Downton Abbey

This holiday season, as we sat in front of the TV during the late night hours wrapping gifts, I slowly and not-so-subtly got my husband hooked on Downton Abbey.

It wasn’t hard, really, but of course this second time around, I was viewing the series through a storyteller’s eyes rather than merely enjoying the story line for myself.  For this series does historical fiction–and historical romance–very well.  I continually asked myself, what could I learn from this experience?

Attention to detail:  No detail is left unattended, from the minutest attention paid to costuming, set dressing and historical accuracy.  For example, every time the butler enters a room below stairs, all servants stop whatever they are doing and stand at attention.  Life below stairs perfectly mirrors that above stairs with attention to rank and propriety guarded most effectively.

Beautiful landscapes: It is not specified where the location of Downton Abbey is supposed to be, but we are shown breathtaking shots of the castle (which is in reality, Highclere Castle), and its park.  Actors move about the scenery and we are reminded that the Abbey, itself, is also an important character in the ongoing drama of the inhabitants, both above and below stairs.

Every character has a history and his/her own motivation: Sometimes these goals and motivations revolve around Downton Abbey itself (as in the case of Lord Grantham) and sometimes they are in response to events tied to Downton, such as the inciting incident for Series 1: The sinking of the Titanic, which claims the lives of Lord Grantham’s two heirs and Lady Mary’s fiance. The entail becomes a desperate matter, as all of the family’s wealth is tied up in the estate… and whoever inherits the title will get the estate.

Culturally relevant: Life at Downton Abbey revolves around the maintenance and future of the estate itself. Lord Grantham contends with his wife over his refusal to smash the entail. Matthew Crawley is summoned away from his happy life in Manchester because he has suddenly become an earl’s heir.  But these events do not occur in a vacuum.  History revolves around them, from the sinking of the Titanic to the start of World War I, we see how these iconic events of history affect these people.  But we see other issues treated as well, as Lady Sybil’s story line deals with emerging women’s rights.  She participates in activities related to women’s suffrage and fosters one of the maid’s aspirations to leave service and become a career woman in an office.

There are just a few of the ways in which Downton Abbey hits the mark as far as the historical fiction genre is concerned.  In my editing process, I’m going to make certain to hit these marks in my works as well!

If you haven’t seen it and would like to catch up, series 1 is being re-run right now on PBS (here in the U.S.).  Series 2 premieres next week!  Have you seen Downton Abbey?  What do you love about it?

Channeling my inner male or “Drawing upon the power of testosterone”

When I first set out to write my story, “The Love Letter,” for the “Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest,” I knew that the story would be from Mark’s point of view.  And therein lay my greatest challenge for composing the story.  He is a man, and I am a woman.

Dr. Mark Hinton has just finished his residency, has accepted an offer to work with his dream team medical group and things are looking bright on his horizon.  But there’s something inside of him that haunts him:  his past—roads not taken and not always by his own choice.  At the beginning of the story, Mark is resentful and angry over what he has lost, though he covers those deeper feelings with a veneer of indifference.  He’s also smugly satisfied with the way his academic and career successes have compensated for those personal losses.  Using this as his fuel, he ignores the gaping hole in his personal life for as long as he possibly can.

When I decided that this story needed to be told from Mark’s tight first-person point of view, I was aware that I was behaving unconventionally: both for the genre itself and for the general unwritten rules of writing fiction.  Most often, when a female author chooses to represent a scene from a male character’s POV, she uses the third person to insert the voice of the narrator to cover the gap between the character’s maleness and her own femaleness.  Typically, the narrator’s voice acts as a “cushion” between herself and the masculine viewpoint, outlook and voice.  When a work is written in first person, the voice of the character infuses the narrative, not just the dialogue, and there is little to distinguish the voice of the author and the voice of the character.  Authenticity is imperative.

For this task, research was necessary!  Some of the things I did to capture Mark’s mannerisms and voice were to watch the males around me.  My husband happens to be my most common test subject—I ended up asking him all sorts of bizarre questions.  He’s learned by now not to worry about where those questions come from or why I’m collecting data.  I also quietly observed other males around me without interrogation.

But what about Mark’s emotions—the churning conflict going on inside of him?  Deep down, he wants to let go of his resentment but at each turning point in the story, when he has a chance or reason to let it go, he grasps at anything to latch on and cling even harder to his anger.

