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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marilyn Brant: It Started in Freshman English

Welcome Marilyn Brant to Darcyholic Diversions!
Hi, Darcyholics!  I am very happy have Marilyn Brant with us today.  If you have yet to read any of her books you are in for a treat as we all get a chance to know her btter.

Remember to read ALL of them and don't forget to comment!  Comments are your entries to WIN those giveaways! There is also an update to the Decatur Book Festival Jane Austen:Then And Now tabs above.  I hope you will take an opportunity to visit the overall event information and the FAQ.  During the month of August we will be featuring many of the authors that are going to be at the event.

Upcoming Guest Posts Are As Follows:
July 13--Meredith Esparanza
July 17--Lori Smith
July 20--Bernadette
July 24--Barbara Tiller Cole: Christmas in July
July 27--Amy Cecil
July 29--William Deresiewicz
July 31--Maria Grace
August 3--Wendi S.
August 5--Laura Dabundo
August 7--Moira B.
August 10--Barbara TC and the DBF
August 12--Cynthia Hensley
August 14--Colette Saucier
August 17--Regina Jeffers
August 21--Sally Smith O'Rourke
August 24--Amber Godat
November 2--Amy Patterson
November 13--Karen Doornebos
And Many more to come!

Comments on Marilyn's post will enter you into a drawing for one of 2 PDF copies of her romantic comedy ebook, ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAE, to two random commenters -- open internationally; and into the monthly drawings here at Darcyholic Diversions.  Entries will be based on comments on blog posts; but additional chances will be given for joining this site, tweeting this post, Joining this site as a member via Google Friend Connect (GFC) (See the left hand column on the blog to join!), sharing this on Facebook or your blog, Friend me on Facebook, clicking 'like’ on Barbara Tiller Cole, Author's Facebook page, Join Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Page or following BarbTCole on Twitter.

It Started in Freshman English
I wish I could say bells were ringing, announcing the significance of that 1981 autumn morning when I was to meet and fall in love with Mr. Darcy. But, in truth, the only bells I heard were in school, signaling the switching of classes, and the life-changing day I first encountered the works of Jane Austen seemed at the time to be absolutely, utterly, mind-numbingly…ordinary.
Picture me in English class, first semester of my freshman year in high school (it helps if you picture someone kind of geeky, who had frizzy hair, a perfect GPA and a nearly nonexistent fashion sense), sitting ahead of another classmate -- specifically, a smart-alecky guy I’d foolishly had a crush on that year. Our teacher distributed copies of the novel to each of us and I was, I’m embarrassed to admit now, not all that impressed with the general premise of the story. I’d heard rumblings about some book called Pride and Prejudice, but I was pretty vague on the particulars and not remotely convinced that I was going to like this classic tale any more than I had some of the school’s other literary offerings.
I’m happy to say that I was totally, completely and immediately proven wrong.
With a rather grudging attitude, I’d picked up the book that afternoon to start the day’s required reading…and found I couldn’t put it down. I read nearly half the novel in just the first 24 hours, and I finished the book within days. At school the next week, I sidled up to our wonderful high-school librarian and requested more from that author please. By age 14, I’d already become an Austen addict.
My love affair with Jane and her writing didn’t end there, of course. I read all of her published books on my own that year and, later, went on to read some of her juvenilia and letters. Then I pored over the biographies about her life and watched with great interest (my husband would say “with obsession”) every version I could find of movies based on her novels.
When I was 16 and an exchange student in Brisbane, Australia, I made the happy discovery that their library had a VHS copy of the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier version of P&P. I got to school early every day for a week just so I could watch it in segments before my classes started. And, ohhh, I loved seeing Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul in those leading roles! Theirs had been the first film version I saw and I thought it was spectacular. (Colin and Matthew came along a number of years later but, of course, I adored their portrayals of Darcy, too!)
Fast-forward a decade: As a part-time grad student, who was teaching elementary kids full time, I incorporated some of my favorite Austen insights into my masters’ thesis and, when the opportunity arose for me to take a class on her work at Oxford University one summer, I saved up all year so I could do it. (One of my favorite classes ever, by the way! Our lady professor in England was fascinating and insightful, and she herself had studied under the legendary C.S. Lewis.)
Almost another decade later, at a writing conference in the summer of 2004, when a New York Times bestselling romance author asked which writer’s work I wished I could somehow merge with my own, my first and loudest answer was, of course, Jane Austen. And in that moment I got the idea for my fifth manuscript, which became my first published novel, According to Jane. A story that featured a brainy, geeky high-school girl -- very different in some ways from my younger self and, in other ways, not so different at all -- who was sitting ahead of the guy she had a crush on in English class, when the teacher passed out copies of P&P and her whole life changed. The voice of Austen herself came into the mind of my heroine and offered her the kind of dating advice and guidance I’d always daydreamed about receiving from my literary idol. Happy sigh.
That novel is partly an homage to Jane, partly a nod to the pop culture of my 1980s teen years and partly a girlish “what-if” fantasy that stemmed from decades of being in love with Mr. Darcy. Because, of course, who amongst us isn’t?!


  1. You've got me wondering about the smart-alecky guy in your freshman high school class. What did Jane Austen tell you about him in "According to Jane" -- was he a Wickham or Darcy? XD

    And what did you think of the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier version of P&P? It's so different from all the other P&P versions.

    It would be a ton of fun to sit with you over a dish of ice cream and a stack of JA movies. Glad you're here!

