What does Jane Austen have to do with the Deep South? Well, for me, everything! You see, I write Southern women’s fiction with romantic elements. What did Jane Austen write? British women’s fiction with romantic elements.
I fell in love with Austen’s writing many years ago when I was in college, studying to be an English teacher. Well, of course, I wished to teach her novels to the seniors in my British Literature class, and then it was only natural to see her show up again when I retired to write.
You see, Jane and I have similar interests. We both write about societies and cultures that wish for its members to…conform…and the heroines who wish to push back on those rigid walls to make a way for themselves to be the individuals that they are. Jane and I concern ourselves with the stories of women, primarily showcasing the friendships and ties women have with their girlfriends and family members. The men in those women’s lives show up, but they are not the stars!
Jane and I love the little things in life. We write about the concerns of an ordinary day for our characters. For Jane, it was “tucking lace” on her sisters’ dresses, “taking a turn” on the dance floor, and finding suitable matches for her friends. For me, it is wearing the right clothes to an event, sharing Southern food with friends and family, and finding success in a career. Neither of us need big explosions, murders, car chases or improprieties in our novels. They are stories that are slices of our contemporary lives.
Austen’s use of biting irony, humor, realism and social commentary are extremely similar to mine—only I apply my wit and wisdom to the South, and she applies hers to England. We both love to slap silly, pretentious characters around and laud the ladies who work hard at being good, solid souls who simultaneously break social barriers while maintaining the greater collective good.
Even the titles we use echo one another’s. Hers are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Love and Friendship, and mine are Bikers and Pearls, Sweet Tea and Time (and coming soon will be Swamps and Soirees and Fireflies and Lies). But don’t place us in a title category because we both break that, as well.
The last similarity is also our biggest difference, and that is our respective culture’s treatment of tea. The British place enormous significance in their tea, but it is served hot (and many times with cream). The South reveres its use of tea, but it is always sweet and iced! So, you see, Jane and I are sisters in the same writing sorority!