Today I am proud and honoured to post my friendly chat with one of the bloggers I most admire and from whose blogging experience I've tried to learn as much as I could . Laurel Ann at Austenprose is someone I'm sure many of my Janeite readers know and appreciate. I regularly read her blog and sometimes comment her interesting posts but when her avatar peeps on Fly High! to contribute her opinion... I'm so pleased and flattered! She has even granted you readers and commenters a very special giveaway. Read through this interview, answer her question/s in your comments and two of you will got the chance to win a great Austenesque read! Please, remember to add your e-mail address so that I can contact you in case you win.

Laurel Ann Nattress is a life-long acolyte of Jane Austen having been converted at a young age by the BBC/PBS 1979 mini-series Pride and Prejudice. On a whim she was inspired to create Austenprose , a blog honouring the brilliance of Jane Austen's writing. She delights in introducing neophytes to the charms of Miss Austen's prose as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. An expatriate of southern California, she lives near Seattle, Washington where it rains a lot.
Impossible not to start with her: Jane Austen. I read P&P when I was 14 and then, one after the other, her other novels. Mansfield Park only relatively late, I think I was already married when I read it. What is your history as a Janeite, Laurel Ann?
I read all of Jane Austen’s major novels in my teens. I really liked P&P, NA and S&S but struggled through Emma and did not get Mansfield Park at all. I liked the love story in Persuasion but it was not my favorite. Interestingly as I’ve matured I appreciate Austen’s last three novels more.

I found and saw many of the adaptations of JA’s novels only since I started blogging and regularly visiting the Net. That means less than a couple of years. What do you think of the ones you’ve seen so far? Can you choose among them your best favourite? I mean, just one.
Nope. Can’t choose one, but I can narrow it down! In 1980 I saw the BBC/PBS production of P&P staring Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul and loved it. I was hooked on Austen onscreen. I did not see another Austen adaptations for sixteen years when P&P95 premiered in the US in 1996. Since then I have seen all the adaptations and Austen inspired movies. I’ve been a bit of a movie junkie all my life so Austen at the movies was an easy addiction. As a Janeite I like to pick them apart and analyze their charms and foibles. I can not say that I dislike any of them intensely. Well, maybe one! Of the strict adaptations my favs would be P&P95 and Persuasion95. Of the Austen inspired movies Clueless, You’ve Got Mail and Last Days of Disco.

Now an engaging question. Something I’m really concerned with. Don’t you find all those beautiful - and which I love watching so much - TV series and movies based on her novels have cast an unreal distorted romantic light on Jane and her work? I mean, reading and re-reading her novels I’m more and more convinced she is one of the wittiest critic of romance and sentimentality.

I agree that she is a witty critics of social mores, finance and love. Once I got past the fact that a novel can not transfer perfectly into a movie, I enjoyed the Austen adaptations so much more. I do like the movies that include more of her beautiful language and get miffed when they rewrite her heavily. Bad choice. Recently, the new adaptations have been sexed up and over energized to try to entice a new younger audience. I think this a mistake also. People are attracted to an Austen movie for specific reasons – her reputation as a writer, her humor, wit, romance and living for two hours in Regency England. For instance, I find her sparing dialogue between Lizzy and Darcy far sexier than overt sexual scenes in other movies. That is part of her mystique and her charm. She is great at romantic tension and sharp dialogue. That’s why other authors have admired and tried to emulate her for 200 years. I just wish screenwriters understood also.

 Now very quickly. Which of JA’s girls are you most like? And who is your best favourite among her heroes?
Don’t laugh, but I am Fanny Price with a bit of Catherine Morland thrown in. Anyone who would start a blog on a whim definitely is seeking adventure and sticking with it diligently for over two years requires fortitude and patience which we all know Fanny Price had in abundance.

My favorite hero is Henry Tilney, with Mr. Darcy a close second. William Price, a minor character in Mansfield Park has definite potential and it is my fondest wish that a talented Austenesque writer will continue his story. I have a fondness for men in blue uniforms that go to sea during the Napoleonic Wars.

