Thursday, December 9, 2021

Jane Austen and Me by Jane K Cleland.

 

RHYS BOWEN: Now here's a subject dear to my heart. I'm another Jane Austen fan who gave birth to another Jane Austen fan. So it's my great pleasure to introduce an old friend who is now writing about my favorite author. Welcome Jane.


JANE CLELAND: 
 My Mother Introduced Me to Jane Austen before I Was Born I come by my affection for Jane Austen honestly. My mother, Ruth Chessman, an author in her own right, was a devoted fan. My mother wanted to share her greatest pleasures with the unborn me. She played classical music, ate a lot of fried chicken, ice cream, and tomatoes. (I know, I know. No surprise, these are three of my favorite foods.) My mother also believed that writing was the highest possible calling, so she read Pride and Prejudice, her favorite Jane Austen novel, aloud to me in the womb. 






 She wanted me to hear the words, the magnificent prose; to enjoy the wit; to appreciate the insights; to value exemplary work. Lest you think I’m exaggerating my mother’s devotion to Jane Austen, I will tell you that I am named for her. Researching Jane Austen’s Letters When I decided to write about Jane Austen’s letters, I embarked on a journey of research. 


 I researched Jane Austen’s publishing history, her business model, events that occurred during the relevant time (by relevant, I mean 1812 to 1814, which is the era I deal with in the letters in my book), her stationery choices, how to mix gall ink, her pens, her attitudes toward her nieces and nephews, and so on.

 I do a boatload of research for each book I write. 

In other words, I use facts to write fiction. 

 

Scholars agree that of the more than 3,000 letters Jane Austen probably wrote over the course of her life, only about 160 are extant. That we know of...more about that later. The reason there are only about 160 letters is because her sister Cassandra burned the rest when she, Cassandra, was 70, decades after Jane’s death. No one knows why. According to her niece, Cassandra thought Jane was too “open and confidential.” [Note: Jane died in 1817; Cassandra died in 1845.] But if that’s the case, why didn’t she destroy them all? Regardless, just as no one knows for sure how many letters escaped that fiery fate, no one knows how many are extant. Just because the world thinks 160 letters survived, what if there are one or two or a dozen more? This is not idle speculation: On February 17, 2019 the news broke that six lines that had been cut from one of Jane Austen’s letters had been found. Six lines discovered after 200 years. Hello! It doesn’t get much more exciting than that. Except the lines didn’t refer to anything titillating or unseemly, worthy of being exorcised—they referred to laundry! By the way, the day after the discovery, the headline in The Daily Telegraph read, “Lost letter airs Jane Austen’s dirty linen in public.” How funny is that?

 I still write letters or notes to my distant friends. Yes, I send emails, but I write letters, too. Handwritten letters with little drawings in the margins. (Although I confess I write notes and letters less frequently than I used to—so much to say, so little time to write it out by hand.) 

How about you? Do you send out handwritten notes? I’d love to offer a signed copy of Jane Austen’s Lost Letters (U.S. address only). Thanks! 

 Jane K. Cleland writes both fiction and nonfiction, including the long-running and multiple award-winning Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries [St. Martin’s & Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine] and the Agatha Award-winning bestsellers Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot and Mastering Plot Twists [Writer’s Digest Books], recommended by Dan Brown, Louise Penny, David Baldacci, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Neil Gaiman. Jane is a contributing editor for Writer’s Digest Magazine, and the chair of the Wolfe Pack’s Black Orchid Novella Award (BONA), in partnership with AHMM. She is a frequent workshop leader and guest author at writing conferences and MFA Residencies. Jane offers free monthly workshops on the craft of writing. Details can be found at www.janecleland.com 

 The newest entry in the Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series, Jane Austen’s Lost Letters, tells the story of truth and perception, family lost and found, and love. I hope you enjoy it.

72 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Jane, on your newest book . . . I always find Josie Prescott stories intriguing and entertaining; add a Jane Austen letter mystery and it certainly sounds like a treat for readers . . . .

