Thursday, 13 October 2011


Stephanie Burgis is my guest today to talk about her love for Jane Austen. She is both American and British, writes YA fiction, has published 3 books in the Kat series. Book One is out now in the US and Canada as Kat, Incorrigible and in the UK as A Most Improper Magick. You can win a copy of this lovely novel, leaving a comment + your  e-mail address. This giveaway contest ends on Oct. 20 when the winner is announced.
Book 2 in the series, A Tangle of Magicks has already been published in the UK, not yet in the US or Canada. (Discover more about Stephanie on her official site).

Join me and welcome Stephanie Burgis on My Jane Austen Book Club. 

Hello, Stephanie, and welcome. This is my first question: when did you first read  Jane Austen? And was it  love at first sight?

It really was! My dad read me Pride and Prejudice when I was eight, and I fell absolutely head-over-heels for it. I read Sense and Sensibility next, loved that even more at the time (I prefer P&P nowadays, but Sense and Sensibility was definitely my favourite when I was a kid, and it made a huge impression on me), and tore through every other Austen novel and movie/TV adaptation I could find from then onwards.

As a writer of YA literature do you find she can still teach/be a model for nowadays youth?

Of course! Her characters are so true-to-life in their very human foibles, weaknesses and charms, they feel just as real now as then, and what she has to say about human nature is every bit as relevant and compelling. When I run into people I find irritating, I often end up thinking of some parallel Austen character, actually! And as far as a specifically YA audience, I’d say that Northanger Abbey is actually a perfect YA novel (albeit written in Regency-era language) - it’s about a 15-year-old girl learning to tell between false and true friends, going to her first dances, learning to deal with male interest and the reality of adulthood, and falling in love for the very first time. (And of course it’s very funny.) Perfect!  

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?

I admire Emma very much, on an intellectual level, but it and Mansfield Park are my two least favorite Austen novels. (Which is still ranking them pretty highly in my estimation!) My top favourite is Pride and Prejudice, but I also adore Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey and could re-read all three of them endlessly. (And my own first two novels owe big debts of inspiration to both Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey!)

Do  you think that all these adaptations, both written and for the  screen, could alter, mislead  or even distort the interpretation of Austen’s work?

Of course there are lots of different interpretations of her work in the different adaptations (because they CAN’T translate it literally to the screen, so there will always be an aspect of picking and choosing to what they adapt), and there are some versions that have made me gnash my teeth as an Austen-lover. (I absolutely couldn’t stand the Andrew Davies TV adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and I hated that the Keira Knightley film version of Pride and Prejudice took out so much of the biting wit of the novel - I love Austen’s comedy, dark-edged as it is, and for me, it’s the core ingredient of her work.) 

On the other hand, there are also TV and film adaptations that I absolutely love, like Andrew Davies’s TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) and Emma Thompson’s film version of Sense and Sensibility…and honestly, even versions I find only mediocre, like the Billie Piper version of Mansfield Park, are still fun to watch, IMO. Even diluted Austen is good stuff! 

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!)

It really depends on the adaptation! As I said in the answer above, I disliked that aspect of the Keira Knightley film version - I thought it took out all the scathing social comedy to turn the story into an earnest romance. However, it also has to be said that the fact Austen tended to summarize her romantic scenes and leave the kissing bits to the reader’s imagination doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen for the characters…so I don’t have any problem seeing some of those scenes that Austen didn’t write out for us! ;)

Was Jane Austen more a romantic girl or a matter-of- fact woman?

Well, she certainly possessed plenty of both qualities, which is part of why I love her work so much! On the one hand, she’s very clear on the fact that couples need financial stability to be happy, and that tortured rake-heroes like Willoughby are Not Good Husband-Material…but on the other hand, over and over again, her heroines refuse to give in to pressure and make sensible but unromantic marriages (the same choice she made in real life, when she broke off her sensible-but-unromantic betrothal after just one day), and over and over again her heroines are rewarded for it in the end by marrying the men they truly love. So, I’d have to say she was an intelligent, practical romantic!

How would you advertise your book in less than 50 words?

In Kat Stephenson’s Regency England, magic is the greatest scandal of all…but Kat won’t let that hold her back when there are highwaymen to foil, sinister aristocrats to defeat…and true loves to win for her two older sisters.

Let’s go on playing. Thinking of the perfect match among Austen characters. Which is the happiest couple among the ones Jane formed? The least happy couple?

I’d say the least happy couple would have to be Lydia and Wickham…or perhaps worse yet, Willoughby and his poor wife. But the happiest from my perspective would be - oh, that is a hard one! But I’d say it must be Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth, FINALLY granted their happy ending after suffering for so long!

That 's all. It's been a real pleasure to talk  with you about Jane Austen. Thanks for being with us today, Stephanie!

Thanks for hosting me, Maria!

Now it's your turn dear readers! Have you got any question for Stephanie Burgis? She's ready to answer and to interact with you. Don't forget your e-mail address if you want to be entered in the giveaway.


dairigirl said...

Reading and watching austen is certainly one of my biggest delights even if they are diluted versions of jausten as you said. Its so true.

marilyn said...

thank you for the chance to win the latest book. the interview was informative and interesting.

Julienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rebecca h jamison said...

