Diana Birchall worked for many years as a story analyst for Warner Bros Studios, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading popular manuscripts went side by side with a lifetime of Jane Austen scholarship, and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and as close study of the secret of Jane Austen’s style. She is the author of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma and Mrs. Elton in America, both published by Sourcebooks, as well as In Defense of Mrs. Elton, published by JASNA, and hundreds of short stories. Her plays have been performed in many cities, with “You Are Passionate, Jane,” a two person play about Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte being featured at Chawton House Library. Her Mrs. Elton play was presented by JASNA in New York, with the Emmy Award winning actress Kathleen Chalfont narrating. With Syrie James, Diana has written, presented and performed in several plays for JASNA AGMs, including “The Austen Assizes” in Brooklyn, NY, and “Behind the Scenes in Mansfield Park” in Montreal.
Diana has also written a scholarly biography of her grandmother, the first Asian American novelist, Onoto Watanna, published by the University of Illinois Press. She has lectured widely about her books at universities across the country, in Canada and England, including Yale, Columbia, and NYU. Diana grew up and was educated in New York City, and now lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and son, and three cats.
Diana’s Novels ~
Mrs. Elton in America
In Defense of Mrs. Elton had an interesting evolution. It began as an internet serial told on the Janeites online literary list. The group was discussing this obnoxious character from Jane Austen’s Emma, and I undertook to defend her. My defense took the form of a serial story, told in eleven parts over the period of about a month, and the response from the geographically far-flung, but intellectually close-knit Janeites community was startling. I received responses, actual fan letters, while I was still writing, and had the amusement of seeing more scholarly inclined readers analyzing what I was writing while I was still writing it. One person wrote that watching “Mrs. Elton” unfold electronically must be like the way it was when people in America met ships from England at the dock and shouted, “Did Little Nell die?” Yet the early serial writers never knew the instant response that is now possible on line, and which was so thrilling for me. The story’s popularity led to its publication and distribution by The Jane Austen Society in America in Canada, Australia and England, in an edition wittily illustrated by Juliet McMaster. A play based on The Courtship of Mrs. Elton has been performed by Jane Austen groups. All three “Mrs. Elton” stories are collected in the volume, Mrs. Elton in America.
Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma
Beginning twenty-five years after Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding, their life together has been wonderful and their marriage is still thriving. Their grown children bring them great delight, along with some trepidation, Mrs. Darcy’s nieces come for a visit, and a theatrical scandal threatens to embroil them all. The Victorian age is dawning, and Pemberley’s new generation is coming into their own.