Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Austen in Austin Character Appearances

by Anita Mae Draper

In conjunction with last week's release of the Austen in Austin Volume 1 compilation came the individual release of the first four of eight novellas.

My novella, Romantic Refinements, stands second in the order of stories. This wasn't something I planned, but came about because that's where things in my story fit into the overall timeline.

For example, when we first came up with the concept of taking the characters from Jane Austin's novels and transferring them to Texas, we each decided what year(s) during the last two decades of the 19th century we wanted to use. In 2012, the result came out looking like this:

Gina Welborn - If I Loved You Less - 1881/2
Anita Mae Draper - Romantic Refinements - 1882
Susanne Dietze - One Word From You -1883/4
Debra E. Marvin - Alarmingly Charming -1886
Susan Diane Johnson - Simply Lila - 1893
Niki Turner - Fully Persuaded - 1894/5
Dina Sleiman - Mansford Ranch - 1897
Lisa Karon Richardson - Sense and Nonesense - 1899

However, we weren't just satisfied with writing eight novellas . . . we wanted them to connect in some way. The answer was to use a common denominator - in this case, the Jeannette C. Austen Academy for Young Ladies - a place we affectionately called, Austen Abbey, where all of our young heroines would pass on their way to becoming young ladies of distinction.

Our goal was for every reader to be content upon reaching the happily-ever-after at the end of a novella - no matter which individual novella they read. 

That was a good goal, but we also wanted our stories to intersect in such a way that if a reader read all of the novellas in order, they wouldn't just get a satisfying read, but would get a richer experience and be left a dreamy feeling of cherished love and . . . hope.  

Not only did we connect the first four novellas in Volume 1, but characters appear throughout all eight novellas which took coordination, a spreadsheet, and lots and lots of emails. 
For example:
In Romantic Refinements, I have a little girl who shares two scenes with my hero, the retired Texas ranger Brandon Tabor. One is a cute scene, one is full of danger. I could have written the scenes with any little girl, however, during a flurry of emails with the rest of the authors, Lisa mentioned that her heroine, Evangeline Bennett, would be about the right age to be the little girl in my novella. Not only that, but the events that happen to her - called little Eva in my novella - will have a profound effect on Evangeline's life as you'll see when you read her story in the eighth novella, Lisa's Sense and Nonsense.

Other character appearances you'll find in Romantic Refinements:
- Emmeline Travis - If I Loved You Less
- Noah Whitley -  If I Loved You Less
- Eliza Branch - One Word From You
- Harmon Gray - Alarmingly Charming
- Headmistress Mrs. Collins 

One thing I should note here is that it wasn't just the authors who worked to include characters from the other novellas, but when I received my first edits from the WhiteFire editor, she was the one who suggested that I include Eliza Branch and Mrs. Collins in my novella. The easy part was finding a spot to add them. Keeping their characters true was harder, but again, cooperation and communication created consistent characters. 

The end result is that a person from any novella may pop into a scene, either for a cameo appearance, or to enable a reaction that may not happen until several novellas later. That's the surprise element of the Austen in Austin novellas.

I believe that this project has been satisfying to us, the authors, because we've interacted with each other to create diverse, memorable characters. I can only hope that our excitement is transferred to you, our wonderful readers. 

For more information on Austen in Austin and our individual novellas, check here


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. When she's not writing, Anita enjoys photography, research, and travel, and is especially happy when she can combine the three in one trip. Anita's current release is Romantic Refinements, a novella in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing, January 2016. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae 


  1. Congratulations, Anita Mae! Romantic Refinements is an adorable story! So happy for you <3

  2. I agree. There's an actual excitement for me to see one of my characters walk in the door in another novella! I wrote my story early on, so I really had to flesh out Mrs. Collins. She was as important to me as Harmon and Kathryn! I agree. Having 'visiting' character cameos is just one of the delights of these anthologies! (I added the new-fangled telephone so Suzie's characters could use it!)

    1. Really? I didn't realize you added it, but that sounds like a great idea. I love it when stories work with the time they're set in.

      I hadn't considered using Mrs. Collins until Dina suggested it. I think because there were so many emails flying back and forth about her description and character that I didn't want to get it wrong. But then you came out with that one email that said it all, and she became so clear in my mind. Thank you!

  3. Because my novella is in Vol. 2, I got to mention lots of characters. Then going back and seeing that continuity when I read Vol. 1 was a thrill. It's fun to write anthologies, even more fun when all the other authors are your friends! :)

    1. Niki, you said it right there. This was a fun project for sure, but I feel honored to have my name on these books alongside the rest of you. We got a double blessing out of it... while creating the stories, and then reading them after. We will forever be tethered because of this project. Yay!

  4. What a cool idea this is! I'll be on the lookout for character crossovers. :D

    1. Character crossovers. Hmmm... I like that. It's like looking for the Hidden Mickeys at Disney World. :)

  5. I love the way you tied all the novellas together in this post, Anita. Congratulations on your wonderful novella!

    1. Thanks, Suzie. I'm really looking forward to read yours soon, too. I love that this excitement will go on for a long time. :)


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