Saturday, June 30, 2012

90 Percent Inspiration

My daughters are adults now – thank heavens. I don’t mean they have turned eighteen; I mean adult-adults. They are of an age that I discourage them from calling me “Mom” in public. My youngest is a school teacher, for crying out loud. I cannot express the relief I feel in no longer having to portray some sort of idealized, Cleaverized version of motherhood, and we can just relate to one another as people. They actually seek out the wisdom of my experience rather than being offended if I offer it, and I even find myself asking their opinion on different topics to learn what is currently hip. (I am now being told that using the word “hip” is not hip.) Occasionally, we even have a bit of role reversal, such as when we went to Universal Orlando and I wanted to buy these magic tricks. My daughters tried to talk me out of it. “You know, you will only play with them a few times and get bored and never touch them again.” I whined until they gave in and let me buy them, but of course they were right.

Although we all share an irreverent sense of humor, my three daughters have seemingly split my other characteristics among them. My eldest most looks like me physically, both in features and coloring. My youngest inherited my sarcasm, brutal honesty, and inability to suffer fools lightly. My middle daughter, by curse or by fortune, shares my odd mixture of creativity and insanity, which must be how she has come to be my muse. It doesn’t hurt that we have similar tastes in literature (love Austen, hate zombies), music (Pink Floyd devotees, although we split on Led Zeppelin), films, and television. We both had the same reaction after the season two finale of Downton Abbey: I’m good now! I don’t need to see season three!

I do not mean to imply that I am closer to my muse than the others. My youngest daughter and I can get together for coffee and beignets and talk for hours about anything and everything happening in the “real” world; however, if I randomly told her that I think the letter Y is pretentious, she would think I have had too much wine, whereas my muse immediately agreed and we progressed into a lengthy debate as to whether the vowels are an oppressed minority or more of an Apartheid of the alphabet. Likewise, I doubt my muse has many friends to whom she could say, “Green peas are a notoriously confused vegetable,” and have them provide evidence to support her thesis as I did. A few years back we were on vacation together, walking around an amazing European city, but engrossed in a discussion on the differences between a dwarf and a gnome. (A portion of this conversation wound up in my upcoming sequel to Pulse and Prejudice. I might not use people in my life as characters in my novels, but anything anyone says is fair game!)

I cannot say if my daughter was born my muse, if she achieved museness, or if she has had the role thrust upon her; but fortunately she has not been afraid. Without her, Pulse and Prejudice never would have been written (so she deserves her share of the praise or the blame!). A talented playwright herself, she knows Pride and Prejudice almost as well as I do, and one of her favorite Christmas gifts I ever gave her was the Jane Austen action figure. After she introduced me to JAFF and I considered writing my own adaptation, not only did she encourage me to do it and even came up with the title, she also discussed scenes with me, read every chapter and rewrite, and spent ten days in Europe editing and copyediting with me. Then, after all that, she was unhappy with the ending and inspired me to write a sequel!

The most recent inspiration my muse has provided originated in an ongoing feud we have regarding the viability of a novella I wrote a million years ago. For some reason, it has always held a special place in her heart, whereas she has had to hide it from me to keep it out of the trash. Once again, as we argued whether or not it is salvageable, I declared that the plot was too preposterous for anything other than a soap opera. That set off light bulbs for both of us, and the more we talked, the novella faded into the background, and I was propelled into writing an adaptation on a soap opera set - The Proud and the Prejudiced (an abridged version published as All My Tomorrows). In the end, my muse wins again. That novella had some value after all, even if only to inspire me to write something completely different. That’s a real magic trick!

Originally written and posted for Austen Authors.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Confessions of a Fan Fiction Convert

Originally written and posted for Austen Authors.

I confess: I was a Fan Fiction snob. When my daughters were teenagers, they wrote stories based on Forever Knight or Buffy or Star Trek (TOS) or anime (whatever that is). Then they would post them on websites where other people had done the same – and they would read each other’s work! One daughter wrote vampire versions of Phantom of the Opera and Gone with the Wind (clearly a genetic anomaly). I found the other in the gameroom staring at the computer screen late at night “just reading some fan fiction.” I didn’t get it! I encouraged them to use their imaginations, to write something “original.” Unless I was on the beach or in a plane, I read literature – Faulkner, Shakespeare, Austen, Twain. Why would they waste their time and energy with these distortions?

