Tuesday 15 December 2015

Celebrating Jane Austen: Re-imagining Jane by Sarah Todd Taylor

Please welcome Sarah who's going to tell us all about writing in Jane Austen's world!

A few weeks ago when my niece was telling me about the My Little Pony fan fiction she was writing (did you know My Little Pony is back?) I realised that, although I thought I’d never done fan fiction, I actually had.

Years ago, in 2011, I did a spot of Jane Austen fan fiction.

Chawton House Library, which houses the early manuscripts of many of Austen’s works, ran a competition to find short stories for a collection inspired by Austen heroes and villains, and I entered a story based on one of my favourite characters – Catherine Morland.

I’ve always loved how Catherine completely inhabits a book. She really is the ideal reader if you’re a writer - someone willing to throw themselves into the world of your book. Catherine is the person we all write for. It got me thinking – what would Catherine and Henry’s marriage have been like if she never quite lost that habit of imagining herself in everything she read. What would it be like for Henry to weather the storms of Byron, Shelley and the Brontes? What would have happened if Catherine discovered feminist writings? Out of all this grew ‘Henry Tilney attempts to cure his wife’, a short story that I had immense fun writing. I’d never considered it fan fiction, but it was, really. It was a chance to pick up some characters I loved and imagine what happened to them after the novel ended, to spend some more time with Henry and Catherine.

I think this explains the lure of fan fiction. When we find characters whom we fall in love with we don’t want their stories to end when the final page is turned. We want to follow their story onwards, to make ourselves at home in their lives and find out ‘what happens next.’

The story ended up in the Honno Press collection ‘Wooing Mr Wickham.’ Some of the other pieces, like mine, worked with the original characters of the novels, but others took their stories and wove them anew for characters in other time periods and countries. It was wonderful to see how different writers were inspired in different ways, often by the same works.

So next time I’m asked whether I’ve ever done fan fiction, I shall have to say yes, and I had a blast and I recommend it to anyone. Pick up your favourite Austen, grab a notebook and pen and ask yourself this – what do you think happened after the endpapers?

Sarah Todd Taylor is a children's writer living in Wales. Her first book, Arthur and Me, a time-slip comedy with King Arthur and his round table, won the Firefly Children's Book Prize and was published in 2014. She has also had short stories published in various Honno anthologies and a monologue produced on Radio 5 live. You can find Sarah on Twitter as @scraphamster or read more about her on her blog at https://sarahtoddtaylor.wordpress.com

Thanks so much, Sarah!


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