I first learnt about the book blogosphere event *Austen in August* last year when I was a 1st Year Book Blogger, an event that I was truly over the moon in happiness to have discovered as I have been a Janeite ever since I first came across the collective works of Jane Austen. I would go so far as to say I was a bonefide Janeite even prior to having read her works! I have attempted to read a portion of her novels and the after canons which have followed centuries later each August in 2013 and 2014. Life has a funny way of interfering with your plans, as twice now I have had to put aside my goals for my readings and simply ride out the wave life was bringing into my life instead!
Aside from this small blunder of not being able to fuse my passion for Austen during one particular month of the year, I have started to collect her works in various editions – the most recent of course were gifted to me by my Mum & Da in celebration of my 1st Blog Birthday on the 6th of August, 2014! What an unexpected joy for me to not only realise I was being thrown a ‘surprise!’ blog birthday party but I was being given two novels by Jane Austen I do not know as much about: Mansfield Park & Northanger Abbey! I have slated to read both of these in November, as I personally would like to read Jane Austen this year even if I am outside the scope of a celebration of Austen! I already had planned to read Persuasion for the first time, and it’s quite fitting to add two more to the mirth of joy!
Today, the joy for me in hosting Mr. Southard is getting the chance to celebrate the continuing legacy Jane Austen provides to all of us. My absolute favourite thus far in my readings is Pride and Prejudice due to the nature of the Bennett family and the connection between Lizzie and Darcy. Mr. Southard has written such a wonderful new novel that takes us into the heart of Jane Austen herself and gives us a magical entreaty into her life, world, and a plausible thread of narrative which could have been lived if circumstances had gone differently within her own life. I love the beauty of the scope and the heart of the depth within this novel, and it was an honour to interview the author! Regrettably, I was not able to review the novel as a print edition was not available during the tour.
Read an Excerpt of the Novel:
Chapter IV from Volume II
All her heroines find love in the end— but is there love waiting for Jane?
Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.
Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years—did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us—to a greater or lesser degree—are head over heels for Jane.
NOTE: An audiobook version is in the works by the publisher!
Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” (sdsouthard.com) where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.
As you were previously asked in an interview, which novels of Jane Austen inspired your own novel “A Jane Austen Daydream” I was curious how you quickly mentioned that each volume of the text stirred your thoughts towards three separate novels of Austen. What do you think is etched inside “Emma”, Pride & Prejudice”, and “Persuasion” to have captured your heart and attention over her others?
Southard responds: Interesting question and a very technical one. Well, in writing Daydream all of Jane’s writing had an impact, from her letters to her unfinished novels. And excerpts from each (or influences or indirect quotes) snuck their way in at some point or another. But when I was mapping out my final outline for the work, I really began to see my three volumes each encompassing one aspect of Jane’s growth.
The three books you mentioned were the greatest influences on the different volumes. That is not to say the plots or surprises are the same, but there are more “nods” there for the experienced Austen reader. I wanted Jane to seem over confident and sure of herself in the way of love (to the point of being foolish) and that just screamed Emma for me. For the second volume, I needed to have a Jane that is a little older and wiser, but still fascinated by love; and that meant Pride and Prejudice. Finally, for the third volume, Jane had to be… well… I don’t like to say broken, but hurt by love, a little more reflective. And that could only be Persuasion.
I have to ask, were the Bronte sisters the inspiration behind naming your family dog? And, if so, do you think you might spin a tale that pays homage to them like you have with Jane Austen?
Southard responds: Bronte the dog! That is great! Yes, the name is from the sisters, but my wife picked it out. I didn’t even know we were getting a dog until I came home one day to find that she bought a dog bowl and collar. My wife actually did her thesis on the Brontes, creating a dance inspired by the themes in their books (she got her MFA in dance from the University of Michigan).
I don’t think I would do something like that about the Brontes, but they are in my mind. When I wrote my novel My Problem With Doors, I actually cut out a scene that was to include the Brontes. My character Jacob was going to seduce all three of them. Kind of a scandalous idea now thinking back on it.
I thought it was keenly interesting that a Professor inspired your reading of “Pride & Prejudice” whereas I simply felt attracted to the story’s premise, as I share your ‘first’ of Austen but I was curious, have you equally been keen to start to watch the motion picture adaptations based on Pride? If so, which stood out to you for either the choice in actor or in delivery of the story?