I liked Stephanie's comment that Northanger Abby would make a great YA adaptation.

Joanne Angelina said...

Thank you for this lovely giveaway- absolutely love Jane Austen and all it's inspirations and loveliness.

Mystica said...

Thank you for the opportunity to win. Also, for making it open to all. Much appreciated.


buddyt said...

Why do you think that although Jane Austen has become so very popular or the past few years, this doesn't seem to have happened to so many of the other female writers from earlier eras such as he Bronte sisters ?

Thanks for the giveaway.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

Stephanie Burgis said...

Hi Carol,

I love Charlotte Brontë's work, and with yet another Jane Eyre movie adaptation (which I am VERY eager to watch!) just having come out, relatively soon after the massively popular BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens, I'd say that her popularity really hasn't sunk too low...

...But you're definitely right that Austen is the single most popular female 19th-century author in terms of number of adaptations (and adaptations of ALL her work, not just one popular piece). I'd also argue that she's the most popular 19th-century author in general, male or female, though - out of all the 19th-century authors, Dickens is the only one who rivals her in number of BBC adaptations of his work, and I haven't seen or heard of any recent movie adaptations, even of Christmas Carol, his most popular book.

Maybe our current cultural mood is more in tune with romantic comedies than with darker dramas? I don't know what the answer is...but I'm selfishly happy to watch lots and lots more Austen adaptations! :)

Jeffrey said...

4 years ago at the age of 62, I picked up my daughter's dusty college copy of Emma out of boredom because I thought I had "nothing to read." That was a blessing because I had stumbled upon probably the greatest writer of English literature since Shakesspeare! I've since read all of Miss Austen multiple times, devoured dozens of sequels, prequels, and spin-offs, and well....somebody please STOP me! Are you kidding? I'm loving it...

Phoebe's Sisters said...

I absolutely agree with you about the film adaptations that you like and dislike and I must say that I find the covers of your books bewitching and the subject matter of your books fascinating. I'd definitely love to have the chance to read them!

Aeicha @ Word Spelunking said...

Lovely interview! Although, personally Mansfield Park has always been my favorite Austen novel. There's just something about Fanny Price that keeps bringing me back to that particular book.

Thanks for the giveaway! I've heard wonderful things about your books.

:) Aeicha

Anonymous said...

I am curious about your dad... Was it his idea to read Pride & Prejudice to you?

Stephanie Burgis said...

Hi Monica, yes it was! I'm lucky enough to be the child of two Austen fans. :)

Unknown said...

I found the posting interesting and informative. I find that 'Emma' is my least favorite too though I would also rank it pretty high in good literature. I just didn't like Emma playing about in people's lives and being so blind about her own interactions with her circle of friends/acquaintance in relation to herself. I wondered what it was that you found that put you off of it.
Your book looks good and I love the British covers too.
Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

Stephanie Burgis said...

Hi Sophia, I feel about Emma a bit like I do about the TV show "Extras" - it's very smart, it's very funny, but the humor is just a bit too painful for me to really enjoy, even as I admire the quality of the writing...

Literary Chanteuse said...

I love the covers of the books I'm wondering if there are anymore planned? Thank you so much for the giveaway!


Stephanie Burgis said...

Hi Margaret,

Right now it's a trilogy - you can see the full details on my website. I'd love to write more Kat books one day, but that will really depend on sales and what my publisher is interested in seeing from me next.

cyn209 said...

your books sound like such interesting reads!!! thank you for the giveaway!!!! hope this will be a long-standing series for you!!!


Poof...books! said...

Nothing like Austen herself but those inspired by her works are delightful in their own way. I am a forever fan.

Loved the interview.

poofbooks [at] gmail [.] com

Ariel Zeitlin Cooke said...

Stephanie, I also love Pride and Prejudice best though it's a happy thing that Emma is so long. It would be a better world if there were more Jane Austen novels in it. But you are a worthy heir!

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

luved meeting you, Stephanie! very intrigued by a father who would take time to read P&P to his 8 yr old daughter! what a wonderful gift...
blstef1 at mts dot net
and now to see the outcome with your own writing career! wonderful ;)

Stephanie Burgis said...

Aw, thanks so much for the lovely comments, guys!

Rachel said...

Hello Stephanie! Thanks a lot for your marvelous work! Reading Jane Austen is ever a dreamy pleasure, being Jane on her own novels or on adaptations stories of new authors.Wherever it is, finding Jane is a delightful dream to all those who love her. Thanks, dear, for all your books! Kisses, Rachel :D
Follower's name: Rachel Berault

Carmen said...

How sweet your father was! Did you discover the others Jane Austen's novels by yourself or with him?
Thank you!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

That was a lovely interview! And you've made me even more eager to re-read Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey!

Emma happens to be one of my many really good witty lines... :)

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Forgot to leave my email...sorry!

Stephanie Burgis said...

Thanks so much, guys!

Carmen, I read the other Austen novels by myself, but I've watched the adaptations with both him and my mom, who's also an Austen fan. :)

miki said...


it's a total new discovery for me but i really would like to try it so thanks you for this giveaway and for making it international


Petra said...

Thank you for the interview and the giveaway! :)
I'm in Austen mood right now, going to Somerset next week, so Bath is one of my stops! :)