I’m a big Charlotte Bronte fan. Jane Eyre is book Number One in my pantheon, with Lord of the Rings and Emma tied for a distant second. Since I’m a fan, I keep up with the Bronte fan blogs (they exist, yo) so I can get the latest gossip on film adaptations and all things Bronte.
So imagine my dismay when the blogmeister for the very cool Bronteana blog, shared this little nugget:
“How Nancy Drew Saved My Life. Or how to succeed in publishing without really trying. Answer? Copy Jane Eyre.
“Not only is Jane Eyre (in a severely stripped form) the official template for some publishing houses specializing in serial romances, but it is a favourite novel to be just plain ripped off. No copyright, no problem.
“The following is a summary of “How Nancy Drew Save my Life” by Lauren Baratz-Logsted:
“In her fourth novel, Baratz-Logsted, author of The Thin Pink Line (2003), offers the charming tale of a literature-loving nanny. At 23, Charlotte Bell has just had her heart broken by the married man she unwisely fell in love with. She decides to take another position, as nanny for the American ambassador in Iceland. Once she takes up residence in the large, creaky house and meets her imperious, forbidding employer, Edgar Rawlings, she can’t help but feel like literature’s most famous governess, Jane Eyre. But Charlotte turns to Nancy Drew (channeling the girl detective) for help investigating the more puzzling aspects of her situation, such as the silence surrounding Edgar’s mysteriously absent wife and the strange laughter she hears coming from behind a closed door. To make matters worse, Charlotte is starting to fall for Edgar, whose engagement to an Icelandic ice queen seems imminent. Readers who appreciate classic love stories will enjoy the old-fashioned dialogue and Charlotte’s fanciful imagination.
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We don’t bash authors at WU. Hell, we’re all trying to make it in this crazy business. Every single writer of fiction knows that they stand on the shoulders of giants when they create their own work. No one writes in a vacuum. But I think this kerfuffle brings up an interesting question: where does the author draw the line between writing a homage to a classic and using it as a template?