Jane Austen created a family of redheaded stepchildren aka minor characters who received little to no attention in her novels. These characters — who may or may not have had red hair — helped move the plot along while remaining in the shadows, or causing just enough angst to salt the main character romances. JAFF authors have lovingly interpreted these members of Jane Austen’s supporting cast and shown wonderful imagination in creating stories that flesh out these stepchildren.
What inspires an author to craft lives for these minor characters? I approached four gifted JAFF authors and asked them to share their motivations. If you don’t already know these authors, you should. I have read all the books shown below and truly enjoyed each one.
I have a sister…well, actually, I have four, but it was one particular sister who challenged me to write my newest release, Through Every Storm. She had read the beginning of the story on my website and wanted to know if I could possibly make Lydia and Wickham into more loveable characters.
I love a challenge. In fact, this story’s first chapter came as a response to an April Showers challenge on a forum. While others might be writing sweet and refreshing stories, I wished to create a story that was as dreary and stormy as the weather that was beating against my window as I was writing it. To accomplish this task, I could think of no better characters save impulsive and self-centered Lydia and Wickham to create a stormy tale.
As you may be able to tell from my choices of a dreary rain shower and normally unlikeable characters, I enjoy taking a step off of the traditional path. Writing about minor characters is a great way to do that. They are the forgotten children. The players who fill the stage and help to move the action of the main story along but are there only briefly or in shadows. I like to pull them forward forcing them to take center stage by asking them what their stories are.
Why is Lady Catherine so cranky? Does Anne really wish to marry Darcy? Does Mary really like to read sermons or does it give her a way to be different from her sisters? Just what is Kitty like? Will Wickham ever regret his marriage or is it possible for him to grow to love his wife? Why does Lydia demand so much attention?
I suppose the questioning of minor characters is not so different from what I do with the main characters in a traditional JAFF story, but it is more exciting. As a reader and a writer, I know that no matter what may happen along the way, a true-to-form Darcy and Lizzy story will end with the couple happily together ─ even if it takes a painfully long time to get there! But with minor characters there are no guarantees and few preconceived notions. They are a nearly blank canvas on which to paint.
And so I painted shades of grey and purple in my story by delving into motivations for behaviors and creating circumstances and responses, and learning to love two more characters along the way. But no rainstorm last forever, and so although the story starts in the midst of a storm, it ends with hope and clearing skies.
And my challenge, according to my sister, was met.
A gambler, a profligate and forcibly married to the silly daughter of a country gentleman, no one expected George Wickham to amount to much, nor did they expect him to fall deeply in love with his wife. When that wife takes an unplanned trip in the company of another gentleman, leaving Wickham and her children behind, he will be forced to face his fears and fight for those he holds dear.
Lydia Bennet does not understand why her husband insists on sending money to their wealthy relative Fitzwilliam Darcy. When her funds run low, she chooses to enlist the aid of a soldier as an escort and travels to Derbyshire to seek help from her sister, Mrs. Darcy. What she finds when her husband arrives to take her home is not the kind of help she expected, but exactly the kind she needs. Will she be able to overcome her shortcomings and prove herself worthy of the one person she cannot bear to disappoint?
Leenie Brown first fell in love with Jane Austen’s work in her early teens when she was captivated by the tale of a girl, who like her, was the second born of five daughters. Later, she stumbled upon the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction and was delighted to learn that there were others who loved to continue the plots and vary the stories in their imaginations as she did.
When she is not traipsing down a trail in an attempt to keep up with her imagination, Leenie resides in the beautiful province of Nova Scotia with her two sons and her very own Mr. Brown (a wonderful mix of all the best of Darcy, Bingley and Edmund with a healthy dose of the teasing Mr. Tilney and just a dash of the scolding Mr. Knightley).
Whenever I read Pride and Prejudice I always gravitate to Mary. Possibly because she is the middle child just like me or perhaps because I always want her to have a happier existence. My good friend, Elizabeth Ann West, suggested the title of the book and it was so perfect for the version of Mary that lived in my head. I wanted her to take her destiny in her own hands and have that spirited side become a marker of her passage from the shadows of her elder sisters.
Jane Austen gave us such wonderful stories with room to play as we imagined their lives turning out differently. This is especially true of the minor characters! As a writer who adores Austen, it is truly exciting to imagine new lives and new endings for those people who populated Longbourn, Pemberley, Rosings, and Netherfield.
In this novella length title, Mary longs to find her own match when Jane and Elizabeth meet Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. However, Mary wants a simple life with that perfect gentleman she has yet to meet. When Mr. Collins comes to choose a bride, Mary’s spirited side comes to light and she speaks her mind to Elizabeth in what was for me the defining moment of exactly who this version of Mary would be.
She leaves for London and the Gardiner’s home to give herself time and distance from her disagreement with Elizabeth. On the way she meets her man! I imagine him to be patient, kind, and immediately taken with our heroine. He knows she will be his bride even if he must wait for that day.
While books about the minor characters of P&P aren’t as popular as those based around Our Dear Couple, they are a joy to write and hopefully a joy for readers that have taken the time to get to know them through titles authors have enjoyed writing.
Mary Bennet, the third of the five Bennet sisters, longs to be understood and cherished. When Elizabeth Bennet suggests she would be the most suitable match for their cousin, William Collins, Mary determines that her search for love will not be sacrificed to save Longbourn. She goes to London to visit the Gardiners and meets friends who show her the regard she hopes for, amongst them one friendly parson by the name Andrew Moore. Along the way Jane and Lizzie face their own romantic woes.