    Although I do occasionally send handwritten notes, I have to admit that email [or sending a text] is so much quicker and, consequently, I don’t write as often as I probably should. But there’s something about handwritten letters . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Joan! I agree, sort of. I think all communication is good, and valued by the recipient, emails included!

      Delete
    2. Joan, my previous comment came through as "anonymous." It's me!

      Delete
  2. JANE: I enjoy reading your Josie Prescott mysteries. Your mother's love of June Austen and your life-long connection to her is fascinating. Yes, why did Cassandra burn most of those letters? Those newly found six lines from her is weird, too.

    I must admit I don't write a lot of letters by hand anymore. But I do write short notes and longer messages inside greeting/holiday cards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hate autocorrect!
      Sorry, of course it should be Jane Austen instead of June Austen (sigh).

      And although I enjoy reading your books, please do NOT include me in the draw since I live outside the US.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Grace! See my comment above to Joan -- all communications among friends is, I suspect, valued!

      Delete
    3. I'll get the hang of this soon, everyone! Grace, that comment was from me! Thanks, again!

      Delete
    4. Oh, I love the idea of June Austen! The long lost sister!

      Delete
    5. Ha ha, Hank. But why autocorrect thinks June was the correct name baffles me!

      Delete
  3. Congratulations on the new series, Jane! Funny, I got back last night from a trip to the other coast visiting cousins and my last uncle, and I just wrote "Thank you notes" on today's to-do list. They will be handwritten with stamps on them.

    Six lines about laundry? Good heavens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Edith, how lovely of you to write those notes. I know, I know... laundry!

      Delete
  4. Congratulations Jane on your upcoming book release. I tend to write emails, but when I do write letters, I type it out on the computer as my handwriting is unreadable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dru! I think "typed" business letters communicate a seriousness of purpose that can't be matched by handwritten letters. As to handwriting styles... there's another fascinating subject. How does our individual style evolve?

      Delete
  5. Good morning, all. Seems I have done something to appease the great and powerful Blogger. Will be back to read later. Happy Thursday.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congrats Jane, what a fascinating premise! And I loved the description of your mother preparing you for a lifetime of JA admiration. I'd love to hear more about how you worked all of this into the new book?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Roberta! I was, if the truth be told, a bit over-awed until I began reading Jane Austen's letters. She was so "real." Her comments on being tired of the rain and wishing she could have stayed longer at the party and the like truly made her seem like "one of us." Had circumstances been different, she would have been our friend. Once that realization occurred to me, I found it easier and more natural to write about her, to welcome her to the story.

      Delete
  7. You are lucky that your mother read you Jane Austen. My mother read me Poe. Annabelle Lee. Yep.

    Welcome to JRW, Jane and congratulations on your new release. I have not read any Josie Prescott mysteries yet, so I will begin with book 1. It may take a while to get to your latest, but I'll look for your books this morning. I am a Jane Austen fan and reread her books when I feel down. Pride and Prejudice is a tonic for those times.

    I like to write letters, love to receive them, and have a hard time throwing any away. There are boxes in our basement with letters and cards I received over the years that I am loathe to toss. No one famous and I know they have to go, but it's hard.

    In the meantime, my thank you notes shine! I love to write them. These days, it is always a big surprise to actually get a letter in the mail. As I drop it in the corner mailbox, I always hope that the person on the other end feels appreciated for the kindness he or she has shown.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judy, thank you for jumping into the Josie stories. I hope you enjoy them. I don't save all notes I receive, but I have some from childhood.

      Delete
  8. Congratulations on the book, Jane! I write letters to my son away at college, but he never responds - not even and answering text. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's great you write letters to your son at college. He'll appreciate it someday I'm sure! You're following in Lord Chesterfield's footsteps. Do you know this work from the 18th c? It's considered one of the earliest parenting guides. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3361/3361-h/3361-h.htm

      Delete
    2. Jane, these letters are wonderful! Thanks for sending me down this rabbit hole!:-)

      Delete
    3. I haven't - I'll have to check it out!

