For those who admire the novels of Jane Austen and wonder, “How did she do that?” a new book aims to tell you — and help you do it, too.

It comes from Rebecca Smith, a novelist herself and a “five-times-great-niece” of Jane Austen. To her credit, Smith calls that “a nice thing to be but no claim to fame.” After being a writer in-residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum and conducting writing workshops there and elsewhere, Smith felt steeped enough in Austen’s work to put her expertise in book form.

The result is a fun read for aspiring writers and just plain Jane-ites. For writers, Smith parses Austen’s stories into specific challenges: understanding your characters, writing dialogue, slowing down time — plus exercises and tips such as, “When it looks like things can’t get any worse, they should.”

For fans, she leads a guided tour of some of our favorite passages, such as feisty Elizabeth Bennet’s showdown in the garden with the imperious Lady Catherine in “Pride and Prejudice.”

Smith stirs the urge to revisit those rich, romantic stories and leaves writers and readers alike with Austen’s sage advice: “Let us not desert one another.”

 

Maureen McCarthy is a Star Tribune metro editor.

The Jane Austen Writers' Club
By: Rebecca Smith.
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 336 pages, $27.