Are We on The Fame Page ?

P1070006Literary fame is something all writers think about. From contemporary stars like Stephen King and JK Rowling to authors of the classics, like Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen, all that recognition sounds pretty darn exciting. These days, literary stardom can come overnight if you hit the right topic, and nothing can stop anybody from producing a book for the world to buy.

On a recent trip to England, I had a chance to think about fame and what it might really mean. Let me start by saying, I’m not a Janeite, the term coined in the late 1800’s for fans of Jane Austen. But I’ve read some of her books, get a little too excited over Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and certainly admire Ms. Austen for writing about the strong societal topics of her era.

P1060818Yet upon our arrival in Bath, the romance writer who lives inside me got very excited. Because even I knew Bath = Jane Austen territory.

And here I was, walking the same cobblestone pavements that inspired Jane to write Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Even sleeping on the same street where she once lived, an unintentional hotel choice (although I learned Jane lived in several different apartments during her five years in Bath.) So naturally, when I passed the Jane Austen Center on our way to visit the Circus and Royal Crescent (Georgian styled homes made from local, golden-colored “bath stone”), I had to pay homage to the woman who’d created Mr. Darcy. Come on, don’t all romance writers and authors of women’s fiction owe her a little something?


Best Bathroom Doors Ever!

Only as our tour proceeded, I learned the celebrity status Jane owns in history is nothing she ever lived to see. In fact, Jane struggled to get her work recognized.

  • In 1795, early versions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were both rejected by publishers.
  • In 1803 Northanger Abbey was sold to a publisher for ten sterling pounds, but not printed.
  • In 1810 Sense and Sensibility was finally accepted for publication, only the author name showed the book as written by “a Lady.”
  • In fact, Jane’s name never appeared on any of her published books until after her death in 1817.
Thankful for my computer!

Thankful for my computer!

Imagine these facts, especially in light of how she’s viewed in today’s world of publishing. And Jane wasn’t the only author I stumbled upon during my visit whose written works were overlooked.

At Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey (London), I learned Geoffrey Chaucer is buried in the south transept of the abbey. Only I also found out that when Chaucer first died back in 1400, he’d been actually living near the abbey and was in royal favor. His burial, initially, at the cathedral was done with a plain slab near one of the chapels, mostly due to his friendship with the monks, but definitely NOT because of his writing career. Only over a hundred years later did the author of The Canterbury Tales end up being moved and buried next to Shakespeare, finally recognized by the church for his literary achievements.

P1070090So what do authors today desire? Stardom? Fame? Riches? Or do we want to write books so well-done that they withstand the test of time?

The only piece I control is the quality of my writing, with the hope for a decent paycheck. And the truth is, that’s what drives me to write. Not the others things. So if I’m Jane A., looking down on earth from some heavenly place, I’d be satisfied (and a teeny bit bitter lol!)

What about you?



9 responses to “Are We on The Fame Page ?

  1. Rachel Brimble

    Fab post, Sharon! As you know, I am lucky to have Bath on my doorstep and everything you’ve said in this post is so true. Do we, as writers/artists, really understand the concept of writing our best work and hoping for the best? It seems to me that’s what writers were forced to do in the past so maybe we need to forget about the money and just write. SO much easier said than done…

    • It really is easier said than done, Rachel. I always hope that if my heart is in it, though, it’ll reflect in the work. Then the rest will easily follow. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Terri-Lynne DeFino

    Never had her name on her work until after her death?? Really? I had no idea. Well, I had some idea. I knew she never made it “big” in her own time. Like Van Gogh. And Chaucer. And if you have a few hours and several pages, I can go on…
    You’re right, Sharon–all we can really do is put out the best work we can and hope for the best. If I were Jane looking down on the world, I wouldn’t be bitter. I’d laugh!

    • It’s really astonishing, isn’t it? But if she is looking down, I would guess she wouldn’t be disappointed one bit. Wouldn’t we all love our stories to be so well regarded, even if we aren’t there to witness it?

  3. Pingback: Why do you write? | Modesty Is For Suckers

  4. From the little reading I’ve done about Jane Austen, I’m guessing she’d have been horrified to become a public name, although I do think she would have delighted in greater sales. A girl’s got to live, after all, and independence comes at a steep price.

    • I’ll bet she’d have loved the money. After her father died–like many women of their time–they didn’t have much. Wow, they never said in our tour if she’d have liked to have been in the public eye, but honestly, not all of us who sit and write all day would like the fanfare. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I didn’t know her name wasn’t on her books at the time. Not surprised, though, considering the times. I’m with you guys. I don’t particularly need the fame – although my name is definitely going on the books! – but the money would be nice. 🙂

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