This series of mini-interviews features the authors who contributed to our Austen anthology A CERTAIN PERSUASION.
Next up in our series is Sandra Lindsey, who wrote the story Man of War, inspired by one of Austen’s naval characters.
Blurb: Intent on making his mark as the newest lieutenant aboard HMS Thrush, William Price takes on the task of tutoring an ordinary seaman, Robert Oakes, so that the young sailor may improve his chances of advancement.
Oakes, however, hides something which could see him unceremoniously dropped from the ship’s muster list and left in the closest port with just a few coins to his name. When William learns Oakes’s secret in the aftermath of a skirmish with a French frigate, he must choose between proving himself a worthy friend or a dutiful officer.
Q: How did you discover Jane Austen and her works? What was the initial appeal? Has she surprised you since then?
I guess I first became properly aware of Austen’s work through the BBC adaptations in the mid-1990s. Not that I watched them – I was far too busy with after-school music groups, helping with the local Brownie pack, and other such adventurous things! A few years later, post-University, and married, I was a little more interested in stories about relationships than I had been as a teenager, so when my Age of Sail fandom friends started discussing Austen, I swallowed my pride, admitted to never having read any of her work, and asked for recommendations of which to read first…
Initially, I started reading just to be able to understand my friends’ discussions, but I swiftly fell in love with Austen’s wit and skill with words – there is an awful lot conveyed through sub-text and understanding the context of the characters’ words and actions.
I’m glad I didn’t force myself (or be forced by school) to read them as a teenager, but I’m even more glad I made the effort to read them as an adult.
As far as surprise goes, I think it’s more a case of every re-read leads me to new discoveries of her skills and deftness in both storytelling craft and understanding of people.
Q: Which of Austen’s books do you like best?
As the first of Austen’s works I read, Sense and Sensibility has a special place in my list of favourite books, and is a prime example of her style. I also love Mansfield Park – not just for the sailors! – but for its complexity and pacing of the story over a long period of time. There’s a lot to love and admire about Austen’s work, and each book reveals details about Regency life which might otherwise have been lost.
Q: Why do you think the Regency is such an appealing period to write and read about?
For me, it is that it is on the cusp of the industrial era – the agricultural revolution is well and truly underway (there are mentions in Austen’s works of trying out new cultivation techniques and suchlike, and I learned about session houses from Northanger Abbey before I ever read about them in gardening books), and the industrial revolution has started, but not quite taken over and revolutionised society to the extent it did once rail transport – for goods and passengers – became available. It’s similar, in a way, to the appeal of the early 20th century, before WW1: we know, with the hindsight of history, that no matter how secure things appear to be, within a few years everything will have irrecoverably changed. Of course, in both eras – as in many historical periods – there is a tendency to focus on the monied classes… but that’s a discussion for another time 😉
Author bio: Sandra lives in the mountains of Mid-Wales with her husband. Their garden is full of fruit and veg plants as well as home to a small flock of rare breed chickens, and she is a servant to two cats.
Sandra loves indulging in stories because she gets to spend her time with imaginary friends, and the research and observation required to write fiction open her eyes to a myriad different ways of seeing the world. Find her on Twitter – or curled up out of the way reading a good book!