I glean some of my most visceral emotions for writing through music.  For this particular purpose, I needed a male point of view, someone who felt deeply about his situation, who had a lot of bitterness and rage over the past and was not willing to relinquish it without a fight.  I started listening almost constantly to the music of Eminem while writing “The Love Letter.”  What is shocking is that I was never a fan of Eminem’s music before this point.  I always dismissed his work as misogynistic and too violent for my tastes.  But somehow, somewhere, the pure emotion and the vivid language that Mr. Mathers used in his music swirled around me and clung to me like a shawl.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  To feel Eminem’s emotions through his lyrics, the driving rhythms of his music is to understand the bitterness, the intensity of emotions that Mark traverses throughout his story arc.  Suffice to say that since the day I submitted, I’ve only listened to a few of my favorites.

There are many worse things I could do to “suffer” for my art.  At least I didn’t do something silly like crush a beer can on my head or belch a four-part harmony.

Q & A with editor, Laurel Ann Nattress

A while back, Laurel Ann sent me some questions for a Q & A for the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology.  I thought it might be fun to share them with you here:

Laurel Ann:  How did Jane Austen make you do it? What inspired you to join this anthology?

Brenna Aubrey: The first thing that attracted me to the contest was the title of the anthology.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It.  That fabulous title left open many possibilities that my imagination ran quite wild with them.  The contest really was an amazing opportunity for an aspiring author.  So I sat down with my notebook and a pen and started brainstorming.  From the first, I knew that in my story, I would include a phrase from the title of the anthology.  From there, I worked backward, asking myself the questions.  What did Jane Austen make you do?  Why?  How?  And from there I built the story.  Quite literally, I wrote the last line first, and the first line of the story was almost the last thing I wrote.

LA: When were you introduced to Jane Austen? Which novel did you read first, and what was your first impression?

Bren: I was introduced to Jane Austen in college while completing a minor in English.  I purchased a copy of Pride and Prejudice per the instructions on the course syllabus for English literature and had no idea what to expect.  From the first line, “It is a truth, universally acknowledged…” I was hooked.  I devoured the novel, chose to use it for my midterm paper in which I discussed the likeness of Austen’s characterizations to contemporary people I knew and discussed how relatable her themes were.

In addition, I was in awe of the way in which Austen shaped the reader’s prejudice against Darcy to parallel Elizabeth’s.  Our feelings and impressions mirror her own until we are utterly, utterly shocked to learn that that nice Wickham fellow is such a scoundrel and that Darcy can actually come down from that high horse of his to help Elizabeth and to love her.  But I know that I never felt more animosity towards a main character than I did when I read the scene of the first proposal.  And, in turn, my own feelings had so reversed by the end of the novel that I was actually cheering for Darcy during the second proposal.  Austen’s ability to shape the reader’s attitude towards the characters shows a masterful hand at story crafting.  And on so many levels, her artistry is apparent.  From story crafting down and characterization to diction and figurative speech.

LA: Share with us the inspiration for your story. How did you decide on the theme, setting and characters? Which elements of Jane Austen’s style, humor or characterizations influenced you the most? 

Bren: My inspiration for the story all started from the thought that so many women have identified with Jane Austen and her works.  But even as I enjoyed discussing my favorite characters with like-minded female friends, I couldn’t help but wonder if Austen’s reach extended in any significant way, towards the males.  And if so, how would they be affected?  I decided to explore one man’s point of view in my story.  And this is where it started.  And from there, the ideas started to snowball.

Perhaps my most favorite piece of Jane Austen’s work is Frederick Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliott—and it is a significant portion of prose that exposes us to the mindset of a man, as interpreted by the authoress.  I wanted a contemporary man’s point of view so I knew my story would take place in the here and now.  I wanted a man who, like Wentworth, was poised on the verge of starting a new and successful life for himself, yet who was haunted by the past.  From there, the events seemed to flow.  My biggest challenge was point of view, simply because I chose to express Mark’s thoughts from the first person and, being a woman, it was a challenge to make his voice believably male.  I tried some unconventional ways to channel my own “inner male” in order to make it sound authentic.  It also helps that I have read and loved many great contemporary male authors who write from first person point of view, such as Pat Conroy and Wally Lamb.

