I’m always delighted to play show and tell with new novels from The Girlfriend’s Cyber Circuit, but especially “high-spirited” debut novels written by Chicago- born authors like myself. And this one is just great! ACCORDING TO JANE (Kensington Books) by Marilyn Brant, is a fun, snappy and entertaining look at what happens when thee Jane Austen inhabits a high school girl’s head. It was named the 2007 Golden Heart Winner! Here are the details:
In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart. . .
It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.
Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go–sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.
Still, everyone has something to learn about love–perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .
Praise for ACCORDING TO JANE:
“A warm, witty and charmingly original story.” –Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there’s sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel.” –Cathy Lamb, author of Henry’s Sisters
“This is a must-read for Austen lovers as well as for all who believe in the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending.” –Holly Chamberlin, author of One Week In December
An October “Fresh Pick” from Fresh Fiction!!
“Jane Austen fans will revel in this modern day unique twist on a classic, as well as learning interesting facts about Jane herself. There is just enough mystery of ‘why’ to keep you guessing, and the ending is thoroughly satisfying. This was a truly, irrevocably inspiring novel.”~Kelly Moran, Bookpleasures (5 stars)
“Just when you think Jane Austen could not appear in anything new, a refreshing reincarnation occurs as Marilyn Brant provides an engaging modern day take on the writer. Ellie is a terrific lead character as she adapts to the voice in her head while Sam is her nemesis…readers will thoroughly enjoy this fun contemporary romance that also provides insight into Jane Austen and her characters.”~Harriet Klausner (4 stars)
Author Marilyn Brant shared a quick Q & A with the Girlfriends:
*Tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it.
My debut novel, According to Jane, is the story of a modern woman who–for almost two decades–has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.
*Any great fan/fan mail stories you care to share?
The book was just released on September 29th, so first impressions are still coming in, but I’ve gotten some truly wonderful emails from people who read the ARCs this summer. One of my favorites is from a woman who won a copy of the book in a contest and emailed me to say that she’d finished the book in a day and was on an emotional high from reading it. She added, “Sometimes I go through phase where I’m so blase about reading fiction and focus mainly on non-fiction (my usual staple), but once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader.” I will always, always love that message!
*Which scene in your novel did you love writing? Why?
One scene I had a lot of fun with was the bar scene in the first chapter where my main character runs into her ex-high-school boyfriend for the first time in four years. It was a situation I had never experienced personally, but I could imagine the comical possibilities so clearly and feel and the frustration of my heroine as if I’d been the one standing there, facing the jerk and his latest girlfriend, while Jane Austen ranted about how “insufferable” he was.
*What were some of your favorite books as a kid?
In junior high and early high school, I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Love Story by Erich Segal, Illusions by Richard Bach and, of course, everything by Austen. When I was an elementary schooler, I also loved Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key and all the Nancy Drew mysteries.
*If you could ask one author (in all of history) for one piece of advice, who would you ask and what you would want to know from them?
Oooh, getting to be like my main character here! If I could have asked Jane Austen for advice before I was married, it would have definitely revolved around which type of man was the right one for me. (She would intuitively know the answer, I’m sure.) However, even without Jane’s help, I was fortunate to find “my Darcy.” J Now, I would ask her for her thoughts on the crafting of a perfect novel. What were the qualities she felt a great piece of fiction should possess? What was she consciously trying to achieve with her novels?
*What is your author fantasy?
I’m secretly, unrelentingly ambitious, even when I have no right to be. Of course I want to hit the NYT bestseller list and get a movie deal. Also, I’d like an Oprah invitation and a few RITAs. However, these are not quite enough to satisfy every daydream I’ve ever had. I’d greatly enjoy winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and an Olympic gold medal (in both ice skating and gymnastics). The fact that I’m pathetic on skates and terrified of the uneven bars is, in no way, a deterrent from these unrealistic fantasies. My simple ability to *imagine* them, makes them almost real. Furthermore, I like shiny things (although I don’t like to dust them), so I hereby promise that if I win ANY heavy golden statuettes–ever–I will dust faithfully. Especially that Grammy award. Really.
*What’s next for you?
I get to visit a number of book clubs that chose my debut novel, According to Jane, as their monthly book pick–wildly fun!–while also starting the production/promotion process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. That second book is done, but we’re still working on finding the right title. It’s a modern fairytale about three suburban moms who shake up their marriages and their lives when one woman asks her friends a somewhat shocking question… That comes out in October 2010.
**especially for Roberta**
*Dr. Rebecca Butterman, the protagonist in my advice column mysteries, is a clinical psychologist (like me.) If your protagonist made an appointment to talk to Dr. Butterman, what would that first session be like? What deep dark secret or problem would she be there to discuss and how much of it would she tell?
Well, my protagonist–Ellie Barnett–has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I suspect that if she told Dr. Butterman about ANY of that, things would get pretty interesting! However, I don’t think Ellie would tell… She’s a private person who’s still trying to figure herself out. While she might be tempted to confide in someone about this strange authorial spirit taking up residence inside her mind, she’d be too concerned about being labeled “crazy” to actually do it. So, the session would be filled with the clinical psychologist asking Ellie questions. Jane Austen making witty and ironic comments in Ellie’s head in regards to those questions. And Ellie answering Jane back silently while trying to answer the psychologist aloud, attempting to be truthful but not entirely succeeding.
*Name 3-4 of your favorite musical artists/groups. Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role?
Oh, yes! I use an ‘80s soundtrack through the entire novel and songs of that era play a pretty significant role in the story. “True” by Spandau Ballet, “Make Me Lose Control” by Eric Carmen, “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner and “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi are four of the biggies, but there are so many… I think high school is always a time in a person’s life where the music is especially memorable. What’s on the radio when we’re teens becomes the soundtrack of our youth, so the lyrics of those popular songs tend to take on heightened meaning and get all wrapped up with our burgeoning adulthood. The result of this combination can be delightfully melodramatic. ‘80s music aside, I love the songwriting of Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20, Coldplay, Rascal Flatts, the Goo Goo Dolls, Keith Urban, Eagles and post-Eagles Don Henley, Jackson Browne and just about anything Andrew Lloyd Webber composes.
*What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?
This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men…
*Where do you write? Describe your writing space – is it a cluttered mess or minimalist heaven?!
I write in my home office–a messy, absolutely cluttered place–I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks.
*Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale (including the title and publisher)?
Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and publishing some academic work in college, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and desperately in need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. I wrote my first book having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, btw! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance…) I got some feedback though–mostly negative–from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference. It was there that I heard about RWA. I joined, wrote three more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. My agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it won the Golden Heart and was revised (again), it finally did sell–to John Scognamiglio at Kensington–on a sunny and surrealistic day in April 2008
ABOUT MARILYN BRANT: As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® in 2007.
Marilyn lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with her family, but she also hangs out online at her blog “Brant Flakes.” When she isn’t rereading Jane’s books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she’s working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry. Her latest is due out next October and is about three women friends who turn their lives and their marriages upside down.
Her website: http://www.marilynbrant.com
Links to my page on Kensington: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/catalog.cfm?dest=itempg&itemid=14890&secid=258&linkon=section&linkid=258
And to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=ed_oe_p