I’m no Jane Austen

This shouldn’t be a surprise to any of you. No, not much of a resemblance between her and I, but apparently I thought I was Jane Austen for a brief period.

I wrote a novella using what I thought was a very up to date and catchy premise. Think Gossip Girl meets Dukes of Hazard with a few of the Golden Girls thrown in for color. A spoiled rich girl acts out for attention and gets into trouble, prompting her grandmother to ship her off to an old friend’s cattle ranch in Colorado where she has an epiphany, makes a dramatic transformation, and meets two really hot cowboys. Yes, the heroine is unlikeable in the beginning. She is flawed. It’s not her fault. It’s how she was raised and the environment she was brought up in. But she sees the error of her ways and changes with the help of the family who takes her in.

Flawed heroines are not a new thing. Think Jane Austen’s “EMMA”. Emma is not so nice. She’s cruel to the spinster, she’s manipulative in her dealings with her friend and men, she jealous, yet she learns a lesson in the end. But I’ve read Emma three times. I cry when she is heartbroken. I rejoice when she gets the man.

Think of the Alicia Silverstone movie, “Clueless”, which was a modern day remake of Emma. The heroine, Cher, is not so nice. She’s spoiled, shallow and a bit stupid. Yet I love that movie and I root for her to win the guy everytime I watch it. And she does in the end after she transforms into a better, yet still silly, person.

There’s a phrase in publishing. Mary Sue. It refers to when authors write perfect heroines. They are smart, gorgeous, perfect in every way and everyone loves them. And they are totally unrealistic and editors hate them. Yet write a flawed heroine and she is “manipulative’ (rejection from publisher #1), ‘whiny’ (rejection from publisher #2) and ‘unlikeable’ (rejection from publisher #3).

Actually, publisher #1 rejected the story twice so this poor character has been rewritten twice and still rejected a total of 4 times. So now what?? The good news is I am becoming quite immune to rejection. The bad news is, I’m not sure what to do with the story or this character. I don’t want to rewrite her and make her nice and sweet and likeable.

Any suggestions? Do I have faith in readers that they’ll accept my heroine as is, ride along with her on her journey to redemption and rejoice in the end at her happy ending. Or do I succumb to the pressure and accept I’m no Jane Austen.


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