The Challenges of Writing Jane Austen’s First Love
By Syrie James
One of the greatest pleasures of being a novelist is that you get to climb into the minds and hearts of the characters you’re writing about, and bring them to life on the page. I enjoy writing many types of fiction, from contemporary love stories and romance to suspense and the paranormal, but one of my favorite genres (one I return to time and again) is historical fiction—and I particularly enjoy writing about real people.
Choosing to tackle a famous historical figure, however, is full of challenges. I do an enormous amount of research, because I feel a great responsibility to portray them as accurately as possible. But novel readers aren’t looking for a biography or a simple recounting of facts; they want a narrative tale. They want active scenes, realistic dialogue, meaningful interior monologue, and a satisfying character arc. In short, they want the author to use his or her imagination to bring the person to life, while still honoring the truth of their known history. It’s a challenge I absolutely love!
Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers, and my desire to give her a romance of her own inspired my first Austen novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, in which a mature Jane has a passionate, life-changing romance with a dashing kindred spirit. My wish for a seventh Austen novel, and the speculation of how much fun it would be to find one, led me to write The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen.
My new novel, Jane Austen’s First Love, differs from the others in several ways: the object of the youthful Jane’s affection, Edward Taylor, was a very real (and truly remarkable) young man; in fact, nearly every single character in the book is a real person who Jane Austen knew; all the manor homes they live in and all the places Jane visits are completely real; and the story itself is inspired by actual events in Austen’s life.
Austen scholars didn’t know much about Edward Taylor, except that he was heir to Bifrons Park, an ancestral estate some five miles from Goodnestone Park in Kent, home of the Bridges family (Elizabeth Bridges married Jane’s brother Edward Austen in 1791.) They knew, from Jane’s mentions of Edward Taylor in her correspondence, that she was deeply enamoured of him as a teenager. But that was about it. Imagine how excited I was when, after extensive research, I uncovered the truth about Edward Taylor—a treasure trove of information which Austen biographers weren’t aware of!
Knowing that Edward Taylor was a real person who Jane Austen adored, and that I had in my possession so many little-known facts about him, was thrilling. My research (and the existence of Jane’s short story, “The Three Sisters”) led me to believe that Jane visited Kent in the summer of 1791 to celebrate the engagement of her brother Edward to Elizabeth Bridges. In my novel, Jane not only meets the young ladies who inspired that short story, she also meets and falls in love with the irresistible Edward Taylor, a young man who challenges her to see the world differently.
I spent a great deal of time researching every single person in Jane Austen’s First Love, from the Austen, Taylor, and Bridges families and their offspring (Sir Brook and Lady Bridges had eleven children!) to their neighbors, cousins, and suitors. I learned about the history of Bifrons Park and Goodnestone Park, where most of my novel is set. In order to depict Goodnestone Park accurately, I visited the estate and was fortunate to get a personal, guided tour of the manor home and its vast, beautiful grounds by a member of the FitzWalter family—a descendant of the Bridgeses who Jane Austen knew over two hundred years ago.
Jane Austen’s First Love was a challenge to write, but it was also a labor of love. I’m thrilled when people tell me how much they love the novel, and I hope new readers will discover it and enjoy the tale of the extraordinary young man who first stole Jane Austen’s heart!
Thanks, Syrie! My review of the book will be posted tomorrow along with exciting details about a prize pack giveaway Ms. James is hosting!
GRAND GIVEAWAY CONTEST
WIN ONE OF FIVE FABULOUS
JANE AUSTEN-INSPIRED PRIZE PACKAGES
To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen's First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen's First Love Holiday Blog Tour
Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie's unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on this page on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!
