Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Exile Blog Tour ~ Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

Hello, my friends! I'm delighted to be part of The Exile Blog TourHere today, Don Jacobson talks about the importance (or non-importance) of gender in writing a female or male role. Interesting stuff!  Also included is an excerpt for you to enjoy! And don't forget to enter the giveaway!  

The Gender of Jane Austen Fan Fiction

Throughout The Exile blog tour, I have been regularly challenged by the deep understanding about the writing process that JAFF readers, authors and bloggers bring to the table. The questions and comments served up have made me sit back and deeply consider what drives me as an author to offer a strong and relatable story for readers.

Outsiders to our world may react to the genre much in the way that Ms Austen’s contemporaries reacted to novels (see any of countless Darcy snorts over Georgie’s taste in reading material).  However, honest JAFF authors who appreciate their craft do analyze their writing with the same level of intensity as a Le Carre, O’Brien, Ephron, or Lewis. Simply pick up any of the works by authors in the Austen Variations or Austen Authors collectives (and many more outside of those two baskets). You will discover honest, well-written literature that transcends the romantic formula to force you to rethink the traditional memes.

There are times when I become concerned that readers will become disequilibrated with some of the darker aspects of my stories. 

Mary being assaulted by Collins in "The Keeper" is an example. Or Kitty being injured in the park in "Of Fortune's Reversal." Yet, in the first case, the attack is used to establish Collins' character. In the second, the attack is to set the underlying character of that particular version of Kitty Bennet...bravery in the face of danger to another...where she had been established (barely) in the Canon as a mouse-like follower. The Bennet Wardrobe Kitty’s trials in The Exile, while disturbing, are neither gratuitous nor unnecessary, but rather are intentionally offered up.

But, this is something upon which I reflect as I write. This angst is often derived from reading other authors' works and seeing that the crux-stresses are frequently emotional rather than (in most cases) physical. See Ola Wegner's deft use of emotional crises. But, as a counter-balance, consider Melanie Schertz who uses physical danger to great effect.


Is this a question of my gender? Am I pre-disposed to action rather than reflection because I am a man? Is a woman more likely to be contemplative?

When Barbara Tiller Cole interviewed me for her wonderful blog, Darcyholic Diversions, she alluded to the question of gender when she noted the paucity of male writers of JAFF (you can probably tick off the names on the fingers of one or, at most, two hands). Her question led me to reflect not upon the biological distinctions that separate men and women, but rather the cultural and social forces that shape that which social scientists refer to as gender. Here is an excerpt of my response:

“…why should there not be a hundred women writing Napoleonic sea sagas…or spy novels? Why should there not be a hundred men writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction? Oddly enough, while novels were seen as not ‘serious’ writing in the Regency, we need to recall that one of Ms Austen’s biggest fans was the most important man in the kingdom! 

If the writing is honest and does not reflect either the male ego or the female ego in its structure, can it not transcend biases and reach an even broader audience? I found Austen’s original stories to resonate as truthful examinations of human behavior. It was her truthfulness that spurred me forward to try to offer my own variations on her efforts.” (DD, 6/21/17)

As part of my preparation for the interview, I re-read one of the best discourses on writing...Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. I commend it to you. Writing in 1929, Woolf discusses how problematic it is for "regular" male authors to discuss women's subjects. She clearly points out that the male ego ("The Shadow of 'I') is prevalent on every page, making it obvious—and subsequently oppressive—that it is a man opining.

I continually fear that I may be falling into that trap by allowing my work to grow organically from deep within me.

Yet, I am mindful of the aforementioned John LeCarre. The bulk of his work, while about male spies, deals with men of emotion and thought. Smiley, a male character, a ruthless spymaster, is the opposite of everything we have been conditioned to expect from a male lead. George Smiley is preternaturally quiet and placid, yet he has depths of sensitivity that enable him to prevail precisely because he is NOT a man of action. 

In fact, the care with which Smiley is written convinces me that LeCarre is writing with Coleridge's "Androgynous Mind"—or as Woolf suggests: man-womanly or woman-manly. LeCarre writes with both halves of his mind. He expresses human emotions in a non-gendered manner—to brilliant results.

