Jane Austen: Romance Author or Anti-Romance Author?

Sweeping moorlands, craggy mountains, and kilts fluttering in the breeze. These images could not be farther from Jane Austen. In fact Austen rarely “engaged the senses”  – that single most oft-repeated advice to the modern author, romance and otherwise. Yet, in some crucial ways, Austen helps us define the ingredients of the English-language love story. For instance, her novels are models of symmetry and resolution (the famous happy ever after, for instance) and she explores the psychology of romance in a way that left a recognizable path over which others would follow.

Jane Austen portrait

In this first in a two-part series, five modern romance authors — Jenna Da Sie, Kate Robbins, Robin St. Croix, Barbara Burke, and Carolyn Parsons  — each tackle the question of how we understand Austen in terms of her influence on the modern genre of the romance novel.

Question  1: How might Jane Austen be a precursor to the romance novel as you write it?

Kate Robbins: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s novels are some of the first romance novels of the modern age. However love stories have been around for as long as people have been sharing tales and embellishing the details.

The thing about her novels that makes them stand the test of time is that struggle between the hero and heroine with the promise of the Happily Ever After (HEA). Surely half way through Pride and Prejudice, few could see how Lizzy and Darcy would ever find common ground, yet Austen shows us time and again that no matter what the stakes, love will prevail in the end. The fact that the number one requirement of a romance novel today is the HEA, illustrates her impact on the genre.

Jenna Da Sie: I’ve always been taught to write what you know and all Jane Austen’s characters play out within the realm of the possible. She wrote about the behavior between parents and their children, the dangers and pleasures of falling in love, making friends and discriminating between those who mean us well and those who may not.

There is a clear relationship between Jane Austen’s works and modern day historical romances. Everything that I’ve written has had happy endings, love that overcomes hurdles and many other situations that happen in everyday life.

Jane Austen defined a structure. We all write for the happily ever after. Just as in Pride and Prejudice my novel starts with the main characters having an aversion to one another and in the end find out they are actually attracted to one another.

Barbara Burke: If it weren’t for Jane Austen there wouldn’t be regency romances — So asking this question is like asking a staunch Roman Catholic how God might be a precursor to the world! Georgette Heyer came along in the twentieth century like Jesus and started a whole religion (subgenre) around her worship. Though JA created the template she was actually a contemporary writer, not a regency writer.

Robin St. Croix: It’s important to recognize that in contemporary fiction there’s a distinction between romance novels and love stories. If you look at the Amazon category list, the term romance has taken on a very limited definition. The books tend have simple story lines (i.e. no sub-plot) and half-dressed men on the covers. The lovers are kept apart by nothing more than a bad first impression. Authors think they’re writing a heroine who is prejudiced like Elizabeth Bennet, and a hero who is proud like Mr. Darcy, but they’re not. In modern storytelling, if you want to a book with more oomph, you’ve almost certainly got to head over to the women’s fiction list.

Carolyn Parsons: One similarity is in the creation of rules of engagement. The era plays a role in the navigation of love in the Austen novels with rules determined by society.  In modern times they’re often author-created, but they still exist. By creating and employing rules (usually self-imposed, e.g. a character has decided never to  marry or the lovers live in separate cities and neither can move) the modern-day romance writer mimics Austen.  Navigating these rules and occasionally breaking them creates the tension required to keep a reader engaged.

A second similarity is that she, like the modern-day romance author, brings them close, where they both see the possibility and then creates a situation that blows things all to hell, usually in the form of contrived misunderstandings between the characters. This is followed by despair and a feeling that all is lost. Eventually resolution is found and she brings them to their happy ending(s) in the same way a modern romance writer does.

Question 2: How is she an anti-romance writer? Little physical description of heroines or heroes, except in the vaguest terms, little sensory description of anything. The success or failure of romantic couplings on character strengths or flaws, not physical desire.

Barbara Burke: Bite your tongue. We fall in love with the mind, not the body.  Having said that, there probably isn’t a lot of room in the modern romance world for a writer who emulates Austen too closely. People seem to want their love scenes very graphic and physical these days. I expect if she were alive today she wouldn’t be considered a romance writer – with her penchant for analyzing social mores and interactions as they play out against the background of the central romance she’d probably be classified as a woman’s fiction author, whatever the hell that means.