LA: Jane Austen’s heroines have been often imitated but never duplicated. From Elizabeth Bennet’s conceited independence to Fanny Price’s prudent convictions, Austen creates characters with real flaws and perfections that readers identify with. Which of her heroines do you connect with personally? Who would you like to offer advice to, and please share what that would be?  

Bren: The Austen heroine with whom I most identify is Elizabeth Bennet.  I’ve always been a little too outspoken for my own good and guilty of “professing opinions that are not [my] own.”  Unlike Elizabeth, however, I tend to put my foot in my mouth all too often.  I do envy her ease in social situations and wish I could perform in a likewise manner.

Which heroine would I advise?  I think Fanny Price.  I always felt badly for her and the way she was treated at the Bertram’s.  She sticks up for herself in plucky ways—for example, she is the only one who refuses to take part in the “spectacle”—deeming it questionable on moral grounds.   However, at times she feels unsure of herself and unduly influenced by others.  I’d advise her to hold firm to her principles and to know her own self worth and not let others dictate to her.  True that, as a woman of her time and situation, she did not have much power.  But in the end, she gets her true love and her happily ever after.

LA: The range of writing experience in this anthology covers veteran literary bestselling author to debut new voice. How did Jane Austen influence your writing career? If so, what insights could you share with an aspiring writer on Austen’s technique and style?

Bren: Well as the “debut new voice”—I must say that I am thrilled to be here!  Jane Austen has long been a muse of mine.  She does dialogue and human interaction so well that an in depth study of her technique would yield volumes of writing wisdom.  In fact, it can be overwhelming at times on the outset to compare yourself with one of the “greats”—and Jane Austen is most definitely that.  There is so much that she does right that trying to imitate her would only lead to frustration and ruin, I think.  Her voice is uniquely her own and, in my opinion, the strongest facet of her body of work.  I would advise any aspiring author, like myself, to find your own voice and don’t be afraid to use it, and use it often.

LA: Jane Austen’s road to publication was long and arduous before she self-financed the publication of her first novel Sense and Sensibility in 1811. Was your road to publication strewn with rose petals or thorns? What advice can you offer new writers seeking publication today?

Bren: I’m still at the very beginning of my journey to publication.  I look to Miss Austen’s struggles for strength and inspiration during my own difficult times.  I’ve been writing for over a decade for my own amusement.  I penned three fantasy novels in a series just because I wanted to know how the story would end.  It has only been very recently that I’ve realized that others might be interested in reading my stories and even, hopefully, enjoy them.  So like Jane Austen at the beginning, my stories were penned for my own amusement and that of my closest friends.  I often think what of what an immense loss it would have been to the canon of world literature if she had never sought to share her voice.  I look to that example and think, of her courage.  Now that the potential audience for my writing appears to be widening, I feel as if I’m standing on a precipice and cannot see the bottom.  If I swallow my fear and dive in, hopefully the water will be just fine.  Believing in oneself is the key to perseverance.

LA: We obviously all admire Jane Austen and have been inspired by her works. Do you see her influence in contemporary authors today? If so, can you recommend any of your favorite author’s books and share their connection?   

Bren: Helen Fielding and her Bridget Jones’ Diary books, which she closely based on Pride and Prejudice are on my keeper shelf.  I love those books and whenever I’m feeling down and need a laugh, they never fail me.  The works of Jane Austen have strongly influenced the genre of romance.  Since her novels were the early prototypes of today’s hugely successful genre, there are so many authors I could name.  Some of them are  Loretta Chase, author of Lord of Scoundrels, this anthology’s own Lauren Willig and her Pink Carnation series, Sherry Thomas, Tessa Dare really capture Jane Austen’s humor and focus on relationships. I must also give a nod to the many authors devoted to Austen-inspired contemporary fiction as well as sequels to Jane Austen’s works.  Many of these intrepid authors are publishing them independently and enjoying success.

LA: There are many movie and stage adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. Do you think her stories transfer well to other mediums? Which of the film adaptations do you think captures the spirit of her stories and the nuances of her characters best, and why?

