Acquired Audiobook By: I started to listen to audiobooks in  as a way to offset my readings of print books whilst noting there was a rumour about how audiobooks could help curb chronic migraines as you are switching up how your reading rather than allowing only one format to be your bookish choice. As I found colouring and knitting agreeable companions to listening to audiobooks, I embarked on a new chapter of my reading life where I spend time outside of print editions of the stories I love reading and exchange them for audio versions. Through hosting for the Audiobookworm Promotion I expanded my knowledge of authors who are producing audio versions of their stories whilst finding my own traction into audiobooks and the way in which storytelling took on a deeper layer of immersion for me as a listerner. Meanwhile, I started to curate my own wanderings in audio via my local library who uses Overdrive for their digital audiobook catalogue as well as a regional library who uses CloudLibrary; I offset borrowing audiobooks through libraries with an active subscription to Scribd (for audiobooks). I batch my membership months with Audible to several months per year and purchase a few audiobooks whilst I have it active as well as enjoying selecting free Audible Original audiobooks.
This is the long history of how I entered into becoming an audiobook reviewer – it was through hosting for Audiobookworm Promotions I originally crossed paths with Ms Christina Boyd with The Quill Collective (via the ‘Rational Creatures’ audio blog tour) and thereby have enjoyed keeping in the loop with their after canon stories connected to Jane Austen. This is how I came to know ‘Yuletide’ and now ‘Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl’ of whom is my favourite character from ‘Pride and Prejudice’; my favourite canon novel of Austen’s.
I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Elizabeth: Headstrong Girl” via Christina Boyd @ The Quill Collective in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Being a Janeite,
I have a fierce appreciation for The Quill Collective:
I’ve been a Janeite for a very long time – during #AustenInAugust , I had the joyful pleasure of submitting a guest essay to commemorate how Austen has been moving in and out of my life over the years which ran on a featured day on Roof Beam Reader’s blog. It is in of itself a quite all-inclusive look at how Jane Austen has left a strong impression on my life. Do read it if you have a chance to peer into how Austen and her stories have given me a lifetime of reflective rumination & joy.
And, ever since my essay was published I have made fervent attempts of re-establishing myself into my Classics Club TBR – to source and seek out works of Classical Lit I’ve earmarked to be read and for the vast majority of those pursuits, it is the canon of Jane Austen I desire most to focus upon. I have the canon in print in several editions but most of those are packed save three and it is those three which I am in pursuit of finishing first whilst continuing to seek out after canon novelists and short story writers who are giving me a well of presence within those worlds that not only honour Austen’s own words but allow us to carry forward into the worlds themselves.
Whilst I was working on this featured post for the blog tour – I had an unexpected discovery – Audible now offers a more friendly budget price for listeners who are not in a hurry to purchase audiobooks (as choosing one per month was enough anxiety for me to last lifetimes) but rather would love to listen to an unlimited amount of them which are provided within the catalogue of the new listen and return service. Similar truly to why I am a lover of Scribd’s services for audiobooks.
Guess what the vast majority of those ‘free to listen in unlimited amounts’ per month include!? *Classics!* Including a fair amount of Jane Austen!!! I even found Rosamunde Pike’s “Pride and Prejudice” and Emma Thompson’s “Emma”!! Imagine?! I was truly taken aback and gobsmacked — another reason I am blessed to have a tablet now for listening to audiobooks & music – as it allowed me to accept a 30 day trial right now and remain within the grip of the Classics!
That news aside, what I LOVE about the Quill Collective is how they honour Jane Austen and how they remain wholly passionate about publishing stories which celebrates the canon but allows the writers they publish to re-envision those characters in such a refreshingly new way as to give each of us a new reason to seek Austen and to seek after canon stories of her collective works. These are the stories by a publisher who understands why we are such discerning readers of Classical Lit and the after canon retellings and sequels which allow us to ruminate further on those worlds… they give us the same passionate response in story as we personally give ourselves over to ponder whenever we pick up a story of Austen. And, for me – the highest praise indeed is their propensity of producing quality over quantity and giving all of us such a wonderful catalogue of stories I truly believe Austen herself would be wicked giddy over seeing published.