Carolyn Parsons: One notable difference is that she pays a lot of attention to several love stories at once.  In a modern romance, there is one central romance. Any hint of another romance is taken off into another book altogether which creates many of the series so popular among romance readers today.  Unlike modern romance writers Austen spends a great deal on all the potential couples in her books. Jane and Bingley get a great measure of attention in Pride and Prejudice as do Maryanne and Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility (and then eventually Colonel Brandon.) This leads to another exception…Maryanne’s great love is not the love she ends up with.  Another huge difference is the ages of the characters. Austen’s characters are often teenagers. (Maryanne Dashwood is just sixteen). I consider the Austen novels to fit into the women’s fiction genre far more neatly than they do into the romance genre in many ways though mostly they stand alone and fit into modern literature as simply a literary novel.

Kate Robbins: She is [an anti-modern Romance writer] in the sense that she wrote in omniscient point of view (POV). Romance writers are highly criticized today if we are not deep into the character’s POV with no author intrusion whatsoever. This you will not see in a Jane Austen novel. She is always telling the story resulting in a disconnect between the reader and the characters.

Take the first line in Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Who is telling us this? Lizzy? Mrs. Bennett? No. Jane Austen is telling us this. Incidentally, this is my favourite first line of any book I’ve read.

Jenna La Sie: Jane Austen never wrote love scenes into her novels, the couples always just got together in the last few pages. I think that would be considered anti-romance in the way today’s romance novels are written.

In today’s romance the main characters would meet and dislike each other, but there would still be an attraction between the two of them, either the man or woman noticing. When Mr. Darcy meets Elizabeth he strongly dislikes her and says so: “…till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. . .”

More to follow. In Part II as we discuss the other 19th century influences on the romance novel and other ways that Austen herself may have impacted the genre. Thanks to our romance authors (links below) for these insights!

Kate Robbins is the author of the Highlands Chiefs series.

Barbara Burke is the author of the regency romance Recompromising Amanda and the WWII romance Not2Nite.

Jenna Da Sie is a California-based romance writer completing her regency romance novel.

Carolyn Parsons is a Canadian author whose latest novel is Charley through Canada.

Robin St Coix is the author of Masquerade, a novel in twelve parts.

Writing Contest: “New Hook” Update

Are you preparing for the 2017/18 Instant Hook? Good! There are some changes though in keeping with the theme of the history of fiction.

The main one is this: your extract no longer has to be from the very beginning of your novel, but the work must be some kind of ‘riff’ on classic or previously published work (in the public domain). Could be anything from a Helen Fielding-like romp on 19th century literature to a work which uses a Shakespeare play as its template. Your entry could even be a riff on a poem if you like, though, of course, the entry itself must be prose. For the sake of clarity, please state on the entry itself the title of the classic work as well as the title of your entry. Here, below, are the rules:

 

  • The awards are open to anyone who is over 18 at time of entry.
  • The submission must be sole-authored, in English, and no more than 250 words.
  • It must reference, though character, situation or plot, a literary work in the public domain.
  • The extract may have been written for the competition or may be part of a manuscript already completed. But it cannot have been published, and cannot have been accepted by a publisher at time of entry.
  • These awards are open to new or established, already-published, authors (it does not have to be a first novel).
  • This is a blind-judged competition. HB Creativity must not have seen any part of this novel prior to entry; it must not be a work for which I personally have provided tutoring or editing services. I cannot absolutely guarantee I will not recognize a writing style, but I must not recognize the writing, the characters, or the plot.
  • Please use 12 Times New Roman font and double space your entry.
  • Send your entry by mail only (no emails please) to Paul Butler, HB Creativity, 8 – 121 Silkstone Road West, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, T1J 3Y6 (make sure you have “Paul Butler, HB Creativity” as well as the address) with a postmark date no later than December 31, 2017. Winners will be announced in March 2018.
  • Please do not put your name on your entry! Enclose in a separate envelope your name and contact (email and phone), plus the title of your entry. This envelope will be opened after the winners have been decided. Along with your name and contact please indicate whether you wish to receive our bimonthly INK STAINS news bulletin.
  • There will be a one-time email to entrants to announce the competition winner. There will be no advertising of any kind on this email. If you do not wish to receive this email, please indicate this on your entry.
  • Do not send your only copy. Copies without sae cannot be returned. If you do not want your entry returned, it will be shredded and recycled.
  • There is no cost to enter.
  • There is no residency or nationality requirement.
  • Copyright remains with the author. We may ask for permission to publish an extract of the winning work on this website but this will not be done without the author’s express permission. Withholding permission will in no way invalidate the entry or disqualify it from winning a prize. By entering you merely give permission for me to use your name and the (provisional) title of the work.
  • One winner will receive a cash prize of $250.00 (Canadian).
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The Widow’s Fire by Paul Butler: Exploring the Shadow Side of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Consumed by Ink

So you think Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth live happily ever after? Well, Paul Butler wasn’t so sure. He saw a side of Mrs. Smith that the rest of us missed. Is she really the caring, innocent widow that Anne adores, or is she just manipulating us all into thinking she is?

