Jo Baker was born in Lancashire and educated in Oxford and Belfast. The Undertow is her first publication in the United States. She is the author of three previous novels published in the United Kingdom: Offcomer, The Mermaid's Child, and The Telling. She lives in Lancaster.
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Jo Baker discusses Longbourn and her hesitation about reimagining a classic.
Is it safe to assume you have long been a fan of Jane Austen and in particular of Pride and Prejudice?
That's pretty safe. In fact, I can't even remember when I first read Pride and Prejudice it seems like I've always known it. Jane Austen's work was my first real experience of grown-up literature, and I've kept on returning to her work throughout my life; I just love her books I'm a sucker for all that buttoned-up desire and wish-fulfillment. But also, as a writer, I admire her the immaculate prose, the deft plotting, the briskness of the characterization. I didn't, though, for a moment consider trying to write like her. It's impossible to do nowadays without shifting into parody which is something I really did not want.
When did you first get the idea to write Longbourn and was there a specific incident that sparked the idea? Can you talk a bit about how your family history in some ways inspired this book?
As a child, reading Jane Austen, I became aware that if I'd been living at the time, I wouldn't have got to go to the ball. I would've been stuck at ...
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