      Delete
  9. Congratulations Jane on your newest book ! I love Jane Austen and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I mail handwritten cards to my godmother twice a year. I also mail handwritten messages to people who, I feel , need motivation or encouragement or a little love.

    I’m not eligible for the draw, as I live in Canada.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Danielle, thank you so much. I love your idea to communicate your support and empathy through a handwritten note.

      Delete
  10. Huge Jane Austen fan here, too, Jane - and a new Josie Prescott mystery is cause for celebration! Handwritten cards? I've written quite a few over the last year. Especially when we're all hunkered down it's a nice way to reach out and "touch" someone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Hallie! I think you're exactly right. There is something about a handwritten note that's like a personal hug!

      Delete
  11. Congratulations on the new book…I can’t wait to read it! I love to send handwritten cards and notes, although I don’t send as many as I used to send. cking78503(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Chris! I hope you enjoy the book! I'm the same as you... I send far fewer handwritten notes than I used to. But I do think a "personal" email can be almost as meaningful. (At least, I hope so!)

      Delete
  12. Marian Wilson KimberDecember 9, 2021 at 8:56 AM

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a new Jane Cleland novel is undoubtedly a source of delight. In finding Miss Jane Austen's letters at the center of a mystery, Ms. Cleland's devoted readers will undoubtedly discover much to console them during these dark winter days. As we are all want to do, we shall take up our pens to persuade our dearest friends and relations to likewise read the volume for their own edification and amusement. The handwritten missives will certainly bring them great pleasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marian, what fun! Thank you so much. I appreciate your charming missive.

      Delete
  13. I still prefer the old pen and paper over computers. It's so much faster (at least for me, I hated computer classes in school) and nothing's going to get suddenly erased.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alicia, I suspect the lucky recipients of your notes appreciate your thoughtfulness and care.

      Delete
  14. Congratulations on your latest release! I re-read Jane Austen after a trip to Bath. I take arty flower closeup photos and turn them into greeting cards, particularly for the chronically ill. I pick a card for the current growing season and tell the recipient about my garden.

    Until your Saturday workshop...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Margaret! How lovely. How thoughtful.

      I look forward to "seeing" you at Saturday's FREE webinar on "Writing Characters that Resonate with Emotional Truth, 1 to 2 p.m. eastern time. (All are welcome! Details at www.janecleland.com)

      Delete
  15. Congratulations on your new novel! It sounds captivating. Handwritten letters and notes are meaningful, special and extremely rare. When I was a young girl I used to write letters to family and friends often and regularly. They enjoyed receiving these updates because it was the best method of communicating. This was how we stayed in touch with each other. I still send out cards and notes but no one responds. I enjoy this old fashioned method and surprise many with unique cards and messages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suspect the lucky recipients appreciate your thoughtfulness, even if they may not respond.

      Delete
  16. Congratulations on the your new release! Sending cards, notes and lengthy letters gives me great enjoyment. Even though it is now considered outdated and old fashioned I persist. Since I learned this from my mother who corresponded with many relatives who lived further away. We would look forward to receiving their letters and loved catching up. Alas, no longer but I don't take umbrage. I will always maintain my preference for the letters which cheer me up.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I truly loved this book! Congratulations. And think about it from the other end as well, how much fun it is to get a handwritten card in the mail! It’s such a joy.
    And yes, my handwriting is terrible, but I try. Usually the beginning of the note is legible, and then it just… Disintegrates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hank, thank you so much. Your kindness is so appreciated.

      You're so right... receiving a handwritten note can make my day. I especially like the ones that include little drawings.

