Guest Post & Giveaway: What Lies Behind the Black Veil…Jane Austen’s Reproof of Gothic Fiction

Hi Courtney, what a pleasure it is to be here today at Stiletto Storytime during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. With Halloween looming next week, and ghosts and horror stories on the minds of readers, I thought it quite appropriate to chat with you today about Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, a tongue-in-cheek parody of the Gothic fiction so wildly popular in Austen’s time.

 Austen is known for her romantic dramas filled with dry humor and social reproof, but of her six major novels, Northanger is quite unique in that it was purposely written as satire and contains broader humor, stronger ironies – and – the classic elements to a Gothic novel: a troubled heroine (Catherine Morland), a haunted castle (an ancient abbey in this case), a mysterious and menacing male figure (General Tilney), hidden secrets of the past (the death of Mrs. Tilney), and a romantic hero who is at odds with his family (Henry Tilney). Now all of these classic Gothic elements of mystery and menace are actually projected by the imaginative heroine Catherine from her reading of Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic romance, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and further fueled by Henry Tilney’s teasing remarks.

 “And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? Have you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?” Northanger Abbey, Chapter 20

 I find Northanger Abbey a perfect read for the Halloween season. Paired with the Gothic fiction that inspired it, such as Radcliffe’s Udolpho, Romance of the Forrest or The Italian, readers will have an excellent grasp of the early beginning of the Gothic genre from the late eighteenth century which would develop further with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 I was so pleased that of the twenty-two stories in my Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, there are three stories with allusions to Gothic fiction: two inspired by Northanger Abbey: “The Mysterious Closet” and “A Night at Northanger” and a third in which Jane Austen returns as a ghost in “The Ghost Writer.”  Each is in spirit with Austen’s use of parody, spoof and comedy. Here are their descriptions:

“The Mysterious Closet: A Tale,” by Myretta Robens

In the wake of her most recent failed relationship, Cathy Fullerton takes an extended vacation in a converted Abbey in Gloucestershire, England.  Ensconced in the Radcliffe Suite, a jet-lagged Cathy mistakes a walk-in closet for a Vaulted Chamber, a clothing rack for an Instrument of Torture and an accumulation of cobwebs for her True Love.

“A Night at Northanger,” by Lauren Willig

Our heroine, Cate Cartwright, is part of the cast of “Ghost Trekkers”, currently filming at one of England’s most haunted homes, Northanger Abbey.  Naturally, Cate knows there’s no such thing as ghosts.  It’s all smoke and mirrors for the credulous who watch late night TV.  At least, that’s what she thinks… until she meets the shade of one Miss Jane Austen during one fateful night at Northanger.

“The Ghostwriter,” by Elizabeth Aston

 Sara, obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, is jilted by Charles, who can’t compete with Mr. Darcy. His parting gift is a lock of Jane Austen’s hair. Sara wakes the next morning to find a strange woman sitting on the end of her bed. A figment of her imagination? No, it’s the astringent ghost of Jane Austen. On a mission to restore the reputation of forgotten Gothic author Clarissa Curstable, Jane Austen saves Sara’s career and brings Charles back before taking herself off into the ether, but there’s a price to pay, as the couple discover when they wake up to find another ghostly visitor at the end of the bed. It’s Jane’s friend, Clarissa – and she plans to stay.

 While editing these short stories for the anthology, their irony and high comedy reminded of this passage in Northanger Abbey between Isabella Thorpe and Catherine Morland which illustrated Austen genius for burlesque.

 Isabella: “Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

 Catherine: “Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

 Isabella: “Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

 Catherine: “Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.” Northanger Abbey, Chapter 6

 Happy Halloween everyone. I hope you discover what lies behind the black veil!

 Cheers, Laurel Ann

 Editor bio:

 A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs and, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

 Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Ballantine Books • ISBN: 978-0345524966

 Book Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by Midnight EST November 12, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. Winner to be drawn at random. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all and Happy Reading!



Filed under Adult Books, Blog Tour, Contests, historical fiction, Jane Austen, New Books, Short Story Collections

21 responses to “Guest Post & Giveaway: What Lies Behind the Black Veil…Jane Austen’s Reproof of Gothic Fiction

  1. Thank you very much for the awesome chance to win! edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom

  2. Margaret

    I am inspired by any book related to Jane Austen. It’s always interesting to read someone ideas as obviously the author have been inspired by her as well.


  3. debbie

    I love short stories anyway, but I think the idea of taking her stories and giving them a modern twist, would be great.

  4. Jaycie

    I like reading Jane Austen inspired books because I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books but still want more!

  5. I haven’t yet read Nothanger Abbey so this post has really intrigued me. I’ll be picking it up soon, I think. The short story concept of Jane Austen Made Me Do It is a brilliant way for a new comer to the Austenesque genre.

  6. Pam S (pams00)

    I like the idea of finding new takes and work ins of some of my most favorite classics :). I don’t think I will ever get enough of Jane related stories.

    pams00 @

  7. I am not at all familiar with the Austin genre…maybe I shouldn’t admit that…but I would love the chance to dig in here, ith this…

  8. Already have my own cherished copy of JAMMDI so don’t enter me in the drawing. As a “man-fan” of Jane Austen and historical romances in general, I feel sort of like I’m treading on forbidden ground here. Nevertheless, I told Laurel Ann I would follow her around on her grand tour of the blogosphere and I’m trying to keep up! I highly recommend JAMMDI because within the pages are delectible samples by most of the finest writers in this genre’ today. If you don’t find most of these stories delightful and entertaining, then you need a “check-up from the neck up!” Go for it!

    • stilettostorytime

      Well said indeed Jeffrey! I especially loved the variety…whether you like a more historical or modern twist on dear Jane- there’s something for everyone inside the pages of JAMMDI!

  9. Janis Rothermel

    I am eager to read this book and am unable to find it since our Borders Bookstore closed. I love Jane Austen and all the people who surround her history! So I would love to win a copy of the book. Thank you for all the great posts.

  10. Keeley Williams

    Jane Austin is one of my favorite authors and i just love reading stories that were inspired by hers.

  11. I once worked on my own short story taking off of Austen so it’d be delightful to get to read more!

  12. What a unique idea. I’d love to read it b/c it’s doing something different with the typical Jane Austen stuff! Thanks for the giveaway!

    Brittany Roshelle

    The Write Stuff

  13. Love the Jane Austen twists. Excited to check this one out.

  14. This book sounds really cool since it’s has Austen-themed stories in it. My e-mail is kraftyhorselover AT hotmail DOT com

  15. i actually haven’t read northanger abbey, i need to!! i would love to read the short stories to read about austen’s great characters again! thank you!

  16. Rachee

    I’ve been told how great Jane Austen is but I just can’t get into her! This book would be a great introduction I think.

  17. I’m obsessed with everything Austen. As my favorite author, reading literature that invokes her style is something I enjoy. I would love to receive Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

  18. stilettostorytime

    Congratulations to Fatima Ibrahim who has won her very own copy of “Jane Austen Made Me Do It”…Congrats and Happy Reading!

  19. Hi, after reading this remarkable piece of writing i am too happy to share my familiarity here with mates.

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