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From Phyllida's Desk

The Pleasures and Perils of Prono

I got my first angry e-mail message the other day from a Jane Austen fanfic site:

“It is thoroughly disgusting to read of your use of the P&P characters to write prono [sic] to Jane Austen's works.
You should be ashamed but I am sure the money you are raking makes it all worth it to you.”

Where to start? Surely Austen fanfic writers are better spellers, although perhaps it's a clever device for getting the message past my e-mail program's spam filter. And does anyone really believe that writers like me are “raking” in money? Seriously? Or that we write for any other reason than that we need to, have to--that it's a labor of love? And what, exactly, do fanfic writers do, if not “use” another writer's characters? And why is using them in anything, from “prono” to alphabet books to Christian inspirational romance, reprehensible?  Read More 
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Emma's Perfect Mood

I saw the “new” Emma (from the BBC) the other night. And I'm in love: with Emma herself, as portrayed by Romola Garai; with Blake Ritson (Mr. Elton); with Tamsin Greig (Miss Bates)—and most of all, with what I can only call the “mood” of the production. I haven't been so excited—heart racing, blood pounding, given to jumping up and exclaiming out loud unexpectedly and out of context—since I saw Prick Up Your Ears, Alan Bennet's amazing screenplay of John Lahr's book about Joe Orton.  Read More 
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Harsh Vocabulary

By now, you've probably noticed that I “talk back” to reviewers. I imagine that breaks any number of commandments for authors, even the really famous best-selling ones. At least I don't write aggrieved letters to the editor complaining that the reviewer didn't understand my brilliant work. All I do is talk to myself on my blogs, and to whatever readers are kind enough to listen in. It's hard for me to curb my instincts. I'm a “conversational” writer. I see my novels as the opening monologue in what I hope will be an ongoing, multiple back-and-forth discussion among readers, and between readers and me.

My latest conversation piece is a review of three Austen-inspired works, one of them my Pride/Prejudice, in the Washington Post

and in particular this line: “Her vocabulary is harsh, and the numerous sexual encounters too explicit to quote here.”

Guilty as charged, as Mr. Darcy says on page 1 during a not-so-explicit by today's standards sexual encounter. Of course, it is only page one ;)  Read More 
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Seething Satire, Brilliant Language, Critique of Classism

I don't think Austen would have liked the modern word "classism." But I certainly agree with Newsweek journalist Sarah Ball that Austen's work is defined by these three concepts. So when I read this forthcoming article, yet another discussion of Austen rip-offs, that said my novel Pride/Prejudice doesn't "stink" because it's "porn" but because it lacks these elements, I admit to feeling a bit ... misunderstood.  Read More 
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Passion and Religion and Jane Austen

The discussion at the last meeting of the Jane Austen book group was on Jane Austen and the clergy. Wait! No, honestly, it's not as dreary as it sounds. Or if it is, I can't help it—I thought it was interesting

One of the new members, an intelligent and articulate young woman named Allie, said that Austen treats religion the way she treats clothing and people's physical appearance. That is, she doesn't describe it or discuss it in depth—or at all. Allie thought, since nothing Austen does as a writer is accidental, that this was significant, and wondered what it might indicate about Austen's religious belief, or perhaps lack of it.  Read More 
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Rosencrantz and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and Guildenstern....

In this brief window of opportunity, when my new novel is still “new,” and somebody might actually care why I wrote it, or why I wrote it the way I did, I'm going to grab my chance and talk about that stuff.

One thing I hadn't anticipated when I began laboring over Pride/Prejudice back in the Bronze Age of Austen pastiche was the mash-up, like the Zombies and Sea Monsters. My models were sequels: for example, Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife, by Linda Berdoll; and versions, like Darcy's Story, by Janet Aylmer, or the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy by Pamela Aidan.  Read More 
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I Am My Own Fairy Godmother: From POD To Published--A Cinderella Story

Part 1. Getting to the Ball.

Whenever I tell my story, I’m inevitably compared to Cinderella. I even make the comparison myself in the dedication of my first book.

No, I didn’t lose a glass slipper at a ball and end up married to Prince Charming. I did something far more extraordinary: I self-published a first novel (subsidy published, print-on-demand), then got an offer from a real publisher—HarperCollins, no less.  Read More 
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