“The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these well-loved stories as their base, each author will write their own unique take on Jane Austen’s novels.”
When I found out about the project I thought that it was a wonderful idea, to take a well loved classic and re-write the story from a different perspective. I think it will breathe new life into classic tales, that are at risk of becoming merely ‘ornamental’ features on the bookshelf . Personally, I’m guilty of collecting Jane Austen’s works and letting them gather dust, as I am often not in the mood for the Jane Eye after a long day at work.
The fact that other brilliant writers will take the time to lovingly craft another passage in each books story shows the lasting legacy of Jane Austen’s appeal. I believe it is a fitting tribute.
However, there are arguments for leaving a classic work alone and leaving the characters within a book unsullied by another authors touch. Some comments on the project suggest that it is ‘just an attempt to cash in Austen’s popularity rather than any serious literary venture.’ Or others suggest we are ‘dumbing down’ brilliant novels in an attempt to modernise the story. Or that it is merely laziness to take a story and wrap it up in different packaging.
But to this I quote another classic literary genius;
There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.
– Mark Twain, a Biography
I am suffering from post-project depression.
I have been consumed by my novel for months, writing at full steam every day. Now that it is finished and I have half-heatedly attempted to edit it I am lacking in enthusiasm. Without the daily process of creating the story I feel a bit lost and bored.
I hadn’t realised how much fulfillment I had gained through writing the novel and I feel like I am mourning the loss of a friend now that I have completed it.
I need to find another writing project.
I finished my novel a few weeks ago, before I put it aside and dealt with the stressful experience of moving house.
Now that I am settled into my new home, I have to try and focus on editing the novel – which I am finding more traumatic than the house move!
I feel as though I am stripping the story of all its erratic, rambling eccentricity and taking away its ‘voice’.
I have to be careful not to reduce the novel to a silent shell but focus on trying to put it back together stronger than before.
What makes the reader keep reading after the first page? The first Chapter?
What keeps the reader reading when they should go to bed or when their favourite program comes on TV?
I throw my poor characters into the middle of a crisis from page one. I hope the reader will stay long enough to find out if they are OK but they don’t know the characters well enough to care yet.
Writing is a manipulators game. Trying to buy the readers curiosity or empathy with promise of adventure or love.
I need to learn The Game and give my characters the best chance at life.
I always feel like I am in a race against my natural tendency to leave writing projects half done.
I can see the end in sight but then I rush towards the finish line instead of taking my time.
I know I am going to have to edit and edit again before a piece is completely finished, but I can’t help thinking that I am making more work for myself by trying to charge through it!
At least when the main story is down on paper I will have the foundations to build on.
I read Stephen King’s ‘Dolores Claiborne’ straight after ‘Gerald’s Game’ purely by coincidence, without realising the connection between them. So it was a surprise to find the ‘tie ins’ between the books, for example when Dolores shared a telepathic connection with Jessie from Gerald’s Game, once during the solar eclipse and later when Jessie is handcuffed to the bed.
It was exciting to discover these literary Easter Eggs and it made reading the books more interactive, as I looked out for more connections between
other novels. I think it is also Stephen King’s secret bonus system to reward those readers that pay enough attention or read enough of his books!