So how did my conversion come about? Nothing as cathartic as Paul on the road to Damascus. The change came along so gradually, I was in the middle before I knew I had begun. It all began with a terrible book, a night of insomnia, and a desperate need for something to read. The girls had graduated and moved out, but of course not all their belongings went with them. A search of their room turned up a novel, which I shall identify only as a popular zombie book at the time. Once finished, I had to purge it from my brain by re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

A Sample of Colette's Collection
I returned the-book-that-shall-not-be-named to my daughter’s shelf and found the trilogy by Pamela Aidan retelling Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. After I devoured all three volumes, I told my daughter how much I enjoyed reliving the story of Darcy and Elizabeth. She said there were many such variations and sequels, and an Amazon search of “pride prejudice variations” proved her correct. I couldn’t believe how many alternate paths had been written for one of my favorite literary couples! I one-clicked my way through them and couldn’t get enough. Some of the premises could be collected for an Austenian Dr. Seuss – Pride and Prejudice on a boat, on a train, in the rain. Oh, look! Here’s one by Darcy’s dog! I love dogs! Eventually, I had collected so many, I did the unthinkable and bought a Kindle – not just so I wouldn’t have to buy another bookcase but also to fulfill my need for instant P&P variation gratification.

Then the day came when those two words collided in my mind: What if?

After reading Regina Jeffers’ vampire novel, I recalled Aidan’s trilogy and, loving vampires as I do (as long as they don’t sparkle) thought, “What if I combined the two and wrote a vampire adaptation from Mr. Darcy’s point of view?” I set aside my contemporary “original” work in progress and threw myself full-force into this new project. I re-read Pride and Prejudice and took meticulous notes. I researched Regency England and vampire lore. I was going on quite charmingly once begun, until I came across four letters on the Internet that brought me to a halt. J-A-F-F

I was one of them. As sure as if I had been eaten by zombies and now craved human brains, I had become addicted to fan fiction. Disillusioned and disappointed with myself, I set my vampire Darcy idea aside. It seemed a hopeless business.

Then, epiphany. Whilst watching the new film version of Sherlock Holmes, I realized it bore little resemblance to the stories I knew as a child. In fact, it teetered on the edge of steampunk. The credits listed several writers, with characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This was FAN FICTION! And The Dark Knight, an “original” story based on characters created by Bob Kane. Fan fiction is prolific, even if no one calls it by name. I always thought even Austen herself had been inspired by Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedict when she created Elizabeth and Darcy.

I returned to writing Pulse and Prejudice and embraced my fan-hood. I even thought of other things of which I am a fan. I like poetry and Shakespeare, so I wove them into the narrative. The acknowledgements page lists a few of my favorite things that got a wink or a nod, strewn about like Easter eggs throughout the prose. I even have a shout out to my Austen Authors. And now I am one of them: The proud author of my very own - original - Jane Austen Fan Fiction.

There you have it: My baptism into the world of Jane Austen fan fiction. Not only do I still search for variations on Amazon regularly, I have two more of my own in the works.

Now that I have made my confession, and I hope obtained your absolution for my sins of snobbery, I am curious how others became interested in fan fiction, Jane Austen and otherwise, and would love to hear your stories. Please just don’t say you were eaten by zombies.

Pulse and Prejudice

When the haughty and wealthy Fitzwilliam Darcy arrives in the rural county of Hertfordshire, he finds he cannot control his attraction to Elizabeth Bennet – a horrifying thought because, as she is too far below his social standing to ignite his heart, he fears she must appeal to the dark impulses he struggles to suppress.

Set against the vivid backdrop of historical Regency England, 'Pulse and Prejudice' follows the cursed Mr. Darcy as he strives to overcome both his love and his bloodlust for Miss Elizabeth Bennet. This compelling adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice' remains faithful to the original plot and style of the Jane Austen classic but tells Darcy’s story as he descends into the seedier side of London and introduces Elizabeth to a world of passion and the paranormal she never knew existed.

Praise for Pulse and Prejudice:
“What would Jane Austen have thought? I think she would have loved this book. She might even have written it herself had she lived in a less constrained age.” Books Are Cool
Pulse and Prejudice held me mesmerized!” So Little Time…
“Darcy’s demise and subsequent ‘rebirth’ are written to perfection. It has renewed my faith in the sub-genre.” Reflections of a Book Addict