Bren: I do think Jane Austen’s work transfers well to other mediums and I appreciate adaptations and updates to the storylines and characters when they are done justice.  These really help to emphasize the timelessness and universality of Austen’s themes, character development and humor.  I especially love the cross-cultural adaptations, like Clueless, the modern version of Emma and Bride & Prejudice, where Jane Austen’s chef d’oeuvre is given a Bollywood treatment, complete with Indian Elizabeth and a big-business but culturally insensitive Darcy.  My favorite “true to the work” adaptation is the 1995 BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice.  In my opinion, it exemplifies the characters (especially Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) as they were described in the novel.   In addition, the adaptation goes a step further to add some scenes that were not originally in the novel to give us some clues to the characters’ inner feelings and motivations.  It showcased the novel so well without smothering it with heavy-handed exaggerations and broad strokes of characterization.  It allowed Austen’s subtlety to show through in the finished product.

LA: Because of the rigid social proprieties in the Regency era, Jane Austen published all of her novels by “A Lady” instead of using her full name. Not many outside of her family knew of her private identity. If she were alive today, how do you think she would react to her widespread popularity?

Bren: I’m not quite sure how Jane Austen would react today to her immense popularity and the massive influence she has had on contemporary literature.  I’ve always imagined her as a reserved and prepossessing gentlewoman, who, I think would not know how to handle that level of celebrity.  So much about the true Jane Austen, her personality and her preferences, has been lost over the centuries.  I think one major clue as to how Jane Austen would handle her fame lies in the fact that her sister, Cassandra, burned most of her intimate correspondence after her death.  Cassandra was intent on preserving Jane’s privacy, even posthumously.  So I imagine Jane Austen to have been a very private person.

LA: Jane Austen is valued for her keen understanding of the irregularities of human nature. Her famous heroine Elizabeth Bennet is a great observer of their “follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies.” Which of Austen’s characters resembles your personality closest? Whom do you admire? Whom are you afraid of becoming?

Bren: Charlotte Lucas was a settler who sought, above all else, security.  I see a lot of myself in her reserved rationality.  Her decisions are much derided in Pride and Prejudice—and deservedly so—but I think her cool rationality and common sense is admirable in certain lights.  She was, above all else, a realist.  Though I don’t consider myself a “settler” I do, like Charlotte, crave security.  Many of the most important decisions of my life have been made based on the security they would provide.  That point of view has its foibles—of that I am keenly aware—and I’m still working on achieving a balance between a thirst for adventure and an instinct for security.

Of all the Austen characters I admire, I think Jane Bennet is the one whom I look up to.  She is the epitome of someone who will always look on the bright side of situations and of people.  Her father chides her for this tendency throughout the novel but I think there is much to be admired in her outlook on life.  A person like that will always be determined to find a way to be happy.  It might not be the most realistic of views but it represents much of what is good about human nature.

I am afraid of becoming like Mrs. Bennet, I think.  Her nature tends towards the direct opposite of Jane’s, in that she is always looking at the worst possible scenario and reacting hysterically as if it has suddenly become a reality.

LA:  Pride and Prejudice is by far Jane Austen’s most famous work. Of her other five major novels and one novella, which one do you gravitate to on a rainy day? Which is her most underrated?

For a long time, my uncontested favorite novel of all was Pride and Prejudice.  There is so much to be admired and adored in that novel and, deservedly so, it attracts a lot of attention.  But as I have matured, I’ve come to love the restrained gem that is Persuasion.  It’s interesting that P&P is a novel of Jane’s youth and Persuasion a product of her more mature years.  It’s heartbreaking to think of what she would have produced had she been able to live longer.  In any case, the themes, and characters of Persuasion speak to me as a more mature reader.  And the prose is so hauntingly beautiful that I could not resist incorporating it into my anthology story.  How on earth could I do justice to describing the events of the novel without letting her words speak for themselves?   

LA: Austen’s bad boys are so roguishly irresistible. We all have met a rake or two in our dating lives. If you were introduced to Mr. Wickham, Mr. Willoughby, Captain Tilney, Mr. Crawford or Mr. Elliot at a ball and they invited you to dance, whom would you accept, and what penetrating question would you ask him during the course of the set?    

Bren: The rakish hero from whom I would accept a dance would be Mr. Wickham and the penetrating question I would ask him is, “I heard you grew up with Mr. Darcy.  Do you think you might be able to, er, swing an introduction for me?”  Seriously, though, I think it has been either my misfortune or good luck to have only but rarely crossed paths with a true rake.  It’s that security thing again.  I think if I met one now, I’d admire from afar but stay far away from the potential disaster.

