Syrie James’ last novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, was a Discover Great New Writers Selection of Barnes and Noble, and was named a Best First Novel of 2008 by Library Journal. She’s a best selling author and a great friend. Please give Syrie a warm welcome to the convertible. One super lucky commenter will receive a copy of her latest novel, so chime in, Top Downers.
Did you enjoy the novel JANE EYRE? Have you ever wondered who Charlotte Brontë was, and what inspired her to write that remarkable masterpiece? I did. I must have read JANE EYRE a dozen times. I wanted to know and understand the woman behind it—so I researched her life in depth.
I’m now thrilled to announce that my new novel, THE SECRET DIARIES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTË—the dramatic story of Charlotte’s life and romance—is on the shelves. Written from Charlotte’s point of view, the book begins with an impassioned proposal which throws Charlotte’s entire household into confusion. Charlotte takes up her pen to examine the truth about her life: her deepest feelings and desires, her triumphs and shattering disappointments, her relationship with her family, her evolution as a writer, and her scandalous, secret passion for the man she can never have—the man who was the basis for all the heroes in Charlotte’s books, including the infamous Mr. Rochester.
Above all, it is the story of Charlotte’s real-life romance. Her father’s curate—the tall, dark, and handsome Arthur Bell Nicholls—lived right next door to the Brontës for more than seven years and carried a silent torch for Charlotte all that time, before he had the nerve to propose. Charlotte at first greatly disliked him, but her feelings eventually changed to deep and abiding love. (I knew that would make a fabulous story—and it had never been told!)
I had such fun researching Charlotte’s life and writing this novel. The process took about two years. I was astonished to discover how many parts of Charlotte’s books were inspired by her own experiences. What a story! Charlotte lived a secluded life in Victorian England in the wilds of Yorkshire. She was a feisty, independent thinker—one of the original feminists—yet she had no social connections whatsoever. Her father was going blind. Her brother became an alcoholic and a drug addict. Her sisters Emily and Anne were also very talented writers.
After a chance discovery brought out the fact that all three women were writing in secret, they encouraged each other and began working together. Despite the difficulties of their circumstances, all three became published authors at the exact same time. Charlotte’s JANE EYRE and Emily’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS are considered to be among the greatest works ever written in the English language. I can’t think of any other family in history who have achieved a similar literary feat!
To research my book, I read dozens of Brontë biographies. I studied their art. I read all of the Brontës novels over and over, hundreds of their poems, Charlotte’s juvenilia, and more than four hundred of Charlotte’s preserved letters. The letters not only helped me to hear Charlotte’s true voice, they gave me great insight into her most intimate thoughts, beliefs, daily struggles, and personal relationships.
I also visited the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, England—which is the house where Charlotte and her family lived almost her entire life, and is filled with their possessions. It was such a thrill to walk through the rooms where Charlotte lived and worked, to walk the lanes she walked, and to see the wild expanse of moors that she and her sisters loved to roam.
I was even granted a private tour of the former Roe Head School which Charlotte attended, and which I featured in my novel—where the legend of a mysterious attic dweller, the Ghost of Roe Head, still lives! It was invaluable to have those images in my mind when I wrote the book. It was such a thrill to recreate the historic moment when Charlotte was inspired to start writing JANE EYRE, that I got chills down my spine when I was writing it.
For those of you who enjoyed my last book, THE LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN, I hope you will love THE SECRET DIARIES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTË just as much, if not more—for it is truly a work of my heart!
And please do visit my website at www.syriejames.com. You’ll find lots of fun stuff, including photos of my research trip to Brontë country, portraits of the Brontës, excerpts from Charlotte’s correspondence, and selections from their art and poetry.
And now, back to the question which began this blog: Did you enjoy the novel JANE EYRE? If so, why? When did you first read it? Why do you think JANE EYRE is still so adored and revered more than 160 years after it was first published? Which movie version do you like best? How do you feel about WUTHERING HEIGHTS? What do you like best about historical fiction? Are you excited to learn more about Charlotte and the Brontës?
I’ll be giving away a free copy of my new novel to one lucky commenter!