Please welcome my guest, Janet Mullany!
He released her hands and stood. “Consider, Jane. You’ll marry some bore of a country gentleman who’ll kill you in childbed and who won’t want a bookish wife anyway. Perhaps you’ll stay a spinster and lose your bloom and die young of some disease they’ll find an easy cure for in a hundred years or so. Or you’ll see your sister die first.”
“Now you’re cruel.”
“No, it is the truth. But let us paint a happier picture for Miss Jane Austen. You write a few books that entertain your family and you win a little fame, perhaps even some money, while you live. And after, what then? Your books languish forgotten on dusty bookshelves and you are but a name on a binding that disappears with decay and time. You think your books offer you a chance at immortality?”
—Jane and the Damned
Jane and the Damned isn’t a romance so it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. It’s a historical urban fantasy with romance elements, part alternative historical with a bit of this, that, and the other, and some “spot the Austen novel” moments. But I think a characteristic of the HEA is that hero and heroine exist in a bubble of passion, which is why vampire romances are so hot (and, oh yeah, the physical perfection and great sex and all that stuff)—the eternal is now. Never mind that she’ll be looking at hip replacements while he is still a gorgeous 28-year-old sex god. Or, they’ll both be forever young and gorgeous vampires, the HEA distilled into eternity, the passage of time halted.
It’s a great fantasy.
But Jane Austen as a vampire? Neither of these endings would work and I had to create a scenario where her immortality would come with her books, even if at the age of 21 (the book is set in 1797) she was not at all sure she would ever be published. But I was following a trend, even though I hadn’t read a lot of vampire books, and I certainly hadn’t read any of the vampire classics, but I had watched hours of True Blood on HBO before getting tired of all those ripped perfect bodies and all that blood.
All those ripped perfect bodies and all that blood are what I define as Vampires Type A in popular culture. Vampires Type O are the evil ones. The ones mortals must fight to save the world, yadda yadda. And then there’s all this stuff about garlic and holy water and crosses (anyone remember that Roman Polanski movie with the Jewish vampire?—“Oy, lady, did you ever get the wrong vampire…”), not being able to cross running water, go out in daylight, use public transport (I’m making that up), and so on.
I had to come up with a vampire scenario that fit into my depiction of Georgian England, the age of reason and of both social and industrial revolution; the world that produced Jane Austen. I chose very selectively from vampire lore, although essentially the Damned are Type A—hot, desirable, and very fashionable. They’re the ton. Everyone wants to have sex with them or provide them with a dining experience. (These vampires do not feed—that is so vulgar. They dine.) The Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent) loves to hang out with them and the newspapers are full of their scandalous behavior.
To tie the vampire elements to what we know of Austen’s life, I used another established literary trope, that Austen became what she was because of some lifechanging event: frequently a passionate love affair, a secret destroyed in the letters her sister Cassandra burned after her death. The family secret as I interpreted it was that Jane Austen was once a vampire and it influenced everything she wrote.
Do you agree with my vampire-HEA assessment? And what do you think of the current Austen-paranormal trend?
Thanks, Janet! It was great to have you visit!