Published on Austen Authors, 11/22/11
My Jane Austen sits in the wicker chair in the corner of my office most days. She amuses herself listening to my phone conversations, “Getting a lot of work done,” she observes. Reading email over my shoulder, she comments, “I don’t see a conflict on your calendar next Tuesday,” and swiping books off my TBR pile. ”People pay money for this?” she snarks, reading to the last page of Madame Bovary nonetheless.
I know she’s read my book, My Jane Austen Summer. And she knows I know she’s read it. Whenever the subject comes up she appears not to notice, either zoning out or becoming deeply engrossed in her shoes, as if she’s taken a vow of silence on the subject of my book. She waited six months before bothering to offer her thoughts and all she said was, “I read your book.” I waited for the other shoe to drop but she had no further comment. I certainly wasn’t going to ask for feedback. You know what they say, if you have to ask… She obviously didn’t care for my book so I let it go.
But weeks later the subject came up on a day when one more hit couldn’t possibly matter. I cast dignity and self-respect to the wind and asked for her feedback. ”Well…what did you think?”
She considered a moment, opening and closing her fan, and then offered, “I loved the way you talked about her car starting.”
I turned my chair to face her. “The first sentence of my book?”
“Yes, I loved the way you invoke the car going backwards from the very start.”
“Thanks.” I waited for more.
“Oh, and there was something else I really loved.” She looked at the ceiling. ”What was it?”
“The emotional truth?” I asked. “The bittersweet ending?”
“The original premise?”
“No,” she shook her head.
“No.” She snapped her fingers, remembering. “The cover. I loved the cover.”
“Um, thanks.” I took a deep breath and straightened papers on my desk.
“But I had a question for you. And now I’ve forgotten. Hmm.” She scratched her head.
I prompted her, “Why did I decide to write a story about a young woman who wants to live in a novel?”
“No,” she shook her head.
“Where did I get the idea for a Jane Austen Literary Festival?”
“No, it wasn’t that.” She pointed a finger in the air. “Oh! I remember what it was.”
“I wanted to know how you found your agent.”
I raised an eyebrow in her direction. “I met her at a writers’ conference. Why do you ask?”
She assumed an innocent expression. “I was just curious.” And then, “Do you think she’s looking for new writers?”
“I don’t know. Would you like me to say you asked?”
“Oh no, I was just wondering. For a friend.”
“But you know,” she said, “this has really made me think.” Her eyes narrowed as if she might actually say something positive and complex about my work.
“Yes?” I said, hoping she’d elaborate. “My work made you think?”
“About The Help. You know that book by…”
“Yes! That one. Did you not see parallels between The Help and Pride and Prejudice?
“No,” I said, scooting back my chair, preparing to leave the room and the interview. “I did not see a single parallel between The Help and your book.”
“What about The Help and Emma?”
“None. Zero. Zip. I’m leaving now.”
Other reviewers have said nice things: Marie Claire said, Austenish charm dances through each chapter, The Chicago Tribune called the book literary solace, Romantic Times called it a fun, charming read, and the Deseret News called it a literary feast for Austen fans. Follow Cindy Jones: