This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts, and concerns about our profession. By the way, all writers are invited to join in!
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
May 5 question – Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?
Have my readers’ responses surprised me? Definitely!
I have over a hundred written reviews on Amazon, and over two hundred reviews on Goodreads, which may not seem like a lot, but it never ceases to amaze me. The fact that so many readers, people I don’t know and who may never have heard of me, a relatively little known author, in a vast ocean of millions of books and writers, have been motivated to read my books and taken the trouble to write a review, amazes me.
I feel encouraged by the good reviews, which fortunately account for the majority, and that used to surprise me when I started publishing, seven years ago, in 2014, because I was very insecure!
I used to feel upset when I got a negative review, again, because I was very insecure, but now I’m less insecure and I appreciate them too, because some are useful, and at least they all count as reviews!
At first, I was surprised that so many readers disliked my novel because they thought I had treated Mr Rochester too harshly. In my defense, I’d say I didn’t lock him in a windowless attic, or make him suffer any physical torture! He lived a good life, with his wife and son, even though he went back to some of his old ways.
I mean, locking your wife in an attic in dire conditions, hidden from everyone (in spite of being a moneyed heiress), and pretending you’re single to the point of intending bigamy (until your wedding was interrupted at the altar) with an innocent nineteen-year-old, is pretty objectionable behaviour, even for 19th century standards.
On the other hand, I can appreciate the fact that Mr Rochester has been an icon of passionate love, aka the brooding Byronic hero/lover, who is brought to his feet due to the love of a ‘good’ woman, for almost 200 years, but that’s due to an erroneous interpretation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane Eyre is the protagonist the reader should root for, not Rochester. Jane is the independent, resourceful and single-minded nineteen-year-old woman who stood up to a manipulative rake and won him over on her terms, with her money (Spoiler alert: at the end of the novel she becomes an heiress herself), once he was a widower, and once she had made her way in the world working and living on her own, a feat not all women achieve, even nowadays.
I’d love to continue to be surprised by my readers, and I hope to surprise them too with more novels. I started by writing The Eyre Hall which will become The Eyre Hall Series shortly, as two new novels, Blood Moon at Eyre Hall and Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall are coming soon!
Take a look at my provisional banner, I’m still making changes and adapting the covers. Do you like them?
If you’d like to read or reread Jane Eyre, I’m posting one chapter a week, every Friday, in flash fiction, directly from the original novel, for readers who prefer to read an abridged version, here, just click on the banner below:
I arrived at the George Inn at Millcote at eight o’clock in the evening, after a sixteen hour coach ride from Lowton, where a man with a one-horse conveyance took me the final six more miles to Thornfield Hall.
I alighted and a maid-servant showed me in to a cosy room with a cheerful fire. An elderly lady, I fancied was Mrs Fairfax, sat a in widow’s cap and black silk gown sat in a high-backed, old-fashioned armchair, with a large cat sat at her feet.
As I entered, the old lady got up and promptly and kindly came forward to meet me. She conducted me to her own chair, removed my shawl and bonnet-strings, and told Leah, the maid, to bring me some hot negus and a sandwich. I was surprised to receive more attention than I ever had before. My heart warmed to the worthy lady who was so pleased to see me.
I learned that Leah, John and his wife were the rest of the staff, and that my pupil was Miss Varens, who had a nurse, Sophie.
She showed me upstairs to my small apartment, next to hers. A very chill and vault-like air pervaded the stairs and gallery, suggesting cheerless ideas of space and solitude, but I was glad to find a small, modern bedroom, with gay blue chintz window curtains, showing papered walls and a carpeted floor, so unlike the bare planks and stained plaster of Lowood, that my spirits.
I was now at last in safe haven, and the impulse of gratitude swelled my heart. I knelt down at the bedside and offered up thanks. My couch had no thorns in it that night; my solitary room, no fears. At once weary and content, I slept soon and soundly.
The following day I wore a Quaker like plain, black frock and clean white tucker. I sometimes regretted that I was not handsomer. I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale, and had features so irregular and so marked.
Everything appeared very stately and imposing to me, as I was so little accustomed to grandeur. I stepped over the threshold and onto the lawn and surveyed the front of the three-storey mansion, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery.
Mrs Fairfax greeted me with an affable kiss and shake of the hand. ‘How do you like Thornfield?’ she asked. I told her I liked it very much.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it is a pretty place; but I fear it will be getting out of order, unless Mr. Rochester should take it into his head to come and reside here permanently; or, at least, visit it rather oftener: great houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor.’
‘Mr. Rochester!’ I exclaimed. ‘Who is he?’
‘The owner of Thornfield,’ she responded quietly. ‘Did you not know he was called Rochester?’
‘I thought,’ I continued, ‘Thornfield belonged to you.’ ‘I am only the housekeeper—the manager. My husband, who was a clergyman at Hay church, was a second cousin to Mr Rochester on his mother’s side.’
‘And the little girl—my pupil!’
‘She is Mr. Rochester’s ward; he commissioned me to find a governess for her.’
My pupil was perhaps seven or eight years old, slightly built, with a pale, small-featured face, and a redundancy of hair falling in curls to her waist.
‘Good morning, Miss Adela,’ said Mrs. Fairfax. ‘Come and speak to the lady who is to teach you, and to make you a clever woman some day.’ She approached, speaking French to her nurse.
‘Are they foreigners?’ I inquired, amazed at hearing the French language.
‘The nurse is a foreigner, and Adela was born on the Continent. She arrived here six months ago. She spoke no English. Now she talks it a little: I don’t understand her, she mixes it so with French; but you will make out her meaning very well, I dare say.’
I had had the advantage of being taught French by a French lady, and I had acquired a certain degree of readiness and correctness in the language.
‘Ah!’ cried she, in French, ‘you speak my language as well as Mr. Rochester does: I can talk to you as I can to him, and so can Sophie. She will be glad nobody here understands her.
Mrs Fairfax asked me to inquire about her parents.
“I lived long ago with mama; but she is gone to the Holy Virgin. Mama used to teach me to dance and sing, and to say verses. A great many gentlemen and ladies came to see mama, and I used to dance before them, or to sit on their knees and sing to them: I liked it. Shall I let you hear me sing now?’
She sang a song from some opera and recited ‘La Ligue des Rats: fable de La Fontaine.’
‘After your mama went to the Holy Virgin, as you say, with whom did you live?’
‘With Madame Frederic and her husband: she took care of me, but she is nothing related to me. I was not long there. Mr. Rochester asked me if I would like to go and live with him in England, and I said yes because he was always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys.’
After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom. I found my pupil sufficiently docile, though disinclined to apply: she had not been used to regular occupation of any kind. I felt it would be injudicious to confine her too much at first; so, when I had got her to learn a little, and when the morning had advanced to noon, I allowed her to return to her nurse.
Mrs Fairfax showed me the imposing dining-room and a pretty drawing room and within it a boudoir, both spread with white carpets, crimson couches and ottomans. All of which she kept in readiness for Mr. Rochester’s rare and unexpected visits.
When I asked her about the owner she replied, ‘The family have always been respected here. Almost all the land in this neighbourhood, as far as you can see, has belonged to the Rochesters time out of mind. I believe he is considered a just and liberal landlord by his tenants. His character is unimpeachable, although he is rather peculiar, perhaps. He has travelled a great deal, and I dare say he is clever, but I never had much conversation with him. He is a very good master.’
Then she showed me the rest of the grand house and some of the third-storey rooms, with its eerie relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory.
‘Do the servants sleep in these rooms?’ I asked.
‘No; they occupy a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one ever sleeps here: one would almost say that, if there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt.’
‘Are there any legends or ghost stories?’
‘None that I ever heard of,’ returned Mrs. Fairfax.
I followed up a very narrow staircase to the attics, and thence by a ladder and through a trap-door to the roof of the hall. I was now on a level with the crow colony, and could see into their nests. Leaning over the battlements, I surveyed the grounds. On my way down, I lingered in the long passage and the two rows of small black doors and a laugh struck my ear. I stopped: the sound ceased, only for an instant; it began again, louder.
‘Mrs. Fairfax!’ I called out. ‘Did you hear that loud laugh? Who is it?’
‘Some of the servants, very likely,’ she answered: ‘perhaps Grace Poole, a person we have to sew and assist Leah in her housemaid’s work. Sometimes Leah is with her; they are frequently noisy together.’
The door nearest me opened, and a middle-aged servant with a set square figure and red hair came out.
‘Too much noise, Grace,’ said Mrs. Fairfax. ‘Remember directions!’ Grace curtseyed silently and went in.
Jane arrives at Thornfield Hall and is well received by Mrs Fairfield and her pupil. Adele Varens. She feels safe and valued in a comfortable room and a grand house.
It’s a long chapter with a great deal of information about Mr Rochester, the absent owner, Adele’s background and the all about the house and the servants.
The contemporary reader and everyone at Thornfield Hall knows who was really laughing in the spooky third storey.
The chapter ends on a warning omen; all is not as pleasant as it would seem.
The background chapters are over and we now come to the suspenseful part of the novel, and reader is eager to find out about the mysterious owner and the origin of the strange laughter. How exciting!
Before I discuss the ten lies Mr. Rochester told Jane in Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, I’d like to summarize some key aspects about the nature of lies.
According to Neuroscientist, Sam Harris in his concise and brilliant book Lying, ‘To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication. People lie so that others will form beliefs that are not true.’
Most people consider there are degrees to lying, from lying out of what we consider kindness, or white lies, to malicious reasons, or black lies, but Harris considers that both types of lies are equally harmful, because the liar is consciously creating a false reality for their victim, the person who is tricked or duped.
Harris claims lies of any color are harmful. Moreover, he reminds us that an ethically superior, noble person does not lie. He affirms that lies cause irreparable damage to our relationships, sacrificing our honesty, and giving up the possibility of deep and meaningful bonds with the people we interact with.
The value of integrity by far outweighs any short-term benefits of lying. A person who lies lacks moral principles, and the victim will lose faith and trust in this person.
By denying reality and lying to ourselves and others, we also make it impossible to face reality or develop meaningful relationships based on honesty and mutual trust.
Now let’s identify Mr. Rochester’s lies to Jane Eyre.
First a warning: this post is not suitable for unconditional fans of Mr. Rochester.
Where to start with the gentleman’s lies? I could organize them according to the severity or the type of lie, but I’m going to take a chronological approach. I’ll identify his lies in the order in which they appear in the novel. I’ll describe Rochester’s lie, identify the intention, and discuss the consequences.
The first time Rochester met Jane was when his horse slipped on the ice on the causeway. On this occasion, he pretended to be someone else, although he didn’t say he was someone else, he asked about Mr. Rochester, as if he didn’t know this person. He doesn’t actually say he is not Rochester, but he leads her to believe he is not Mr. Rochester. The intention is unclear. I’d say he enjoys being condescending and playing with Jane by leaving her in the dark. He found out who she was, but refused to reveal his own identity, to benefit his amusement, because there was nothing to gain. The consequences were that Jane was surprised and mortified when she discovered his identity.
Later, he accused Jane of bewitching his horse, which was a downright lie because he was not a superstitious man. His intention in this case was to cover up his mistake. He didn’t want to admit that he was not a perfect horseman who had slipped because he was riding too fast, and perhaps once again, he enjoyed teasing her. He may also have wanted her to feel responsible for his accident. The consequence was that Jane let him know she wasn’t superstitious, and she was not willing to agree with everything he said.
He said Adele’s mother claimed he was her father, and he denied it. But why else would such a selfish and unloving man take in a little girl as his ward? His intention was to convince Jane that Adele was not his daughter, and the consequence was that Jane felt sorry for him and considered him a victim.
He pretended to be interested in marrying Blanche Ingram, but he was simply using her to make Jane jealous. That was a double lie, which was disrespectful to both women. The consequence was that Jane handed in her notice, and Rochester confessed he loved her and proposed.
He pretended to be a gypsy fortune-teller during the party at his house, and although that was a game, ironically, it was the only lie she caught him out on at once.
He did not disclose the nature of his relationship with Richard Mason, who was his brother-in-law. Neither did he tell Jane that Mr. Mason had come to visit his sister in the attic. He led Jane to believe Mason was dangerous, while in fact it was Rochester who had imprisoned his sister. Although it was not considered a criminal act at the time, he knew it was morally wrong to lock your wife in the attic, which was why he didn’t want Jane to know what he had done.
He led Jane to believe that Grace Pool was responsible for attacking Mr. Mason the night while he stayed at Thornfield (it was Bertha). This is a lie by omission and commission, because although Jane made the suggestion out of innocence, he repeated the lie maliciously.
He asked Jane to marry him, although he was already married. He led her to the altar, knowing the marriage would be annulled. He must have realized the bigamy would eventually have been discovered, after his wedding night and honeymoon, ruining Jane’s prospects in the long term.
When the wedding was interrupted by a lawyer, Mr. Briggs and Mr. Mason, he still denied it all inside the church. He finally admitted he was married and took them to visit his wife, whom he had kept in the attic in a deplorable condition. Even so, he continued to defend his actions. He insisted on the marriage because he considered himself above both divine and man-made laws. The consequence was that Jane left him.
When the marriage was definitely canceled, he offered Jane a villa in France where she could live as his ‘friend’. He was obviously asking her to be his mistress, although he denied it. He even forcefully tried to persuade her, which was why she escaped from Thornfield at daybreak.
There are two more very serious lies, but there is no explicit proof in the novel.
11 and 12. Perhaps Bertha didn’t start the fire or fall off the battlements. Perhaps he started the fire and/or pushed her. I find it hard to believe Mr. Rochester would go up to the roof to save his mad wife’s life, risking his own, when he could be finally rid of her.
But he wasn’t the only person to lie to Jane Eyre. Here is another post I wrote called Liars in Jane Eyre with a few more liars.
Finally, Mr. Rochester promised eternal love, but would they have lived happily ever after?
I have no doubt that Mr. Rochester was in love, or perhaps infatuated by Adele’s young governess, but how long would their honeymoon period have lasted? Bearing in mind his irascible and selfish character and Jane’s generosity, kindness and independence, I doubt it would have lasted longer than her first childbirth.
All Hallows at Eyre Hall has seven main characters, Jane Eyre Rochester, Edward Rochester, Richard Mason, Annette Mason, Michael Kirkpatrick, John Rochester and Adele Varens, although there are about thirty-eight other secondary characters, 16 created by Charlotte Bronte, which appeared in Jane Eyre, and 16 characters which are unique to The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
I just love this image, sandwiched between Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell. You can’t get more Victorian than that!
Characters mentioned in Jane Eyre and All Hallows at Eyre Hall:
Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre, Richard Mason, Leah, Adele Varens, Bertha Mason, Dr. Carter, Mr Briggs, Mrs. Diana Rivers, Mary Rivers, St John Rivers, Captain Fitzjames, Mr Wharton, Mrs Alice Fairfax, Mr Fairfax, Mr Woods.
Note: Jane’s Aunt Reed and cousins Georgina and John are briefly mentioned, but they do not appear in All Hallows (her Aunt and John died in Jane Eyre).
In any case, none of the original characters are exactly the same as they were in Jane Eyre, twenty-two years have passed, so their lives have changed and their characters have developed over time and they been recreated in my own imagination.
The following table will help you see this transition from Jane Eyre to All Hallows at Eyre Hall.
In Jane Eyre
In All Hallows at Eyre Hall
He was the master of Thornfield Hall and the Rochester Estate. He was about forty years old and claimed to be a bachelor with no children.
He’s about 65 and on his death bed. He’s still the master of the Rochester Estate and also of Eyre Hall. He claims to have only one son, John Rochester.
She was a 19 year-old governess, who married her employer, Mr Rochester.
She’s 42 and becomes a widow during the novel. She is a novelist and philanthropist, who is concerned with the well-being of young orphans and the education of children.
An English landowner who lived in the British colony of Jamaica. He was Bertha Mason’s brother (step-brother according to Wide Sargasso Sea) and he interrupted Jane and Rochester’s wedding, exposing him as a bigamist.
He still lives in Jamaica, but he has squandered his family fortune and has returned to blackmail Jane, after Rochester’s death. He knows more of Rochester’s secrets, which are still unknown to Jane.
Mr Rochester’s 10-year-old ward, who was born and brought up in France. She was most probably Rochester’s illegitimate daughter, and her surname is Varens, like her mother, a French opera singer, who was Rochester’s mistress.
She is a 32 year-old spinster, who is still living with Mr Rochester and Jane, searching for the love of her life and looking forward to meeting her mother who is living in Italy, before she dies.
She was a young servant when Jane Eyre arrived at Thornfield.
Mrs. Leah is the housekeeper at Eyre Hall. She is a spinster who is about Jane’s age.
Bertha Antionette Mason
Mrs Rochester. She was Mr Rochester’s first wife, whom he locked in their attic claiming she was insane. She allegedly burnt Thornfield and jumped from the battlements to her death.
She is mentioned as Annette Mason’s mother, whom she gave birth to while she was in the attic.
He was Mr Rochester’s private physician.
He is still the Rochester family doctor, who currently resides at Ferndean, Mr Rochester’s manor house. He is about Mr Rochester’s age. He has one son who is studying medicine.
He was a London solicitor who interrupted Jane and Rochester’s first marriage attempt, at Richard Mason’s instance, and later informed Jane that her uncle had died and she had inherited his fortune.
He is a solicitor who works in London and is employed frequently by Mr Rochester.
Miss Diana Rivers
Jane’s cousin, whom she met by chance after leaving Thornfield. Diana and her siblings take Jane in when Jane is homeless and penniless after leaving Mr Rochester on finding out he was married. She marries Captain Fitzjames. She is Mary and St John’s sister.
Mrs Fitzjames. She is married to Admiral Fitzjames. She employed Michael’s mother as a seamstress and took the orphaned Michael and Susan for holidays at her house. Jane met Michael and Susan on a visit to Diana’s home at Christmas. They have no children.
Miss Mary Rivers
Jane’s cousin, whom she meets by chance and takes her in at Morton, when Jane is homeless and penniless after leaving Mr Rochester on finding out he was married. She marries clergyman, Mr Wharton. She is Diana and St John’s sister.
Mrs. Wharton is a clergyman’s wife. They have moved to Wales, where he has found a good position. They visit Jane once a year, usually at Christmas. They are childless.
St John Rivers
Mary and Diana’s brother. He is a clergyman. He proposes to Jane, but she rejects him. He leaves for the colonies in India as a missionary and never returns to England.
He is only mentioned, but he has not returned to England and is still in India.
Mr Rochester’s housekeeper whose husband was related to his mother, née Fairfax.
She is only mentioned.
He was a clergyman who was related to Mr Rochester’s mother, whose surname was Fairfax, thus Mr Rochester’s middle name was Fairfax.
He is only mentioned, but a letter written by Mr Rochester to Mr Fairfax, shortly after his marriage to Bertha Mason, is an important document in All Hallows.
He was the local clergyman at the church on the Rochester Estate. He married Jane and Rochester.
He is very elderly now, but he is still clergyman on the Rochester Estate church.
He is briefly mentioned as Jane’s cousin, Diana’s, husband.
He is now retired Admiral Fitzjames. Michael and Susan’s father died while on a mission on his frigate.
He is briefly mentioned as a Clergyman who married Jane’s cousin Mary Rivers.
He is briefly mentioned in All Hallows.
Characters which are unique to All Hallows at Eyre Hall:
John Eyre Rochester, Michael Kirkpatrick, Susan Kirkpatrick, Annette Mason, Bishop Templar, Mr. Greenwood, Jenny Rosset, Nell Rosset, Thomas Rosset, Simon, Beth, Christy, Mr Raven, Mr Cooper, Mr Tempest, and The Sin Eater, Isac das Junot.
Annette Mason. She was born in Thornfield Hall. Mr Rochester denies being the father, although he was married to Bertha Mason, who was locked in the attic, when Annette was born, so, if he is not lying, her father’s identity is, as yet, unknown.
Her uncle, Richard Mason, who had taken her with him to Jamaica, as a baby, brought her back to England to claim her birthright when Mr. Rochester was dying.
John Rochester. He is Jane and Rochester’s son. He is 21. He is studying Law at Oxford and he is engaged to Elizabeth Harwood, the daughter of a London Judge. Elizabeth is mentioned, but she does not appear in the novel as she is ill throughout the novel.
Michael Kirkpatrick. He is Jane’s faithful valet, who has been employed at Eyre Hall since he was fifteen, nine years ago. Jane met him at her cousin, Diane’s home and offered him and his sister, Susan, a job at Eyre Hall.
Susan Kirkpatrick,is Michael’s younger sister. She started working as a maid and is now teaching at the Sunday and Parish school, although she still lives at Eyre Hall.
Jenny Rosset claims to be s a widow with two young children,Nell and Thomas. She is about Jane’s age and she works at the George Inn occasionally and sometimes she works as a prostitute for wealthy clients. She knows some secrets about both Thronfield and Eyre Hall.
Mr. Greenwood is a widowed London poet who has been courting Adele. They have been exchanging letters for months and he has been invited to stay at Eyre Hall and meet Adele and her family. He has offered to marry Adele and accompany her to Venice to be reunited with her mother Celine Varens.
Simon is a clumsy servant at Eyre Hall. He is Mr Rochester’s valet.
Beth and Christy are two maids who work at Eyre Hall.
