Audrey Ryan is the newest member of our author group. We'd like to introduce you to her today.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Sure! In a sentence: I am a city-dwelling Seattleite who works for the internet but always meant to write novels. In a few more, a little over two years ago I married my super cool boyfriend and gained a step-daughter in the process. I have a group of girlfriends who, coincidentally, mostly have names that start with an A, so we creatively call ourselves the “A Team”. I also have a cat who has his own Facebook fan page since he’s so weird and funny (and the internet loves cats). He’s named George after George Weasley because he’s a ginger. I have some random disconnected obsessions that have held true for many many years: Sofia Coppola is my style icon and her movies are amazing, Hope Sandoval (and by extension Mazzy Star) makes the best music EVER, nothing can compare to the taste of culinary lavender, and Mr. Darcy is always Colin Firth in a wet shirt. My biggest life defining moment is when I spent a term at New College in Oxford and had way too many incidents tripping (and falling!) on cobblestones in front of natives (I guess I also learned a lot too). I’m on the older end of millennial, but I still consider myself one, although I’m of the age where I still remember playing Oregon Trail and remember when Kurt Cobain died.
What is your Jane Austen fandom origin story?
Since majoring in English, I’ve always enjoyed Austen, although she didn’t become a favorite until after I graduated. It’s a completely round-about story, but about ten years ago, when I was 24, I lost my Mom suddenly. People do a lot of things to cope with grief and I choose a bit of escapism. For me that meant binge watching “Doctor Who” or rereading Austen novels. My great aunt Naomi, who was a huge reader, told me that she would reread Pride and Prejudice on yearly basis, but especially if she needed to cheer herself up. I started to do that and then some: I had the most boring job in the world writing power tool product descriptions, so I would listen to the free Austen recordings from Librivox while I wrote about drills and pancake compressors. I had no idea JAFF existed, so any adaptations or variations I enjoyed beyond the originals were the well advertised ones, like Austenland, Longbourn, or “Lost in Austen”, etc. It was through a random Kindle recommendation that I learned about JAFF. I had been working on All the Things I Know already when a recommendation for Rumours & Recklessness popped up. And of course, Google is a powerful tool. I found hundreds of books to inhale and learned about (and joined) A Happy Assembly. I couldn’t believe there was this entire community thriving right under my nose!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved storytelling. When I was 12, I won a writing award in school and that was the first time I thought I may be good at it. It was one of those things that came easily to me. I studied writing in college as well, but I had a hard time finding the direction I wanted to go in. I did well in screen writing and journalism, but thought I should go for YA urban fantasy novels because that was what I enjoyed reading at the time and it was very popular in the market. After a series of personal set-backs and a few years of jobs that lead me far away from writing, I got the idea for All the Things I Know. It was the lightning bolt of focus I needed!
What inspired you to write about Pride and Prejudice?
To put it simply, I wrote what I wanted to read. I love Austen adaptations (my favorite is Clueless) and I wanted to see Pride & Prejudice retold in my world. I loved that Clueless really latched onto pop culture of the time and I wanted to see P&P do that same thing. It was an idea that wouldn’t go away until I wrote it.
Describe your ideal writing space.
I do best in a public spaces, like a coffee shop with headphones and no internet connection. I love the energy of having people around me, but the ability to block them out with calming music. The right writing music is very important. My default is to listen to modern piano composures like Dustin O'Halloran or Philip Glass, but I have also been known to make soundtracks for my writing (yes, All the Things I Know does a have a soundtrack).
If you had to summarize your story in 10 words or less, how would you describe it?
A millennial Elizabeth Bennet navigating the extended adolescence of her twenties.
In a genre filled with hundreds of Pride and Prejudice variations, what do you bring to the table that’s makes your story unique?