I believe that I, myself, am conversant with both sides of my mind—the male and the female. As such I believe that the work that is growing in front of me is an organic result of both parts of me.
Not all writing about a female character needs to be structured in soft, gentle and other feminine characteristics. However, in order to have any writing to be meaningful, the gendered natures of the actions must be erased. If Darcy throws a crystal decanter into the fireplace...is his expression of anger more acceptable than when Caroline Bingley smashes a vase against her sitting room wall? Is Caroline being a virago while Darcy is a man in extremis? 

Consider how Annie Reynolds surprises Henry Wilson and General Fitzwilliam in The Maid and The Footman by suggesting actions more suitably proposed by a man. 

“We cannot allow Miss Margaret to drink anything prepared by Winters’ hand. I think you understand what I am saying, my Lord.”
     Fitzwilliam’s eyes widened. He whistled below his breath and said, “Sergeant, take this woman’s words to heart. They say that the female of the species is deadlier. Your Miss Reynolds has just argued that we ourselves must drug the child tomorrow evening.” (M&F, Ch. XVIII)

Conversely, 6’ 3” Henry Wilson drops to his knees and screams in anguish moments after Annie takes matters into her own hands and dives upon the sword held by an existential threat to the British nation. 

“Great cris de coeur shook the big man. He could feel the slickness that had spread through her gown. He knew that if it were daylight his hands would be stained, covered as they were with the seep that had enveloped her body.” (M&F, Ch. XXV)

We might look at either set of actions through gendered lenses—yet is Annie Reynolds acting manly and Henry Wilson womanly? Or are they taking the best and most humanly expressive paths for their characters?

I cannot answer if it is easier for a woman to write woman-manly. I can argue that it is difficult to set aside my decades of immersion in the socially-constructed discourse that asserts that men who act with bluster and loudness are being assertive, but that a woman who does the same is being shrill and a B#@%&. The voices that are ingrained in us can stand in the way of the truthful development of the characters with which we populate our stories.

I can only hope that I am successful in stepping beyond the fences socially constructed to normalize and explain the unfamiliar. T’will be your you to decide my success or failure.


Please enjoy this excerpt from The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque. This comes from Ch. XXXVI where Lord Henry Fitzwilliam, now the Earl of Matlock has stepped into the gardens behind le Château des Brouillards, the home of Pierre-Auguste and Aline Renoir, in early May 1892.

     Closing his eyes, he could feel his consciousness being pulled down into the center of his being. The swirling sensation was unusual but not disquieting. He could feel his entire corpus as if every nerve ending was on full alert, ready to go over the top. He was aware that a world outside of his core existed, but it held no real meaning as his mind expanded and explored the panoply of solutions laid in front of him.

     The deeper he slid into the trance, the more aware he became of another presence, one that was as much him as it was distinct unto itself. This inner guide was reaching out to him, trying to communicate, to help him find comfort. [1]

     Gradually, within the reality behind his eyelids he could sense and then ‘see’ another face gazing at him with the kindest eyes…or what he imagined a friendly expression for a phantasmal being. Sound slowly welled up in this other reality.

     The whispers became louder as he immersed himself in his thoughts.  But rather than becoming a maddening babble, each stream was crisp and clear. He could ‘reach out’ and touch a current, a solution, and appreciate it for what it was, what potential it could offer.

     Holding sight and sound in his metaphorical fingers, Henry could sense that each of these individual strands, while interesting in themselves, had a broader importance when combined.  They were awaiting a unifying force. When this realization rose to the surface of his internal discourse, the presence appeared within this remarkable environment. An ethereal hand, his and not-his, slid along the filaments, bundling them together with a brilliant thread that coruscated through the spectrum before settling upon the richest hue of china blue. 

     He reached out and gripped that strand. The haunting familiarity of the color coalesced into a clicking and rapidly moving kineograph, a flipbook, showing at first still pictures, but quickly changing into motion and sound.[2]  And there was only one subject—Miss Catherine Bennet. 

     Her life in his time flew by. He caught every interaction they had ever experienced, every instance when she had brushed against his consciousness. The sound of her rich alto chuckle echoed across the folds of his mind as she and Ellie had played some sophomoric teenaged prank designed to prick his ‘so-much-older-and-more-serious-than-you’ pretentions. Her infectious happiness morphed into her quiet lip-chewing moments as she wrestled with a difficult color combination in her efforts to capture a sunset over the Peak above Pemberley. 

