Today I look forward to sharing with my Just Jane 1813 readers a visit with Christina Boyd, an Austenesque editor that I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with through my interactions with the JAFF community. Christina has edited some of my favorite JAFF stories, and I bet after you read this article, you’ll recognize some of your favorite stories as well! Please welcome Christina Boyd to Just Jane 1813…
It’s such a pleasure to have you visit with us at Just Jane 1813. You are such a trailblazer in the Jane Austen Fan Fiction community, and I’m constantly amazed at your wealth of knowledge, as well as your love of all things related to Jane Austen. When I looked over my list of Just Jane 1813 Reviewer’s Favorites for 2015, I believe you have edited three of these titles, (Suddenly Mrs. Darcy, Then Comes Winter and Longbourn’s Songbird) which I believe speaks volumes about your work as an Austenesque editor. Before I delve into some more specific questions, can you sit back and share with my readers a little bit about yourself?
Gosh, that’s quite a build-up. Thank you for your generous words, for supporting so many wonderful authors, and for inviting me to take part at Just Jane 1813. I must clarify, I am no trailblazer—simply an Austen acolyte who loves to encourage more readers into the Austenesque fandom. Compared to many others, my decade with Austen is infinitesimal.
I live in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest (not five miles from the Canadian border) with my dear Mr. B, two busy teenage Boydlings, and a Chesapeake Bay retriever named BiBi. I studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. Although life has taken me on a merry adventure through a myriad of careers including modeling, flight attending, marketing & sales, owning a paint-it-yourself ceramic studio…I have for the last fourteen years created and sold a pottery line under my own banner, Stir Crazy Mama’s Artworks, from a working studio on our property.
As a lifetime JASNA member, I know you’ve also attended a variety of events over the years based on Austen’s life and work. As someone with a lot of knowledge about Austen and JAFF, I am curious to know why you are so invested in Jane Austen’s work and how this all started for you.
Albeit I read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked my interest in all things Austen. After reading The Six major works again, my thirst for more simply could not be slaked, despite having discovered on-line Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF), purchasing ALL the movie adaptations, and even joining and attending my first Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM)—all within that first year! Eventually, I became a life member of JASNA, and my addiction continues. I confess, I become totally immersed in my passions—and my friends forever remind me that it’s provident I use that ardor for good!
I had discovered the world of fan fiction and life after Pride and Prejudice through the elegant hand of Pamela Aidan’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman…and then on to the madcap, puckish Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. Soon after many on-line writers began to publish their stories via some online printing and distributing press—that was super expensive. Finally, larger presses started to mine the world of JAFF. All of that seems quite foreign now—because in this ever changing wild, wild west that is modern day publishing—small presses, hybrid presses, large publishers, and an explosion of self-published authors—have come on the Jane Austen scene. With the advent of e-readers, I rarely ever read at on-line sites unless someone directs me there specifically to discover an exceptional writer. Presently, I own over 400 Austen inspired novels in print and countless more on my Kindle…and cannot comprehend the neglect of the collection in such days as these.
Can you give us a timeline of your own JAFF reading experiences, as a reader and if you’d like, as an editor?
As some of my favorite on-line Austenesque writers began publishing, I understood even then the value of reviews for a debut author in regards to generating sales for a book, thus this fangirl wrote an Amazon review for every Austenesque book I read. Soon after, it became a habit. My Amazon reviewer ranking improved, and Amazon contacted me to become part of their Vine program. In 2009, I received a private message via my Amazon profile from a Laurel Ann Nattress of a blog called Austenprose. She said she liked my reviews, and would I be interested in writing reviews for her Austen blog? I had never heard of her blog, but I checked out her site and liked her content. Now, after writing some fifty-seven editorial reviews, expressly for Austenprose, some even being re-blogged to The Sunday Salon, I count Laurel Ann Nattress as one of my greatest Austen and book business mentors…ever. Three years ago, I received an email from Michele Reed, the publisher at Meryton Press…asking if I would be interested in editing for Meryton Press as a sub-contractor. Would I? Golly, would I! Thus, I added content editor to my vitae. And the rest is history. Oh, and there was that time I took a year long stint with a hybrid press, gaining invaluable work experience about other aspects of publishing—marketing, social media, managing a book project—that I am ever trying to pass on to emerging talent and authors I admire.
I understand that many writers have a love-hate relationship with their own editors. They love them when the finished product is fleshed out to their liking; they hate them when there are disagreements or disparities in their visions for the work that they are both deeply invested in. What words would you use to describe your relationships with the writers that you work with and how do you strike a balance that allows you to work collaboratively with each other?
Last year, I had the privileged to edit two short story anthologies, Sun-kissed Effusions of Summer and Then Comes Winter. In the winter anthology, I wrote in the acknowledgments, “It’s not easy to submit a story, only to have initial edits returned and marked up in a bloodbath of red and entire paragraphs slashed or with suggested re-writes. I have found that only the most courageous professional can humbly accept and smartly defend the changes and then trust that this editor has their best interest at heart.” Thus far, I have been blessed to work with twenty-two extraordinary authors on twelve full-length books. I do not doubt a writer’s shock when I cut their words/passages/scenes. As a content editor, I am always curious to see how they try to add back their little darlings—they always try. Not every writer will agree with my edits, and as it’s their story, it’s their right. Working as a sub-contractor for a publisher, my contract states that the editor has the final call (and at Meryton Press that would be The Incomparable Ellen Pickels)—but when hired by independent authors, that is not the case. For the most part, we usually find a solution and end with a mutual respect for one another and the craft.