LA:  The Austen family were novel readers in an era when fiction was considered lowbrow fare. Jane makes fun of this through her hero Henry Tilney’s remark “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” If you were to introduce a new reader to Jane Austen’s works, which novel would you choose, and what advice would you share?

Bren: I would choose Pride and Prejudice or Emma to introduce someone to Jane Austen just because of their mass appeal, universal themes and well-paced plot developments.  The other novels are a little more slow in revealing their beauties, but, when looked for, those gems are well worth the finding.  My advice would be to read the novel(s) first before watching any adaptations and getting someone else’s vision of the characters and setting in their head before experiencing the novel on the page.

LA: Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson felt Jane Austen’s novels were “pinched and narrow,” lacking genius, wit and knowledge of the world. She jokingly admitted that her work was “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour.” As a writer do you agree or disagree with Emerson criticism, and as a reader, do you crave more historical detail in Austen’s novels?

Bren: Of course I disagree with Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Whatever his genius, I do not have a high opinion of his taste.  Other greats, such as Charlotte Brontë (whose novel I jokingly mention in my story for that very reason) and Mark Twain have also vocalized a negative opinion for Jane Austen.  Their minds were closed to the subtlety and understated stroke of the brush with which Austen painted.  They were romantics and Jane Austen was from an earlier era.  It is human nature to disparage what came immediately before when one is trying to innovate a brand new way of thinking.  I think that the three mentioned had a particular agenda to enforce with their criticism.  I’ll never understand why they felt the need to do this.

If I were looking for more historical detail in Jane Austen’s novels, it would be like combing a mountain range for seashells.  It’s really not the reason to read Austen.  She was a contemporary author, not a historical one.  She wrote about the people, attitudes and society of her own time without conjecture or supposition.

LA: After close to two hundred years in print, Jane Austen’s stories still touch our twenty-first century sensibilities. Why do you think her appeal is so enduring?

 Bren: I think Jane Austen’s appeal is so enduring because of the simple truth of her themes, the verisimilitude of her characters and the universality of her humor.  Few can touch Jane Austen in the wit department.  It sparkles off the page.  I’m thrilled with her current and enduring popularity.  And I’m pleased that, in writing my short story and participating in the contest, I have, in some small way, honored her memory and contribution to English literature.

What I learned about Publishing, part 1 : The Edits

Winning the short story contest and being included in a wonderful anthology—aside from all the awesomeness implied in those things—also provided me with a unique opportunity to get my feet wet in the shallow-end of the publishing business without being thrust into deep, cold waters to flounder my way back to the edge.  It was an education that I greatly appreciated and think would be of value to pass on.  So, here, I discuss my microcosm lesson in publishing.   The first, I hope, of many such experiences to come.

The editor of the anthology, Laurel Ann Nattress, called me on a Tuesday night to deliver the wonderful news that I had won the JAMMDI contest and that my story would be included in the collection.  Naturally, I was thrilled and barely remember our conversation that night but I do remember how kind and complimentary she was.  She had even passed on some nice remarks from her editor at Ballantine.  At the time, Laurel Ann warned me that things would move rather fast from that point because the book was only five months out from publication and all the other stories had been polished and edited.  She told me I had a busy few weeks ahead of me.

And was she ever right!  I heard nothing else from Laurel Ann until that Friday morning, when I opened my Outlook before racing off to work and had an email with an attachment waiting for me.  Laurel Ann passed along the edits from the Ballantine editor, Caitlin Alexander, with the request that I have them finished and back to her by Monday morning.  Laurel Ann added at the end, “I hope you didn’t have any big plans for the weekend.”

I groaned out loud.  Actually, I did have big plans.  I had a huge exam to take the next day in connection with my teaching credential.  Three exams, actually.  My plans had been to come home and study Friday night, sleep in Saturday morning, get up and study for a few more hours (thanks to my husband who had arranged to have the kids out of the house that day) and then go to the test at 1 p.m., when it was scheduled, likely to stay the full six hours of testing.  I didn’t have time to do edits.  A new job for the new school year was riding on this new credential.

But this was a dream come true and I wasn’t about to blow it off and miss my very first deadline.  Thus, I revised my plan: instead of going out to celebrate on Saturday night after my exam, I resolved to come home, open up the document and work continuously through the wee hours of Saturday night and all day Sunday to get the edits done.

