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Monday, May 6, 2013

A Proper Introduction

{ Author of A Jane Austen Daydream, Scott D. Southard }
Great storytelling is a gift. While some in this world can sing like angels and others can dance like a summer breeze, there are few who can write as if creating people and worlds were the easiest thing to do. This story is the tale of one such writer. 
       Her name was Jane.

Scott D. Southard, A Jane Austen Daydream, Prologue


He had me at Jane...

One of the most rewarding things about starting this blog has been meeting so many talented people who's work I admire. They inspire me with their creative voices and also serve as guiding lights on my own literary path. One person who I've had the good fortune to meet is author and blogger Scott D. Southard. His new novel, A Jane Austen Daydream, was just released last week and I was lucky enough to get to interview him ahead of the launch. He indulged me and answered my sometimes cheeky questions with candor and gusto. Thank you Scott! 

You'll find our conversation below and you can purchase your very own copy of A Jane Austen Daydream {which I highly recommend} here. Don't forget to check back on Wednesday when I'll post my full review of the novel and share a few thoughts of my own about Jane's work.

Miss Austen.......may I present Scott D. Southard of Michigan

1. How did you first become exposed to Jane Austen’s work? Do you have a favorite?

The blame for that one lies solely in the teachings of Dr. Brent Chesley at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dr. Chesley is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice (even was known for wearing shirts declaring as much in class) and while as an undergrad I took part in a class of his that included the great novel. Now, I will admit this, before I took the class I never considered Jane Austen. That’s not to say I thought she was a bad writer (heaven forbid!), no it was just I knew her works to be more for… well… women readers. Anyway, Dr. Chesley opened my eyes on this subject and I became a fan of her writing; her wit and character development being the most inspiring to me.

After that semester, I devoured all of her books over the summer;  yet, for me, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite since it was my “gateway” to the world of Austen. 

2. Which of her novels influenced you the most while you were writing A Jane Austen  Daydream?

Each of her novels play a part in the book, influencing everything from the plot to the characters to the dialogue; you will see snippets of things throughout the reading, making it a fun treasure hunt for the Austenites, even though you don’t have to have the background knowledge to enjoy it. However, I would say three books probably had a bigger hand than the others.

See, A Jane Austen Daydream is broken into three volumes. I would say that Emma had a big hand in Volume one, Pride and Prejudice for Volume two, and Persuasion for Volume three.

3. What do you think Jane would say about a man writing her story?

I love this question and it is something I thought a lot about in the writing of my book. I hope this doesn’t sound too weird but in many ways Jane was a ghost in the room for me as I worked for years on it. And it took me quite a lot of time to even build up the courage to write this book since I hold her writing (and herself) on such a pedestal.

To justify the creation, I began to think of it as a tribute (which it is), trying to give her the romance she might have written for herself (full of wit and surprises). 

In regards to me being a dude? Well, without discussing the plot too much, I think she would have laughed.

4. Most women who love Austen identify with her characters on some level because they see themselves in them. As a man reading her work, do you identify with her characters or the situations they find themselves in?

There is one theme throughout Jane’s writing that a person would have to be a robot not to feel connected to- The feeling of longing.

Unrequited love, the desire to find someone that understands you, your other half. I am one of the lucky ones, finding that in my wife. But I can still relate to the feelings of her characters, remembering what it was like before I met my wife, wondering if I would be always alone, misunderstood, etc. 

5. If Jane were working today would she have been a writer on Sex and the City or a foreign correspondent for the BBC?

I think Jane would be the same as she was then, simply a writer. I don’t think Jane would have been stuck to a genre or medium, I think she would have followed the tide of her inspiration.

So many writers today decide their next project based on the direction of the literary winds (or possibly financial winds) at the time. I don’t see Jane being that at all. She would have been a uniquely separate force of creativity, and we would have all been looking forward to her next work, wondering what she had up her sleeve for us this time. 

6. You’re a self‐professed Anglophile (I can identify). What is it about England that you love so much?

I grew up with a love of books and it is hard not to be an anglophile because of it. For every stage of my learning there was a British writer to draw from, to hold my hand, perfect for that age in my life. From A.A. Milne as a child to my first dips into fantasy at ten with Tolkien and Lewis; there was always a British writer there.

So my love of England started with books. Everything else (The Beatles, Doctor Who, Monty Python, Eddie Izzard, etc.) just comes along for the ride. And what a sweet ride it is!

7. When did you know you wanted to become a writer? Do you view writing as a risk?

This is going to sound corny, but I always wanted to be a writer. My mom tells stories (which might be stories) of me making up tales even at a young age. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I felt ready to take on the role of it.

I think what was smart for me as a young writer, looking back, is that I always wrote first for myself. In other words, I took on stories that I would want to read, not worrying about publishers, agents, marketing, etc. See, it is when you dip into that business world of the art that it gets risky, because it can kill your creativity, starve the part of the brain that just loves to see where the imagination may lead. So whenever I meet a new writer or someone asks for  advice, I will usually say write for yourself, if success comes, it comes; but if you write for yourself first everything else is a nice bonus and you will never feel like a failure.

8. At first blush your published works seem to showcase a wonderful variety. Do you see them that way or is there a common thread that connects them?

It is very intentional for me because as a reader what I always love the most is when I can be surprised by book. I’m not the kind of reader that latches on to one genre or one kind of book, taking comfort in treading the paths that have been tread before.

No, I want to be jolted. I want to sit up and declare “How did that writer do that!?!”

So when I consider my own writing, I wanted to create a library of books that would have that impact for my readers, always wondering what little bit of magic I have up my sleeve in my next book. Even when one of my works do “dip” into a genre, chances are it is for me to warp the genre, find a new angle. So if my books surprise you (and there are BIG surprises in A Jane Austen Daydream), I feel like my job as a storyteller is done.

9. What advice do you have for writers today are working towards their first novel?

I kind of answered a bit of this in number 7. But let me add two points.

Read a lot. Read everything. Read all of the classics. Read books that sound boring. Read books that are in a genre you don’t like. Experience everything in literature. Even if you only want to write in one genre, read outside that genre whenever you get a chance. Your voice and creativity will improve with every new edition to your library. Your brain is a sponge; give it stuff to soak up.

The second point is to start a blog. A blog is the best avenue available for a writer today to build an audience and also see if they have the capability to do this gig full time. Having a blog has been very rewarding for me. 

10. I have a strict rule for the men I date. I in no way expect them to have read Jane Austen, but I certainly expect them to know whom she is. With your extensive knowledge and understanding of her work, have you ever used it to impress a lady?

Ha! I wonder if I should ask my wife for the answer on this… Let me call her… Just a second…My wife is laughing… still laughing.

My wife says simply the fact I have this knowledge impresses the lady, I don’t have to use it…. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt.

There you go.


Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.



By Scott D. Southard
All her heroines find love in the end–but is there love waiting for Jane?
Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.
Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years–did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us–to a greater or lesser degree–are head over heels for. 

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