Southard responds: I was lucky enough to discover Jane first through her books. To be honest, I find a lot of adaptations of her work to be quite hit or miss. I think the mini-series of Pride and Prejudice done in the 90’s (with Colin Firth) to be the gold standard for Austen adaptations. Honestly, I turned off the film version of Pride about 20 minutes in. The film version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow I think is wonderful as well. I think that screenplay really captured the energy of the book.
I saw a connective thread in your previous interviews, of your passion for classical literature, as I am a new member of The Classics Club (a world-wide group of devoted readers to the Classics), do you oft find others to share in your joy of reading classical literature? And, have you noticed a renewed passion for reading classical literature now as compared to when you were in college?
Southard responds: One of the things I do on the side, which I really love, is the book reviews for my local NPR station. I appear on WKAR’s radio show Current State every other week or so (you can hear my past book reviews via links on my site- sdsouthard.com). The producers have really been great about letting me play with the selections for the reviews, which means I have done some classics. For example, I’ve reviewed Dickens, Austen, and this September for Banned Books Week I will be reviewing Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. So in a way through those reviews I am sharing my love of classics.
In regards to your second question, I can’t remember a time I really wasn’t interested in books. So there is no passion to renew. It’s just part of my hardwire, I guess.
What did you find to be the hardest part of harnessing your vision for the story inside “A Jane Austen Daydream”? What did you learn through the process of writing the story as a whole?
Southard responds: The hardest thing was finding the courage to do the book. Let’s be honest, it takes a lot of arrogance (for lack of a better word) to say “I’m going to write a novel starring one of the most important people in literature… and look what I am going to do now with her!” I’m still floored I did it.
In many ways, it was my Mount Everest and I sat on the idea of the book for many, many years. There were five books written between the time I got the idea for Daydream and my completing it! I think after climbing that “mountain” I am more confident in my ability. I’m not scared by big ideas like I used to be. So I learned to trust myself. Now it’s just a matter of finding the time.
I love your approach to writing as to create convicting story-lines outside the box of ‘genre-specific’ literature, whilst writing an organic vein of thought that curates your own style out of your imagination. I, personally, appreciate this as I’m a genre-bender writer at heart too, but even moreso than that, I like seeing how a story can illuminate different perspectives yet remain true to its core. Out of all the combinations you’ve written thus far, which stories are motivating you to explore next or to re-approach in a new way once again?
Southard responds: For me, I always love to be swept away by a story and surprised. I like to think I did that with the twists in Daydream. My hope is that if people pick up one of my books they won’t know what to expect and that is kind of exciting. So every work of mine is very different from the others, and hopefully different from others in a genre.
Honestly, I can only think of one time when I went into a book with “genre” on my mind and that was my novel Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare. In the beginning it has all of traits of a classic gothic mystery (foggy London streets, etc.)… but then things change.
I have a new book being published by 5 Prince Books sometime later this year called Permanent Spring Showers. It is a contemporary tale. I’m really proud of it and I look forward to hearing what people think of it. It is probably the biggest cast I have played with in a novel. I don’t think I can easily point to any influences on the work (maybe Woody Allen?). I will say that I like to think of it as an anti-romance, since everything that shouldn’t be romantic strangely is.
Whilst you were mentioning your favourite writers, you predominately named classic authors in your repertoire of beloved novelists; do you have any contemporaries that lit the same spark for you?
Southard responds: One of the perks of doing the book reviews for WKAR is I get to read a lot of books and many times before they are released. There has been quite a lot I have been impressed by. I loved The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I also enjoyed The Circle by Dave Eggers. I’m floored by the imagination of Neil Gaiman and Christopher Moore can always make me laugh.
When I read about the kind of readership you were hoping to find your novel, I remembered my viewing of “Lost in Austen”, and thought perhaps there is a new era of taking our love of certain author’s collective works by placing our own spin on them. Do you take stock of expressions of story craft like “Lost in Austen” or do you not see the same similarities?
Southard responds: Honestly, I didn’t see Lost in Austen. I’ve heard about it of course, just haven’t gotten around to it. Too busy watching Doctor Who probably. (Now why isn’t there an episode when the Doctor meets Jane? She would be a great companion.)
It’s difficult to talk about the twist in the book without ruining the surprise (which I think is what we are referring to), but I will say that the idea came to me back when I was in college (around 1995, like I said I had the idea for a long time) and that was more around trying to figure out who would be a good match for Jane. It began as a joke and strangely it stuck because it was such a unique idea.
I think Kurt Vonnegut’s work could be considered an influence for the idea as well.