Mr Raven is the owner of the Rochester Arms, the only pub on the Rochester estate. The Sin Eater, Isac das Junot, is a mysterious, supernatural character who appears in every book of the trilogy when someone has died. He makes prophesies and scares the life out of most people who cross his path.
Mr Cooper is Mr Rochester’s accountant and Mr Tempest is the Undertaker.
I chose this moment and this title because it takes place roughly two months before Halloween, which is the setting for book one, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Significant events in all four novels take place on and around the ancient, time-honoured festivals in their titles. I’ve harnessed the power of traditions and rituals in literature and life to shape our world view and bond societies, but more about that in a future post.
It sounds strange, I know, a prequel to a sequel, so, I think I should briefly explain why I’m so excited about this new project.
It’s not exactly new, because I started jotting down ideas and planning over a year ago. In fact, I’ve done most of the outlining (yes, I’m a plotter, not a pantser and I’ll tell you why in a minute!), and the characters are already there, as they are the same as the first novel in the trilogy, All Hallows at Eyre Hall.
Now let me tell you about my reasons for writing a prequel, because there is more than one.
In the first place, book one, which is over 112,000 words long, is too long for a first novel in a series, compared to other trilogies. Most editors suggest novels should be are between 70,000 and 100,000 words, in fact, the shorter the better, and as a reader, I tend to agree. My second and third novels in the trilogy, Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall and Midsummer at Eyre Hall are both well within that number at around 80,000 words each.
Secondly, I’ve learnt so many things along the way, that it seems a pity not to prepare a second, revised edition of my first novel, which will be a little shorter, but worry not! None of the plot, action or characters will be missing, because I’ll be including the removed scenes in the prequel.
However there will be some words I’ll be doing away with, because I’ll be tightening the prose, something I’ve learned to do in the last seven years since I started my career as a writer. Unfortunately, I used to ramble, a bit, and although the tendency is still there, I have since made a conscious effort to curb that inclination and edit very carefully.
To be honest, when I wrote All Hallows at Eyre Hall, I didn’t know what I was doing as an author. I thought because I’d read and analysed thousands of books for my profession (I was an English language and literature teacher for over 30 years) and for pleasure (I’ve been an avid reader since the age of twelve!) that I knew how to write a novel. So, I did what Stephen King, and many other experts on the matter recommend, I sat down and wrote with an idea to write a sequel to Jane Eyre (and here’s why), but no specific plan.
Pantsing was a wonderful experience, my characters grew a life of their own and I set off on a creative and thrilling journey into Victorian England. I researched and wrote so much that I realised one novel wouldn’t be enough, and on the other hand, I was also getting into a rut. I discovered, the hard way, that not knowing where you’re going is exciting, at first, but when you have the constraints of time and space you really have to put an end to the wandering and start planning the journey or you’ll never get home on time!
That was when I stopped pantsing and started planning ahead. I read blogs and books on structure, plotting and story arcs, I took an online course, analysed some novels with this in mind, and then I sat down to plan my own way of outlining. I wrote this post about my plotting process some time ago, but I need to write another post on the subject, because although that’s what I did a few years ago, and it is similar to my present process, since then, I’ve adapted, decluttered and simplified my plotting method (more about that in another post).
So, I’m making All Hallows a little shorter and a little better. You’re probably wondering what the prequel’s all about. Will it just have the missing bits in book one? Not at all, it’s a complete novel which I’m really excited about writing.
In All Hallows, Mr. Rochester is on his death bed, more or less delirious, bad-tempered and very unattractive. I was very hard on him and I still stand by that interpretation of his character, based on his actions, omissions and lies in Jane Eyre, but some of my readers had difficulty coming to terms with this ‘unromantic’ and villainous Rochester.
I had presumed any reader who had read Wide Sargasso Sea (see this post about this prequel to Jane Eyre by Jean Rhys), and reread Jane Eyre, would have read between the lines and realised Rochester was totally unworthy of Jane, but it took me years to come to that conclusion and my readers only have the few hours it takes to read my novel. So, I’m making amends with a prequel.
In Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall, Rochester is not yet on his deathbed, and I’ll try harder, (I have another three hundred pages, so I think I’ll manage it!) to convey what’s been happening in Jane and Rochester’s lives and how their marriage has eroded over the previous twenty-two years.
There’s a long process ahead which I’ll be sharing with occasional updates, and hopefully Harvest Moon at Eyre Hall and a revised edition of All Hallows, as well as a box set of the four novels in The Eyre Hall Trilogy, will be published before the next year’s Harvest Moon.