      Delete
  18. Jane, when I first saw this, I thought you were starting another series, so I'm delighted to see this is another book where Josie Prescott is on the case!
    I love the idea of Jane Austen's lost letters, and I echo everyone on their regret we won't have caches of writing revealing the private lives of authors and artists in the future. I straddle the letter/no letter era, as a lot of us this age do. When I lived in London, I sent onion-paper airmail letters every week to family and friends back home, and missives to a non-resident boyfriend when I was in college.
    As a parent, I've had a few letter-writing situations: when the kids went to summer camp, when my son was in boot camp and later deployed. There are still a few places where the phone and internet aren't available! I'm glad we have these missives to remember those times.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Julia, how nice to hear from you! Thank you. And please pass along my thanks for his service to your son.

    I recall those onion skin airmail letters. Some folded into themselves, forming an envelope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wrote those airmail letters to my mom when I was living in Scotland and England. But sadly they must have gone the way of Jane Austen's lost letters...

      Delete
  20. My mother was a strict adherent to Emily Post and we were taught the proper way to write thank-you notes, replies to invitations, etc. To this day, I still write a formal reply to a formal invitation and my friends laugh, but I think, appreciate it. Several years ago a friend from high school got a head injury at work and was having memory problems. The doctor’s solution was to have his family ask for those of us from his past to write letters to him and for him to respond in kind. The plan worked well... he has his memory back and I’ve had a pen pal for almost 10 years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful story about the doctor's idea for recovery, and how kind you are to have embraced the idea. I collected etiquette books for many years, a fascinating glimpse into a society's standards and expectations at a specific moment in time. I had several early Emily Post volumes.

      Delete
  21. I rarely wrote letters growing up. Everyone important to the child I was, lived in the same town, with me. I wrote thank you cards to my grandmother's sister in Oklahoma when she sent me a gift. Grandma heard about it if I didn't, she then would remind her daughter-in-law that notes where not being sent in a timely manner and then I heard about from my mother. Today's writing is even more limited. Family is almost non-existent and to be perfectly honest, I prefer to use the computer to send a quick email. Using the computer helps eliminate the spelling errors I have struggled with all my life.

    Why would it take so long burn letters if you thought they provided too much personal information? Maybe the sister's personality changed due to a late life illness.

    Opps, off to work, will be looking for your new book soon, sounds very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Deana. Maybe a late-life illness. Maybe someone offered a snarky comment that set Cassandra off. Alas, the truth is lost to history.

      Delete
  22. I was raised in a letter writing environment. In grade school we were encouraged to have pen pals - mine was in the UK - and to write letters to classmates. It was a long time ago. Postage was $0.04 if you sealed the envelope and $0.03 if you didn't. I don't know why the difference in postage rate, and who was charged with checking if the envelopes were sealed? At any rate, letters were primary communication for me until e-mail became common. Recently, my college roommate and I have resurrected the practice and now, in addition to emails and texts, we write long chatty letters a few times a year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kait, that sealed/non-sealed price differential is fascinating. I wonder why!

      Delete
  23. Definitely a Jane Austen fan! I handwrite thank you notes. I feel that if someone takes the trouble to send you something I can take the trouble to acknowledge it personally. I have one buddy in Arizona who will drop me a line, usually at Christmas. I do the same, but I find it harder to write my news than to type it. For whatever reason it flows easier when I type. When my son was in boot camp (twice!) and deployed I always wrote him letters. He wrote back and I saved all of them. Same with my now husband. Something about the military makes you desperate for mail!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pat, thanks to your son for his service, and to your husband.

      I handwrite thank you notes, too!

      Delete
  24. Hi, Jane! I am pretty sure I've read at least one of your Josie books, so thanks for the reminder about them. Love the idea of being able to read the day to day activities of the Austen family.

    A few years ago we dismantled the archives of the family business, recycling six or more decades of utility bills, invoices, and the pay dirt for the project: correspondence. My father-in-law, born in 1913, wrote back and forth with friends far and near, including men who lived no more than 30 miles away. Phone calls were expensive, and that was long distance back in the day, so he and his friends sometimes wrote twice a week. All his outgoing mail was typed, and he saved the carbon copies of his own letters.

