Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Austen Authors - Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant

Of course by "giant", I am referring to the late, great, Jane Austen. The body of her work has spawned countless memes and derivative works - mine among them.

Shortly after I first published One Thread Pulled, a friend asked me about it, and a few minutes into the conversation, she became very upset, called me a plagiarist and insisted that I had infringed on Jane Austen's copyright. I attempted to explain to her about public domain and was scolded yet again. She felt that while there may not be legal implications, I was on ethically and morally thin ice in borrowing so heavily from another author's work.

That conversation provoked serious contemplation on my part. I could understand how she reached those conclusions, and in addition, I respect this particular friend a great deal. Was she right? I don't think so, and I'll tell you why.

Jane Austen never married, never had children and has no literal posterity who claim her as their great-great-great grandmother. The majority of unmarried women of her generation have long since faded into obscurity, but Jane did something extraordinary. She sowed literary seeds that first captured the minds and hearts of her contemporaries, and then their daughters and sons, and so on in every generation through today. And somewhere along the way she got into our DNA. We recognize ourselves in the pages of her books the same way we recognize ourselves in the faded photographs of our ancestors, and see that in some unfathomable way, we are undeniably related.

This is what writing JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) is to me. JAFF authors are the literary offspring of Jane. If her novels are her children, our stories are her grandchildren, and her life is our adopted heritage. We make (or hope to make) pilgrimages to England to ramble through the garden at Chawton Cottage, read her letters--what's left of them, play dress-up in the clothes of her day and learn the dances she would have danced. To all this we add the occasional film adaptation marathon to saturate our hearts and minds in what--and who--she created.

Rather than somehow eroding her legacy, JAFF works lovingly crafted in Jane's footsteps are keeping Jane, her memory and the spirit of her work alive. And that is one of the reasons I'm so delighted to be part of the NEW Austen Authors. Having felt a kinship with Jane for a long time, joining with other Austenesque authors feels like I've somehow stumbled into a family reunion, and discovered that I like my relations, these people who have Jane in common with me.

Austen Authors - going live January 24! If you  haven't signed up for the giveaways, what are you waiting for?

Click here to open: Austen Authors