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Hello. My name is Melanie and I am a Jane Austen addict. But unlike other addictions, we see in the world, this is one I refuse ever to give up the addiction. I told my daughter, when she was a child, that reading was one addiction I would support. I started publishing Pride and Prejudice variations, (fan fiction, Austen inspired, whatever other name that people use for the genre), in 2012. As I tell people, I never thought anyone would like my stories and had only published them to have copies for members of my family. That people liked the stories and wanted more has shocked me over the ten years.
My grandmother always said we must learn from the past to know how to do better future. Personally, I think Grandma loved history, and it was her way of getting me to love history as well. I live by the belief I will continue to learn and grow (mentally, at least) until the day I die.
Another thing Grandma always said was when it comes to fashion, wait a few years, and the trend will come back around. Fortunately, the Regency style clothing has not come back in style, as my 3X body would not be flattered by some of the trends of the early 1800’s.
There is definitely a reason for my telling you about my grandma. One question I have heard over the years is how I come up with ideas that turn into stories. This is where I fall back to Grandma’s rule on history and how we can take from the past to make the future better. Forgive me, but I doubt seriously I am the only person who will see something or read about something and wonder what it would have been like for people of 200 years ago if they were in the same situation.
As an example, I watched the movie The Monuments Men. It was about the stolen art taken by Nazis during WWII. One of the pieces stolen was the Bruges Madonna, the only piece of Michelangelo’s that was removed from Italy before the artist died. It was purchased by a family in Belgium. The Madonna was stolen twice in history. Hazard to guess when it was stolen previously?? By a little Frenchman?? Napoleon also had the Bruges Madonna stolen from Belgium. There were also other pieces of art stolen by Napoleon’s forces, many of which were also stolen years later by Hitler. Of course, this crumb led me to many hours on the computer, doing research. Knowing that it was stolen during Napoleon’s war made the lightbulb over my head go on. That led to the story I wrote… In Search of Beauty. The story has the Darcys and Bennets in Belgium, with the Bennets attempting to recover stolen art from the French in Belgium.
One thing that sometimes…ok, most of the time… happens when I start doing research are rabbit holes. Tons of rabbit holes, as well as other ideas for other stories. This allows me to add some real information to each of my stories. It is also something I love when reading in the JAFF genre, as when other authors add something unique in their stories, it leads me to investigating the information, which again, leads me to more rabbit holes. I have tons of research on my computer, my external drive, my Dropbox, and other storage devices. It is interesting to learn things like the wages of people during the time, how much items cost, the inventions of things like plumbing, medical treatments, use of steam, and even how fast a person could travel (on horse, by carriage, by boats/ships. All of this can aid in writing or give another storyline, so I need to do more research. I have around a dozen stories on the back burner because of the research. Like I really have need for an excuse for researching. I am also fortunate to have a few friends that I can turn to when necessary. One is my sister by heart on the other side of the pond, Kay Tanner. Another is our very own Regina Jeffers.
In my opinion, one of the things we are fortunate in having to do research is the internet. What used to take years and lots of traveling to locations to learn information, we can do in far less time and without leaving our homes. The technology that has come about over the past few years has been incredible when it comes to doing research. We can take tours of libraries, museums, and more, all from the comfort of a chair in our homes.
Another thing our modern technology can do is make us appreciate the talent of people throughout history. Have you ever taken a moment to think about how long it took to build such constructions like London Bridge, the great pyramids, the grand churches and castles, when they did everything by hand? How about what it took to make some of the incredible art pieces that Napoleon and Hitler desired so much? What was it like to sculpt marble in the late 1700’s? Research helps put things in perspective and for me, a deeper respect. I have an antique butter churn. This is a great example of the work that went into making a pound of butter in 1812. You would have had to own a cow or goat, feed them and milk them, then do the back breaking churning part. Then the butter could be placed inside a wooden mold to make the butter a certain design (if you were wealthy, otherwise you would make into a simple shape, like a ball. Another area that we are spoiled by is mowing a yard. In the early 1800’s, only the wealthy could afford to have people “mowing” the lawns or parks, as it took multiple people, using sickles or scythes, to keep the grass from growing wildly, unless you had many sheep to keep it trimmed down.
So, I will leave you with the hope you also learn and do research, whether you are a writer or just learning on your own. Expand your horizons, and enjoy doing so. Oh, and before you get going, always have food and drink nearby in case you end up in a rabbit hole.
Thank you to Jane Austen for pushing me towards learning and exploring more information. She gave me a new life that has brought me a lot of joy.
On a parting note, though I am grateful for the women’s fashions from Jane Austen’s time not making a comeback, I am not against the fashions of men such as Mr Darcy. They can make a comeback any time they want. Haha.