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Monday, July 6

The Author of the Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Syrie James, Will Respond to Your Questions

Gentle Readers: Great news! Syrie James's new novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, has been published and is available for purchase. Syrie will be available to read your comments and to respond to your questions should you have any. We are extremely grateful to Syrie for taking the time out of her busy schedule to visit our blog and communicate with our readers today and tomorrow. If you leave a comment, you will be automatically eligible to win a copy of her book! UPDATE - CONTEST CLOSED

Syrie's name should be familiar to Jane Austen fans, for last year her first novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, became a bestseller. Her new book, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë is the product of Syrie's extensive research into Charlotte’s life. I cannot put the book down and am finding it quite enjoyable. Please look for my review this weekend on Jane Austen's World. Meanwhile, here are some tidbits that even Brontë fans may not know:
For years, Charlotte harbored a secret love for her Belgian professor, Monsieur Hegér—a married man. Monsieur Hegér is the basis for all the heroes in Charlotte’s books, including Mr. Rochester in her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
The Brontë sisters were plagued by the violent, unpredictable actions of their only brother, Branwell, an alcoholic and opium addict who nearly burned down their house, yet he remained a beloved part of the family until the day he died.
The love of Charlotte's life was Arthur Bell Nichols, her father's curate...but their love took years to materialize, because at first she despised him for calling her an "old maid".
More information:
PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS FOR SYRIE. SHE WILL RESPOND TO THEM THROUGHOUT TODAY & TOMORROW! NOW CLOSED
Your comment will make you automatically eligible to win a copy of her book (contest to be announced tomorrow).

33 comments:

Vic said...

Syrie, I'll start off with a question. How do you think Charlotte Brontë would have felt being showcased on a blog for and about Jane Austen? It is well known that Charlotte had no love for Jane's novels or writing style. Vic

becca said...

Hi Syrie, Thanks in advance for answering my question. How hard was it to write in Charlotte Bronte's voice? What did you do to prepare yourself to write in another person's style?

Laura's Reviews said...

Syrie - What did you use as your sources for Charlotte Bronte's life? Did you think that Elizabeth Gaskell's biography was still relevant?

writemeg said...

Hi Syrie! I absolutely loved The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen -- definitely one of my favorite Austen-inspired works. I felt you'd absolutely captured Austen's "voice."

In writing a novel based on Bronte next, did you find it difficult to transition to a new narrator? Did Austen ever "slip" back into your writing?

Syrie James said...

Hi all, and thanks for stopping by on this lovely summer day. Vic, I think that Charlotte would be astonished to find herself showcased anywhere at all today! Trying to imagine her response to the worldwide adoration of her novel "Jane Eyre," not to mention the computer and the internet, simply boggles the mind.

Although Charlotte found Jane Austen's novels lacking in passion and deeply felt emotion, she did admire Austen's ability to construct a story, saying that Austen employed "an exquisite sense of means to an end."

Syrie James said...

Hi Becca and Writemeg,
It was thrilling to write in Charlotte's voice! To prepare, I read all of Charlotte's novels over and over, and more than 400 of her preserved letters. Then I just let the novel flow. The difficult part was to avoid Americanisms and anachronisms, which meant checking words throughout the text to be sure they existed and were employed in England in 1854. I found it easier to write in Charlotte's voice than Jane Austen's, because Charlotte was far more passionate!

Laura, I have a shelf full of dozens of Bronte biographies which I used as sources (in addition to Charlotte's voluminous preserved correspondence), but one of the best is "The Brontes" by Juliet Barker.

Although we know that Mrs. Gaskell was prejudiced in Charlotte's favor (having been her dear friend), her biography is absolutely relevant and in fact remarkable, since she actually knew Charlotte, visited all the locations in the story herself, and personally interviewed many of the key people in Charlotte's life.

Pamala Knight said...

Syrie, congratulations on your latest book. I missed Marilyn Brant's Austenfest, where you participated, and am happy to get a chance to ask my question here.
Besides the literary research, what other methods did you employ in helping to bring about the authenticity of the book? I really loved The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

Thanks!

Kwana said...

This is exciting. I'd love to be entered. My question is what was your original inspiration to go for the diary style of writing?

