Saturday, October 17, 2015

Getting to Know You – Joana Starnes

Hi, I am Joana, and I would like to start with a big ‘Thank You’ to Jane Odiwe and Amanda Grange for inviting me to contribute to Historical and Regency Romance UK. I am delighted and honoured to be here. 

Since this is my first post, I thought that saying a little about myself would be a good way to start.

I have been fascinated with history and the classics for as long as I can remember, even though for many years I thought this fascination, as well as writing fiction, would be nothing but a sweet indulgence as I went on with the sensible business of day to day life.

For many years, day to day life meant medical school, then lecturing in Physiology followed by a career in medical research – not quite the norm for a history fanatic and an Austen devotee.

Fast-forward a decade and a half and, although nearly everything has changed, my fascination with history and Jane Austen has not. As many before me, I discovered her novels in my teens, but real, full appreciation came much later, when I could begin to understand and delight in the social commentary, the playful narrative, the exquisite sense of humour, rather than merely follow a compelling story line.

Needless to say, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation was a turning point, though not because of the famous wet shirt. If anything, for a very long time I felt that, for all the exquisite suspense accentuated by the background music rising in skilful crescendo, the wet shirt scene rather distracted the viewer from the original message. Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s encounter with Mr Darcy in the grounds of Pemberley would have been fraught regardless of the aforementioned garment, wet or otherwise. She would have been mortified even if the gentleman had not been discovered in some state of deshabille, merely because she must have been painfully aware that she had no business to be found wandering through his grounds, after rejecting his proposal in so harsh a manner, and for reasons that had been proven at least partially wrong. Likewise, his own discomfort at coming face to face with her without any warning would have been sufficiently severe even without pond water seeping into his riding boots.

Such reflections aside, the scene is delightfully romantic, as is the other famed one, later in the music room. But that was not the only reason why I found this adaptation to be a turning point for me. The greatest attraction lay in learning all the fine details of its production. The painstaking efforts to research the location, the costumes, the hairstyles, the music the characters danced to, the games they played or the food they ate. All of a sudden, I wanted to learn more about the era. Details of daily life, mealtimes, travel, the plays they would have seen in town, what London must have looked like, what books they read, what artists were in fashion. What prominent figures dominated public life? What was the sequence of real-life events that influenced their present and their future?

And so it came to pass that soon afterwards I became a fixture at my local library and all the second-hand bookshops and National Trust properties within driving distance, and some a great deal further than that. Everything was fascinating. Diaries, letters, portraits, antique prints. And of course the Internet, an inexhaustible source of information, and I squirreled away everything that I could find. It was only a matter of time before I discovered that I was not alone in this growing interest – or perhaps I should say obsession – and that an entire industry, as well as countless websites, were devoted to Jane Austen and Austen-related fiction.

So it was also just a matter of time until my fascination with history and Jane Austen was channelled into writing works of fiction of my own.

I have so far published five Austen-inspired novels and, to my great pleasure and no less surprise, they were very well received. They include a Pride and Prejudice sequel, two variations involving characters from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion, another that brings the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice into Poldark territory, to the far reaches of Cornwall, ‘into a world of deceit and peril, where few – if any – are what they seem to be’ and lastly my most recent novel released a few weeks ago, a Pride and Prejudice variation exploring a most unsettling love triangle.

More details about The Unthinkable Triangle and my four other novels can be found on my website (, and also on Facebook ( ) and Twitter ( ). I hope you will visit and will like what you see.


Jane Odiwe said...

Welcome to the blog, Joana! It's lovely to have you here.

Joana Starnes said...

Thanks, Jane, it's wonderful to be here :)