Today’s guest post follows where our beloved Jane walked, lived, and her abiding influence upon, Nancy Kelley. She offers delightful insight and a few lovely photographs for you, dear readers, to enjoy. Please give Nancy Kelley a most gracious welcome today!
To a certain extent, all authors work in the shadow of the literary greats. How will our books compare when stacked up against classics like Les Misérables, Don Quixote, or Wuthering Heights? For the Austen sequel writer, the pressure is infinitely greater. We are not just working in the same profession as those masters; we are actually taking the characters and settings of Jane Austen’s stories and adding to them in some way.
Last spring, I was lucky enough to visit England and actually walk where Jane walked. I spent three days in Hampshire, the county where she spent the happiest years of her life.
My very first stop was Winchester Cathedral, where she is buried. Visiting a grave site leaves you with a greater appreciation for what the person accomplished in her life. Jane Austen didn’t live long–she was only 41 when she died. But in those short years, she created six of the most-loved novels in modern English, and she left us with numerous remnants and pieces of juvenilia. She worked hard at her writing, frequently sitting for hours at her little writing table. That kind of consistency and dedication inspired me to do the same.
On my second full day in England, I took a bus out into the countryside. My destination was Chawton, the small village where Jane spent the last years of her life and either wrote or reworked most of her novels.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how overwhelming it was to see where she worked. I could picture her bent over her paper, hurriedly scratching out a few more lines before the demands of life could pull her away from her work.
My trip to England came just as I began my revisions on His Good Opinion. That afternoon at Chawton, I could not resist. I sat down on a small bench outside the Jane Austen’s House Museum and pulled a sheaf of papers out of my purse. It was the chapter I was currently working on—the Netherfield Ball. I uncapped my pen and sat there for a moment, pondering how I might better describe Elizabeth. In the middle of my thoughts, I glanced back up at the house and smiled.
I was right where I wanted to be.
Nancy Kelley is a Janeite, an Austenesque author, and a blogger. During the writing of His Good Opinion, a version of Mr. Darcy took up residence in her brain; she fondly refers to him as the Darcy in my Head, or DIMH.
If Nancy could possess any fictional device, it would be a Time-Turner. Then perhaps she could juggle a full-time library job, writing, and blogging; and still find time for sleep and a life. Until then, she lives on large quantities of tea, of which DIMH approves.
*Photos provided by Nancy Kelley: 1) Winchester Cathedral 2) Jane Austen House Museum