Exclusive interview with novelist Cindy Jones and a review of her new novel about how a summer spent recreating Jane Austen changes a woman’s life *** 3 stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 3/31/2011 – “The idea for my book came to me after reading The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler,” says My Jane Austen Summer author Cindy Jones. “I had recently reread all six Austen novels and, reaching the last page of the last novel, I suddenly found myself going cold turkey. I would have given anything for another Jane Austen novel. Fortunately, Fowler’s book brought Jane Austen to life for me…and demonstrated that I could bring her back to life through my writing, too. The five years I spent writing My Jane Austen Summer completely satisfied my cold turkey problem.”
My Jane Austen Summer is the story of Lilly Berry. Her mother has died, her boyfriend broke up with her, her father has a new woman in his life, and Lilly has lost her job. The only thing that had kept her going is her love for all of Jane Austen’s books. She scrapes together the money to go to a Jane Austen re-enactment festival. Can she pass herself off as an actor? The festival’s survival may depend on it.
The character of Lilly is more like Fanny Price then any of Austen’s other characters such as Elizabeth Bennet. It’s difficult to connect with all of Lilly’s problems, but there’s enough for you to understand her problems. As Lilly succeeds at some of the tasks she sets out there’s change in her and she grows up.
“While writing, I spend a lot of time in my head and sometimes fail to transition out completely,” Jones. “One evening at happy hour with friends, someone boldly suggested we all leave our children with babysitters and fly to England for a fantastic getaway. Adding to the spirit of adventure and raising it one notch, I announced, And I know some people we can stay with! Everyone looked at me and I had to retreat quickly when I realized the ‘people’ whose hospitality I so freely offered were characters in my novel.”
Jones says she had to do a lot of research because almost everything she wrote about was unfamiliar to her. “In addition to the obvious research required on Jane Austen and Mansfield Park, I read books on English country houses, vampires, pubs, Regency undergarments, and personality disorders. My sources include the New York Times Wedding Pages, The Rolling Stone, and The Journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America. I spent years lurking on two Internet discussion groups learning to mimic the tone and subject matter of erudite conversation among Austen scholars.”
Jones agent is Laura Rennert of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency. “The Writer’s League of Texas hosts an annual Agents & Editors conference in Austin, Texas,” says Jones. “I knew I wanted to be one of Laura Rennert’s authors as soon as I heard her speak at the conference. But rather than dash off a query, I took her conference advice to heart and spent two years revising and polishing until my work was ready to show her.”
“I met my editor through my agent,” says Jones. Her editor is Lucia Macro at Harper Collins.
“The biggest challenge in working with HarperCollins is curbing my enthusiasm,” says Jones. “I love everything about the book business:…writing, editing, promoting. I can’t believe I get to wake up every day and work with the team at HarperCollins. What’s next? Copyedits? Love it. Author blurbs? Yes. The whole package is so exciting that sometimes I have to tell myself to chill. I kept submitting new ‘final-final’ revisions of my manuscript and would still be weeding that garden if it hadn’t been taken over by a printing press.”
My Jane Austen Summer won the Manuscript Contest held by the Writer’s League of Texas in 2007. There are no plans at this time to turn My Jane Asuten Summer into a TV series or movie.
Jones partnered with Bingley’s Teas Ltd. to create a tea named after her protagonist. She’s promoting her book through tea parties called Tea with My Jane Austen Summer. “Tea enhances the reader’s connection with the novel and raises the book from a solitary read to a social event,” says Jones. Book clubs can host their own Tea with My Jane Austen Summer using ideas and recipes offered on her website www.cindysjones.com.
Jones is based in Dallas, Texas. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park, by Cindy Jones
Trade Paperback, 352 pages, Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (March 29, 2011), Language: English, ISBN: 9780062003973