Oct 17 2011 4:00pm

Jane Made Me Do It: Jane Austen, Fictional Character?

Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann NattressWe know very little of Jane Austen’s life beyond the information in the surviving letters to her sister Cassandra and her family, and their personal recollections of “dear aunt Jane” in the not-so-accurate family biographies. Some historians recall her as a retiring spinster who never wrote intentionally to earn a living; others offer a different view of a woman dedicated to her craft with an eye on the “pewter.” If you piece together older sources and the new biographies, an interesting personality emerges who was much more acerbic and calculating than any of her family would like you to know about.

Many authors have dipped their pen into the Jane Austen inkwell and created pastiches, retelling and sequels based on her characters and novels. Like any book genre, there are the really good, and the really bad, sequels in print. I have read most of them and reviewed many recent releases on my blog, Austenprose. While I enjoy many of the fan fiction renditions of the enchanting Regency world she created, it is the novels and biofics based on her life that I find most interesting.

They seem to fall into two categories: 1) Biographically Accurate Jane, and 2) Creatively Morphed Jane. The more accurate interpretations, such as Stephanie Barron’s excellent Being a Jane Austen Mystery series, use facts from her letters and historical events to craft a clever detective mystery. There are eleven novels in the series and Barron’s most recent, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, is fabulous.

Jill Pitkeathley is another author who draws upon the same source materials to create her biofics of Austen and her relationships with her family. Her first novel, Cassandra and Jane, gives us a fictional view of two very famous siblings, and her Dearest Cousin Jane offers the perspective from Austen’s worldly and outlandish cousin, Eliza de Feuillide. Delving into romantic territory, Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen reveals a hidden romance that we all wish that spinster Austen had experienced—or did she? Poignant and satisfying, it will make you cry.

Now for the Jane morphed and vamped. You have to have an open mind and playful spirit to accept that Jane Austen is now, not what her family wants us to remember, nor what modern scholars have revealed. The notion of Jane Austen as a vampire is pretty outrageous, but Michael Thomas Ford’s Jane Bites series is hysterical. The first novel, Jane Bites Back, places Jane as an undead book shop owner watching with irritation as others make a killing off her novels and characters with sequels, spin-offs and absurd self-help books. Lord Byron and Charlotte Bronte are her lover and nemesis respectively. The second in series, Jane Goes Batty, continues the lark. Janet Mullany is also one of the authors who do horrible things to Austen in her Jane and the Damned, and recently, Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion. I consider myself pretty conservative in defense of my “dear Jane,” but both of these series are so skillfully and humorously written, that I think Jane would approve of their burlesque, Gothic fiction-like qualities.

Jane Austen as a fictional character? Yep! Who would’a guessed?

Some to check out:

  • Just Jane by Nancy Moser
  • Jane and the Barque of Frailty by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and the Ghost of Netley by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and the Stillroom Maid by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and the Genius of the Place by Stephanie Barron
  • “Jane and the Spoils of Stoneleigh” by Stephanie Barron (a short story found in Malice Domestic 7)
  • Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron
  • Jane and the Unpleasantness of Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron
  • The Novelist: A Romantic Portrait of Jane Austen by Howard Fast
  • “Jew of Bath” by Marianne Luban (a short story found in The Samaritan Treasure)
  • Our Own Particular Jane by Joan Mason Hurley
  • Parson Austen’s Daughter by Helen Ashton
  • Jane by Jean Gould
  • Dear Jane by Eleanor Holmes Hinkley

For a chance to win a copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment below.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at beginning at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) October 17, 2011. Sweepstakes ends at 3:59 p.m. ET October 21, 2011 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at Sponsor: Macmillan Digital Marketing, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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. Her new short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It was just released by Ballantine Books.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. raelas
I would add Lauren Willig to this list, as Austen had a cameo in her book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. And please enter me for a copy!
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
The first novel, Jane Bites Back, places Jane as an undead book shop owner watching with irritation as others make a killing off her novels and characters with sequels, spin-offs and absurd self-help books. Lord Byron and Charlotte Bronte are her lover and nemesis respectively.
That sounds awesome. Very clever.
Patricia Finnegan
3. PatriciaFinnegan
Please enter me for this contest I've read the jane austen mystery series and enjoyed them. I love it when famous writers and historical figures are mason characters of stories especially when they are part of mystery series
Sally Shaw
4. SallyShaw
I enjoyed this piece about writers who write about Jane Austen. I have read two of them, Stephanie Barron and Michael Thomas Ford and love their work. I have Janet's first book on the TBR pile.
This anthology sounds delightful. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity.
Grace Jolley
5. gracejol
I really like books that contain real people as characters and would love to win this book.
Danielle Copeland
6. daniegirl77
This is going to be a book that you have a hard time finding a favorite story. I can't wait to read it!!!
7. Larisa
Just finished "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star" and am now very interested in this book too.
Lori Dibert
8. Sonata917
I had no idea there were so many books starring a fictional Jane Austen. Many more books being added to my wish list.
9. jeffrey W
In all the realm of historical literature, only our divine Miss Austen could create this much fascination. My personal favorite? That would be Lauren Willig's wildly entertaining The Mischief Of The Mistletoe with Jane A. playing a cameo role during her stay in Bath as the dear friend of the heroine: Arabella Dempsey. And, Reginald Fitzhugh, AKA the "turnip?" He could fill up a couple of volumes all by himself!
Barbara Shoaf
10. bjshoaf10
I love Jane Austen. I never knew about the "fictional" Jane Austen. Look forward to adding to my TBR pile!
Ashley Morris
11. LadyScandal
I've always had such a soft spot for Jane Austen and fictional Jane Austen!
Sarah Smith
12. sasmith361
This sounds great and I would love to be entered for a chance to win it. Thanks.
13. santasmbslt
I never thought I'd enjoy take offs on Jane Austin or her wonderful books but since reading some of Janet Mulleny's work and a couple of others I find myself a convert. This new anthology sounds like great fun!
Trish Rucker
15. mstrish
Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors -- I would love to read this book!
Jackie Wisherd
16. JackieW
Jane Austen is a favorite author of mine..I would enjoy reading this book.
17. Ruth Andress
Oh, to be a winner!! Please...something to add to my shelves of Jane Austen.
Jennifer McKernan
18. jenevolves
I've read a few of the Stephanie Barron books, they are quite delightful, even if I don't normally read many mysteries. And thanks for reminder that I need to pick up the sequel to Jane Bites Back! I would love to win this contest, because I cannot get enough Jane in my TBR pile!
19. desiree reilly
i would love towin this book and read a nd blog onit
and then get to know yur writting more
theresa norris
20. theresa n
I hadn't realized there where so many different takes on Jane Austin.
Lonni Hurst
21. Curiosityist
Oh happy day! I've always enjoyed reading and re-reading Jane's stories! Discovering this site and realizing that there is a whole new world of Austen-inspired fiction to explore feels like embarking on a new adventure. Excited over this anthology! Delightful!
23. Julie Brook
Ditto on loving Stephanie Barron's mysteries. I'm two behind, they're high in my pile of reading.
And then there's Jane as an almost-character, as in Cindy Jones's "My Jane Austen Summer...", which I have been trying to finish reading for about a month. I think I'm about ready to give up and read Stephanie's Jane instead!
Patricia Franzino
24. ballroom
Wherever Jane Austen is she is enjoying this physical connection to her wonderful characters. I just want to dive right in and be in the story with her.
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