An informative conversation with Elizabeth Grace:
the questions were ones I provided and I delighted in her responses!
As you’re narrating an audiobook with a collection of stories inspired by Jane Austen – I was curious, what first drew your eye to the project and what do you personally love about the voice, style and legacy of Ms Austen?
Grace responds: I was drawn to this project by an author I had started working with called Elizabeth Adams who wrote “Something Like Regret” for the anthology. I was just finishing up with her novel, “Green Card” and was looking for a new project. She recommended me to Christina Boyd who then asked me to audition for OHG. I hadn’t narrated an anthology before but I loved it.
Each story has such personality and a style that is at once individual to the author yet also completely in keeping with Austen’s original characters and wit. I think that is my favourite thing about her writing, how well it translates. It makes me realise how recent her writing was in the grand history of time and that while we think their society and thoughts are vastly different to ours, we haven’t really changed all that much.
I believe that is the best singular truth of insight into Jane Austen’s writings I’ve ever heard – how continuously relatable she is due to how we’ve become such an unchanged society. For all the progresses and all the developments of how live has shifted forward per generation, there are still telling truths about how she wrote about society and the pressures of how life can sometimes become too measured by what society believes it can dictate out of a life. I love the serendipitous nature of how you became attached to OHG; I tend to think those are the better moments of our lives – how we cross paths with people who have an important reason of being in our life at any particular point in time. It speaks to how we’re all connected. Whilst at the same time – how some stories ‘find us’ rather than how we presume to believe ‘we find them’.
Of all the stories of Austen, my first introduction to her stories was through “Pride and Prejudice” and thus, Elizabeth has been my favourite Austen heroine ever since the adaptation featuring Keira Knightley was released (as it coincided with my first readings). As you were reading the stories you’ve brought to life – what did you intuit out of them about Elizabeth and about her nature as one of our leading ladies who has withstood time to affect us on such a personal level of appreciation?
Grace responds: I have been asked similar questions before and I am always brought back to Tessa Dare’s wonderful foreword from the anthology. She talks about why Elizabeth is such a popular character and why we continue to relate to her so well and she says it is because “Elizabeth is just like me – but awesome”. I think that is so true, because she is extremely human and altogether female. She is clever and yet judgemental, witty and at times cutting, self-aware and often a little self-deprecating. You can feel her battling with the same traits that we battle with today and she does so with this beautiful honesty and vulnerability which allows her to accept when she is wrong but also speak out against her better judgement when she needs to defend herself, her family or her opinion.
I have so much Elizabeth Bennett inside me (as well as Jane Eyre and Jo March, and lest I forget Anne Shirley) that it isn’t too remarkable to me to realise why I haven’t found myself attached to another novel by Jane Austen (as of yet – ‘Persuasion’ has a new audiobook narration waiting in the wings for me via NetGalley) inasmuch as my absolute admiration, dedication and passion for ‘Pride and Prejudice’; singularly it is hard to discern, is it strictly due to Lizzie or is it equally split between her and Mr Darcy – of whom I’ve previously disclosed is my first and only (thus far into my fourth decade) book boyfriend! I believe that’s the key draw really – seeing someone who is not shy about speaking her mind, bluntly so at moments and honestly evoking a reaction out of others in order for her voice to be heard when it infers an importance to her to be said. In defence of family and self – there are no truer moments for which we all need to remember to listen to our intuition and feel confidence in our voice.
Isn’t that the mark of true classically perennial stories? Where you can revisit them and still see why you originally loved them but then find these extra layers of genius within how they were writ? I felt that way when I first started watching “Anne with an E” via NetFlix and when I was listening to the audiobooks for the first three “Anne of Green Gables” stories via Post Hypnotic Press – wherein I was seeing Marilla in a whole new ray of light wherein previously (per my younger visitation into this world) I was finding myself only drawn to Anne.
