According to Jane… and Marilyn

In Marilyn Brant’s smart, wildly inventive debut, one woman in search of herself receives advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart. . .

It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Elliaccordingtojane[1]e Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go–sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love–perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending. . .

Praise for ACCORDING TO JANE:

“A warm, witty and charmingly original story.” –Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“An engaging read for all who have been through the long, dark, dating wars, and still believe there’s sunshine, and a Mr. Darcy, at the end of the tunnel.” –Cathy Lamb, author of Henry’s Sisters

“This is a must-read for Austen lovers as well as for all who believe in the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending.” –Holly Chamberlin, author of One Week In December

An October “Fresh Pick” from Fresh Fiction!!

“Jane Austen fans will revel in this modern day unique twist on a classic, as well as learning interesting facts about Jane herself. There is just enough mystery of ‘why’ to keep you guessing, and the ending is thoroughly satisfying. This was a truly, irrevocably inspiring novel.”~Kelly Moran, Bookpleasures (5 stars)

“Just when you think Jane Austen could not appear in anything new, a refreshing reincarnation occurs as Marilyn Brant provides an engaging modern day take on the writer. Ellie is a terrific lead character as she adapts to the voice in her head while Sam is her nemesis…readers will thoroughly enjoy this fun contemporary romance that also provides insight into Jane Austen and her characters.”~Harriet Klausner (4 stars)

“According To Jane is a delight from beginning to end…a definite keeper that I can see myself returning to time and again, just for the happy pick me up feeling it gives me. I’m eagerly looking forward to Ms. Brant’s next book.”~Manic Readers (4.5 stars)

“All I can say is, again without any spoilers is that Marilyn Brant you have a new super fan and I am singing your praises…5 STARS–LOVED IT! COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN.”~Book Junkie (5 stars)

“According to Jane is an intriguing, appealing story full of warmth and wit…a fast read, perfect for the busy woman and the author has a definite gift for keeping you turning those pages. This is a book you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Austen, romance, coming of age, women’s fiction, or if you’re just looking for a highly entertaining story from an author with superb style and fresh voice.”~Working Girl Reviews (5 shoes/best book)

 Marilyn Brant is the award-winning women’s fiction author of ACCORDING TO JANE, the story of a modern woman who receives

MarilynBrant[1]

dating advice from the spirit of Jane Austen (October 2009), and her second forthcoming novel about three suburban moms who shake up their lives and their marriages (October 2010), both from Kensington Books.

As a former teacher, library staff member, freelance magazine writer and national book reviewer for Romantic Times, Marilyn has spent much of her life lost in literature. She received her M.A. in educational psychology from Loyola University Chicago, dabbled in both fiction and art at Northwestern University, studied the works of Austen at Oxford University and is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her debut novel won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award® in 2007.

Marilyn lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with her family, but she also hangs out online at her blog “Brant Flakes.” When she isn’t rereading Jane’s books or enjoying the latest releases by her writer friends, she’s working on her next novel, eating chocolate indiscriminately and hiding from the laundry.

Her website: http://www.marilynbrant.com

Hi Marilyn and welcome to my Journey! Can you tell us about your latest release and the inspiration behind it?

Hi Judi! Thanks for having me! My debut novel, According to Jane, is the story of a modern woman who–for almost two decades–has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice. I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.

*Any great fan/fan mail stories you care to share?

The book was just released on September 29th, so first impressions are still coming in, but I’ve gotten some truly wonderful emails from people who read the ARCs this summer. One of my favorites is from a woman who won a copy of the book in a contest and emailed me to say that she’d finished the book in a day and was on an emotional high from reading it. She added, “Sometimes I go through phase where I’m so blase about reading fiction and focus mainly on non-fiction (my usual staple), but once in a blue moon, a book grips me and makes me fall in love with fiction again. Thank you. A very grateful reader.” I will always, always love that message!

*Which scene in your novel did you love writing and why?

One scene I had a lot of fun with was the bar scene in the first chapter where my main character runs into her ex-high-school boyfriend for the first time in four years. It was a situation I had never experienced personally, but I could imagine the comical possibilities so clearly and feel and the frustration of my heroine as if I’d been the one standing there, facing the jerk and his latest girlfriend, while Jane Austen ranted about how “insufferable” he was.

*What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

In junior high and early high school, I loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Love Story by Erich Segal, Illusions by Richard Bach and, of course, everything by Austen. When I was an elementary schooler, I also loved Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key and all the Nancy Drew mysteries.

*Which ‘craft’ book has inspired or helped you the most throughout your writing career?

I’m a BIG fan of craft books, so I have more than one! I used Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT! almost religiously in the plotting of my past several books. I’m still very sad that he’s no longer with us. As far as a great reference guide, Robert McKee’s STORY is incredible. It has more information about writing craft than I can ever internalize. Also, whenever I need a more emotional pick-me-up, I grab the Ralph Keyes book THE COURAGE TO WRITE. I recommend it to everyone.

*If you could ask one author (in all of history) for one piece of advice, who would you ask and what you would want to know from them?

Oooh, getting to be like my main character here! If I could have asked Jane Austen for advice before I was married, it would have definitely revolved around which type of man was the right one for me. (She would intuitively know the answer, I’m sure.) However, even without Jane’s help, I was fortunate to find “my Darcy.”   Now, I would ask her for her thoughts on the crafting of a perfect novel. What were the qualities she felt a great piece of fiction should possess? What was she consciously trying to achieve with her novels?