When James at The Miramichi Reader offered to send me this book from Inanna Publications, I jumped at the chance. I was curious to see what Butler had done with such a beloved classic. Plus it gave me an excuse to re-read Persuasion after almost 20 years!

[Favourite line from Persuasion:  “Allowances, large allowances, she knew, must be made for the ideas of those who spoke.”]

One thing Butler did not do was change any of what Jane Austen wrote in Persuasion. What he did do was imagine a longer, darker ending to the…

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Excavating Austen’s Bath

Two years ago, I traveled to the UK and spent several days exploring and mapping the streets of Bath. Bath is the setting for my novel, The Widow’s Fire, which is an unauthorized sequel to Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion.

This was an expensive research trip and initially I struggled with the necessity. I believed in research and I knew that lived experience is the best research of all. However, the primary reference point for a modern novel which revisits a literary classic is not a geographical setting; it is rather the cultural and psychological landscape the original author created. This landscape lies not upon the streets of any city, especially 200 years after the fact, but rather upon the pages of the novel. The 21st century novelist is addressing a perspective, not an objective reality.

And there was another, somewhat romantically-motivated, qualm. Part of me suspected that modern chain stores, the cafes selling lattes and espressos might be a distraction rather than a help when it came to conjuring the 200-year-old Bath of Austen’s imagination.

But, in the end, I needed to be certain I wasn’t making a mistake. I needed to be sure I wasn’t leaving out a detail. This might be something as intangible as a quality in the atmosphere that might shed a light on the states of mind described in Austen’s work.  Bath takes up a lot of space in Austen’s cannon and it is characterized perhaps more carefully, and with more reference to mood, than many of her settings. In Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, it is a city of constant amusement. But it is also a city that does not amuse Austen’s most mature protagonist Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion.

Anne associates Bath with low spirits and sad memories. Its clamour and gossip jars the demure and thoughtful Anne. Bath draws the fashionable and trivial-minded, and it is no accident that this is where her spendthrift father sets up court when he is forced to let the family home, nor is it purely by chance that Bath is where Anne’s duplicitous cousin, Mr. Elliot, should tempt to woo her. This is their city, not hers.

Austen’s Bath is about contrasts, lovely gardens and not always lovely society, grand squares in the central sections of the city, leafy-gardened spacious houses in the opulent north, and narrower, dingier streets in some of the city’s more southerly, and lower, sections. It is here in Westgate Street where Anne, against the wishes of her vain father, visits an old school friend, Mrs. Smith, a widow who has been plunged into poverty. This meeting of two worlds – baronet’s daughter and impoverished widow — and the fact Anne has to journey southwards and downhill is one of the subtle, unstated metaphors Austen was at pains to weave beneath her works.

My first surprise on this trip was that this area of Bath is almost as gentile as the others. Much time has passed, of course, but still the discovery served as a reminder that Austen’s concept of poverty is not quite the same as ours. People genuinely on the fringes – the homeless and hungry – do not feature in her stories.

I had an early draft completed before I set out this journey, and I had already created one protagonist who was entirely beyond the reach of the Austenesque radar, namely a former slave, whimsically named Plato by his late master after his own dedication to the classical world. Plato, now working as a liveried doorman, is one of our guides through the story. Together with the other protagonists – some from Persuasion, some not — Plato is on a quest, like his ancient Greek namesake — to define love.  This is really the core of Austen’s universe too. Love that springs out of apparent dislike and resentment, love which has been under the protagonist’s nose all along, love which is patient and kind, in the words of the saint.

Plato was the character who gained most from my visit and through Plato I got the most out of Bath. His perspective helped me to see everything — the graceful semi-circular Royal Crescent, the fine bath stone buildings, and the Assembly Rooms —from an entirely different angle. Luckily it is Austen’s Bath that has survived more or less intact. The Abbey, which was built and rebuilt many times, and the Roman baths tell the city’s layered history, but the Bath that dominates is the same city which provided the social playground described in Austen. I viewed all this through the eyes of Plato, a genuine outsider and one whose family had once been enslaved by the people he now served.

