|Scott D. Southard|
Scott D. Southard is an author and blogger. His most recent novel, just published, is A Jane Austen Daydream. He lives in Michigan.
Q: How did you first get interested in Jane Austen, and why did you decide to write a novel based on her life?
A: I first discovered Jane’s writing in college. I went to Aquinas College, which is the wonderful school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The professor (Dr. Brent Chesley) was obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and spent a good part of a semester breaking down why the book is a masterpiece. That summer I continued my reading, taking on all of her other books. It was in researching her bio later that I discovered that she really didn’t live the life she dreamt up for her characters. I found that a startlingly realization and it affected all future readings I had of her novels.
So at the heart of A Jane Austen Daydream is my attempt to give Jane something she wanted in fiction, making this (in my opinion) both a tribute and a gift to her…. At least, this is how I like to think of it.
Then there is the big twist in the book which I don’t want to ruin. I’ve actually spoken to other readers and writers about it and I think I might be the first to attempt it in a work like this. I’m curious to see what people think of it. When I first got the idea I do admit it made me laugh. It took some time before even I realized that I was being serious.
Q: Why do you think Jane Austen and her works continue to fascinate people?
A: What makes Jane so important is not gimmicks or literary trickery or fads; no, it is strong characters, pure and simple. You walk away knowing every character on that page. They can feel as human as you and me, from the most minor of characters to the leading players. They are friends that you can go back and visit again and again. Some writers can create worlds; Jane created people, hearts.
It is really not surprising that so many writers attempt to continue her stories. She has created such memorable individuals, it is hard to say goodbye.
Q: Do you have a favorite Austen novel?
A: An easy question to answer -- Pride and Prejudice. I like to say that there are two perfect works in literature, Pride and Prejudice is one of them (the other is A Christmas Carol by Dickens).
Pride and Prejudice plays a big part in my novel since for a bulk of the book I have her working on the novel (from the inspiration to the editing).
Q: What books about Austen would you recommend?
That is a tricky question to answer since I don’t read sequels or retellings of her work. This book is very outside that practice. In regards to bios, we sadly know little really about her. I found Carol Shields' bio useful in the early stages of planning the book. The Republic of Pemberley’s website was also a great resource for me.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a blog (The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard) where I write on a series of different topics, everything from writing to parenting to arts and entertainment. That can be found on sdsouthard.com, and there is also info on my other books there.
Because of the discussions around writing on my site, I am attempting to self-publish a book later this season (aiming for late May) called Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare. It is a Victorian period mystery with some major literary surprises. I like to call it “genre-breaking.” I’m actually documenting the experience on my site as well.
I also wrote a book last year on my site called Permanent Spring Showers. I actually created the book in real-time, one chapter a week, making most of it up as I went along. It was a fun challenge. It is a contemporary tale about love and artists. I hope to find a publisher for that book later this year.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: While Jane Austen is the main character and it is a treasure trove for Jane Austen fans, I don’t want people to think this book is only for Austenites. Not at all. If it was, well, then it wouldn’t be my book. There is a lot more going on here.
Yes, there is romance in the book, but it is also very witty, touching and filled with literary experiments. I like to believe there is something in it for everyone.
And, of course, there is the big surprise to be discovered…
--Interview with Deborah Kalb