The Austen Project “F-Word”

posted in: Writing Life | 0

Have you heard about The Austen Project?

It’s an project in which “six bestselling contemporary authors” are paired with each of Jane Austen’s six novels. From the website: “Taking these well-loved stories as their base, each author will write their own unique take on Jane Austen’s novels.”

Um…so basically these are fanfic, yeah? Sorry, are we not supposed to call them that? Because “bestselling contemporary authors” are writing them and Harper Collins is publishing them?

Wait…isn’t this just fanfic? (Picture taken from The Guardian’s website.)

The Austen Project is nothing new or original. Re-telling and modernizing Jane Austen’s stories has been done. It’s being done. Hello, Clueless. Hello, Bridget Jones’ Diary. Hello, Hyacinth Gardens, Derbyshire Writers’ Guild, and A Happy Assembly. Hello, Meryton Press. Of course, I’ve read some of the Austen Project novels, will probably read all of them, and am stoked for Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld. I welcome any and all Austen adaptations.

But my point is that fanfic is pooh-poohed by the Publishing Establishment, except when they’re trying to capitalize on it. Let’s just call The Austen Project what it is: Jane Austen Fan Fiction!

Everything Is Beautiful at the Ballet (?)

posted in: Ballet, The Muse | 0

“Everything is beautiful at the ballet.
– “At The Ballet” from the musical, A Chorus Line

The Muse, my debut novel, is set in a professional ballet company.

I am not a professional ballerina, but from the the age of 5 until I was 17, I danced ballet.  It started when my mom put me in dance class, against my will. I hated going to ballet. I hated the itchy polyester leotard I had to wear. I hated the way the bobby pins in my bun pinched my scalp. I hated the slow pace and monotony of ballet class. I begged my mom to let me quit, but she wouldn’t cave. In fact, according to legend, I once threw myself on the dance studio floor and refused to get up. I had to be dragged off to the sides so that the other girls in class could continue.

I always loved to perform, though. Despite my hatred of ballet and my misbehaviors in class, I must have exuded some kind of devilish charm that my teachers liked. In my dance school’s recital, we performed as a troupe of glittery pooh-bears, and the teacher cast me as the mischievous bear that needed to be dragged off stage by the ring-master. A lead role (for a precocious six-year-old at least), and type casting at its finest.

Eventually, something shifted, and I grew to develop a love-hate relationship with ballet. I still dreaded dance class. I still hated the leotards, pink tights, and too-taut buns. The monotony of those barre exercises still put me to sleep. But, I discovered I loved to dance. I loved when we got to move around the floor. I loved whipping my head around and stretching my arms to the sky after a sharp turn. I loved the soaring leaps in grande allegro. I loved that dizzy, crazed feeling after a series of turns across the floor. It was the ultimate adrenaline kick.

In my short dance career, I attended a performing arts middle school and high school, and even danced in several semi-professional productions of The Nutcracker, Giselle, and Swan Lake. I danced seven days a week, for up to ten hours a day. I lived and breathed dance.

Some of my best memories happened in dressing rooms and in the wings of a theater. I loved backstage life. I loved fake eyelashes and tutus and the jittery feeling of standing in blackness just before the curtain rose. The camaraderie and the energy that dancers share before a performance is something I haven’t since experienced.

For many years, I thought I wanted to become a professional ballerina, but I eventually quit. I’ve never regretted it. The dance is beautiful; it still makes me ache when I go see the ballet. But ballet is a brutal art. I’ll share some more real-life experiences that made it into The Muse in a later post.


The Muse is Being Published!

posted in: The Muse, Writing Life | 2

It became real a few weeks ago that, ohmigod, this was actually happening: The Muse was being published!

This novel has been in the works for over eleven years. I started writing it in 2003, before ebooks had really taken off, never intending to actually have it published. I was a die-hand Pride and Prejudice fan, living alone and lonely in Japan. I had no access to English television, and scarce access to English movies. I subsisted on DVDs and, in particular, the six-hour BBC Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Darcy. At the same time, I also worked a mind-crushingly boring translation job with the Japanese government. A busy day held about an hour’s worth of work for me. I surfed the internet a lot, reading pages of Jane Austen fanfic at sites like the now-defunct Hyacinth Gardens (RIP).

I decided to write The Muse because, frankly, I was bored. That spring, The Phantom of the Opera movie with Gerard Butler as the Phantom had come out in Japan. Something about the parasitic dynamic between the Phantom and his muse, Christine Daae, piqued my imagination. I envisioned a story that started off Phantom and ended Darcy. The Muse was born.

With the encouragement of my beta, Debbie, I began posting a chapter every Tuesday to Hyacinth Gardens. I had no expectations for my story, but it became incredibly popular. Regular readers on the site dubbed my posting days as “Tuesday Muse-Day.” I finished posting the story and it lived on Hyacinth Garden and then on A Happy Alternative when the Garden shut down. There it would have remained had it not been for my angel/beta Debbie who nudged me every so often to suggest I think about publishing it. In April 2013, her suggestions finally sunk in and I decided to go for it.

Being a perfectionist, it took me a year-and-a-half to revise and edit. I took a while figuring out my next steps, working up my courage to let The Muse out into the wider world. And now…here I am! The Muse is set for a release around the holidays, nearly eleven years after I wrote it!