Strange Unearthly Things: Jane Eyre Revisited, Reimagined—Reborn, a guest post by Kelly Creagh
When I began brainstorming Strange Unearthly Things, my modern paranormal romance YA retelling of Jane Eyre, I went to my closest female friends, asking what they loved most about Charlotte Bronte’s original novel. Between conspiring—and gushing—about all the possible routes and approaches I could take with this beloved book, I noticed a common theme. Everyone, it seemed, including me, loved one thing above all others in the original story. And that one thing…was Jane.
While writing my previous paranormal romance retelling, Phantom Heart, a reimagining of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, I understood that the Phantom reigned as the main attraction to the source material. And in the great gothic classics, so many times, it’s the dark and brooding men who captivate readers most.
Jane Eyre certainly has its mysterious and foreboding leading man, and the swoon-worthy Mr. Rochester ensnares the reader as much as he does Jane. However, when it comes to Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the true allure for the reader is found less in the mercurial and sympathetically flawed Mr. Rochester and more in its title character. To me, this seems like an anomaly. And an enigma. And isn’t Jane herself an enigma, too?
I wanted to accomplish many things with my retelling of Jane Eyre, which would include recasting Jane herself—the character who taught me as a teen that, no matter who you are or where you come from, your worth is not assigned by anyone outside of you. I wanted to bring Jane new life while also retaining those core elements of her character that resonated so profoundly with me and my friends. One of those elements—the most fundamental—is Jane’s fortitude.
Throughout Jane Eyre, Jane endures so much. A harsh upbringing. A difficult stint in a girls’ school. A lonely occupation in an isolated manor. A demanding boss. Ridicule. Lies and secrets. The stirrings of first love. Betrayal…
She handles it all with poise, grace, and candidness. She’s not afraid—life has already done its worst. Her courage—her inner strength—cannot be shaken. Until, at last, it is. But even in the face of the most devastating turn of events, Jane endures.
I wanted to write about a Jane who endures. For me, that is Jane Eyre. As with any retelling, though, I faced the challenge of recasting a story that is both familiar and beloved. I longed to make it fresh, but I also wanted to honor the source material. In my efforts, and throughout drafting, Jane, both my iteration and Bronte’s, became my touchstone.
I strove to tie these two together without repeating Bronte’s Jane. So, I considered how a modern eighteen-year-old might handle some of the same issues Jane Eyre faced in her Victorian setting. Both Janes, for instance, are talented, self-taught artists. Both are orphans. Both spent a portion of their childhood in a girls’ home. Both have the heavy burden of loss marring their early lives. While Jane Eyre takes this all in stride and does her best to keep her heartaches hidden, my Jane, Jane Reye, puts up walls and grows claws. The world makes both Janes hard—but not harsh. And while Jane Eyre locks herself away and hides the core of her being to protect herself, Jane Reye covers herself in barbed wire and, when needed, bares her metaphorical teeth.
Still, their respective stories chip at both Janes in similar ways. Mr. Rochester wins Jane Eyre’s trust, and slowly she opens her heart to him. Elias Thornfield reaches out to Jane Reye and gradually, Jane Reye lowers her defenses to reach back. Jane Eyre learns to depend on herself, and she learns to become independent—traits that might seem the same, but aren’t. In Strange Unearthly Things, Jane Reye has a bit of an inverted character arc compared to Jane Eyre’s. She learns that she isn’t alone and that, not only is it okay for others to need her, it’s okay for her to need other people, too.
Both young women fight for what they believe in, and for the truths, desires, and hopes that lie buried deep in their souls. They can be knocked down, but by the force of their will, they cannot be snuffed out. For both, true love is an ambition, and each Jane goes through her own version of hell to win that love. And because the love is returned, and because it withstands the heat of so much dark fire, it is true.
And that’s what Jane Eyre and Strange Unearthly Things are—two tales about two souls who walk through hellfire in the name of love. Both Janes, in their own Jane way, endure this fire. They do because, after all, they are Jane.
I hope that you’ll pick up Strange Unearthly Things to see if and how Jane Reye makes it through the flames. If you’re a fan of the original, or new to Jane Eyre, I promise you’ll be surprised either way. Also, there’s kissing.
Meet the author
Kelly Creagh is the author of the paranormal romance Nevermore, inspired by the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe, and Phantom Heart, a modern retelling of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. She lives in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky, with one tough terrier, one sweet Maltese, and a beagle who thinks she is a bagel. Kelly holds a master of fine arts in writing from Spalding University. At the age of seventeen, Kelly fell in love with Jane Eyre, a novel that taught her about gentleness, strength, and all that both concepts hold in common. This reimagining has lived in the attic of her mind for some time, even if the story never knew what it was until now. When not writing, Kelly enjoys baking, playing video games, and teaching and performing the art of belly dance.
About Strange Unearthly Things
A hauntingly romantic paranormal Jane Eyre reimagining, by the author of Phantom Heart!
Eighteen-year-old Jane Reye is a psychic artist. She draws what she sees, and what she sees are spirits and the supernatural. Growing up orphaned, she’s now of legal age and can no longer return to the girls’ school she’s called home for most of her life. Lost and alone after the death of her lifelong friend, she receives an invitation to partake in a study at the English manor Fairfax Hall: an investigation of the property that requires her specific area of expertise. Upon arrival, Jane understands this will be no ordinary study when she meets Elias Thornfield, the elusive proprietor of the estate, a boy her age, roguishly handsome, who dons a mysterious eye patch. During the study it becomes clear that something is amiss—something having to do with Elias and the spiritual activity taking place around the manor. Turning to her art to unravel the mystery, Jane is shocked to find that her talents—and her growing affection for Elias—could be the key to saving him from a horrible fate.
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 08/22/2023
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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