     How could he have not known it before?

     From that moment he first espied her terrified figure in his chamber’s doorway in those first seconds after she had stepped into his life from the Wardrobe, those china blue eyes had wrapped themselves around his heart.

     He had fought it…Lord, how he battled with it since ‘86…all because of a woman he could never attain, lost as she was in his future. He had nothing of her, never would have anything of her. Just a fading memory of a feeling, of a scent.

     All those years—wasted upon a dream that could never exist in this world.

     And then his tears came as he mourned both the past…and the future.


     She had quietly slipped down the rear stairs and had passed through Monsieur’s studio to exit into the garden. The meetings with Freud had continued to deliver relief. Today, however, as Kitty processed their work together, left her unsettled, as if some unseen gigantic hand had shaken the fabric of the universe. Ripples flowed across her thoughts, the wavelets leaving their traces on the shores of her unconscious mind.

     She needed the peace she could only find beneath the willows.

     Early on in her sojourn with the Renoirs, Kitty had discovered the hidden treasure that was the garden behind the house. Whenever Monsieur was between compositions, there he could be found. If little Pierre had finally driven the ever-gentle Aline to motherly distraction, Jacques would spell her and spend an hour chasing the youngster through the trees and shrubs. The more Kitty had learned of the Impressionist process, the more she understood the beauty that resided in the Renoir’s garden, whether it was hibernating in February or bursting forth in May.

     Crossing the threshold, her shoes touched the lawn so carefully clipped each morning while still damp from the mists that gave the house its name. As she passed the boundary into greenness, she heard a soft, choking sound, as another soul released its sadness, throwing it into the wands that hung from a thousand branches.

     Kitty was curious. T’was a man who sobbed. She was drawn to that at once strange yet so thoroughly familiar source of energy radiating from one who rarely released his pain. Rounding the buttresses of the eldest tree in the garden, Kitty nearly fell to her knees when she beheld he who had been haunting her dreams for the past month.

     Henry, Oh my poor Henry!

     Throughout all the years she had known him, she had never seen him in such a state. His grief when Lydia had died had been profound, but did not reach the gut-wrenching pain she was observing.  The sheen of his tears on his cheeks glimmered in the scattered rays that lightened the darkling shade beneath the ancient willow. His hands rested limply by his legs, palms up, and fingers softly curled in supplication.

     Something cracked inside of Miss Bennet. The wall that she had been chipping at during the dozens of sessions with the Doctor now suddenly was rent asunder like rotted muslin rather than holding firm like grey fieldstone. The healing mercy she had so carefully husbanded to bathe her own wounds poured forth.  This she ached to dispense to the bruised figure seated before her.

     Kitty moved closer, silently crushing the young green blades beneath her feet.


     As Henry’s emotions raged throughout his body, blistering his raw nerve endings, an explosion fractured his fugue. A soundless scent raced through the gap—roses over cut grass—and washed away the channels of sadness and regret scoured into his soul. 

     So fresh! So new! Into what madness have I descended? Have I displaced myself back to October 1915? Am I trapped behind my eyelids in an eternal time loop?

     Then a hand softly stroked his hair back away from his forehead in another familiar gesture not felt for those same nine years. With infinite gentleness, his left hand, so recently unoccupied, reached up as if under its own volition, to grasp that member and pull it down to his lips for a tender kiss.

     Am I dreaming? Is She here? Am I there?

     Her sudden gasp penetrated his awareness.

     His eyes flew open, transitioning him from his inner world to the glorious beauty of Renoir’s garden.

     And the china blue eyes under the blonde fringe that had beguiled him for months.

1 See http://www.davis-foundation.org/faqs.htm for more about self-hypnosis and communication with your inner guide.

2 During the Victorian era, prior to the perfection of motion picture cameras and projectors by Thomas Edison, the kineograph or flipbook pioneered what today would be known as the animation process. See http://smfaanimation.blogspot.com/2011/01/flip-book.html 

Book Blurb:

Beware of What You Wish For 

The Bennet Wardrobe may grant it! 