    1. June,

      LOL!! If Jane were to have *really* talked to me, I'm almost positive she would've told me that the high school guy was nothing but trouble ;). I found his Facebook page a couple of years ago and, let's just say, it's all for the best that we did NOT end up together!!

      As for the Garson/Olivier version, I agree that it was really different and so condensed from the Garvie/Rintoul version, which was the only one I'd seen before then. I appreciated the attraction between the leads (and Olivier was quite dashing!), but it was a little jarring at how the director chose to make Lady Catherine kindhearted at the end and some of the other plot and costuming revisions Hollywood made to the story! My husband has a 30-minute radio version of P&P, which I listened to once and, wow, talk about simplifying *everything*!! I almost didn't recognized the story...

      Love you idea of ice cream and JA movies, too!! Thank you :).

  2. Hi Meredith! :) I just love hearing about how you came to adore Austen & her characters! Wow, what an experience to study at Oxford! I would cherish that forever!
    Thanks so much for the giveaway too! :)

  3. I just tweeted this! @J_Leatherberry

    1. Jakki!!

      Thanks so much for visiting me here and for tweeting!

      The Oxford experience was really very cool. Sometimes I still can't believe I got to do that...but it was years ago (1996!), before we became parents or had a house or were responsible for caring for older family members. Life is definitely different now!!

      And I hope readers here will like On Any Given Sundae!! For those who don't know the story...the heroine is a quiet, frizzy-haired dessert cookbook writer, who'd rather stay home and read classic authors like Austen than have to run an ice cream shop for the summer with jabbering extraverts like the hero...a now grown-up guy who just happens to be the star football player she'd once had a crush on in high school ;).

    2. Marilyn, oh, my word! I am so embarrassed I wrote Meredith in stead of Marilyn up there! I am just going to chalk it up to being very tired when I was writing this last night. So sorry. :/

    3. LOL, Jakki!!
      Not to worry...I knew you were talking to me ;).
      The number of times I've called my son by my husband's name (and vice versa) this week alone has made them both roll their eyes! xo

  4. Oh "According to Jane" has been on my To Be Read wish list for a little while now... now that I know that it's also partly a nod to your 1980s teen years, I am definitely in! :) Sounds like a great read :)

    For my entries: I am a member of the site, previously friends on Facebook, already 'like’ Barbara Tiller Cole on, Author's Facebook page and already Joined Darcyholic Diversions Facebook Page.

    1. Jenn,

      Thank you!

      I really hope you'll like According to Jane!! I still have such love for the '80s...what a goofy, incomparable era that was...complete with legwarmers and Duran Duran, LOL.

      Sometimes I wonder if it's really those silly things I miss or if it's simply that I was younger and living a much less complicated life back then. Either way, it's fun to remember ;).

  5. Haha! I was the exact same girl in high school! I'm pretty much the same geeky chick but with much nicer hair :)

    I was in love with Darcy for the longest time, but Captain Wentworth has taken that position. I hear that man. And your assessment of the Garson/ Olivier film is spot-on. But I always laugh during the archery lesson: Garson is wonderfully dry. Can't wait to read your work!

    For the giveaway:
    Sent my friend request--yay!-- and I liked both pages (Jamie Nicholas), following you on Twitter (flyawayfaye), and I'm already a member of this site. Don't know if this counts, but I have DD in my "fellow writers" column to the right on my blog (hodgepodgegallery.blogspot.com).

    1. Jamie,

      I'm envious that you didn't have to deal with the frizzy hair!! Mine has gotten a bit tamer with age, but there are some days... ;)

      I also loved that archery lesson, btw! That's one of my favorite scenes in the Garson/Olivier film because -- like the Colin Firth in the bathtub scene, spying on Lizzy out the window -- even if it wasn't in the actual novel, it did keep to the spirit of the story and really showed the characters in action. Makes me laugh every time, too!!

  6. Oh, I can't wait to read On Any Given Sundae cos it sounds delicious and tantalising. And thanks Marilyn, for sharing your story about how you were introduced to JA and her novels. It's good to know there are people like us who love her works and would watch any adaptations based on her novels. :P

    1. Lúthien, thank you!!

      It's so fun to compare all of these adaptations, isn't it? I love getting to talk about this kind of thing with other lovers of JA because you all understand what I'm talking about (and don't think of me as being as freakish about it as my family does, LOL).

      It's really fascinating, though, to see what each director and cast will choose to highlight in one of the films. I never tire of seeing the different interpretations...or reading novels based on Austen's amazing stories :).

    2. Too true, Marilyn. My family and friends don't always get why I watch period dramas (JA adaptations included) and buy Austenesque novels. Fortunately we can talk about it here and other Austen blogs

  7. Barbara, I joined this site, I like your Author page in FB, I joined DD FB page, and I follow you on Twitter! Thanks again for the giveaway!

  8. Added this to my blog's Friday Promotions post.

  9. great reminiscing, Marilyn! thanks for sharing your backgrnd w/ us & your giveaway generosity as well. looking fwd to getting to some austenesque w/ the 'Austen in August' reading challenges i've joined..

  10. My first introduction came by way of that old VHS. Then I went to a used book shop in downtown Evanston and found a collection of all her completed novels. Then there were the BBC versions and so on till now it's JAFF and I'm forever a Darcyholic. Thanks for all of your writing. ~jen red~