Whilst at university I wrote my dissertation on the endings in Charlotte Bronte’s novels, so when I heard Luccia Gray had written a continuation of the story I was intrigued. I’m currently half way through ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’, the first book in a trilogy following the events of ‘Jane Eyre’ and loving it. It is available to buy here in the UK and here in the US.
As I was so curious, I asked Lucccia Gray if she would be prepared to be a guest on Linda’s Book Bag to tell us more about her writing and luckily she agreed.
Writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy
A writer is a person who loves to write, and I’ve loved writing all my life. I’ve written poems, short stories, diaries, essays, even novels, but I never took myself seriously as a writer. It was ‘merely’ a hobby, or an outlet for my need to express myself creatively. I dismissed writing professionally as a fantasy, and relegated it to an obscure corner, as a secret and intimate distraction.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized I wanted to write professionally, which basically means sharing my writing openly with readers, but it took a long time!
When I left college in my twenties, I got a ‘proper’ steady job as a teacher, married and had three children. In my fifties, my children had grown up, left home and had children of their own, and I was back to square one.
I had more time for myself, which I spent mostly reading, thinking and writing. I realized that there had always been something missing in my life. Kafka was right: A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. I had kept insanity at bay, looking after my family and working hard to pay the mortgage, but once both jobs were done, I had to face my own needs and monsters. I needed to write a novel.
At that time, about five years ago, I was lecturing at the University of Córdoba on Postcolonial Literature in English. One of the topics on the syllabus was a contrastive analysis of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’s prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea. We discussed the conflicting views and approaches to colonialism, gender issues, life and literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, embodied in both novels. I took part in a conference at the University of Malaga, and published a chapter in a book, Identities on the move: Contemporary representations of new sexualities and gender identities. My chapter is, Sexuality and gender relationships in ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. My central concern was the madwoman in the attic, Bertha Mason, also the first, silenced and confined, Mrs. Rochester, who became the protagonist in Wide Sargasso Sea.
During the summer holidays, 2013, I started my novel. I wanted to write a novel which would pay tribute to the great writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, I also wanted to write back to them, in a metafictional and intertextual way, by using their characters and plots, and taking advantage of the spaces they left in their writing. So, I worked my way between the lines of their novels and their lives, delving into their minds and reinterpreting their meaning, going beyond their words and even, perhaps irreverently, beyond their conscious intentions. You’ll find the characters, plots, and lives of the Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Jane Austen, Robert Browning, Thomas de Quincy, George Elliot, Conan Doyle, Tennyson, and more, popping up in assorted guises, throughout the novels!
Writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy is about growing up intellectually and emotionally, as a reader and a writer. It’s about questioning what was written, what was meant to be understood, and what remains for the 21st century reader. In this case, it’s about taking Mr. Rochester to task and exposing him as the villain he was in Jane Eyre, and would probably have continued to be after their first years of marriage and the arrival of their children. I am convinced Rochester would not have allowed any rivalry for Jane Eyre’s affections, but I am even more convinced that Jane would not have been content to be a devoted wife to such a dark character, so I offered her a chance of self-fulfillment and happiness out of Rochester’s grasp.
I envisaged a Jane who is passionate about education, orphans, social work, and writing novels. Jane represents the modern, open-minded, socially conscious, and groundbreaking Victorians, such as Charles Dickens and George Elliot. Rochester, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in more narrow-minded, patriarchal and imperialistic endeavors of the traditional landed gentry of the time. Jane and Edward would have clashed. I have no doubt about it, because the other option is unacceptable to me. I have refused to accept that Jane would have become an old-fashioned, traditional, wealthy Victorian lady.
I have plunged Jane head-on into discovering the distressing truth about her husband, which she already suspected, but ignored while she was love-struck. In the Eyre Hall Trilogy, she is a mature and passionate, forty-year-old woman, who is managing the Estate, due to her husband’s illness and is determined to improve the lives of others. Jane is given a new lease on life, however, as all personal transitions, the emotional cost is high.
Overall, I wanted to write an exciting, mysterious, suspenseful and romantic novel, set in Victorian England. It’s the type of novel I’d love to read myself, because it’s exciting, challenging, and intriguing. In spite of being set in the 19th century, the approach and pace of the novel is contemporary. The action takes place over a short period, a few weeks, although there are flashbacks to earlier events. It has multiple first person narrators, so that the narrative is recreated by a mosaic of varied characters, some of which appeared in Jane Eyre, and others, which are my own creations. I’m sure readers will enjoy this entertaining journey into Victorian England.
Luccia is absolutely right. If you’ve read ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’, ‘All Hallows at Eyre Hall’ is definitely a must read. I’m loving it and will be reviewing it soon.