I am not sure when it happened but I became a big Jane Austen fan.

Perhaps because I am a romantic at best, there’s a gracefulness in her books I really love. I am always on the lookout for grace, especially in a house of three boys and an outdoor loving husband.

In the last decade it seems that a lot of people have jumped on the Austen train. People are writing sequels to her novels, re-writing novels to include zombies or vampires. One series makes her into a detective. Heck, there is even a book about the financial world created by the Austen boom.

There is a real part of me very upset about this. Can’t these people create their own characters, their own worlds, their own novels? I realize fan fiction can help people learn the ropes in character development and plotting devices but after a while it looks like laziness to me.

On the other hand, I really admire writers who take a small aspect and make that their novel without relying on Jane’s plots. One book, of which I have completely forgotten the title, created a sister for Mrs. Goddard from Emma. In this book we hear tidbits about Emma or Harriet but the novel is about how this sister is dealing with her re-marriage to a friend of her late-husband. She writes back and forth with her sister and we get a taste of London at that time.

Michael Thomas Ford has written a hilarious novel in which we find out Jane was turned into a vampire by one of the notorious men of her era. Jane Bites Back is a delight as we see how Jane deals with the truth of being a vampire, finding love and trying to get her last novel published after over 100 years. We get some fresh characters and find a few others from history who add to the fun.  Plus we see how Jane deals with some of the most opportunistic writers of the Jane Craze.

Another fun Jane-themed novel I have come to love is Austenland by Shannon Hale. Here we follow Jane Hayes who is bequeathed a three-week stay at Pembrook Park. This exclusive resort allows its visitors to completely sink into Regency life, including a final ball and a potential love interest. While Aunt Carolyn intended for Jane to get over her Darcy obsession and step back into real life, Jane finds herself having a difficult time going into the fantasy at first.

Austenland by Shannon Hale, picture from Barnes & Noble.com

But when she lets her inner Lizzie come out and battle to keep from being made into Fanny, lets just say this plain Jane plays the game hard.

Tomorrow I will get into just who I think should be in the movie version of both of these books just in case Hollywood or Emma Thompson or BOTH come calling.

Karyn Bowman lives in Kankakee County with her outdoor writer husband and four children. Become friends with Karyn on Facebook.

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