Book review and author Q&A: Jane Austen Junkie

‘A compilation of over 600 books and 50 movies inspired by Jane Austen’ – Jane Austen Junkie: Get Your Fix!

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When it comes to things I like in life as much as I love Elizabeth Bennet, I’d put very few things on the list. But one item I’d happily add, is a good list itself. The pure act of listing things relaxes me – I write one every morning at work to simplify the rest of my day into something manageable. I also love to read lists. In fact, as a child I was once found “reading the thesaurus” – in actual fact I was reading little jump out boxes that had lists of related words in them on different topics, such as ‘pirates’ and ‘fabrics’. I never was a normal child. So when a book came along that combined my love of Jane Austen with my love of lists, I was ecstatic.

This book came through my door from author Susan J. Brown, who had previously sent me an email about the project and had me excited for what I would be reading. The concept is fantastic – we all trawl the internet for hours looking for the next Jane Austen spin off or prequel or fan fiction to read… why not have it all in one place, in one list? With boxes you can check off next to each of them I was not only surprised at how many there are listed (and, of course, with more being published regularly, it doesn’t contain them all but 600 is a hefty number of books!). Explaining in the introduction that it was created due to having read all the Austen novels in highschool and having then decided to look for what else was available and “I couldn’t believe the explosion of Jane Austen-related works,” she explains.

I understand completely where she’s coming from. For us Pride and Prejudice lovers, it’s certainly sad when we have finished the book or another sequel. But, this book will give you a hefty resource for when you want to get that fix once more (it’s certainly like a drug!). Pride and Prejudice has the biggest section of all the books, from page 36 to page 108 of the 169 page paperback, a testament to its popularity and longevity. Having looked through the Pride and Prejudice section fairly thoroughly, and ticking off those I have read, it’s not surprising that I’ve heard of many of them – however there are plenty I haven’t yet had the chance to get my hands on! I will definitely have this book on hand for when I go to my local bookstore – I often have trouble remembering what I have or haven’t read. Similarly, non-fiction, spin-offs of the other books, books about Jane Austen herself and movies are also listed. It’s well organised and comprehensive, with an explanation at the beginning that ensures it’s clear (as she notes, the variations and publication dates can get quite confusing).

I honestly don’t think you can ever get enough Jane Austen, and I’m so glad that Ms Brown agrees! I asked her to answer some questions for The Bennet Sisters about the project and she gladly obliged!

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Susan J. Brown (Courtesy of Kurt Burton Photography)

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’ve always been an avid reader, reading many of the classics by the time I was in my mid-twenties (although that kick ended at about that point) so I went to library school and received an MLS from UCLA. I worked as a librarian at a university for almost ten years, reading a lot on the job and in my free time. After ten years, I wanted to try the for-profit world so I took a job as a researcher for a consulting firm and still spent a lot of time , including regular readings of Persuasion. One fateful weekend about five years ago, we took a weekend trip to the beach and I reread Pride & Prejudice (I had read it during the pre-mid-twenties read the classics phase). This time, I was hooked! It wasn’t just another classic, it was the classic. After devouring the book and many of the movies I finally started in on the adaptations as outlined in the Q&A document. At that point, I took my love of Jane Austen novels, my research skills and put them together to create the book. I have ideas for other, similar books and would welcome input as to what authors to follow-up on next. I can be reached at info@janeaustenjunkie.com

Where did the idea come from to create this compilation?

After I reread Pride and Prejudice, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I watched the movie adaptations of it and still wanted more. I knew there were sequels out there but I was afraid they wouldn’t match the sequel that was going on in my head. Then I came across a mystery that featured Darcy and Elizabeth (one of Carrie Bebris’ books) and read and enjoyed it. This sort of opened a can of worms and I started looking and finding more and more books of all types. I read quite a few and kept track of them. I thought others might be interested in the list too.

Were you surprised with how many you found?

