"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
I'm still getting this question a lot, and since I haven't explained in a few years, I thought I'd do so again. Yes, It's regarding that seemingly innocuous line that has given me so much grief over the years. From Austenland:
Sure, Jane had first read Pride and Prejudice when she was sixteen, read it a dozen times since, and read the other Austen novels at least twice, except Northanger Abbey (of course).
The truth is, I very much like Northanger Abbey. I took a class in college where we studied gothic romances, sentimentalism, and the emergence of realism as the dominate literary style. It was fascinating, my favorite literary theory class of all time. Northanger Abbey is a parody of gothic romance, a very popular style of novel in Austen's day. As a general rule, I'm a big fan of parody. I also love Austen and highly enjoy gothic romance, so all that adds up to a book that is quite my cup of tea. So much so, in fact, that it was the inspiration for the Austenland sequel (or companion book I guess), Midnight in Austenland.
So why that line in Austenland? Because if you were to take a poll of non-scholarly readers of Austen, those who read her for fun, the one book that most of them won't have read or else won't have enjoyed as much as the others is Northanger Abbey. (Quite often I find they will have started it but never finished.) I actually thought that other Austen readers like me might chuckle about that line. "It's so true!" they'd say. "That's the one people just don't get!" I never imagined they would say instead, "Why did Hale write that? Surely it means she hates that book, and therefore I must hate her. Grab the pitchforks! Light the torches!"
The misunderstanding of this line is just one example, but I've received more angry emails and reviews on this book than any other. Quite often those unhappy ones attribute to me opinions that I don't hold and believe I'm displaying contempt that I in no way feel. What I wrote led them to those conclusions, even if they're not true.
When I wrote Austenland, I wrote it for myself, like I do all my books. But I also wrote it for my friends, those like me who got way too obsessed with Mr. Darcy but had so much fun doing it all the same. I thought I was writing for like minds, so I wasn't cautious. You know how when you're with your friends, they know you, so you don't overexplain your opinions? You're more relaxed, you know they'll take what you say in the best light, they get you. They love you. I assumed that readers of Austenland would be like minds, friends, people I could relax with, people who would give me the benefit of the doubt. I was mostly right, but I was also sometimes wrong. I took too much for granted. Still, I'm glad I was able to write in that bubble. If I'd known what I do now, I'd be tempted to overwrite. Perhaps then no one might mistake my words for other than what I mean, but then the story might be stilted and sad. Misunderstanding is one price to pay for writing with the voice I chose for this story.
Also btw, Henry Tilney is the bomb. (you know that JJ Feild, who played Mr. Tilney in Northanger Abbey, plays Mr. Nobley in Austenland, right?) He's the funniest of all the Austen heroes, and just charming and darling and sweet. But he doesn't have near the following that Mr. Darcy has. My theory on this is you can't separate Darcy from Elizabeth, Tilney from Catherine. It's not just Mr. Darcy who we love, it's also Elizabeth. I identified with her. I wanted to be her. I wanted the guy who saw in her what I hoped someone would see in me.
Once again, the list of upcoming cities where Austenland will premiere. It looks like it hasn't updated since last weekend so look at the dates. Thanks to all who made the effort to see it already! Hopefully with all this support we'll see more release cities announced soon!