5. Fan Fiction or Austen-based fiction, sequels and what-if novels. You are an expert in this field. You’ve read and reviewed so many of them and even interviewed their authors. I, on the other hand, am a total novice, I’ve actually just started and with my prejudices hard to be overcome. What do you think is the function of this genre, which seem to be very popular, and what are the limits of  decency you would set – if any?
Thank you for the compliment Maria, though I am sure there are many others who are far more well read and informed than myself. They are just not blogging about it obsessively! Hmmm? What is the function of sequels and what are the limits of propriety? You are opening Pandora’s box I fear. Briefly, you can probably guess I am very much in favor of sequels since I have read and reviewed so many novels inspired by Austen and her characters. We just want more Jane, and since we can’t have more than six major novels, her letter and minor works we must read the next best thing. As far as tolerance of sequels that take Lizzy and Darcy into space, follow them into the bedroom or change their sexual preference, who am I to pass judgment? I am a bit like Jane Bennet in this regard and make allowances for differences in situation and temper and will give anything a try for three chapters to see if it has wings. Those that make it to chapter four must have a fresh concept skillfully rendered, Austen allusions or her characters reverently portrayed and humor in the form of wit and irony, please. I know. It’s a tall order. I’m fastidious. I will be gentle with new authors, but if you are a seasoned veteran abusing my Jane, I will voice my opinion decidedly.

I highly appreciate – quite Austenesque a statement don’t you think ? – your blog and it inspired me for several of my recent activities: group reading of Austen’s works. It was great online with Sanditon or Lady Susan (BTW, thanks! I’ve finally read the minor works also thanks to your events) and now I’m experiencing a JA reading club in my real life. Mixed aged, but mostly so much younger than me, my reading mates love JA. Have you got any suggestions for us? We are reading Manfield Park this month and going to read Emma in May and , finally, Persuasion in June.
I am so pleased that I have inspired you in some small way to read Jane Austen and cultivate a wider understanding of her talent. An Austen blogger could not hope for a more rewarding compliment.
Book clubs are great fun. You are quite ambitious to read an Austen novel a month and I commend you. I might suggest following each of the major novels with a sequel of the same novel. You might also consider one of the many great Austen biographies available. Elizabeth Jenkins and Claire Tomalin are two biographers that I particularly like.

Your blog is JA focused and have got hundreds of followers and a huge number of contacts every day. As an expert blogger, do you have any tip for a successful blog to give us?
I owe much of my small success to others who helped me every step of the way. I have been online in the Austen community for over ten years and my connections paid off. I must give much of the credit to Vic who was my co-blogger at Jane Austen Today and Mags at AustenBlog for expert advice and suggestions on how to do everything and handle problems. They are the real blogging Masters. My advice to new bloggers is to visit blogs and observe. See who is successful and discover why. Find a friend to mentor you. Blog in a niche that you are passionate about. Be sincere. Write at your comfort level. Show your enthusiasm. Work on improving your writing and research skills weekly. Most importantly, have fun.

What are the best and worst aspects of your blogging experience?
Reader comments just make me smile and all my hard work worth while. Seeing an author succeed after my help with promotion is great too. Interestingly, the worst experiences are the opposite of the positive. Comments that are vicious and spiteful, and authors and their family who lash out because they do not agree with your unfavorable opinion of their book. Happily, those instances are the exception.

 What kind of reader are you? Are there other genres and authors you like reading?
Before I started blogging I used to read a large range of genres: classics, fiction, chick-lit, romance, biographies, social histories, art and music books. I am a bookseller by profession so I have a wide pallet before me every day to get excited about. Since I have been blogging, my focus is entirely on Austen, sequels, Regency-era novels, histories, biographies and social histories. In the past my favorite authors were Charlotte Bronte, Diana Gabaldon, Sara Donati, Vita Sackville-West, Margaret Mitchell, Oscar Wilde and many others. Now, its Jane Austen all the time!

As for period drama or costume movies, JA adaptations apart, what are you favourites?

Oh, I thought you would never ask. I luv bonnet drama’s and have a long list of favs. Jane Eyre 1944, Gone with the Wind 1939, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir 1947, That Hamilton Woman 1942, Waterloo Bridge 1940, North and South 2004, Wives and Daughters 1999, The Importance of Being Ernest 1952 & 2002, Little Dorrit 2008 and many more.

 I read somewhere that your ideal holiday would be … a six - month’s Grand Tour through Europe finished off by a month in the Caribbean with either

Colin Firth

 Richard Armitage

or Gerard Butler.
Hard to decide, I know , but ...I’m so curious ...
Oh ... a lady never kisses and tells.

Ooops! Wrong picture? Sorry, Laurel Ann, forgive my impertinence! I was just inspired by your final statement ...

Jokes apart, thank you for being my guest and finding the time to answer my questions.

And for your incredible giveaway!!!
Here are the details
1.Two winners
2. You can select which book  you want from this  amazing list
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart,
Confessions of a JA Addict
Love, Lies & Lizzie,
Cassandra & Jane,
Willoughby’s Return,
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,
The Intrigue at Highbury,
 Lydia Bennet’s Story,
Searching for Pemberley,
 Old Friends and New Fancies
Dawn of the Dreadfuls
3. Shipment to continental US only
4.  You can ask Laurel Ann a question about a sequel or Austen novel  OR you can write which your fav sequel is and why
5. Laurel Ann will answer you daily at Fly High!
6. Winners will be announced on Monday 26th April
7. Do not forget to leave your e-mail address, please!


