Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview with Laurel Ann Nattress

Over the last few weeks I've been ending my day with a story or two from the Austen-inspired collection Jane Austen Made Me Do It.  I enjoyed the escape and found the stories amusing, charming, diverting, and fun.  I was delighted when Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of the book and blogger, agreed to be interviewed.  Please read on to learn more about her, her blog and this anthology, and what she does when she's not blogging.  There's also an opportunity to win a copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

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Hi Audra, it is such a pleasure to be here at one of my favorite blogs, Unabridged Chick during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

What was the first Jane Austen novel you read? How about the first Austen-inspired novel?

Pride and Prejudice of course! It was 1980 and I had just seen the new BBC/PBS adaptation of P&P by Fay Weldon on Masterpiece Theatre. I has so entranced by the story that I read the novel immediately and have continued to read it every year since. I remember struggling with the language the first time, but soon got the hang of it and was totally hooked. As a young woman I was of course primarily interested in the romance. As I have matured, I appreciate Austen for her reproving humor, amazing characterizations – and the romance!

The first Austen-inspired novel that I read was The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Marjorie Fasman in 1999. It was my introduction to the genre and I was again entranced. Since then, I have tried to read almost every Austenesque book in print, though now that there are so many published every month, I am way behind.

Austenprose started in 2007. (Congrats on four years of blogging!) Do you have any writing rituals or routines when you blog?

Thanks! Blogging has been an incredible journey for me. You could say that I am the poster girl for following your bliss. I never dreamed that when I started my blog on a whim in 2007 that it would culminate into a book deal, but it did. The power of the Internet is quite amazing. You just never really know who is reading your work and what will happen.

Hmm? As far as writing rituals, I have this beautiful Regency-style walnut serpentine desk that would honor any writer as their creative hub. Interestingly, it only seems to collect papers, books, and my cat – and not my laptop computer, which is where I write everything for my blog and my books. I tend to gravitate to my bed with all of its big pillows and warm comforts when I am writing.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of editing of others work, but when I do write a blog that is not a book review, I usually do so because I am inspired by recent Austen news, have an insight to share about my own publication process, or something strikes me as quirky, funny or just amazing and I want to share it with Janeites. I troll the Internet and social media consistently to keep abreast and inspired. Reading and working as a bookseller also fuels my passion to write.

Was Jane Austen Made Me Do It the original title of this collection?

Yes. It was the only title ever considered. I give all the credit of it to my wonderful agent Mitchell Waters. It was his creation. He is a Janeite and a gentleman in the true Darcy spirit. He is the fairy godfather of the book so-to-speak. He saw the potential in an unpublished Austen blogger and gave me a chance and sold my anthology to Random House. It has been an amazing journey.

As you were editing Jane Austen Made Me Do It, was there a particular theme, story, or character that surprised you?

Yes, more than a few surprises. When I put together my dream team of writers, I pretty much gave them full reign on genre and topic. The stories just needed to be inspired by Jane Austen – her novels, her life, or her philosophies of life and love. That is a big playground to explore. We received a few traditional sequel type stories that continue one of her novels or explore a character or events more in depth. But the majority of stories are totally a surprise. From Jane Austen as a ghost, to the Thin Man mystery, to a young adult story, there is something here for every taste. I think the biggest surprise, however, was the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest winner. Eighty-eight previously unpublished writers submitted stories to the contest that was held online last January. The winning story “The Love Letter” by Brenna Aubrey just blew me away. It is quite remarkable and I am very honored that it has been included in the anthology.

When you’re not blogging and editing, what do you like to do?

Oh my. Lately not much of anything else because of my book promotion, but I do love to garden (need to plant my tulip and daffodils before it freezes), enjoy reading (never enough time in the day for that), movies (want to see the new The Three Musketeers with Mathew MacFayden and Anonymous staring Rafe Spall) and music. I love opera and musical theater, especially Gilbert and Sullivan operetta’s. Terribly out of vogue but I adore the satire, comedy and music. If Jane Austen had lived in the late nineteenth-century, I think she would have adored them too.

Read any good books recently?

YES! I just read and reviewed The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen, by Lindsay Ashford. Total shocker. Unlike any Austenesque novel I have ever read.

I do try to read outside my specialized obsession (Jane Austen) and am always working on a mystery. I am about half way through The Sweetness at the Bottom on the Pie, by Alan Bradley and loving it. It is the first novel in the Flavia de Luce series. She is a twelve year chemistry geek in 1950’s England living in a crumbling Georgian country manor house. You gotta love a heroine who puts arsenic in her bratty older sister’s lipstick! I am also currently reading A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger. It is similar to Jane Austen Made Me Do It in that the stories are inspired by another author’s works. It contains stories by Lee Child, Neil Gaiman and Alan Bradley. Now wouldn’t a literary throwdown of Jane Austen vs. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle be interesting?

Thanks Audra for the great questions. I hope that readers will enjoy Jane Austen Made Me Do It as much as I did editing it. It was truly a dream project for me.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

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My thanks to Laurel Ann for her time! 

About Laurel Ann Nattress:  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. 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 and, 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 11/18, stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. For another entry, fill out the form at the end of the review.  Winners to be drawn at random and announced on 11/19. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!


  1. Nice interviw :)
    I really must go and check out that blog

  2. Great interview! It's so hard to keep up with all the Austenesque novels these days, so I'm not surprised she's fallen behind. ;) I really enjoyed this collection of stories.

  3. How inspiring her story is to other bloggers who one day hope to write! And I am with her on the comfort thing when I write and blog. I o it from the comfort of my lazyboy or my bed, and don't even pretend to work at a desk! Great interview today!

  4. I agree with her about keeping up with Austenesque difficult and I'm more woefully behind than she is. I agree that I am ready to see "The Three Musketeers with Mathew MacFayden" He's a dreamy man!

  5. I know what I like in an Austen novel and I'd love to see what the authors takes are on what they get out of them as well.


  6. Short story collections are really a wonderful way to end a day--that's how I've been reading Jane Austen Made Me Do It myself!

    Good interview--I was interested to find out that Laurel Ann was inspired to read Austen after viewing the 1980 BBC P&P, which is still near and dear to me.

  7. So many of the stories in this book sound intriguing and many of the authors are favorites of mine. I would love to win - thank you for the opportunity!

    lovetoread205 [at] gmail [dot] com

  8. i enjoy the possibilities that writers come up with in creating a story for other Austen characters.......thank goodness that there are people in the world who can do that!!!
    thank you for this giveaway!!!!


  9. What I love about Austen is that her characters, even the minor ones, feel like real people; so it makes sense that so many writers have been inspired to tell their stories! I always enjoy reading Austen sequels and spinoffs if they're well-written, and this collection is full of wonderful authors. I'd love to win a copy -- thanks for the opportunity!


  10. I'm always on the lookout for new authors to enjoy - and finding so many from the Austenverse in one place is very efficient. :)