate and crush Keith has gone radio silent on her. When she learns that Keith is dating beautiful and brilliant Remy, the girl she's started sharing a library work-study shift with, she immediately decides that her new coworker is the enemy. But just as Harriet begins to warm to her despite herself, the enemy gives Dear Emma an opportunity to change the course of her relationship with Keith. As Harriet ponders the power her column holds in her own life, she begins to wonder if it's worth losing a new friendship just to get back at the guy who left her hanging.
About the author
Katie Heaney, a St. Paul, MN native, is a writer and editor at BuzzFeed. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, New York magazine online, The Hairpin, The Awl and Glamour.com, among others. She lives in New York City.