Did you have a favourite story in the collection?
And if so, what was it about it that drew you in as deeply as it had?
Grace responds: I really enjoyed each of the stories for different reasons. I recently did a reading of “Atmospheric Disturbances” by Christina Morland for the book tour and I loved that one because I really enjoy narrating arguments! I am not sure why, but I think its because of the fast pace and the high stakes.
Other memorable stories are “Love in the Limelight” by Beau North because of the amazing backdrop of Hollywood’s golden age. The one that moved me the most during my narration was “A Mate for Life” by Christina Boyd, I am sure you can hear my voice crack towards the end. There is something so nostalgic and tender about Elizabeth as an elderly woman reflecting on a life well lived while watching her grand-daughter begin her own journey into adulthood that is so touching.
OOh! I love when a narrator has to go head to head – character on character and walk us through the paces of a full-on row! It gives such a realistic edge to the story and such a believable measure of time for seeing the characters move through their lives – likewise, between the rows and the emotional anguish sequences – I daresay, I credit a lot to the stamina and the performances by narrators who can take us tenfold into their journey by voicing stories with such beautiful dimension! Those are dearly my favourite moments – where you can really hear and sense the ’emotions’ behind a narrator’s voice and how through their performance you can feel intuitively closer to when they had originally sat to read the audio play. As to me, audiobooks bring back why live radio theatre used to be as popular as it had been – audiobooks are the new variant of those radio plays – where it is all vocalised and it etches into your heart, encompasses your imagination and gives you this immersive depth that you cannot get otherwise by print or screen. It is very interpersonal and I love the effect of it.
I oft wonder how narrators approach their performances – did you do any prep work for narrating this series of stories and/or how did you approach getting into the head and heart of Elizabeth through the different incantations that were presented therein?
Grace responds: I would love to tell you that I prepped for weeks to get into Elizabeth’s mind and understand her inside out but the truth is I learned more about her during the process than beforehand.
Working with such talented authors as those featured in OHG, they set up the circumstances so perfectly you are given all you need to know to get stuck straight in. Like you, I was familiar with Elizabeth from reading “Pride and Prejudice“, watching the films and TV adaptations and (as a girl called Elizabeth) being likened to her for a lot of my life! I had a good grounding on what she stands for and who she is. It helps that she is super relatable so it is easy to put some of myself into her which is really what we, as actors do. Rather than thinking so much on the lines of “what would my character do?”, I try to think, given everything I know about my character, if I was in this situation what would I do/how would I react?
OOh no standing on airs here – I love getting the ‘behind-the-book’ trivia bits about how stories are writ and performed – whatever inks out of being the truthful accounting of how a story was either first created or thus after performed are the right answers to give to my readers. I oft wonder though – isn’t that similarly true for regular performances as well? To best get into the headspace of a character you first have to take that fuller immersion into performing them – rooting out their essence and getting a niche of a feel for how they ought to be portrayed? At least, that is what I gather from afar?
I also love the personal touches you etch into this performance – as you said, you took it to a personal heart to heart level and inverted it to being a reflection of your own reactions and responses rather than simply leaning on ‘what Elizabeth Bennett might have done herself’. I think that’s champion and the best route into how to have obtained the right balance in your performance; as said, I have noted things from afar (from loving theatre, radio, television and film) but I never knew if any of those observations had merit as I haven’t yet worked in theatre.
Were there any secondary characters in this collection of stories you felt stood out to you the most?
Grace responds: Darcy can’t not stand out in the anthology, he plays such a significant role. Again, harping back to Tessa Dare’s foreword, I love her line about loving Darcy because he is smart enough to love Elizabeth. While all the other men are fawning over Jane, he is drawn to Elizabeth for all the reasons we love her.
In each of these stories we really see his tenderness towards Elizabeth shine. This is really prominent for me in “Resistive Currents” by Karen M Cox where he really displays this kindness and loyalty we don’t always get to see. I think I realised that while he is often played as being super stoic and harsh, it is really important to also portray his nervousness and protectiveness. Again, these are traits we would all have to some degree given his experiences and what he has been through.
