Monday, April 22, 2013

Guest Post and excerpt: Author of Finding Favor, Lana Long

Why I Love Jane Austen

A Guest Post by Lana Long

I can sum it up in one word: escapism.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy reading books that deal with hard-hitting issues—issues that are real and difficult—but for the most part watching one nightly newscast can provide enough reality to last a few weeks. When it’s late at night, the kids are sleeping, the dog is sleeping, the husband is sleeping, everything is real quiet and the day’s activities are slipping into memory, I want to spend my last waking minutes in a world that’s interesting, satisfying, and nice.
That is why I love Jane Austen.
The social propriety of Austen’s works fascinates me. All of Austen’s novels struggle with the hierarchy of society.  In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy fights his feelings for Elizabeth because she’s not quite up to his social standing. In Persuasion, Anne pines for her lost love because she allowed her family to convince her that Wentworth isn’t good enough. In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby leaves Marianne when the risk of lost fortune becomes all too real. Willoughby is not a hero, and in the end Marianne comes to see that love doesn’t need to burn bright and hot to be real. Society tries to deflate these characters, tries to ruin their chances at happiness, but they fight through it and come out stronger, better off, and at peace. All except Willoughby, but that lout deserves what he gets. 

That is why I love Jane Austen.
The physical world of Austen’s novels is like a mythical place to me after growing up in the 20th century western United States. In Austen’s world, people live in houses the size of apartment buildings. They travel by coach, horseback, or they walk. If they’re wealthy enough, they summer in the country, winter in London, and vacation or convalesce in Bath. Servants take care of the family (don’t insinuate to Mrs. Bennett that she can’t afford a cook), drive them from place to place, work the land, and take care of the estate. Quaint villages and abbeys sustain small communities. Without wealth, people become isolated in their communities due to the time and cost to travel from one place to another. The characters in Austen’s novels—affluent or not—find ways to traverse this world and allow the reader to glimpse the countryside, the city and everything in between at the dawn of the nineteenth century in England.
That is why I love Jane Austen.
In Austen’s novels, the family structure and the roles of men and women are so foreign but at the same time so simple. What would it be like to spend all day sewing, playing the piano, reading, drawing, or walking in the garden? At the same time the women find themselves helpless because they aren’t allowed to learn anything besides these activities. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor is powerless to find a way to care for her sisters and mother after her half-brother inherits her father’s estate and doesn’t care for his sisters as promised. Emma‘s friends, the Bates, live off kindness and a small living, because Miss Bates never married and her father is deceased. It’s not necessarily easier for the men. If you’re not the oldest son your choices are limited to clergy, military or another profession deemed acceptable by the gentry.  Still, these people fight against the rules of gender and birth order. They are funny, kind, caring... frustrating and irritating, but they are always likeable and I cheer their success and mourn their losses, even Emma. And most of all, there’s a happy ending; our heroines and their friends find love and peace, and their foes find discomfort and an unfulfilling future.
That is why I love Jane Austen.
So why did I choose Mansfield Park for an adaptation out of all the Austen works? First, it’s a great story. The story is of Fanny Price, a young girl, coming of age away from her immediate family, who is too poor to rear all of their offspring. Fanny is required to uphold expectations set upon her by her caregivers, her wealthy aunt and uncle, but she is never to be rewarded for living up to those expectations because her true parentage is lowly. She’s in love with a boy, her best friend, who’s falling in love with someone else and by all of society’s rules unattainable even if he was available. The story felt ripe for a modern Young Adult novel. 
That is why I love Jane Austen.
Second, well, I hadn’t seen Mansfield Park retold. It would take your hands, my hands and twenty of our closest friends to count the number of times Pride and Prejudice has been adapted. I’m not complaining; I love it. Other Austen works need the opportunity to be discovered through modern retellings as well. As a teenager I read Emma because of the movie Clueless.  Jane Austen’s been gone for almost 200 years and we still read her novels and draw inspiration from them because they are truly great stories.
And that is why I love Jane Austen.

Finding Favor is priced at just 99 cents as part of its special launch week sale. Pick up your copy on either Amazon US or Amazon UK now, and don't forget to stop by and participate in the special release week contests.
Our big launch week prize basket includes:   Journal with a cover inspired by Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (as is this novel), note cards with an orchid design (Favor's favorite flower), a hard cover edition of To Kill a Mockingbird (Ethan's favorite book), and a cool pen (who doesn't love cool pens?). CLICK HERE NOW TO ENTER!

About Finding Favor

Which would you choose:  friendship or freedom?
In the eight years since seventeen-year-old Favor Miller's father died, she’s had to endure her reluctant, self-righteous guardians the Browns. Every day for eight years, they've reminded her that she doesn’t fit in, that she’s not one of them. Every day for eight years, she's eagerly awaited the day when she'll finally be free to live her life her way.
On the eve of high school graduation, Mr. Brown ambushes Favor with the offer of college funding and a to-die-for summer internship--with the one stipulation that she must discontinue her friendship with his son, Ethan.
Accustomed as she is to sharing everything with her best friend, this is one secret Favor must keep in order to protect Ethan. The distraction of his new girlfriend, her growing friendship with his older brother, and her need to understand her family history, add in further complications.
As Favor debates signing the contract, she must decide if she’s willing to give up her best friend in order to pursue her dreams.  Will she have to stay in the place she's so desperately wanted to escape in order to make the right decision and get what she really needs?