Of course I resolved this all in about three seconds before opening up the document.  Caitlin had included her edits using “track changes” in Microsoft Word and putting her comments in bubbles along the margin using the “comments” feature.  When I saw all the red text crisscrossing the entire document, I almost cried—I think I sniveled a little and hunched my shoulders.  I may—for a moment—have been tempted to curl into a fetal position.

Now Caitlin had some wonderful things to say about the story.  Her comments were not all negative—in fact none of them were harsh at all.  And she did take time to make positive remarks throughout the story such as “I love the hook sentence,” and “This is beautiful”—all neatly filed away in the “I don’t completely suck” file.  I treasured those comments and still do.  Caitlin’s feedback meant a lot to me.  A real, live,New York editor had read my stuff and, mostly, liked it.

Her comments were insightful and her sentence and word choice suggestions were spot-on.  I only disagreed with one suggested change to one sentence so did not end up changing it.  The rest, though, was fair game.

Caitlin did so much more than just cross my t’s, dot my i’s and fix my tenses.  Her work on my story was invaluable.  She pointed out logic flaws where I had mentioned that my characters were doing something without giving any evidence beforehand that they had been doing those things.  For example, Mark mentions in one scene that he had run into Justine that morning in her front yard gardening.  But Caitlin pointed out that when I had described that meeting in the previous scene, I had made no mention or showed no evidence that Justine had been gardening.  I believe my original phrasing was that she was “wandering about like a lost soul.”  So I went back and added the flowerpot that she was bending over and her brother’s huge gardening gloves that gave her hands a comical appearance.

Caitlin did this all throughout the document.  And boy, by the time I was done (and rather exhausted) on Sunday night, that story was gleaming.  Or at least so I thought.  But I still had to go through two more rounds of edits (the copy edits and the page proofs).

And those I’ll cover in later posts…


Many authors advise against reading reviews of your own work.  I can see where it could be difficult to read tactless criticism, however, I just can’t resist finding out how people are reacting to my story and the anthology as a whole.

I’m pleased to say that it is getting good reviews!  And the lovely thing about an anthology is that usually people are bound to find something within the covers that they like and, hopefully, something that they love.  And with this anthology, it is not difficult.

I’m particularly thrilled to see that the reviews that mention my story specifically have been positive.  It’s so exciting!  The thought that there are so many readers out there reading and liking my story is just an amazing feeling.  Before this point, the only “reviews” I got were from my crit partners.

Thanks to the magic of Google, I’m able to collect them all in one place…

 It was so clever and beautifully written!”  Jane Odiwe, popular Austeneque Author

Some of the stories I liked best were by authors new to me. … Brenna Aubrey’s prize-winning story “The Love Letter” is a lovely account of how Wentworth’s written declaration of his love for Anne Elliot in Persuasion leads a young doctor back to the great love from his past.” – Just Janga

 Here are the highlights or rather my thoughts of some of my favorite short stories from JAMMDI… The Love Letter by Brenna Aubrey (grand prize winner of JAMMDI short story contest) This was a great read! I loved how the present characters’ relationship mirrored the Jane Austen’s Persuasion characters’ Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot. Definitely a deserving grand prize winner as I really loved and enjoyed reading it and the title of this novel was mentioned too!”  ~ Pride & Prejudice 2005 blog book review

Brenna Aubrey won a contest hosted by the Republic of Pemberley website with this story, the prize being inclusion in this collection. Honestly, I think it’s the collection that won, and Ms. Aubrey did it a favor by contributing this – it was beautiful.”  Stewartry Book Reviews

The Love Letter is a contemporary but also very nicely written and with a perfect last sentence!” – Ana at Historical Tapestry

I wanted to specifically comment on Brenna Aubrey’s story The Love Letter. Brenna was the winner of a short story contest that was held to choose one story to put into the anthology. I was very impressed with it, and thought it held up pretty well in comparison to the other stories in the collection.” – Marg at Historical Tapestry

Some of the stories aren’t so easy to put in a box,which is to their benefit. … “The Love Letter” by JAMMDI contest winner Brenna Aubrey that has a medical student reconsider a lost love due to receiving a page torn out of a certain Austen novel mysteriously in the mail.” –Living Read Girl

I was genuinely moved by “The Love Letter,” winner of a contest to be included in this book by currently unpublished author Brenna Aubrey, in which Persuasion influences a young doctor to try again with his own lost love. ”  –Goodreads

