Out of Twenty: Laurel Ann Nattress, Author of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Answers Eight Questions

Laurel Ann Nattress

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Laurel Ann Nattress’s Austenprose is one of the first blogs that I found on the internet dedicated to books and to Jane Austen. I immediately fell in love, so I am thrilled to have her here today to talk about the book she edited, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Here is what Laurel Ann had to say about reading, writing and magic in publishing.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

Hi Nicole, it is pleasure to be here at Linus’s Blanket for this chat. For the benefit of those who do not know me, I am Laurel Ann Nattress, the author/editor of Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog and Jane Austen Made Me Do It, a new Austen-inspired short story anthology that was just released by Ballantine Books.

Thanks again for hosting me during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of my book. I have been a Jane Austen fan almost all of my life. I started my blog on a whim in 2007 with no grand aspirations for it. I just wanted a creative outlet for my obsession. I never thought that blogging about my favorite authors would culminate into a book deal, but it did.

 Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

Since I am the editor of this anthology and only contributed the introduction, I will share my inspiration for creating the anthology and the experience I had as an editor with the twenty-four authors.

So here’s my question!

How did the anthology come to be and what was it like working with twenty-four different authors on one project?

After working with many Austenesque authors on my blog over the years, I began to see a thread connecting my passion for Jane Austen and the many novels that she has inspired. I asked myself, “Why couldn’t I be an editor of an Austen-inspired short story anthology? I could ask my favorite authors to contribute a story.” But… how would I get it published?

As a professional bookseller I had certainly seen the sales side of the process, and as a blogger I had learned about the promotional end, but I had never been a published author and knew nothing about that side of the business. At that time, there were no Austen anthologies in print, but I was confident that there should be. Fate put me together with my literary agent who pitched my book to Random House. They loved the idea! I had a book deal in a week, and twenty authors lined up in a month!

It might seem to some that I had this deal handed to me on a silver platter. One hears horror stories about the long road to publication: of rejections, rewrites and waitingfor years! Even though I haveto remind myself that I had been working very diligently, almost compulsively, on my blog for many years, and had networked the heck out of that opportunity, it still seems surreal. I continually remind myself that the connections that I made and my knowledge from a lifetime of study of Jane Austen all came together one magical day in January 2010 resulting in my book deal. It was Fate. It was meant to be. Magic sometimes happens in publishing. I am just Cinderella at the ball.

Many people have asked me if working with twenty-four authors on and anthology was like herding cats. Well yes, but I love cats!I anticipated diva dramatics and missed deadlines, but I am sorry to say that they did not materialize. All of the authors in the anthology, except Brenna Aubrey, the Grand Prize winner of the short story contest, were all seasoned professional writers who knew the drill and came through like champions. The stories are as varied as their authors: historical, contemporary, paranormal, mystery, comedy, romance, biographical – the full gamut of fiction is included – and I am very pleased with the results. I hope that readers will enjoy it as much I had editing it.

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I am currently reading The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen, by Lindsay Ashford. I met the author last week at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s annual conference in Ft. Worth, Texas and was so taken by her talk about her new mystery novel involving Jane’s dear friend Anne Sharp and Austen’s early and unexplainable death, that I had to read it. The novel is based on historical events in the Austen family and was just release in the UK by Hono. I am totally mesmerized and loving it.

 There are many books in the Austenesque genre that are my favorites, such as The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, by Syrie James and Stephanie Barron’s incredible Being a Jane Austen Mystery series. However I do delve outside of the Austen sub-genre too and have enjoyed all of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and have recently in the past few years entrenched myself in Georgette Heyer, the Queen of Regency Romance. (Wonderful burlesque comedies if you have not discovered them!) Of the classics, I adore James Fenimore Cooper, Fanny Burney, Henry James, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edith Wharton, and so many more! I could write about books all day if I had the time…

 If you could have everyone read five books, which ones would they be?

Just five? Oh, this is torture! Here is list of just fiction books: Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen (are you shocked?), A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

I give all the credit of the title, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, to my fabulous agent Mitchell Waters. I loved it. The subtitle, Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, came from of my own writing on my blog which my editor liked and modified. A long subtitle seemed so in keeping with the titles that were created in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The entire title was a combined effort and I am very happy with it.

As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

This is my first book in print, so as a debut editor the experience of being an “author” (the promotional side) has been quite amazing. Being on the opposite of the podium is quite surreal. I am now being promoted as the “talent” instead of “my” promoting and selling the talent. Meeting the public as an author and signing books was also incredible. The reality that they all came to hear about my book and meet me is other-wordly. How gratifying. I am the poster girl of “following your bliss” to all of you bloggers out there. Dreams can come true.

 Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?

I have a beautiful walnut Regency style serpentine desk that is my hub. Everything: notes, books, papers, pens, tea cups, cat, and mail all seem to end up on it, so I prefer to write with my laptop on my bed. It is truly my writing throne.

What’s next?

I have two books in development. Jane Austen Made Me Do It was such a positive experience for me that I am tinkering with another short story anthology along with a new kind of annotated Jane Austen. I can’t share much more than that, but I am thrilled with each so far.

Thanks so much for your great questions Nicole. It has been my pleasure.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

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About: Laurel Ann  Nattress. 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.


Giveaway of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It by leaving a comment by November 2, 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. Winners to be drawn at random and announced on November 3, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!

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  1. First I have to say I got a giggle she’s calling her tour her “Grand Tour”. When my daughter went to Europe this summer she blogged about her “Grand Tour” it’s just so Austen. This year I’ve just started reading Austen inspired lit. and I love the idea of authors I love (I’m looking at you Adriana Trigiani) giving me their take on Jane.

  2. I like many things about an anthology and this one in particular. I enjoy having so many authors to meet and reacquaint with at my fingertips and I love the idea of such a variety of takes on JA and her novels.

    The interview was informative. Thanks for posting and the giveaway opportunity.

  3. I can’t wait to see what the new books will be.

    I love short story anthologies because they always introduce me to at least one new author, and an austennesque one is a bonus!