What would Plato have thought, I wondered, of the swirling masses of fashionable people who ignored his presence. More importantly how would he have compared them to the civilizations upon whose ruins this “modern” Bath was built?

Plato was my anachronism in the social idyll of early 1800s Bath. And, for me, it is this contrast, this clash of values, which is the natural seed of unfolding drama.

I was glad I had properly tasted the city of Bath before a second draft. Some things can never be found solely on the page.

See a review of The Widow’s Fire in Consumed by Ink.

Writing Contest Teaser

Watch this blog for news of the next annual writing contest, temporarily taking the space of the Instant Hook Writing Contest. The deadline will be December 31 as usual and there will be no entry fee. However there will be a twist. So, think of your favourite classic (pre-late 20th century) story and in the spirit of post colonialism — or just the spirit of fun if you prefer! — let your creative juices run on the question of how you might bring it to life in your own imagination.

Open Book Interview: Subverting Jane Austen and How We Define Love

Delighted to have taken part in this Open Book interview, Subverting Jane Austen & How We Define Love. Either click this link. Or copy and paste the following in your browser: http://open-book.ca/News/Paul-Butler-on-Subverting-Jane-Austen-How-We-Define-Love.

In the upcoming months, I will be exploring Jane Austen’s influence in a series of articles. Stay tuned!

Q & A With The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes Author, Bridget Canning

Merriam-Webster defines satire as “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn,” but is seems to me that the best modern satires, particularly topical satires, do a little more than this. The vices and follies they expose are collective rather than individual and they implicate us all because we are all drawn into collective absurdities.

I became acutely aware of this when reading Bridget Canning’s debut novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes. The novel sees an obscure young woman, the Wanda of the title, turn into a media — and social media — sensation when she instinctively knocks out a deranged gunman by hurling a can of coconut milk. Her modest home becomes the location for a 24-hour media scrum and she comes under intense pressure to become the person the news networks, Facebook, twitter etc. . . want her to be. All the time, of course, she has problems of her own and these are on a far more human and humble scale.

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Q1. It seems to me that satire is quite separate from other literary forms in that writers either have a satirical gene or they don’t. You clearly do, and while you obviously have mastered all the other accepted crafts of writing, your type of satire seems to require a super-sensitive understanding of trends and currents of collective thought and behaviour – Zeitgeist, if you like. I found myself recognizing almost everything, although I hadn’t necessarily noticed noticing them before. Are you a very keen observer? And how much of this is conscious?

Bridget Canning: I try to take note of things as much as possible – there are different lists on my phone of descriptions, snippets of dialogue, interesting names. As for unconscious observation, I think my background in teaching has trained me to be reflective – for example, considering how a lesson went, what worked, what didn’t, etc. I spend a lot of time journaling and attempting to pick apart why things are the way they are. Teaching and studying education has made me a better writer.

Q2. One thing that comes through very clearly in this novel is a sense of place and society. I can experience St. John’s in this book – its hip, arty side as well as its more bourgeois side – and I think anyone reading the novel would emerge with an idea of what the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador feels like. How do your themes relate to your own relationship with St. John’s?

Bridget Canning: I’m not originally from St. John’s, but I consider it my home and love it dearly. It has everything I want in a city and community. However, it can be a frustrating devotion – unstable economy, heartbreaking spring weather, blatant nepotism, history of poor leadership. For me, St. John’s feels like a beloved friend who gets really stubborn when you gently suggest they maybe take a little better care of themselves.

In The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, I wanted St. John’s to be recognizable, but universal – as in, what happens to Wanda could happen in any city. Wanda is also not originally from St. John’s, so through her, I hoped to create recognizable “St. John’s scenes” –  but since she’s not really a part of them, there’s a distance that can make them interchangeable.

Q3. One of the strands in the novel is that we are all frantically searching for heroes and saviours. Do you think there is something about the present era that intensifies this belief in heroes? Would this story have been different in a different time?

Bridget Canning: I believe so. We’re the starter generations of the information age and concepts like fame and notoriety have expanded their inclusion. You could be the leader of the free world or someone who made a really funny video with your cat and the same amount of people will know who you are.