About Lana Long

As a devoted fan of young adult novels herself, Lana Long is thrilled to be gracing the YA world with her first novel, Finding Favor. Many years of daydreaming and several writing classes and workshops have contributed to the development of Finding Favor as well as to her inevitable future books. Through her experiences at Lighthouse Writers in Denver, the Big Sur Writing Workshop in California, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference, she has learned an amazing amount about writing novels.
Although writing serves as a relaxing process, Lana is also grounded by her family, by her work as a church treasurer, and by volunteering at her kids’ elementary school.
She hopes that her books provide readers with the same entertainment she herself finds in YA novels. If you enjoy a good coming-of-age story featuring enthralling characters, check out Finding Favor and read more of Lana’s thoughts at

Read an Excerpt from

Finding Favor by Lana Long

I woke early after not sleeping well. I threw on gray shorts and a black T-shirt, and put my hair in a ponytail. My eyes were only slightly puffy.
Thankfully the kitchen was the only room awake, and not even Brenda bothered me.
When I opened the greenhouse door, I stopped short. It was only seven but there she stood, by my work table—a place she'd never been—waiting for me with a malicious smile on her face, a metal garbage can at her feet.
"Hello, Favor," Madison said. A chill traveled up my spine.
"So yesterday was rather embarrassing for you." She picked a piece of lint off her shirt. "I thought that would be enough, but after a restless night I decided it really wasn't. My dad sent you a birthday card."
Her eyes flashed and shone like emeralds. "I knew something needed to be done. And you know what that means."
She silenced me with a finger to her lips. "Now is not the time for groveling, Favor. That time has passed... if it ever existed." She pulled a book of matches out of her pocket.
My heart sped up. She was going to burn down the greenhouse. I took a step toward the door. I didn't need her knocking me over the head and leaving me in the burning building. She was sadistic, but I'd never thought of her as violent. With the manic look in her eyes and a matchbook in her hand, I discovered that I'd never before known true fear.
"Madison," I said in a warning voice. "What are doing?"
"What am I doing? Favor, I know you're slow, but c'mon. Even you aren't that slow."
"Madison, if you burn down the greenhouse your parents are going to be really, really mad. Murder is a capital crime."
She laughed at me, her head thrown back and her fist clutched to her stomach. "That is hilarious. You think I would risk my future for you." Her eyes went bright green and even crazier still.
"That's it, you know?" She took a step toward me and I took a step back. "The attitude that everything is about you. Always about you."
"Are you crazy?" I screeched. Not the best thing to say but she'd gotten me going. "Nothing is ever about me!"
"Really? Then why did my dad send you a birthday card when he didn't send one to me?"
All hope of reasoning with her drained out of me. Mr. Brown had forgotten Madison's birthday earlier in the year. I'd been too distracted by my own problems to make the connection.
"Madison, you have to know the birthday card had nothing to do with wishing me a happy birthday."
"Oh, I know." She waved her hand, making my stomach plunge as the matches waved, too. "I know about the contract. I found it in your desk."
I tightly fisted my hands to stop my urge to throw her to the ground and take the matches.
She stretched her neck and smoothed her hair.
I stepped toward her.
She went perfectly still. "Now, now, Favor. If I were you, I would try not to piss me off anymore this summer, or I'll tell my dad about your little crush on Ethan."
Another thing she knew about me. I felt exposed.
"He'll take away your money for college. And something tells me your precious internship is in this deal, too. But right now I'm feeling charitable, and really, angrier at my father. So, unless you do something to make me less charitable, your secrets are safe with me. But that doesn't mean that I can let you get away with garnering even a little attention from dear, old Dad."
I swallowed hard. "What do you plan to do?"
"Oh, I plan to burn these." She held up the trash can and inside, stacked neatly on top of each other, were my journals.
"Madison..." I took a step towards her.
"Uh-uh." She twisted her body so the trash can was farther away from me. "Like I said, the time for groveling is over."
"Madison, please." Tears welled in my eyes. "You don't understand. Those journals are all I have of my dad. They're everything that's important to me."
"I know that," she scoffed. "Why do you think I choose this method of retribution? You take away my dad's attention, and I take away your dad's attention. It seems fair." Her tone turned sinister and she sounded crazier.
"How did you find them?"
"Oh, I have my ways. You're not the only one with secrets."
"Madison, I will do anything you want."
She put the trash can down and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Stop saying my name!" She started out in a whisper and was screaming by the end.
I should've turned to run and save myself, but I couldn't. Those journals meant everything to me.
"God." She sighed in frustration. "Don't say another word, okay?" She smiled at me. "I have a whole day planned so I'm going to get this over with. This is for the birthday card."
She pulled a match out of the box.
I stared stunned, shaking my head. She struck the match, and I felt faint.
"But most of all, this is just fun." She flung the match into the trash can and a flame shot up a few inches from the can. Even Madison jumped back.
"Huh," she said thoughtfully. "Shouldn't have used so much lighter fluid."
The flame jumped inside the trash can, but thankfully, stayed contained.
I gave Madison plenty of room as she left, not daring to take my eyes off of her. Once the door slammed shut, I grabbed the nearest water can.
I tore through the greenhouse trying to find water. Finding a half-full can, I doused what was left of the fire, a plume of smoke rising and encircling my face. I coughed, waving at the quickly dissipating smoke.

Finding Favor is priced at just 99 cents as part of its special launch week sale. Pick up your copy on either Amazon US or Amazon UK now, and don't forget to stop by and participate in the special release week contests.
Our big launch week prize basket includes:   Journal with a cover inspired by Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (as is this novel), note cards with an orchid design (Favor's favorite flower), a hard cover edition of To Kill a Mockingbird (Ethan's favorite book), and a cool pen (who doesn't love cool pens?). CLICK HERE NOW TO ENTER!