     Longbourn, December 1811. The day after Jane and Lizzy marry dawns especially cold for young Kitty Bennet. Called to Papa’s bookroom, she is faced with a resolute Mr. Bennet who intends to punish her complicity in her sister’s elopement. She will be sent packing to a seminary in far-off Cornwall. 

     She reacts like any teenager chafing under the “burden” of parental rules—she throws a tantrum. In her fury, she slams her hands against the doors of The Bennet Wardrobe. 

     Her heart’s desire? 

     I wish they were dead! Anywhere but Cornwall! Anywhere but here! 

     As Lydia later said, “The Wardrobe has a unique sense of humor.” 

     London, May 1886. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Marie Bennet tumbles out of The Wardrobe at Matlock House to come face-to-face with the austere Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, a scion of the Five Families and one of the wealthiest men in the world. However, while their paths may have crossed that May morning, Henry still fights his feelings for another woman, lost to him nearly thirty years in his future. And Miss Bennet must decide between exile to the remote wastelands of Cornwall or making a new life for herself in Victorian Britain and Belle Époque France. 

ArkansasAustenFan reviews “The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey”: 

What an amazing historical novel that has a paranormal Wardrobe, which transports members of the Bennet-blood-family into the future and back… Don Jacobson is a master storyteller weaving English history into the lives of the P&P characters in a unique way. This book is not light, fluffy reading. It is an intriguing novel that would make a wonderful mini-series on BBC much like Downton Abby.

Buy: Amazon
Add to Goodreads.

Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

Author Bio:

     Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years. His output has ranged from news and features to advertising, television, and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards.  He has previously published five books, all non-fiction.  In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series—The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey, a novel that grew from two earlier novellas. The Exile is the second volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series.  Other JAFF P&P Variations include the paired books “Of Fortune’s Reversal” and “The Maid and The Footman.” 
      Jacobson holds an advanced degree in History with a specialty in American Foreign Relations. As a college instructor, Don teaches United States History, World History, the History of Western Civilization and Research Writing.
     He is a member of JASNA-Puget Sound. Likewise, Don is a member of the Austen Authors collective (see the internet, Facebook, and Twitter).
     He lives in the Seattle, WA area with his wife and co-author, Pam, a woman Ms. Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize, and their rather assertive four-and-twenty pound cat, Bear.  Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the JAFF world, Don also enjoys cooking; dining out, fine wine and well-aged scotch whiskey.  

     His other passion is cycling.  Most days from April through October will find him “putting in the miles” around the Seattle area (yes there are hills).  He has ridden several “centuries” (100 mile days).  Don is especially proud that he successfully completed the AIDS Ride—Midwest (500 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-A-Wish Miracle Ride (300 miles from Traverse City, MI to Brooklyn, MI).

Connect with Don Jacobson

Blog Tour Schedule: 

06/15   From Pemberley to Milton; Guest Post, GA
06/16   My Jane Austen Book Club; Guest Post, Excerpt, GA
06/17   Just Jane 1813; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/18   Free Date
06/19   Diary of an Eccentric; Excerpt, GA 
06/20   Savvy Verse and Wit; Guest Post, GA
06/21   Darcyholic Diversions; Author Interview, GA
06/22   My Vices and Weaknesses; Review, Excerpt, GA
06/23   Babblings of a Bookworm; Character Interview, GA
06/25   My Love for Jane Austen; Vignette, GA
06/26   Interests of a Jane Austen Girl; Review, Excerpt, GA 
06/27   So little time…; Guest Post, GA
06/28  Laughing With Lizzie; Guest Post or Vignette, Excerpt, GA

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

It's giveaway time! Don Jacobson is generously giving away EIGHT e-copies of The Exile to EIGHT lucky winners! To enter fill out Rafflecopter below. Group giveaway. Open Internationally!

Terms and Conditions:

Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post or review that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants must provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified). If an entrant does not do so, that entry will be disqualified. Remember: Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.

A winner may win ONLY 1 (ONE) eBook of The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Époque by Don Jacobson. Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and the giveaway is international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Many thanks to Don Jacobson for stopping by today with a very interesting post, and for his generous giveaway! 

Also, thanks to Janet of More Agreeably Engaged for organizing this tour! 

The Exile: Kitty Bennet and the Belle Epoque sounds like a fascinating story! A magic wardrobe and time-travel? What could be better? Any thoughts? We'd love to hear from you! 