There is so much information that we reduce people to nuggets of meaning – listicles, memes, gifs. And we do this with our “heroes” – for example, the two Swedish students who caught Standford Rapist Brock Turner a few years ago. I read Buzzfeed articles praising their heroic actions, their faces were everywhere. I read comments about how people wanted their children to be like these two guys. Yet even with their actions and testimony, Brock Turner got a slap on the wrist. The heroes were idealized, but it still didn’t get appropriate justice for the woman they saved.

Q4. Do you think this kind of satire is uniquely urban? Can you imagine a rural topical satire, or would a rural story have a different objective and a different tone?

Bridget Canning: I don’t think it’s uniquely urban and much of Wanda’s situation is not distinctly urban – St. John’s is small enough for her to be recognized, and of course, she’s from a small town, so there’s the awareness of how her identity is impacted there.

When I consider a rural topical satire, Michael Crummey’s Sweetland comes to mind. The actual shrinking of rural life, the young people who leave to make money and it makes them worse – there’s so much play between different worlds there.

Q5. I wonder how this novel plays out in generational terms. Your protagonist is educated and a conscientious employee but is also precariously employed, and this landscape of young(ish) highly educated underachievers is all too familiar everywhere in the western world where the kinds of certainties the older generations enjoyed are no longer available. Is this consciously part of the satire? Do these circumstances give Wanda’s generation more bite than those that went before?

Bridget Canning: Oh definitely. When I consider so many of the “baby boomer” novels I read in my 20s and 30s where the young protagonist got a good, solid job or backpacked across Europe or went on a drug-fueled road trip, I think, how’d they do that? I had creditors after me for my defaulted student loan and I couldn’t afford a futon.

For many people of my generation and younger, economic security feels like a non-renewable resource older generations have depleted. It’s a frustrating reality, but fun to write about.

Q6. What are you working on now? Might the next Bridget Canning novel be a continuation of the same brand or something quite different?

Bridget Canning: I’m involved with a few projects. Currently, I’m working on a screenplay through the From Our Dark Side Incubator program. It’s a psychological thriller about a serial killer who targets internet trolls. I’m also doing the Masters in Creative Writing at MUN with a short story collection as a creative thesis. There’s also another novel manuscript I hope to pick up when I have time – not the same brand as The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes – it takes place during the early 1990s and is kind of a coming-of-age story. I’m also working with my writing group to put together a kind of coffee table book with photos of bathroom graffiti and writing inspired by it. So not busy at all!

Q & A with Call of the Sea author, Amanda Labonté

The discipline of writing fantasy and supernatural fiction has always fascinated me. An author in these genres has to convince a reader of events, characters, and situations that the reader knows cannot be real.

This seems like an extraordinary challenge. It’s far from straightforward to convince a reader to believe in events that can and do occur, let alone those that don’t. Adding known impossibilities to the burden of literary proof takes a great deal of guts and imagination. I admire the ambition, the focus, and the steadfastness of writers who work in the fantasy genre.

One particularly fine example is Amanda Labonté, whose recent novel, Call of the Sea, was published by Engen Books.

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When I first read Amanda’s fiction, I was struck by how well she had interwoven timeless-seeming folklore and legend into thoroughly modern settings. Her protagonist is Alex who comes under suspicion when his twin brother disappears over the side of their fishing boat. His search for his brother, combined with his need to clear his name, sees him plunge into a world of magic and mermen lore.

Q1: One quality in Call of the Sea is that rather than disrupting the atmosphere of mermaids, mermen, siren calls and ancient songs, the taut and contemporary passages actually heighten the magic, partly through contrast, partly by anchoring the overall experience in a world we know. Was it a conscious decision to write a ‘modern’ fantasy with ancient, folkloric elements?

Amanda Labonté: In many ways, this is the only way I could have written this story. I toyed with setting the story in the past, but the story really dragged. Once I moved it up to the here and now, the story flowed much better and the motivations of the characters made a lot more sense to me, making them easier to write. Since Call of the Sea was my first book, getting the story out was the most important part of the writing process. As for the fantasy elements, incorporating mermaid mythology felt really natural. The setting really lends itself to the idea that there’s more under the waves than we can possible comprehend and I felt like this mythology made sense with this setting.

Q2: Connected to the above, would you ever set anything in an entirely fantasy world? How might the challenges differ?

Amanda Labonté: If the right idea struck me, I would definitely consider setting a story in an entirely fantasy world. It would have some interesting creative challenges because world building is its own special skill set. The biggest issue would be making the world relatable. Even when a reader hasn’t been to a particular city or town, there’s a preconceived idea of what that place is like because it’s part of our collective conscious. Whereas an entirely made-up world doesn’t have that built in awareness. At the same time, stories like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings are timeless, so it’s something I would like try in the future.

