Three Questions for Marilyn Brant (and whispers from the ghost of Jane Austen)

Life is changing for former teacher/librarian Marilyn Brant with the recent release of her debut novel, According to Jane, the story of a modern woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her advice on love and life (and love life) for almost twenty years.

According to NYT bestselling author Susan Wiggs: "Marilyn Brant's debut novel is proof that Jane Austen never goes out of style. This is a warm, witty and charmingly original story of a woman coming of age and finding her own happy ending--with a little help from the ultimate authority--Jane Austen herself."

We caught up with Marilyn for 3 Questions about writing and life...

Where did you find Ellie and Jane, and how did you get them together?
I first read Pride & Prejudice as a high-school freshman. Like my heroine Ellie, I raced through the novel way ahead of the reading assignments. I loved both the story and Austen’s writing style immediately. Her books changed the way I perceived the behavior of everyone around me, and I spent the rest of freshman year trying to figure out which Austen character each of my friends and family members most resembled! Also like Ellie, I had a few (okay, a lot) of less-than-wonderful boyfriends, and I would have loved to have been given romantic advice from the author I most respected and the one who’d written one of my all-time favorite love stories.

Every writer makes her own circuitous journey to that first book contract. How did you find your way?
Aside from being on the newspaper and yearbook staff in high school and publishing some academic work in college, I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby and desperately in need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. I wrote my first book having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, btw! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance…) I got some feedback though--mostly negative--from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference. It was there that I heard about RWA. I joined, wrote three more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. My agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it won the Golden Heart and was revised (again), it finally did sell--to John Scognamiglio at Kensington--on a sunny and surrealistic day in April 2008.

What's your optimum writing environment?
I write in my home office--a messy, absolutely cluttered place--I won’t deny it! There are stacks of paper and towers of books everywhere, but also a very nice window overlooking our backyard. Sometimes I’ll write at a local coffee shop (either with my laptop or, most often, just with pen and notebook paper), and that location has the advantage of endless cups of coffee and occasional snacks.

Visit Marilyn's website to read an excerpt from According to Jane.


Congratulations on the publication of your debut, Marilyn. What a fabulously original premise for your book. It sounds absolutely charming!

Thanks for stopping by BtO.
Suzan Harden said…
Hi Marilyn! *cyber wave*

Can't wait to read According to Jane!
Nancy J. Parra said…
Hi Marilyn, I'm reading According to Jane right now! Love it!
Marilyn Brant said…
Joni and Colleen, thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog! It was such a pleasure to be here :).

Suzan (*waving back*), such a nice surprise to see you here, too!

Nancy, thank you! And I'm reading Mr. Charming!!

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