  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic and the excerpt. Congrats on this blog tour and thanks for the giveaway.

    1. Hi, DarcyBennett! I'm glad you enjoyed reading this post! Good luck with the giveaway, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Yo...DB. Good to see you here! Did you enjoy my musings? Look forward to talking with others!

    1. Hello, Don! Thanks so my for this insightful post! Jenetta James posted a comment on my So little time... FB page that I think you might enjoy reading. I would like to repost it here if I can. I'm working on that! :)

  3. Don, your musings were quite in depth. I don't think I have ever thought about it in those terms but you have some excellent points. Yes, your stories do have some tougher scenes but I felt they were necessary according to the way you wrote your story. I think of them as having 'meat' and not 'fluff'. They give a depth to your writing and plot by you not being afraid to tackle the issues but still not dwelling on the bad. I read your books and still felt an enjoyment of being entertained. They were not so dark that it left me feeling bad. I liked how everything came together. Not sure I'm making good sense here but I'm trying! lol

    I think it's great to have male writers of JAFF. I like reading a book that gives the story from a man's point of view. I think there is a difference in how men and women write in the JAFF world but that is not a bad thing.

    Loved the excerpt. Still one of my favorites, especially when Henry smells roses over fresh grass! Wonderful!

    1. Hey, Janet! I like a little action in my stories and, occasionally, a little darkness too! Sometimes, it's the emotional angst that bothers me more!

      I agree, I think there is a difference in how men and women write.

  4. You chose an interesting topic to write for the guest post, Don. I quite like reading through it. The excerpt had me intrigued and I must learn more. How is it that Henry caught Kitty's scent way back in 1915 when Kitty did not time travel there? Or did she but he didn't recognised her? It's getting more and more interesting.

  5. The more I read about the series, the more intriguing it becomes. Thanks for the tour and the giveaway, Don. :)

  6. Don, here is the comment left by Jenetta James on this blog's FB page, I thought you might enjoy it!:

    Great post, thank you Don & Candy. I don't think that there is any difficulty with a man writing from a female POV or visa versa. Don I am fascinated by your comments about John Le Carre - I'm not sure I completely agree - I think George Smiley is a man of action - just a thoughtful one. But - if you enjoy Le Carre, have you read Karen M. Cox's novel Undeceived? I think you may enjoy it, it is a real treat for the spy story P&P enthusiast:-)

    1. Candy...Thank you for passing on the comment from JJ. I truly see Smiley as thoroughly contrary to the usual expectation (perhaps a trope) of the Fleming-style master spy, although "M" would surely never sully his hands. But, then again, M was a political creature. Although Smiley was not the one who killed Bill Hayden, he had as much cause as Prideaux. In any event, I will put Cox's work on my to read list (although I am anxiously awaiting Daniel Silva's next outing for Gabriel Alon).

  7. Very interesting post... I would have to agree with Jenetta James' comment via Facebook. I think that a man writing from a female's POV or vice versa would be just as convincing. I think it would be more dependent on the author to be relatable versa them being a specific gender. Congrats on your release. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    1. Hi...I am not suggesting that a man write from a female POV (as if he were pulling on a mask...and even then, would not his Adam's Apple give him away?), but rather that a man (or a woman) should seek to write androgynously, to erase gender biases, to allow their characters to pursue the most logical behaviors for the scene.

      An interesting thought would be how Austen herself uses gender bias to make her points. How often did Darcy express astonishment that Elizabeth could speak with authority on literature, politics, and the Peninsular Campaign? Yet, his astonishment would be meaningless if Austen did not first establish his impatience with typical female behavior (lace, ribbons, fashion, gossip, cattiness, men) as demonstrated by Kitty, Lydia, and Caroline? Yet, Elizabeth is not portrayed as being manly...only being able to hold her own with educated men of the time.

      Here though, I would submit that Austen is writing Darcy with her male mind and Elizabeth with an Enlightened female mind...and Kitty, Lydia, and Caroline with an equally informed androgynous sense that demonstrated an appreciation of their behavior in an ungendered manner. A man reading Lydia's outbursts or Caroline's snark would appreciate their outrageousness as much as a woman reading the same.

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