Q3: The richness of the mythology in Call of the Sea is very striking. It seems there must have been a great amount of working out the folkloric details in advance, and the sheer discipline is impressive. How much of this is imagination, how much research? Which parts do you, as writer, find most exciting?

Amanda Labonté: The fun thing about writing a fantasy story set in Newfoundland is that there’s an appreciation for the paranormal and supernatural. I grew up with the idea that you leave bread on your doorstep at night in order to appease the fairies. Since I grew up around these kinds of stories, I think that made creating my own mythology a lot easier. I really jumped into researching sea creatures like mermaids and sirens but I was less interested in how they were supposed to look or act – that’s what I took from my own imagination – and much more interested in what elements I could take that would make their existence as believable to my characters as the fairy stories were to me. In the end, the use of music was one of the key elements of the mythology that I highlighted in my story.

Q4: The setting is Newfoundland, your home, and in particular an aspect of Newfoundland culture that resounds strongly to people who were raised in Newfoundland and Labrador i.e. in the beginning in which the brothers are taking part in the food fishery. What did it mean to you to start the story here? I’m thinking particularly of the thematic underlay of a young man going missing, apparently being swallowed by the sea – does this have more resonance post moratorium?

Amanda Labonté: The circumstances at the start of the book are definitely something I thought a lot about. In many ways, the fictional Clad’s Cove is very much affected by the same issues plaguing most rural parts of Newfoundland. The transition from a fishing based economy after the moratorium of the 1990s meant that many communities had to seek out new ways of making a living. Many communities turned to tourism with mixed results. Alex, the main character, and his brothers are growing up in an environment and lifestyle that they love, but that likely won’t be able to support them as adults. In many ways that makes the setting a little bittersweet.

Q5: Connected to the above, is there an inherent sadness is setting a Newfoundland fantasy at sea. Do you, and do you think your readers, associate the ocean with loss or at least yearning?

Amanda Labonté: The sea is both the most beautiful and most terrible setting imaginable. I love to look at it, especially when I visit the Cape Shore where the story is set. But at the same time, the ocean is terrifying. Not only because of all the tragedies that have taken place, but because it has so much potential to take away. Yet, for Newfoundlanders, being able to see the ocean is very comforting. Being landlocked can be a very uncomfortable feeling when you are used to seeing water on a daily basis. This juxtaposition is something I still find really interesting and I’ve experienced both feelings myself.

Q6: What other genres are you working with at the moment?

Amanda Labonté: I am currently working on a paranormal mystery series called Supernatural Causes. It’s very different from Call of the Sea in many ways in that it’s a vampire driven medical mystery series – all things that I had no idea I was interested in until the idea came to me. Like Call of the Sea though, I think Supernatural Causes is very character driven. I’ve really enjoyed trying something completely different.

I am also working on the sequel to Call of the SeaReturn to the Sea – which is also a great experience as it allows me to continue following the characters as they experience new, exciting circumstances.

Q7: In terms of reaching your market what special challenges, and indeed opportunities, are there for the fantasy writer?

Amanda Labonté: The thing about fantasy readers is that, if they like what you write, they want to see more of your work. They are voracious readers and they often reach out to authors, letting you know directly what they think of your novels. That means there are a lot of opportunity to sell your books directly at conventions and signings, but also through word of mouth since fantasy readers are quick to recommend books to each other. That can put some pressure on the writer, because you don’t want to disappoint a reader you feel like you know, but it’s also very rewarding.

 

Paul Butler – update on a new novel

Thanks for this, Susan!

Reading Recommendations

Paul Butler was previously promoted on Reading Recommendations in Sept. 2014 and Jan. 2015. He’s back now to tell us about a new novel that’s been published.

The Widow’s Fire
by Paul F. Butler
Published by Inanna Publication

The Widow’s Fire explores the shadow side of Jane Austen’s final novel Persuasion, disrupting its happy ending and throwing moral certainties off balance. We join the action close to the moment when Austen draws away for the last time and discretely gives an overview of the oncoming marriage between heroine Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. This, it transpires in The Widow’s Fire, is merely the beginning of a journey. Soon dark undercurrents disturb the order and symmetry of Austen’s world. The gothic flavor of the period, usually satirized by Austen, begins to assert itself. Characters far below the notice of Anne, a baronet’s daughter, have agendas of their own…

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