Romantic Novelists' Association

What Would Jane Austen Do? – Linda Corbett

15 June 2023

Cover of What Would Jane Austen do by Linda CorbettWe are delighted that you could join us to talk about your new release. Could you tell us a little more about it?
What Would Jane Austen Do? follows journalist and Jane Austen fangirl, Maddy, as she loses her job on the same day she hears that she’s inherited a house in the country from a long-lost relative. However, what she doesn’t realise is that she’s also inherited the job of chairing the committee for the village literary festival, or that her new neighbour is snarky crime writer Cameron Massey who thinks romance is just frivolous escapism. It’s not long before sparks start flying…

What was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story?
I already had my journalist heroine in my head when my editor suggested the title. Maddy then developed into the Jane Austen superfan we meet in the book. Around the same time, a friend was telling me about her trip to West Horsley Place, (better known as Button House to fans of the BBC Series Ghosts). It was inherited by Bamber Gascoigne from his great-aunt, and I thought that the inheritance idea would be a fun premise. I wanted to write an enemies to lovers story, so the hero became this grumpy crime writer who is highly dismissive of the romance genre. When I stirred all the ideas together, this was the result!

How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book?
I like names to have some connection or a bit of meaning, if only to amuse myself as I’m writing. Maddy’s surname is Shaw, because the Shaw family hold very sure opinions on a certain family member. Her crime writing nemesis is called Cameron, which I thought would be funny as it’s an anagram of romance – the genre he purports to despise. As far as setting is concerned, I liked the idea of grounding the story around a small village, where you can have a variety of different characters and lots of local gossip.

What kind of research did you do before beginning the book?
Most of the things I needed to know were researched as I was writing the book. However, I did read Jane Austen’s Guide to Romance by Lauren Henderson, before starting to write. This was very informative, and gave me lots of background as to how my heroine Maddy might look at relationships through a Jane Austen filter.  I also collated a lot of Jane Austen quotations, and had great fun matching them to each chapter of the book. I discovered in the process that there are a number of quotes floating around on the internet that are not taken from any of Ms Austen’s books (or are adapted in some way). Most of these “misquotes” come from the screenplays or television adaptations, but there are one or two that have no connection to Jane Austen. I’m sure Ms Austen would be highly amused to know that there tote bags and mugs out there with quotes attributed to her that she never penned.

Which fictional character(s) would like to invite to dinner? What would you like to talk about?
Being very much still in Jane Austen mode, I’d love to invite Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters. Elizabeth is a great conversationalist and I think she’d be adaptable enough to cope with 21st century life. Her and Jane would no doubt find plenty in our modern world to entertain or intrigue them. I’m sure Mary Bennet would love browsing in our bookshops and she can always play our piano (safely in the other room!) It would be fun to ask what the girls thought of television and social media; Elizabeth might enjoy some of our satirical comedy shows, but I suspect Kitty and Lydia might prefer reality TV and Twitter.

What book do you wish you had written?
It would have to be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, with one massive caveat – I would definitely have rewritten the ending (sorry, Jojo). I appreciate that it’s every author’s prerogative to end their book however they like, but it would have been a fabulous opportunity to show the world that everyone, able-bodied or not, deserves to have their own Happy Ever After.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
There’s lots of advice out there from writers far more experienced than I am, but the one thing that has been invaluable to me is the friendship and support of fellow authors. We all know that you have to keep trying and keep writing, but the long march round the query trenches can be mentally tough, so having writing buddies for mutual commiseration and support will give you a huge boost.


About the Author

Author Linda Corbett sitting in garden wearing white shirt, glasses, and smiling

Linda Corbett lives in Surrey with her husband Andrew and three permanently hungry guinea pigs. As well as being an author, Linda is a member (and former treasurer) of Shine Surrey – a volunteer-led charity that supports individuals and families living with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. For many years she also wrote a regular column for Link, a disability magazine, illustrating the humorous aspects of life with a complex disability. When not writing, Linda can be found papercrafting, cross stitching, or cuddling guinea pigs. What Would Jane Austen Do? is her second published novel.


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