Tag Archives: Syrie James

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 Austenprose.com 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 Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, 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!

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

Blog Tour: Dracula, My Love by Syrie James

http://www.hollywoodtoday.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/dracula-my-love300.jpg

“Mina Harker is torn between two men. Struggling to hang on to the deep, pure love she’s found within her marriage to her husband, Jonathan, she is inexorably drawn into a secret, passionate affair with a charismatic but dangerous lover. This haunted and haunting creature has awakened feelings and desires within her that she has never before known, which remake her as a woman. Although everyone she knows fears him and is pledged to destroy him, Mina sees a side to him that the others cannot: a tender, romantic side; a man who’s taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents; a man who is deeply in love, and who may not be evil after all. Soon, they are connected in a way she never thought humanly possible.Yet to surrender is surely madness, for to be with him could end her life. It may cost Mina all she holds dear, but to make her choice she must learn everything she can about the remarkable origins and unique, sensuous powers of this man, this exquisite monster, this … Dracula!”

As most of my readers know I am a lover of classical literature, so I am probably one of the tougher critiques when authors take classical works and characters for their inspiration. I re-read Dracula earlier this year so I was ready for Dracula, My Love. At first glance I was a little hesitant, Mina Harker is such a loyal, chaste and virtuous character in the original work, I wondered how James would be able to paint her as a woman that could have romantic feelings for the vampire that is Dracula despite the pain he causes her throughout the classic novel.

However upon starting the book I knew that Syrie James was going to stay faithful to what we know of Mina in Dracula by creating an unspoken side that while more amorous and modern was still very true to her time and her original portrayal. The book showed what James has decided we did not know about this female character so often in the background. Mina is somewhat of a minor character in the original work so there is plenty of room to build her life and thoughts aside the original. One of the things I loved the most is her little allusions to events happening that Mina could not know about, but she manages to neatly sneak in comments such as Dracula saying:

“Forgive me, I dined earlier, and I have an engagement this evening which promises to include a large and memorable dinner.”

When he is currently feeding on a regular basis from her best friend Lucy. I liked these asides greatly….it kept me in mind of my reading of the classic and what would have been going on at the same time in that book while reading James’ version of events.

I really enjoyed Dracula, My Love. I think it will appeal most to fans of historical fiction rather than those of paranormal but it may pull a few vampire fans into a different type of reading than they may usually choose….it may even lead them back to the classic. It was a good read and if you enjoy it you may also enjoy Syrie James other books:

With this TLC Book Blog Tour for Dracula,  My Love…I am lucky to be able to offer a copy of this book to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment on this post telling my your favorite vampire character along with your e-mail address. Open to US and Canadian residents only. No P.O. Boxes please. Giveaway will end midnight Friday, August 13th. Also there is going to be a tweet party with book giveaways too and conversations on all things vampire August 13th as well. Make sure to attend for the chance to win copies of the book on Twitter!  (#TLCBookchat)

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Filed under Adult Books, Blog Tour, Classic Literature, Contests, historical fiction, New Books, Paranormal