Nancy said...

I wonder if anyone else read the novel written several years ago by Lin-Haire Sargent, H: The Story of Heathcliff's Journey Back to Wuthering Heights. Charlotte plays a little more than a cameo role in the book, and the author had obviously spent a lot of time with Charlotte and Emily's works.

Please enter me in the chance to win!

Laurel Ann said...

What inspires you to choose a topic/subject to write about? In your research, did you discover anything surprising about the Brontes?

JaneGS said...

My question is completely tongue in cheek...I recently visited Haworth and was blown away by those little tiny books that contained Charlotte and her siblings juvenelia. When you wrote the Secret Diaries, did you feel compelled to write it with pen and ink in a microscopic hand?

Looking forward to reading this book--sounds absolutely terrific.

gahome2mom said...

I have not read a Jane Austen book but have watch the movies. I love them. I am just beginning to read books from the Regency-era. Do you have any other authors you recommend? Which book should I begin with that has been written by Jane Austen? Why?

Syrie James said...

Hi everyone! I have been immersed in writing all day (I'm engrossed in writing the climactic scene of my next novel!) and just checked back and discovered your questions. I promise to answer them all later tonight or tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Aranel said...

Hi, here is my questions for you: As Charlotte Bronte, what novel was the most exciting to write?

Syrie James said...

Pamela, I am so glad you loved "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen" and hope you enjoy "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë" just as much, for it was truly a work of my heart. You asked what other methods I employed other than "literary research." Well, in addition to reading dozens of Brontë biographies, everything I could find about Mr. Nicholls, all of Charlotte's correspondence, most of the Brontë poetry (they wrote hundreds of poems), and all of the sisters' novels, I also studied the art of the Brontës (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were all accomplished artists). I spent two days visiting the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England-- which is the house where Charlotte and her family lived almost her entire life, and is filled with their possessions. I haunted the rooms where Charlotte lived and worked, walked the lanes that she walked, visited the church where her family is buried, and really soaked up the atmosphere of the place. I was also granted a private tour of Roe Head School (from attic to cellar!), a very influential school which Charlotte attended, and which you will read about in my novel. It was invaluable to have those images in my mind when I wrote the book. After that, I just imagined myself in Charlotte's shoes, and did my best to channel her remarkable spirit while telling her story!

Syrie James said...

Kwana, I decided to "go for the diary style of writing" with my first novel, “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen,” because I the story I wanted to tell was so personal. I felt that readers would connect more to Jane if they could read the untold story of her love affair, and how it influenced her return to writing, in the first person point of view--as if from her own pen. The first book was so well-received, it seemed only natural to write my next novel in the same manner, this time relating the true story of the author of another one of my all-time favorite novels, "Jane Eyre"!

How did Charlotte Brontë come to write that novel, and all her other books? How much of her work was based on her life? Did she ever fall in love and marry? How is it that three sisters living in the wilds of Yorkshire came to become published authors at the exact same time, writing novels that are still so beloved and popular today? I wanted to write that story as if Charlotte was telling it herself.

Syrie James said...

Laurel Ann, for my first two books, I chose challenging topics which meant a great deal to me. I decided to "become" my favorite authors, so that I could not only tell their love stories, but also showcase their love of writing and their personal struggles on the road to becoming published authors--a subject I could truly relate to.

You asked, "did you discover anything surprising about the Brontës?" Everything I learned surprised me, because when I started my research I knew nothing about them! I was astonished to discover the incredible volume of writing the Brontës did as children, and what wonderful artists and poets the sisters were. I was surprised to learn that Charlotte was secretly in love with a married man, and that he was the partial inspiration for many of the heroes in her novels. I was touched to learn that Mr. Nicholls was secretly in love with Charlotte for so many years, before he had the nerve to propose. It's a remarkable story, and the Brontës were a complicated and fascinating family.

Syrie James said...

JaneGS, it's funny that you should mention those tiny little books that Charlotte and her siblings wrote as children. My husband and I actually got to hold one of those microscopic books and read it (it was about 1 inch x 2 inches), when we were granted a private viewing at the Brontë Parsonage library. How they ever wrote in such a tiny hand is beyond me.

gahome2mom, I always recommend that newcomers to Jane Austen begin with "Pride and Prejudice." It's a classic story, extremely well-written, perfectly plotted, has unforgettable characters, and it pulls you in from the very first chapter.