In a saturated market, I don’t think there are nearly enough straight up adaptations (at least not to satisfy me!). In the landscape of adaptations, how many of them are proclaimed New Adult? Even though I brought Lizzie’s age forward by a few years (she’s 22 instead of 20), this story is set against the landscape of the chaotic 20-something years. I’d like to think this brings a fresh perspective to the story. It’s very internal and character driven story, written in first person entirely from Lizzie’s perspective. Though the romance is there and strong, the story is more about learning who she is as an adult. There’s also a strong social identity with millennials and the struggles I believe we’ve encountered as a generation. In this way, my goal was to appeal to not just the Jane Austen fan, but also readers who identify with cultural phenomenons like #fomo and were mad at a certain article about avocado toast.
Prevalent wisdom suggests that authors write about what they know. Did you follow that premise?
Definitely! I’m a very character driven author and in order to identify with each character’s motivations, I tap what I’ve learned over the years to relate to my fictional creations. Like fictional empathy. Also, when bringing out details while world building, it’s easiest to look at the world I know to describe the details accurately.
This will be your first published work in the JAFF genre. Do you have other plot bunnies hanging around?
For sure! I have ideas coming out my ears! As a challenge to myself, I've actually started a P&P Regency variation (I already have about 30,000 words written so far). This one is slow going for me because of the research required. I also have a ton of amoeba-ish ideas to continue New Adult adaptations of my favorite classics (including other Austen adaptations set in the All the Things I Know world).
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
I can be what you could call a “fearful writer” — meaning, I have very high standards for myself. This can lead to some serious writer’s block because I can easily write and rewrite ad nauseam to get something “just right” and never reach completion. I once read a book on writer’s block that called this “Leo Tolstoy Syndrome” because it’s like the writer believes they can never be as good as Leo Tolstoy. In “Bird by Bird”, Anne Lamont tells you to embrace your “shitty first draft”, and I have to tell myself this throughout the writing process: don’t look back, keep going, it doesn’t have to be perfect, etc.
What’s the easiest thing about writing?
If I can put my blinders on to the perfectionist voice in the back of my mind, it’s easy for me to “barf write”, as I eloquently call it. When I later review it, nine times out of ten the barf writing is way better than I thought it would be. Massaging this into a narrative is much more of a fun process than staring at the blinking cursor.
Who are your top 3 favorite authors of all time (not including Jane Austen if she happens to be figure in there)?
It’s hard for me to boil down my top three (outside of Austen) because I’ve read so many books that have had a large impact on me as both a reader and writer. Right now, I would say: Jeffrey Eugenides, Dorothy Parker, and J.K. Rowling because they shaped me in different ways. Jeffrey Eugenides is the first contemporary author I latched onto because of his way with words. I tend to swallow books whole when I read, but I can go through his writing in the most minute details because I love how he puts together a sentence. I’ve been known to describe his writing as “wordgasmic”. Dorothy Parker spoke to me when I took American Literature in college. I immediately appreciated her caustic, succinct wit. I enjoy it like I enjoy a good joke; her “punchlines” are a constant source of delight for me, especially when they comment on a social norm I identify with. Lastly, J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter led me to the appreciation of good world building. I had such a fun time escaping into the series and theorizing about the resolution (I started reading the books around the time the fifth book came out). She lead me to the practice of binge-reading as an adult. In fact, it’s through Harry Potter that I learned what fan fiction was!
If you could sit down to tea with anyone from the world of Austen, be they historical or fictional, who would it be and why?
How could I not want to have tea with Elizabeth Bennet? She is the most delightful creature Jane Austen created and the muse of All the Things I Know!
Audrey Ryan is the nom de plume of Andrea Pangilinan: daydreamer, wife and step-mother, and obsessive story consumer. She studied writing in college, dreamt about becoming a novelist and slowly forgot about it when real life took over. With a particular affection for contemporary retellings, adapting Pride & Prejudice to modern day has always been a dream. When she’s not reading and writing, Andrea is a marketing slave to the internet industry. She enjoys talking crazy to her weirdo cat, consuming copious amount of wine and coffee with her girlfriends, and record shopping with her husband. Oh yeah, and there’s that small Jane Austen obsession. That doesn’t take up any time at all.