Reader, I Referenced Her: Jane Eyre in My Debut Book

On the Miss Ivy/Novels Alive blog today, I stopped by to chat about how I used Jane Eyre as a touchstone when I wrote Broken Resolutions!

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855). Engraved by W.G. Jackman and published in “Queenly Women Crowned and Uncrowned,”1885.

Somewhere in the middle of writing my debut novella, Broken Resolutions, I realized I had a problem.

Let me give you some background. I’d set my book on New Year’s Eve at a small, rural public library. By Chapter 3, quiet librarian Penny had been bribed by her boss to host a risqué singles’ event. And because the numbers were uneven, she was forced to participate too.

The first group activity required each of the singles to choose his or her favorite romantic passage from a book. Penny randomly assigned them into pairs, and those pairs then read their selected passages aloud together. Penny, naturally, found herself matched with our hero—reclusive bestselling author Jack Williamson, in disguise as a mild-mannered accountant for the night.

Penny unknowingly picked a passage from Jack’s book (as you no doubt expected). And Jack picked, um… well… uh…

There. That was the problem. What on earth should Jack’s book be?

I wanted to choose a story whose plot and premise most romance readers would already know. I was planning to quote some passages from the book, and I didn’t want to deal with copyright issues, so I was only considering books in the public domain. And since Jack wrote literary fiction, it had to be a well-respected novel. A classic.

Then inspiration struck. Of course, I thought. Of course I need to use Jane Eyre.

Upon first glance, it fulfilled all of my superficial requirements: Jane Eyre is a well-known, critically lauded romantic novel situated firmly in the public domain. But Charlotte Brontë’s book also complemented my own for so many other, more important reasons.

I’d already described Penny as a soft-spoken, small, and seemingly insignificant woman who possessed a fierce spirit and unbreakable dignity. She worked with children in a profession where education was paramount. The parallels with Jane were striking. Unmistakable, really, once I knew where to look.

Similar to Rochester, Jack was hiding a secret as he wooed Penny. Finally, as with Jane and Rochester, Penny and Jack shared an almost immediate affinity—a recognition that they’d finally found their perfect intellectual and emotional partner.

And as soon as I decided to use Jane Eyre, I realized I could continue to reference the book throughout my manuscript. So I did, borrowing a little of its beauty to burnish my own story. And because, unlike Penny, I’m not dignified at all, I eventually had my couple engage in a little Jane Eyre cosplay. (Sorry, Charlotte Brontë.)

Knowledge of Jane Eyre isn’t necessary to understand or enjoy my book. I wrote a modern, sexy romantic comedy, not an academic treatise. But I’d love for readers familiar with Brontë’s story to recognize and enjoy the parallels as much as I did.

Dear reader, I appreciate your attention. And whether you choose my book or someone else’s, I hope you read something absolutely wonderful today.

2 thoughts on “Reader, I Referenced Her: Jane Eyre in My Debut Book

    • Thank you, Miss Bates! I had so much fun adding JANE EYRE references to my plot (you know my love for mixing highbrow topics with lowbrow humor). And in the book I’m writing now–which includes a wedding for this hero and heroine–I double down on my JE jokes. I’m loving it!

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