Why I write traditional Regency romance
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
At the time when I was a student (some decades ago!), education in South Africa was modeled on a Euro-centric system. At school, the focus in literacy lay in Shakespeare, as well as other British poets and novelists, with very little attention given to American, or even South African writers. We studied the classics, and the literary voice in our heads was British.
At university, I majored in languages, including English. Although the sampling of authors was now much more international, there was still a decidedly greater reverence for the works of British masters. And there, isolated amidst the myriad of male author heroes, appeared George Eliot, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen.
Hearing the voices of accomplished female writers was a celebration for me as a female reader. But Jane Austen claimed my attention above the rest with her characters’ lively dialogues, the bright wit that accompanied their speech, and the author’s profound insights into human nature. I devoured her works. And then, after six books, her offerings abruptly ended.
In the years that followed, I consoled myself with the smattering of film adaptations of Austen’s books, followed by BBC series such as Larkrise to Candleford, and Cranford. There was a comforting sort of escapism into a world that had once been very real, but was now so far in the past as to contain an element of fantasy. And, all the while, my mind filled more and more with the special turns of phrase so peculiar to pre-20th century writing.
At some point I decided to turn my own hand from writing poetry to novels. My first attempt was high fantasy, but I struggled to connect with the very world I was trying to create. In my mind rang the age-old truth: “Write what you know.” And what did I know better than the world I had for so long immersed myself in? After all, we needed more Austen!
Thus began my foray into traditional Regency Romance, inspired entirely by the talents of Miss Jane Austen. I hoped to honor her exquisite humor and her not-always-subtle commentaries on society. At the same time, I intended to use my own voice, which meant a faster-paced, plot-driven narrative. I began to write, and the words poured onto the page faster than I could type (although this may have had something to do with the fact that I have only ever typed with two fingers!).
While I would never pretend to be a second Jane Austen, I am pleased that the efforts of one Elizabeth Donne should celebrate a genre that has room for us both. More and more, I see other authors working successfully in this genre inspired by Miss Austen, and I am grateful for it. May our voices long echo her own.