    I could see an erosion, through the years, of both the amount of correspondence, and the chronicling of it. Carbon copies made way to printed copies of email, and eventually nothing at all. It was sad, and it makes me wonder what we are losing to history by not sending/receiving/saving handwritten or typed letters today.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Karen, your example would be of interest, I think, to sociologists tracking the effect of technology on individuals and communities. Interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you.. Electronic conversations are so ephemeral, too. I know I've lost tens of thousands of long email or bulletin board comments/conversations, just because of migrating to new programs. Unless I was able to print out the chains they are all gone.

      Delete
  26. Jane, I am mortified to say that I haven't read any of your series. I cannot imagine how it has escaped me! Does one need to start at the beginning, as I'd really like to dive straight into the new one. I love the idea of Jane's lost letters. And the cover is gorgeous!!

    I do write cards (and love to receive them), but sadly I can't remember when I've written a long letter. My daughter is the queen of handwritten cards and thank you notes, however. She started writing me notes when she was in grade school, never had to be nagged to write thank yous, and has carried the habit on into her professional life. I take no credit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, I'm so impressed your daughter is a note-writer. I think that's great. I do think you have to take credit, though. She learned kindness and courtesy somewhere!

      Thank you for giving Josie a whirl! I say dive in! Each book is written as a stand-alone. There's an ensemble cast, and I think enough info is given so readers won't be confused.

      Delete
  27. I can't remember the last time I sent out a handwritten note. I'm bad about emails, too, for that matter.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Mark, we all communicate in our own way. I bet you're great in person!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love writing letters. I used to do that all of the time with friends who lived far. With the advent of social media that has dwindled. But on each birthday , my children and grandchildren receive a card and inside I write a letter. I remind them how special they are to me, the talents and skills I love that they share , remind them of a special place we’ve been together and maybe even a quote from a book I love. Now that they’re older, they tell me they wait for these. 😊

    ReplyDelete
  30. That's great, really nice! I love how you add the specificity!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I will need to write notes the rest of my life to use all of the cards and stationary I have! When we moved a couple of years ago I found letters from college friends in our early years. It was fun to read about their summer jobs and first jobs out of college again. One friend wrote one on a Burger King placemat - she was working there for a while because the job market was tough.

    Lucky you to be introduced to JA so early! She was curiously missing from my life until college. I had basically given up reading for fun to focus on my engineering studies, but my senior year I took Great Narrative Works so I could read, for credit! Pride and Prejudice was one of the books and I’ve been a fan ever since.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could take that course now, Lisa. Or teach it!

      I love fine stationary. The feel of the paper. The way the ink saturates.

      Delete
  32. Congratulations on your new book. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR list. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and I can't wait to read the book.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thank you, Dianne! I hope you enjoy it.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I do write handwritten letters, but not like I used to. I write if I'm very emotional about something. Then I reread it the next day and decide whether to send it or not. Writing is very therapeutic for me.

    ReplyDelete
  35. That's a smart approach, Kathy. I think it was Joan Crawford, the famous actress from Hollywood's Golden Age, who said, "Never mail a letter you wrote at three o'clock in the morning." Words to live by!

    ReplyDelete
  36. This sounds amazing! I do write letters and love receiving them. Congratulations on a great storyline. Look forward to the read~

    ReplyDelete
  37. Thanks so much, Marni! I hope you enjoy it!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Good night, all! Thank you so much for spending time with me today! I hope you find great strength and solace through reading and writing--and I wish you and yours a merry everything! Happy Holidays, my new and old friends!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny! I started as anonymous, and I'm ending that way. Silly me! Yes, that was Jane who wrote:

      Good night, all! Thank you so much for spending time with me today! I hope you find great strength and solace through reading and writing--and I wish you and yours a merry everything! Happy Holidays, my new and old friends!

      Delete