Can Mary have the love she dreams of or will time and distance intervene?
April Floyd is the author of several Christian fiction and JAFF titles. April lives in Alaska with her husband and youngest son. She loves historical fiction, fantasy, and Jane Austen fan fiction.
Darcy and Elizabeth are the sun and moon of Pride and Prejudice, but the lesser lights in the sky shine too. I’m always drawn to these stars, planets, and comets. What are their stories? Part of Jane Austen’s genius is that even her minor characters are drawn with such care that we can imagine full, complex lives for all of them.
Louisa Hurst adores Pemberley. Not the people—she is bored to tears with her social circle. Fitzwilliam Darcy is consumed with responsibilities none of the others can appreciate. His sister Georgiana is sweet but… young. Louisa’s frustrating brother Charles cannot make a decision. Her miserable sister Caroline is driven to despair with a love that will never be returned. As for Louisa’s husband, he hasn’t touched her since… well, since their wedding night seven years ago.
Louisa loves Pemberley not for its people but for its grounds. To escape the prison of her social circle, one day she takes a gig out for a drive over the vast, beautiful estate. When she turns into Pemberley Forest, a reclusive huntsman finds her ~ and decides to keep her. Thus begins the story of Louisa Hurst’s sexual awakening.
Boredom will not be a problem…
Louisa Hurst, Caroline Bingley’s older, married sister, seems nothing more than a fellow mean girl. But what does Mrs. Hurst think of her Mr. Hurst, a man who sleeps on the sofa and seems to think of nothing but the next game of cards? Does Louisa care for anything beyond social climbing and gossip? An adventure in Pemberley Forest is just what she needs to wake her up—and yowza, what an adventure she has!
Will Louisa escape the huntsman? Perhaps she won’t want to. What will Mr. Hurst think of her disappearance… if he even notices? It doesn’t matter. Everybody who ever read a fairy tale knows that once you go into the forest, you never come out the same.
L.K. Rigel has been a singing waitress, a newspaper reporter, a public school teacher, and a court reporter. Her work has been published by Literary Mama, Tattoo Highway, and Nodin Press, and her dystopian novella SPACE JUNQUE has been optioned for an independent feature film.
As an avid lover of Pride and Prejudice I have an interest in every character, not just Elizabeth and Darcy. One of my favorite lesser characters is Colonel Fitzwilliam. Who doesn’t love the good Colonel? That’s right, we all love him and want him to have his own happily ever after, a happily ever after that is just as spectacular as Elizabeth and Darcy’s. The problem is, it’s hard to give him that ending when he will have to struggle financially in comparison with his cousin and elder brother.
After spending weeks researching England’s inheritance laws and those of illegitimate children, I came up with a fresh idea that did not kill off his older brother, or have him marrying his ill cousin Anne. Giving him his own fairy tale ending was my purpose in writing The Illegitimate Heir. My secondary goal was to weave together a tale of romance, vengeance, and questionable parentage, and I think I achieved that goal quite nicely.
A romantic tale featuring Colonel Fitzwilliam. In this story the good Colonel is the younger son of an earl who desired to marry for love, but feared having to marry for financial advantage because of his position serving King and Country. He falls in love with a beautiful and vibrant woman who has both beauty and wealth. The first struggle in the story comes when the woman’s father refuses Colonel Fitzwilliam’s suit because he has his heart set on his daughter marrying a peer. Made desperate by the Lady’s father’s refusal Colonel Fitzwilliam throws himself into improving his situation. He seeks the help of his father, Lord Matlock, and his cousin, Mr. Darcy.
In the meantime, Mr. Calvin Aldrich is a rake and a blackguard and set to be one of the richest dukes in England … until his uncle, the Duke of Blachedone, is stripped of his titles and possessions while on his deathbed by the Prince Regent. Now that the Prince Regent is in possession of the entire Blachedone fortune, lands, and titles, he confers all of it upon Colonel Fitzwilliam for his honourable actions in the Napoleonic Wars. This action enrages Calvin Aldrich, who now bereft of his inheritance will stop at nothing to get revenge on the Colonel.
Richard believes his new title and fortune will give him the leverage he needs to convince his lady’s father to allow their marriage, but trouble is brewing when all of London learns he was awarded the dukedom not for his service to the Crown, but because he is the former duke’s illegitimate son.
The knowledge of his mother’s infidelity and both of his parent’s lies enrages Colonel Fitzwilliam and through a long process of healing he must come to terms with his past and move forward otherwise the information threatens to destroy him. During this time of healing, Colonel Fitzwilliam is away from London which allows Calvin Aldrich time to plot his revenge, starting with the Colonel’s true love.
When he returns to London, it will take all of Colonel Fitzwilliam’s strength, wit, and honor to save the woman he loves.
“From an early age I have always been fascinated by the written word and the mood and atmosphere it creates for a reader; especially those books that affect me and transport me to some far-off place. These are the elements I strive to create in my books. My books in many ways record what most affects me: my feelings and experiences with family, friends, and those I have run into on my life’s journey. My hope is that in my books you will find something that touches you, something which will resonate in your soul and remind you that you are strong and can overcome anything, especially if you have the support of loving friends and family.” – Ayr Bray
Ayr Bray is from the Pacific Northwest, but travels as much as possible so she doesn’t have to deal with the cold.
Isn’t it time for you to check out Jane Austen’s Redheaded Stepchildren?