*Do you have a sample chapter posted?

Yes! On my website I have a segment of Chapter One available for anyone interested in reading. It’s here: http://www.marilynbrant.com/extras.html Also, if you go to the Amazon page for According to Jane (here: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238387155&sr=1-1), there’s a “Search Inside This Book” feature, and people can read samples from scenes throughout the novel.

*What is your author fantasy?

I’m secretly, unrelentingly ambitious, even when I have no right to be. Of course I want to hit the NYT bestseller list and get a movie deal. Also, I’d like an Oprah invitation and a few RITAs. However, these are not quite enough to satisfy every daydream I’ve ever had. I’d greatly enjoy winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and an Olympic gold medal (in both ice skating and gymnastics). The fact that I’m pathetic on skates and terrified of the uneven bars is, in no way, a deterrent from these unrealistic fantasies. My simple ability to *imagine* them, makes them almost real. Furthermore, I like shiny things (although I don’t like to dust them), so I hereby promise that if I win ANY heavy golden statuettes–ever–I will dust faithfully. Especially that Grammy award. Really.

*What’s next for you?

I get to visit a number of book clubs that chose my debut novel, According to Jane, as their monthly book pick–wildly fun!–while also starting the production/promotion process all over again for my next women’s fiction project. That second book is done, but we’re still working on finding the right title. It’s a modern fairytale about three suburban moms who shake up their marriages and their lives when one woman asks her friends a somewhat shocking question… That comes out in October 2010. 

*What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?

Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But–if not–write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

*Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

I was asked for input on the cover by my editor, and I sent Kensington pages of possible scene ideas, plus a plot summary and descriptions of the main characters. In the end, I have no idea whether or not my notes were helpful, but the cover didn’t look anything like I’d imagined it–it looked far, far better! I couldn’t be more pleased with the way our cover designer, Kristine Mills-Noble, envisioned the look of the book. I’m really excited to see what she’ll come up with for my second novel.

*What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men…

*Where do you write? Describe your writing space – is it a cluttered mess or minimalist heaven?!

I write in my home office–a messy, absolutely cluttered place–I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks.

*What are you reading at the moment?

Some entertaining Austen-inspired fiction, like Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life, and the amazing Shaffer/Barrows novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

*Are you a member of a writer’s group? If so, how has it helped your writing?

I’m a member of Chicago-North RWA, and it’s an incredibly strong critique chapter. Every month, three members have the opportunity to have up to 20 pages of their work critiqued by those attending the meetings (usually between 25-30 published/aspiring authors). The feedback is excellent, and it really helped me when I was a newbie to hear what more experienced writers were saying about some of my earlier work. Not only what confused them or what they thought was structurally unsound, but also what they felt were some of my writing strengths. That’s priceless insight when you’re just starting out. I can contrast this experience with semester-long university-level fiction workshops, which I personally didn’t find to be nearly as constructive. In my opinion, if a new writer ever finds herself surrounded by people whose main objective is to show off how clever they are or to alter a piece of writing in a way that messes with her author voice, she should sprint, not merely run, to the nearest exit. It worth hunting for a group that will help you build upon your writing talents while, at the same time, assisting you in strengthening your weaknesses.

*Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale (including the title and publisher)?

Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and publishing some academic work in college, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and desperately in need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. I wrote my first book having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, btw! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance…)  I got some feedback though–mostly negative–from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference. It was there that I heard about RWA. I joined, wrote three more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. My agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it won the Golden Heart and was revised (again), it finally did sell–to John Scognamiglio at Kensington–on a sunny and surrealistic day in April 2008.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Marilyn, and I wish you much success!

Book information:

Title: According to Jane
Author: Marilyn Brant
Publisher: Kensington Books (trade paperback)
Price: $14.00 U.S./$16.95 Canada
Release Date: October 1, 2009 (on-shelf date: Sept. 29, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-3461-2
Pages: 288
Links to my page on Kensington: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/catalog.cfm?dest=itempg&itemid=14890&secid=258&linkon=section&linkid=258
And to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/ref=ed_oe_p

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10 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Judi :). It’s a pleasure to be here!

  2. Ooo, we are united in our love of shiny things! This sounds like a totally fun novel! Wishing you much success!

  3. What a wonderful take on Austen. I like the premise. I’ll have to check it out.

    I noticed on your list of *craft* books, two I haven’t seen, so thanks. I’ve got the amazon window open to order them.

    Judi and Marilyn, lovely article and interview!

  4. Hi Judi and Marilyn! I never get tired of reading about Marilyn and her book! Thanks for the great interview and sharing the fantastic praise!

  5. Oh, this one sounds like a great book! I enjoyed the interview as well!

    Hawk

  6. Thanks for stopping by, ladies! It does sound like a good book,doesn’t it? :)

  7. Kat, Sia, Robin and Hawk~thank you all for visiting! Robin, how sweet of you to stop by here, too!! And LOL, Kat–we can form a Shiny sisterhood ;).
    Thanks, again, Judi!!

  8. Great interview, Judi. Marilyn, congratulations on your sales. As for the craft recommendations, thanks. You’ve made them sound too good to pass up.

  9. Marilyn just finished your week of Romance segment a it challenged me follow up with your tour. Good luck

    Susan Lathen

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