Over the next few months as we’ll all be coping with the Covid epidemic, we’ll be staying at home and more than ever, and although I wish the worry and suffering it is causing all of us were over, I will be making use of the quiet time ahead by reading, reflecting and writing.
By the way, just in case you were wondering, The Eyre Hall Trilogy is not the sad story of a failed marriage, it has plenty of action, romance, suspense, engaging characters and twists and turns. There are some dark aspects and a few nasty villains, but overall it’s an exciting story set in Victorian England.
Stay safe and happy Friday!
(I have some more publishing news, but I’ll leave that for another post).
The autumn months of September, October and November witness major events in both Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester’s lives.
Jane Eyre starts narrating her autobiography in autumn, specifically in November, ‘a drear November day’ she calls it. The novel has an oppressive and gloomy beginning in which she tells the reader about her loveless and lonely childhood at Gateshead, with her heartless Aunt Reed and bullying cousins, Georgina and John.
Jane is trapped in a freezing outdoor climate with an equally frosty atmosphere inside the house, as she states in her very first paragraph.
‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.’
And there we have one of the major themes in the novel, freedom, or in this case lack of freedom represented by the confinement she is subject to outside, due to the weather, and inside as she is denied access to family reunions and even locked in a room.
However, Jane’s experience of Autumn is not always so miserable.
Eight years later, after graduating at Lowood and taking on a teaching position there, she decides she wants to widen her horizons, so she advertises for a job as a governess.
‘…towards the close of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the charms of lea and water.
My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the shoemaker’s to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.
‘Are there any letters for J.E.?’ I asked.
And this is when she receives Mrs. Fairfax’s reply, offering her a job at Thornfield. Jane travels to Thornfield Hall that same autumn, specifically in October and she finds everything there pleasing.
She arrives in the evening, but she describes her first morning there as a ‘a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.’
Jane is finally feeling calm and happy which contrasts to the opening chapter which starts with a dreary autumn.
The reader and Jane can presume that her luck is changing and that a better life full of new opportunities lies ahead. She has her duties, which enable her to earn a salary, but she is not trapped at Thornfield. She is her own boss. No one bullies her. She’s starting to live her life as a free person, which is what Jane desires.
One of her most famous phrases in the novel is:
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Jane is a prisoner at the beginning of the novel, and she’s started her road to freedom once she arrives at Thornfield Hall.
The following November, Jane learns that she has inherited a fortune from her uncle John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, when St John gives her the solicitor’s letter and she confesses her real identity. It’s also when she learns St John and his sisters Mary and Diana are Jane’s cousins.
Another crucial event to the plot, which took place in autumn was the fire which burnt down Thornwood Hall. It occurred during the harvest, so probably between late September and early October.
It was a ‘dreadful calamity’ as Jane is told when she returns to find Rochester, but really, it meant that Rochester had become a widower and consequently a free man. It was a perfect end to her rival, the first Mrs Rochester, and although Mr Rochester was injured, he survived and was able to remarry.
Curiously Mr Rochester had married Bertha Antoinette Mason in Autumn, too.
‘I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D.—(a date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield Hall, in the county of—, and of Ferndean Manor, in—shire, England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole, at—church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church—a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.’’
So for Rochester his ill fated and according to his account, mistaken marriage, began and ended in autumn, specifically in October.
The novel ends in summer, but it is because of the events which occurred the previous autumn that they are both free at last.
Jane has refused St John’s offer of marriage and she has inherited a fortune, while Rochester has lost his main property but he is still a wealthy man and overall, he is free from his ‘mad’ wife.
‘I sat at the feet of a man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism. Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal—one with whom I might argue—one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.’
They are both financially, emotionally and legally free, so they are able to marry for love and live as equals.
Jane believes she has her happy ending and urges her readers to believe it too, but as Orson Wells once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
I couldn’t let it go.
Jane Eyre leaves too many spaces between the lines. There are countless unanswered questions about Bertha, the first Mrs Rochester’s life and death, her brother, Richard’s role in his sister’s marriage and confinement, and Mr Rochester’s abundant lies and manipulation. On the other hand, what about Jane’s intelligence and fiercely independent nature, would she be content to spend the rest of her life exclusively devoted to an ailing and irritable husband in a remote, manor house?
There was so much that I wanted to explore, and that’s what led me to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but I warn you, it is not for any unconditional fans of Mr. Rochester.