I was immediately thinking about Peter Calpaldi as ‘Doctor Who’ – who apparently became one of the most unrelatable Doctors (according to those I’ve spoken with) and yet, he was so endeared to me for reasons you’ve broached about Darcy. It goes back to the layers of a character’s soul and the artfulness approach in how through their story and the stories after those initial ones which reveal more of those hidden layers that might oft go overlooked or become discarded in favour of presumptive prejudgements on their character. For me, Calpaldi brought a richness to the role – the emotional unresolved angst of an immortal person who could no longer live with the guilt and conscience of what he had done, whom he could not save and the weight of how the universe constantly pulled him into circumstances to act in impossible situations to resolve whatever wrong needed righted. In essence, he was portraying another situation that Dr Beckett found himself in perpetually in ‘Quantum Leap’.
I believe Darcy fits into this bracket as well – people have such strong reactions to Darcy – to his manners and to his speech that they sometimes fail to see the ‘real’ Darcy behind the gruffiness of his personality and to peer into what is motivating him to act and speak in the ways in which he is presenting himself to his peers and neighbours. As you said – more layers there, we just have to be open to finding them, understanding them and accepting Darcy on his own terms – very much like Lizzie had herself.
What is more challenging – tackling a character as renown as Elizabeth Bennett (or any Classical character) or having to give life and voice to a character fresh out of an author’s imagination?
Grace responds: There are real advantages and disadvantages to both, as you can imagine. Taking on characters that are well know, you are faced with other peoples’ preconceived notions of how they believe the character should sound or behave. However, it also means so much more when they tell you afterwards how much they feel you encapsulated that character for them. I do love creating them for myself, having the time to really understand someone new and be able to guide an audiences perception but when I do this, I am always also working with author who gave birth to them and also has a view on how they should sound so it’s not so different in that respect.
What are your favourite takeaways from this collection as a whole and what did you feel was the greatest message that would impact listeners and readers alike?
Grace responds: I think for me, the fact that each story is set in either a different time period or a different scenario really brings back the idea of Jane Austen’s initial writing being so incredibly modern. That we can pick these characters up and transport them this way while maintaining their original character traits and even literally their words in some cases just goes to show how revolutionary and natural her writing was. I think the anthology is very pertinent for women at the moment during this feminist wave where we support each other, we have opinions and we speak our minds and ultimately, we strive to be obstinate and headstrong.
What do you feel are harder to narrate? Short stories or novels and why?
Grace responds: I think novels are trickier, simply due to the length of them. Short stories tend to be very dynamic and fast paced as they try to fit in a fair amount of drama into a relatively short amount of time. They are also less complex with regards to dramatic reading in terms of chronology and subtext. Usually we find the characters in short stories have very clear needs and obstacles from the outset which for a narrator requires a little less planning. Novels are longer and so you need to be more conscious of maintaining the momentum of the story throughout and you need to really consider the characters motives at each point – what do they know, what don’t they know, what is the immediate need and what’s the end game for them etc. However, I do love novels for this complexity too, it’s often more challenging and you can get really stuck into the story, whereas with anthologies, I can feel like I am on a roll, then the story concludes and I am on to the next.
How did your impression of Elizabeth change from “Pride and Prejudice” to “Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl”? What do you think became reflected through these new stories that perhaps Austen left out of disclosing herself on her behalf? As much as how did it feel to voice such a literary heroine as Elizabeth and share her name?
Grace responds: From a purely feminist perspective, when I look back on Elizabeth in “Pride and Prejudice” with all the knowledge I have now, it feels like she could have done more. Please don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t want the story to change but after reading of her in OHG doing all these amazing things, I feel bad that ultimately, by accident in a way, she ends up bending to societies’ expectations.