Some of the riveting stories (and my favorites) are: 1) “The Love Letter” by Brenna Aubrey ” –Goodreads

I found Aubrey’s Persuasion inspired contemporary story, written from a male doctor’s point of view, quite lovely. That contest certainly discovered a talented writer.”  ~ Christina Boyd, reviewer for Austenprose

And I was especially impressed with Brenna Aubrey’s story, “The Love Letter.” Aubrey won the online story contest hosted by the Republic of Pemberley, of which the grand prize was having her original story included in this collection. “The Love Letter” is aheartwarming, bittersweet and hopeful look at first loves, love lost and the unexpected opportunity for a second chance. Inspired by Persuasion, Aubrey does a tremendous job at recapturing the feel of Anne and Wentworth and I found I really liked the twist of having a man as her main character.” — Librarian Next Door

I can see why this story won the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest. It was another one of my favorites. Dr. Mark Hinton receives a mysterious page from a book in the mail, and discovers it is from Austen’s novel Persuasion. He learns more about the novel and also meets his old love Justine again.” –Laura’s reviews

NOTABLE FAVORITES: …The Love Letter by Brenna Aubrey: The winner of the JAMMDI contest and a well deserved winner at that. She writes a modern twist on Persuasion, which is wonderfully executed and exhibites the same tense emotion of the original work which inspired it.” –For the Love of Austen blog

The Love Letter by Brenna Aubrey, the winner of the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest, is a beautiful retelling of  Persuasion.  –Diary of an Eccentric

Knowing this short story was from the Jane Austen Made Me Do Itcontest winner, I was skeptical that it would be a memorable one.  Much to my delight, new author Brenna Aubrey has written a delightful piece, drawing heavily from themes found in her favorite Austen novel, Persuasion.  “The Love Letter” was well done, and had me fully engaged, even up to the last moments.  Of the short stories inJane Austen Made Me Do It that are set in contemporary times, this one is my favorite by far.  I’m thrilled to read that Aubrey is working on a full-length novel.  –Calico Critic

I 100% agree with the winner of the short story contest, “The Love Letter” by Brenna Aubrey; its modern equivalent for Persuasion had me cheering on love that can endure.  –Goodreads

The winner of the story contest was one of my favorites. It is a modern version of “Persuasion” and definitely not to be missed. I hope the writer continues writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the story!!! –Goodreads

As a brand-new author myself, I was most anxious to read Brenna Aubrey’s “The Love Letter.” As you may know, Brenna won a contest last year to be included in this volume. This is her first publication credit, and I have to say, it was an excellent way to begin her career. “The Love Letter” is a fresh, modern take on Persuasion which I absolutely loved, and I cannot wait to read her next work–perhaps a longer piece of fiction?   –Nancy Kelley, Austenesque Author of His Good Opinion

This is the story that won the contest for inclusion, and it’s simply beautiful. A good example of how Jane Austen can still play key roles in ‘modern’ lives (and romances). from “A Word’s Worth” book review

 “…si on avait droit à une seconde chance, dans la vie ? The Love letter, la nouvelle qui a été élue grande gagnante de cette anthologie, est très très belle aussi… elle remet en scène une histoire moderne avec un twist à la Persuasion comme vous n’en avez jamais vu…”  from “In Books We Trust” review blog.

Bren’s translation: “If you had the opportunity for a second chance in life?  “The Love Letter,” the short story grand prize winner (of the contest) is very very beautiful, too.  It recounts a story that is a modern twist on Persuasion that you’ve never before seen.”


“The Love Letter” by Brenna Aubrey is an enthralling tale of Dr. Mark Hinton who receives an anonymous note–a page torn fromPersuasion. Inspired to understand the meaning of this letter, Hinton reads the novel, seeing himself as Captain Wentworth and, in the role of Anne, his lost love, Justine. It is left to be seen what he gleans from the novel and how it will change his life.– Curled up with a Book Book Reviews


Psst, just our little secret… these are going into my “You don’t suck” file.


Today I downloaded my email and was surprised to see Jane Austen Made Me Do It in the subject line of an email from Amazon.  Sure enough, when I opened up the email, the anthology was on the top line of suggestions:

How cool is that?  My name is listed on Amazon as a contributing author.  I still can’t believe it.

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