Praise for ACCORDING TO JANE: "A warm, witty and charmingly original story."
--Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Please welcome debut author Marilyn Brant! She's terrific, she's smart, she's a great pal..and her book is a wonderful idea which I wish I'd thought of.
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, Jane Austen's ghost has taken up residence in Ellie's mind, and seems determined to stay there.
(Ah, got to love it.)
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. . .
Marilyn and I had a quick chat:
HANK:. You and I get into an elevator on the first floor. We're both going to 22! Oh, I say, you're the famous author. What's your new book about?
MARILYN: I’d say, “Oh, Hank, I think you’re WAY more famous than I am!
HANK: Oh, puh-leeze...
MARILYN: But, since you’re asking, According to Jane is the story of a modern woman named Ellie who gets dating advice from the spirit of Jane Austen. And there are a lot of ‘80s references in it, too.”
HANK:. Do you remember the moment you had the idea for the book? How and when did that happen?
MARILYN: Yes, I do. I was sitting in an RWA National Conference workshop (Dallas 2004) presented by Eloisa James. She was discussing the borrowing of classic plots from famous authors, as she’d done with Shakespeare. She asked us to think about which classical lit books we’d read and the authors whose characters and storylines we’d gravitate toward. I immediately thought of Austen!
HANK:. Your main character--is she you?
MARILYN: Ellie is…kind of me. She and I share a certain introspection and we each had a tendency toward perfectionism in school, plus, we were both children of ‘80s pop culture. However, I have only one sibling—an incredibly supportive and wonderful brother—so a lot of Ellie’s family issues were not drawn from real-life at all. As for dating, while I’ll admit to having made a lamentable boyfriend choice or two, I met my husband right out of college and was happily married pretty young. So, Ellie’s painful relationship problems were (thankfully) extrapolated from things I observed or they were exaggerated from some real events and grafted to modernized versions of scenes I found fascinating in Austen’s novels.
HANK: So--movie time. Tell us who you envision playing your main character? The love interest? A bad guy?And you can be in the movie too--what part would you play? And why?
MARILYN: I don’t know who, specifically, to cast as either Ellie or Sam! Really. Someone like a young John Cusack for Sam--that tall, dark-haired, smart and snarky type. Ellie would be a bit Emma Watson-ish. Both would need to be played by 20-somethings, though, since they could then be made up to look younger (late teens) and older (early thirties).
HANK:. Do you read other people books while you're in the writing process? How does that affect you?
MARILYN: I love to read and need to, but when I’m deep into the writing of a story it’s hard for me both to have the time to delve into a novel and, also, to relax enough to enjoy it. So, I tend to read more during the revision stage, which, since I usually need to do a fair bit of revising, is rather long. During the drafting period, I’ll read nonfiction, which is usually a bit easier to read in snippets.
HANK: . What's the very best line of the very best review you've gotten? So far, of course.
MARILYN: I’ve gotten some very nice “official” reviews, but my favorite line was from an informal review by a reader. She’d won an advanced copy of the book in a contest, read the novel in one day and spontaneously emailed me, saying, “…once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader.” Who wouldn’t love that?
HANK:. What was your favorite book as a child? Do you still love it?
MARILYN: As a very young child, it was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. As a middle grade child, it was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, and, yes, I still love them both.
HANK:. What's your secret indulgence? A certain food? A particular movie? What would you buy on a day of shopping?
MARILYN: Gourmet European chocolate: dark or milk, with all kinds of different fillings. I’ve tried to break myself of the habit but, really, that’s just not possible. The choc0late goes well with old movies, too, like “The Philadelphia Story” and “Roman Holiday,” which I can watch over and over again… Mmm. Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and chocolate!
HANK:. What's one thing no one knows about you?
MARILYN: That I am always watching them--LOL J. That I can’t turn off the writer thing and am, at all times, collecting the quirky habits and mannerisms of the people around me. Now they know this, of course, and will be more careful...
HANK: Do you remember when you typed "The End?" What happened next?
MARILYN: I remember typing my very first “The End.” What I didn’t realize then was how many revisions it would take before a book was actually finished, or how many of those revised manuscripts I’d have to write before I had a publishable one on my hands.
HANK: Ah...how true! See you in the bookstores...!