In “The House Party” by Janetta James, Elizabeth is surrounded by the suffragette movement and while she supports these women and their fight, she doesn’t get stuck in herself. It took me a moment to realise how very “Elizabeth” that is. And I am the same. I wonder what adrenaline and desperation Emily Davison felt before she flung herself in front of the King’s horse, but I will likely never know.
Like Elizabeth Bennet, I am woman of relative means, I have always lived a comfortable enough life to see the other side not so far away and to support and sympathise, say the right words but not necessarily feel that desperation to join the physical fight. Not everyone can feel like that, otherwise everyday would be a revolution I suppose, but did Jane Austen not feel desperate as a female writer in the early 1800s?
I wonder if it crossed her mind to make Elizabeth more revolutionary, but if she feared that it would make her a lot less likable at the time. I imagine she would be proud to see her heroine become one of the only female engineering students at Fordyce University, or sticking up for her sister to a big movie executive in Hollywood. We have the amazing ability to make Elizabeth’s options in life limitless. As a fellow Elizabeth, I thank women like Jane Austen for giving us a heroine that does withstand the passage of time and allows fantastic, modern authors to give new direction to her and inspire the next generation.
When you’re not narrating and performing what renews your spirit?
Grace responds: I love to travel which is why lockdown has been so hard for me. I am real social butterfly and love nothing more than seeing new places and being close to people – 2 meters just isn’t near enough! I have found solace however in my work, meeting some amazing, creative people in these authors and working with them to create something special. I write this from a hotel on an island in the Canaries called Lanzarote. It’s a little 10-day getaway that I will be paying for in isolation for 2 weeks on my return but will hopefully feel refreshed and renewed!
I am a traveller myself and fully respect the angst! Even though we, as a family have grown to love our car picnics and takeaway meals – there is something to be said for real sit down meals out of the house – which thankfully we did do the night prior to when this post runs on Jorie Loves A Story as we were craving an evening out where we could do something pre-pandemic normal and learnt our local pub was at half capacity and had an available table. I cannot express how comforting it was to order our favourite Friday night meal (ie. sloppy joes with fries) and try a new dark lager beer with a toasted after note! Even our server was thankful we were there and it was wonderful to see her after such a long absence! It was only the second time we’ve gone back to eat out – the first was during an epic storm ahead of a 12 hour shift for Mum and that was only a quick grab and go meal in a takeaway restaurant with no one else round. No, last night it felt more like we had captured a dose of normalcy and it felt brilliant!
Like you, I find solace in how I can adapt to what life brings to our path and how we can remain in contact with people in however they enter our lives. My blog is a labour of love and a saving grace which allows me to focus outside my personal adversities and give back to book world as much as it is a journalled collection of my readerly adventures and the curious thoughts which stories inspire me to share with fellow bookish geeks who seek out book blogs to read to find new inspiration in their own bookish lives. As bookish joy shared is tenfold better than never to have shared it at all.
I pray your holiday gives you what you are hoping it shall reveal and I definitely understand how it is worth the inconvenience of self-isolation on return because of what it will give you once you’ve arrived. We are all finding our way in this new situation and finding that if we keep ourselves adaptive and bendable we’ll make it through just fine.
Many blessings to you, Ms Grace and thank you for blessing me with this lovely conversation! Some of your replies I left as they were as I hadn’t had the chance to listen to the fuller contents of the audiobook prior to this being shared on my blog. I enjoyed your revelations and cannot wait to peer into those sections and re-visit your takeaways and comments.
With timeless verve, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, bares her intimate thoughts while offering biting social commentary through a collection of romantic re-imaginings, sequels, and prequels, set in the Regency to present day by ten popular Austenesque authors.
Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter, January 1813―and we think so too!
Stories by Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, Joana Starnes, Karen M Cox, Elizabeth Adams, Leigh Dreyer, J. Marie Croft, and Christina Boyd.
Places to find the book:
Also by this author: Rational Creatures
Also in this series: Rational Creatures
Published by The Quill Collective LLC
on 31st August, 2020
Format: Audiobook | Digital
Length: 10 hours and 41 minutes (unabridged)
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: