Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an award-nominated writer who spends the majority of her literary energy on subjects un-related to Jane Austen. A homeschooling mother of six young children who rarely wear shoes, she’s madly in love with a man who has never read Pride and Prejudice. She holds degrees in Religious Studies and Theoretical Linguistics, and has a Jane Austen quote on the back of her van. She can be reached on facebook at her regular author page of Virginia Carmichael (which is another pen name, because she’s just that cool). She is here today to meet the readers of My Jane Austen Book Club and present her new "Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits!" Read her guest post and take your chances in the rafflecopter form below to win an e-book copy!
Hello, fellow friends of Miss Jane! I’m so excited to be talking about my new book, “Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits”!
Wait, did the blogger reader count just slip? I think I heard the sound of hundreds of people quietly clicking past this post. But why, dear ones??
I hear a brave soul in the back yelling out something about that title… I can’t quite catch it…
Blasphemy? How can cheese grits, that so lowly of the Southern dishes, possibly occur in the same title with Austen’s wit and genius?
Like any good visitor to My Jane Austen Book Club, I am beyond obsessed with Jane Austen. Obsession is for amateurs. Napoleon was obsessed with Josephine. Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear for that girl whose name nobody can recall.
None of them ended well because they were merely obsessed. (Okay, also a bit nutso, to be honest.) Austen fans sprint past obsession and head for the kind of clarity that comes from dedicating one’s entire life to the cause of all things Jane.
So, once we’ve established that point of reference, you can start to see how everything relates back to Jane. What Jane Austen thought of eating less than two courses at meal times. What Jane Austen thought of when to wear white. What Jane thought about refusing offers of marriage in a dignified way. (Maybe that last one doesn’t come into play much for a lot of us. *sob*) But still, Jane becomes a guiding force in our lives.
We whisper her best lines when we’re too mad to make up our own vicious come-backs. We put down that handful of frosted flakes and pick up a blushing red apple. We take time out from the endless e-mail and Twitter and facebook to arrange some flowers because that’s what Jane would do.
As I started writing this book, I had a firm idea of my heroine and my hero and my cast of characters and my plot. It was mine, mine, mine! I giddily wrote scene after scene that made me laugh or cry or glare. (I’m one of those writers that makes HERSELF laugh or cry, even re-reading it. I’m pretty easy that way.)
So, it was a little annoying to have Jane’s best lines running on a loop in the background of my mind. I fought it mightily, drowned it with noise, and doused it with scads of NYT bestselling historical thrillers that made no sense and were completely inaccurate.
My brilliant heroine from a town named Flea Bite Creek was good enough, right? Who needed Austen to muddy it up?
She was still there. Sometimes arching a brow, sometimes hiding behind a book, but mostly laughing at me.
So, I started to write each chapter by getting my Jane quote out of my head and onto the page. I wanted hero and heroine to have a great big nasty fight? “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”Natch!
I needed the villain to be fooling the entire world with his smarminess? “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends- whether he may be equally capable of retaining them is less certain.”
How about our heroine seeing the injustice in the world and not letting it pass without a comment?“My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness.”
And on it went until we’d finally reached the end of our tale of the heart, set in Southern academia, with our hero realizing that his hopes were not dashed, after all. “It taught me to hope,” said he, “as I had scarcely ever allowed myself to hope before.”
Wonderful! The book was finished!! I promptly removed all the Austen quotes and set about editing it. Polishing and cutting and slicing and dicing. Ow. Owie. YOW. But it had to be done. Now it was a nicely sized novel, 300 pages, fun to read and ready to be submitted.
But it was missing something. I fiddled and rearranged and sulked and grumped.
The book was no good. Not without Jane. Not without her subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) wit and sense of irony. Certainly not without her as a compass for my story, when I use her as a compass for my living.
So back in she went. And from there I heard from dozens of agents, scores of editors and a handful of publishers that this book would never sell.
Too weird. (Cheese grits? What is that exactly? Nobody loves Southern culture, they said.)
Too complicated. (Nobody can follow Civil War history, a fight for antebellum mansions, a family drama, a mystery, a crime, and a romance all at once, they said.)
Too boring. (Nobody reads about academics, they said. Academics are boring. They live in their own little world, surrounded by imaginary and real-but-dead people.)
Too quiet. (Nobody wants to read about people who love Austen when they can read about a hot female bail bondsman in love with two even hotter men. Unless I could put some of that in the book?they asked. I actually laughed at that because some day, somewhere, maybe there will be a Jane Austen/ Stephanie Plum mash-up which will sell like hotcakes. But I think that’s a bit more than I can pull off.)
And that’s when I stopped listening. I love Southern culture! I love mysteries and crimes and romances and family drama and Civil War history! I love academia and professors and universities and memories of those all-night pizza parties when you’re a freshman and gain forty pounds because your mother isn’t there to tell you to eat something green and Twinkies aren’t breakfast food.. (Oh, maybe that was just me? *cough, cough*)
And mostly, I love Austen. I love Pride and Prejudice. I’m beyond ‘love it’ all the way into the ‘I think I would have to marry this book if it wasn’t illegal’.
So, that’s the story of how ‘Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits’ came to be written, and rejected, and resurrected by the good folks at Amazon. Bless their little hearts, letting us digitize any random thing! Yee-haw, ladies, that means more books on Jane!
I hope you enjoy my little slice of Austen mania. The next book in the series, ‘Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs’ will be coming out in May 2013.
Until then, my sweets, stand tall in whatever particular form of genius (not craziness, NOT!) your Austen obsession brings you!
Mary Jane Hathaway
Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits
Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits
Shelby Roswell is a history professor on the fast track to tenure until her new book is crushed in a review by the famous historian, Ransom Fielding. She struggles to regain her momentum only to discover that Fielding has taken a visiting professorship at her college. The place that was once a refuge from the poverty of her past is now a battlefield of Civil War proportions.
Ransom is still struggling with his role in his wife’s accidental death six years ago and was hoping a year at Shelby’s small college would be a respite from the reminders back home. He never bargained for falling in love with the one woman who would give anything to make him leave. Together Shelby and Ransom learn that home is never very far away, and when you least expect it, love arrives.
With a cast of Civil War re-enactors, an evil wedding planner, antebellum mansions, and several mysterious diaries, 'Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits' will take you on a touching and hilarious ride through a modern South you haven't seen before.