Luciana said...

It's really nice to know more about Laurel Ann. I've been reading her blog since she began it and I really enjoy it! It's nice to know the other authors and period dramas she likes. And really, she does know how to have a holiday breake!

Becky said...

I had no idea there was a giveaway at the end here! :) I just though this was a completely awesome interview/discussion between the two of you. Can I just add a big amen to just craving more Austen when we dig into a sequel. My favorite has to be Sharon Lathan's Mr. & Mrs. Darcy. I went into it a bit skeptical, but quickly gave up my prejudices about the intimacy. Honestly, I like the voice and style presented by Sharon Lathan.

I don't know that I have questions for Laurel Ann, but I've been a follower of her blog for quite some time. I love her dedication to all things Austen!

Thanks for this fun offer! mjmbecky@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Thank you so much MG - and Laurel Ann, of course! - for yet another interesting post about fellow bloggers. I'll surely visit LA blog because I'm still in search of a JA sequel I could possibly like - read further than the third chapter, that is ;)
I won't leave my email address for the givevaway, though, because as I live in Europe - as well as many of MG readers - I couldn't get a book 'shipped to continental US only'. What if I suggest a trade? My nearly new copy of "Mr Darcy, vampyre" for another sequel of your choice? ;-)
Have a nice Sunday, everyone!

Meredith said...

Another fantastic interview, Maria! Even though I read Laurel Ann's blog daily I felt I learned so much more about her through your wonderful questions!

Laurel Ann, please don't ever stop blogging! You do such incredible work and it is such an asset to us Janeites! I am curious which sequels are some of your favorites? Or, if it is easier, which authors?

Thanks for the wonderful opportunity and generous giveaway!


ElleJay said...

Not only is RA my passion but I am also a closet JA fan.
A couple of years ago I started rereading P&P and then went on to some of her other novels based on the recommendation of a friend. I have to say that my favourite is Persuasion and my all time JA Hero is Captain Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry Jones played him in a recent ITV adaptation but Ciaran Hinds is just as good) for me I am more an Anne Elliot, I hope I have learnt about being myself and have the inner strength to go against family and friends when needed.
For a recommendation if you can get hold of it in America or order it through Amazon UK 'Lost in Austen' is a tongue in check, what would happen if a 21st century woman found herself living with the Bennetts and meeting up with Mr Darcy. I have to say I have a soft spot for Elliot Cowan who plays Darcy, I saw him on stage playing Henry V and was magnificent. As you can tell I am also a bit of theatre junkie along with everything else.
Keep up the good work MG loving the other blogs as well as Friday with RA.
Hugs back to you LJ

Alexa Adams said...

This was fabulous! Thank you, ladies, especially for discussing JAFF as a genre. In the six months I have been blogging, I have totally become of victim of the phenomenon Laurel Ann describes - so many dearly beloved authors neglected in the name of Austen! I love the idea of a book club reading Austen's novels followed by sequels. I have several favorites, but Willoughby's Return and Mercy's Embrace are the first to jump to mind. I'd like to be entered to win Cassandra and Jane, please. alexa.adams98@gmail.com

lunarossa said...

Well, what can I say more than what has already been said? Well done again, MG, for introducing another very interesting blogger and personality. I'm pretty new at JA sequels and a bit skeptical as well, but I'm sure that If I persevere I will find one that I like. With regard to the month in the Caribbeans with the three beaux, May I say that I'd be happy to spend just a few days but with ALL of them! Greedy? Yes, but can you blame me? All the best. Ciao. A.

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

Meredith - to answer your question about which are my favorite Austenesque sequels - that is so hard. When people ask me which is my fav Austen novel, I tell them the one I am currectly reading and it would be the truth. Jane does that to me. As far sequel writers, I am very fond of Monica Fairview, Beth Pattillio, Amanda Grange, Maya Slater and Carrie Bebris - all authors I have read recently and fresh in my mind. I am still waiting for the Holy Grail of Henry Tinley paraliterature though and hope Amanada Grange comes through for me soon. Take care, Laurel Ann

Charleybrown said...

Hi Laurel Ann!
Great to learn more about the 'powerhouse' behind Austenprose! I do like reading your reviews! I can always count on a fair and informed opinion done with your personal touch! Wish I had the time to read all the books you've reviewed!

Thanks Maria Grazia!