Sarah Reading said...

Like Aranel, I would also like to know which book was Charlotte's favorite to write. Thank you.

Ann said...

Sounds like a fascinating book...I'll have to get my local bookstore to order a copy for me.

Syrie James said...

Aranel and Sarah: Without question, Charlotte's favorite novel to write was "Jane Eyre." When she began writing, it was an escape and solace at a difficult time in her life. Much of the book was inspired by Charlotte's own memories and experiences, and heavily influenced by the dramatic tales she wrote in her youth. She found satisfaction in basing Jane on herself--a plain woman who strove to achieve something in life that was larger than herself. Charlotte was stunned and thrilled by the book's reception.

Her subsequent novels were a struggle. She did not feel worldly enough to write on a wide variety of topics. Suddenly she was no longer writing just for herself-- and she was highly sensitive to the problem of trying to please both critics and the audience.

Mer said...

I'd love to read this, being both an Austen & Bronte lover. For Ms. James: How did you overcome the intimidation at writing two highly iconic literary figures? Was it difficult not to deify these characters--people, really--as you wrote?

sequesterednooks said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all our questions! I can't wait to read about the Brontes.

I noticed that your next book is a Dracula retelling. Did you consider consider writing another author diary? If so, who?

Susan said...

I just saw your book The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen in a bookstore earlier this week and now wished I had purchased it. Both books sound like great summer reads.

shan said...

Syrie, Hi! I also heard of your new book possibly being a Dracula retelling. I can't wait! When should we look out for it? I was also wondering if writing the Dracula book was a way to delve into a completely different topic for you, or do you feel that there are comparisons with it in feeling or darkness to any Austen's or Bronte's stories?

Syrie James said...

Mer, I admit it was intimidating at first to write in the point of view of such highly iconic women; but I did my research, became attuned to their voices, and just dove in--determined to write the kind of books that I loved to read.

Rather then deifying Jane and Charlotte, I tried to remind myself that they were flesh and blood women just like you and me, who shared similar wants, needs, hopes, and desires. It was great fun to "become" them!

Syrie James said...

sequesterednooks and shan, I am still pondering the idea of writing another author diary. My publisher is only interested in big names. If you have any suggestions as to who I should write about next, PLEASE do share your thoughts!

Meanwhile, my romantic retelling of Bram Stoker's novel, which will be called "Dracula, My Love," will be published by Morrow in hardcover in 2010 (hopefully in summer.) Writing about vampires is not a completely different topic for me, as I co-wrote a vampire movie with my son a few years ago, which he produced and directed. (Still looking for a distributor!) And of course, the novel (like my previous two books) also takes place in England in the 19th century.

It has been great fun to write about fictitious characters this time (however real they have become in the public consciousness), and to redeem Dracula and make him a "hero." This book is so romantic, I think it is highly reminiscent of an Austen or Bronte novel!

Deleilan said...

Having just started "The Brontës' Web of Childhood", I find myself captivated by Charlotte and her siblings' imagination. I'm dying to find out how Ms. James conveys Charlotte's inner life!

Trai said...

I'd love to read this! For Ms. James: Besides Charlotte, which of the Bronte sisters is the most interesting to you-- Emily or Anne?

Tracey said...

This sounds so interesting! Even if I don't win the book I will definitely have to read it.

sequesterednooks said...

Syrie,
Elizabeth Gaskell may not be a bog enough name, but she seems to have led an interesting life herself. Emily Dickinson also had a few early influential platonic relationships, which could be a springboard.

Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us!

Syrie James said...

Trai - Anne was a lovely, talented, sensitive, and devoted woman, and I know we all would have adored her... but I am even more fascinated by Emily. She was brilliant, and had a dark side that makes her so compelling.

Vic said...

Syrie, I want to thank you for stopping by this blog and answering our readers questions. Your answers were so thoughtful and informative! I will gather the rest of the questions and answers and add them to a blog post I created on Jane Austen's World.

Thank you and good luck with your book. (Enthusiastic applause)