Yes! I worked on the book on and off for years Every time I picked it up again I had to do more research to find the newest books and movies and was amazed at how many would have come out while I was on a break. At first I thought I’d have a couple hundred entries then finally it was going to neatly be 500 books and 50 movies but by the time I set a final cutoff date for new entrants, I had over 600 books and that’s just the ones I found and that are in English. I’m sure there are many more still to be discovered.

How long did it take you to put together?

I compiled the list over several years. At first it was just for fun and just to see what I could find. Then I got more systematic and really started working on it seriously. This phase was over a period of two to three years. When I decided to turn it into a book, I spent about 6 months of part time work on it, putting the format together, creating the indexes and working on the desktop publishing, the cover image, book description, etc.

How many have you read/watched yourself?

I’ve seen about half of the movies and read about 50 of the books. My favorite movie, by far, is the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth (as I think it is of a lot of people). I thought it was good representation of the time and the book. I also really enjoyed Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywood re-imagining of P&P. My favorite books are the ones that tell Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective (such as Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Maya Slater). Some of my other favorites are The Making of Pride & Prejudice (by Susie Conklin and Sue Birtwistle), Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler and Pride and Prejudice, a children’s version featuring felt dolls by Jack & Holman Wang.

Which is your favourite Austen novel?

For years it was Persuasion. I reread it frequently. One of my favorite scenes in any book is when Anne reads the letter written by Wentworth in which he declares his feelings for her. When I reread Pride and Prejudice it also became a favorite, so now they’re tied. I love P&P for the story of two strong willed, uncompromising people holding out for what will truly make them happy.

And which heroine are you most like?

I’m probably most like Anne, not the good, sweet part, but the part that let others make decisions for her. But as we gained more life experience and determined what was important, we stopped letting others have that much influence.

What do you hope Austen fans will get from this book?

If readers are like me, once they find one kind of book they like, whether it’s a steamy sequel, a contemporary retelling or a graphic novel, they’ll want to know what else like that is out there. For that reason, I created three indexes – one by author so they can find out what else their favorite authors have written; another by character so they  can find books that focus on or are written from the perspective of their favorite character (there are an amazing number of books written on secondary characters such as Mary Bennet and Georgiana Darcy and even Darcy’s Dog!); and a third that is on topics such as food and crafts in Jane Austen’s time or books that take Jane Austen’s novels into the paranormal.

The Pride and Prejudice section is massive! Why do you think it’s such a favourite for fan fiction and adaptations?

Pride and Prejudice may be the most relatable of Jane Austen’s novels as it features the universal theme of finding your soul mate, against the odds. It’s the one most often assigned in school so many people have read it or know the basic story.  And it’s become shorthand for classic novel, timeless love story, etc. so it’s the most referenced in so many other works. I would guess that a lot of fan fiction writers either want to be Elizabeth Bennet and/or find their Mr. Darcy.

Are you a fan of adaptations?

Yes, I’m a big supporter of the idea of fan fiction, whether it’s Jane Austen novel adaptations, Star Trek fan fiction or whatever else. It gives like-minded people a sense of community and a way of celebrating the characters they love and of keeping them alive. I’m glad that there are so many self-publishing options plus the Internet which make it easier to be published and provide more outlets for this creativity.

What’s lovely about this book is that it’s a resource as well as something fun to browse through. I have over 70 different Pride and Prejudice sequels etc sitting in one of my bookcases, so this was definitely right up my street. If you’re looking for more Jane Austen, think you have read all the sequels, re-imaginings and retellings available, then this is for you!

Currently, the book can be purchased via Amazon for $13.50 and it’s also worth checking out the website that’s newly up for the book. ISBN: 9781475101713

What are your thoughts? Is it a good idea? How many retellings of P&P have you read?

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2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Q&A

2 responses to “Book review and author Q&A: Jane Austen Junkie

  1. brenda

    ahh…this is a perfect book for me as I do tend to find I love to often read a P & P re-telling. Thanks for sharing! x

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