This book sounds super fun!! Love everything Austen :DReplyDelete
Interesting post from Syrie! I'm looking forward to reading about Jane's First Love....:)ReplyDelete
Always like to know who are the real characters in a bookReplyDelete
Getting a personal, guided tour of Goodnestone Park sounds amazing and critical to getting the details right for the story. A labor of love indeed :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment, Jane! I hope you love Jane Austen's First Love!Delete
It must be very interesting to research this time period, the book sounds like a fantastic story.ReplyDelete
I have always wanted there to be a romance for Jane Austen as well. Though I could never write it as beautifully as you have.ReplyDelete
Thank you,Syrie James, for your extensive research.The Taylor family's exploits sound like a goldmine of information.ReplyDelete
Knowing that so much research went into the book makes it even more enjoyable.ReplyDelete
What a fun giveaway - I just love all things Jane Austen griperang at embarqmail dot comReplyDelete
A personal, guided tour of the estate? That sounds amazing! Can't wait to read the novel :)ReplyDelete
It was an amazing and unforgettable day. Seeing Goodnestone Park was like stepping back in time. It really helped me to visualize the action in my novel--and just the thought that Jane Austen had been there was thrilling.Delete
My mother introduced me to Jane Austen at the age of 13 in the early 1960's and I visit my friend every year to renew my acquaintance. Her books are old friends and I am an avid reader and there are many books once read I do not read again. I look forward to reading Jane Austen's First Love.ReplyDelete
Thank you Syrie!
Loving the pictures that are being shown with the blogs. Makes me even more excited about the books. email@example.comReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing information from a research that seems to be a labor of love.ReplyDelete
Forgot to add my email address....Delete
skamper25 (at) gmail (dot) com
Research really is a labor of love ;) Amazing post and amazing giveaways! I love it how Jane's novels are inspiring people as well as tellings and retellings even a lot of years later :3 I hope I am lucky enough to win some of these adorable prizes xD Thanks so much for the giveaways and the chances to win :3ReplyDelete
bn100candg at hotmail dot com
I must be a challenge to stay true to the historical person while working them into a work of fiction. Can't wait to read this story.ReplyDelete
I truly admire anyone working on research for their writing, and it looks like Syrie James has made it a labor of love. I can hardly wait to read Jane Austen's first love. I'll have to revisit this blog....I see many books on the side bar I have read and loved. It would be wonderful to find other books that I would enjoy.ReplyDelete
Great information from the research....it all sounds so amazing!ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing those pictures from your visit. I've read some biographies on Jane Austen but never came across these facts!ReplyDelete
You are right. I love a narrative tale that is historically accurate. It feels so much more authentic that way.ReplyDelete
I've never even heard of "The Three Sisters"! How does the author find such tantalizing tidbits?ReplyDelete
"The Three Sisters" is included in volumes of Jane Austen's juvenilia--which is a super fun read. (She wrote all kinds of short, hilarious things as a teenager.) You can read more about it at my guest post here: http://inthespiritofjane.blogspot.com/2014/12/guest-blog-syrie-james.htmlDelete
Sounds amazing!!! Yeah for another peak into Austen's life!!ReplyDelete
It's really interesting to know all the work and researches behind this novel. I can't wait to be able to visit some England estates (I'm from France). Thanks also for the giveway =)ReplyDelete
Seems to be a wonderful journey in the footsteps of Jane Austen !ReplyDelete
Syrie, you book looks to be very enjoyable :)ReplyDelete
I want to read this book and would love to win!ReplyDelete
Syrie I really love how you did so much research and I know you said it was a "labor of love" on one post and I truly believe you are right - as much as you did you must love it to put yourself that far into Austen's world :)ReplyDelete
I look forward to this new take on an old favorite (firstname.lastname@example.org)ReplyDelete
I love that you did so much research for this book. I'm sure it makes for a much more realistic and interesting story!ReplyDelete
Interesting post. I like learning about this stuff.ReplyDelete
mas libros sobre Jane Austen! me ecnata tanto amor por ella y sus novelasReplyDelete
Sounds like an interesting book !! looking forward to read it soon :)ReplyDelete
Sounds like a great book ! Looking forward to read it soon !ReplyDelete