What are your own preferences in a JAFF story, including the specific literary elements on your list to make a JAFF book earn a 5-star review from you?
I prefer when canon characters remain true to Austen’s personality traits and flaws. But if they stray, there had better be a good reason. I thought Beau North did a masterful job in shifting Pride & Prejudice to the post-WWII South in her Longbourn’s Songbird, re-formulating some of our beloved characters to match the time and setting for her tale…but in essentials, staying true to character traits we know and expect. Oh, yes, I loved Beau’s story as well and I can’t wait to reread it this summer!
One of my biggest peeves though is head-hopping. Writers will claim they are writing from an omniscient point-of-view when they are in fact using the characters’ voices, making point-of-view transitions jarring. To me a five-star book—any genre—has tight writing, believable dialog, correct language fitting the time and place, light on the purple prose, and strong on plot. In JAFF, I also want a fresh story and not simply a rehash of Austen’s masterpieces.
With approximately 30-40 JAFF books being published per month, I wonder where JAFF is headed. I personally worry about the inconsistent quality amongst many of these books and hope this doesn’t have serious negative consequences for this subgenre. What are your thoughts about these concerns and can you share other concerns that you may also currently have as well?
I think, like most things, this specific genre ebbs and flows. When there is market saturation, readers become complacent about book launches and new releases. I become churlish when I see established authors from big publishers hit all kinds of Top Seller lists with mediocre Austenesque books whilst some of my favorite mid-list JAFF authors or even debut authors, struggle to get a foothold. More savvy authors are realizing they must self-promote and do more by blogging and social media—and all that that entails—which also adds to an overwhelming surfeit. Jane Austen has proved herself of her staying power, even though her real success did not come to fruition for many years after her death. By her example, I can only hope the talent will rise to the top above all the glut. Until then—or until my own Mr. B forces me into a traditional nine-to-five job—I will repine my fate in terms as unreasonable as my accent is peevish.
What’s your personal favorite book by Jane Austen and why did you select this title?
I am inconstant when it comes to her books. Whatever book I read or film I saw last, seems to be my favorite. I love Mansfield Park’s Mary Crawford the most—she really does have all the best lines. “There, I will stake my last like a woman of spirit. No cold prudence for me. I am not born to sit and do nothing. If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.” (Chapter 25)
Now, the real reason for this interview, wink wink, was to ask you to share with us anything that you can about the upcoming Jenetta James book, “The Elizabeth Papers,” which you have also edited for Meryton Press. With every Facebook post and Tweet that you send to your followers, I find myself practically counting down the days until it’s published. What can you share with my readers about this book?
I read Jenetta James’ manuscript with all the expectations of being pleased—especially since I loved, loved, loved everything about her debut book, Suddenly Mrs. Darcy. And I was not disappointed. Jenetta is a gifted wordsmith and can turn a phrase such that makes my heart ache—or flutter. Plus, she writes in that tight, non-flowery style that I fancy. Writers are told, “Write what you know.” And Jenetta knows her London and her profession as a barrister and—I can hardly wait for everyone to read it! I’m exceedingly proud to have worked on such a project with this talented author.
Hmmm… My fifteen-second elevator pitch: The Elizabeth Papers is set in modern-day London. A descendant of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy must prove her legitimacy in a one hundred and fifty year-old trust—that takes us back to 1817 and Elizabeth Darcy’s secret journals. What is unearthed in the Fitzwilliam Darcy’s letters and the secrets within present-day Pemberley will have the reader’s head spinning!
Therefore, Christina, with all of the roles that you successfully balance in your life, what can my readers look forward to seeing from you in the upcoming months or year?
Maybe I’ll write my own book. And visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on my bucket list. One never knows.
How can readers connect with you?
Now that we’re heading towards summer, Christina is also stopping by to offer one Just Jane 1813 reader the chance to win an autographed copy or an ebook of “Sun-Kissed Effusions of Summer,” the anthology published by Meryton Press which contains several delightful Austenesque short stories and a $20.00 Amazon gift card… Wow, that means the lucky winner can purchase a few JAFF titles, including the latest and greatest new and upcoming releases!
Visit Amazon to add this book to your TBR list.
This anthology is also available through KindleUnlimited.
Visit Goodreads to see what your friends are saying about this book.
To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment below this post telling us your favorite book edited by Christina Boyd or which book that she has edited that you have plans of reading in the future. All comments should be entered by midnight ET on May 30, 2016. The winner will be announced on this blog on May 31, 2016. If the winner selects a paperback copy of “Sun-Kissed Effusions of Summer,” he/she will need a U.S. or Canadian mailing address.
I’d like to thank all of my readers for your interest in Christina’s books. I always look forward to her new releases because I love the authors she works with and I love her editing style! I also want to thank Christina for this Austen-inspiring interview and her generous giveaway! I know my readers will love these treats, along with Jenetta James’ upcoming book!