As part of the Vintage Jane Austen blog tour, I have the privilege of interviewing Kelsey Bryant, the author of Suit and Suitability. While devouring her previous series Six Cousins (Family Reunion and England Adventure), I was captivated by Kelsey’s down-to-earth style, relatable characters, whimsical everyday adventures, and depth of spiritual encouragement that ran through her books. Since Six Cousins is one of my top five favorite series, I’m quite excited to welcome Kelsey to Resting Life today.
Erika: Welcome to Resting Life, Kelsey! Could you introduce yourself to readers?
Kelsey: Hello! I’m a daughter of God who lives in Texas and works at several jobs that I love, including writing, copy editing, and teaching martial arts. I’ve written three novels, but I delight in many things—Bible study and Hebrew, keeping fit and eating healthy, reading British authors (and those of other nationalities, of course!) and seeing new places, and spending time with family and friends, to name a few. I’m a homeschool graduate and love being a daughter, sister, and aunt.
E: It’s wonderful to meet you! I share many of those interests as well. What prompted your journey into writing and authorship?
K: My parents passed their love of books on to me. I can’t remember never creating stories, so I suppose being a writer and author was always something I wanted. My grandfather was an editor and compiler of Christian books and devotionals, so that went a long way in inspiring me. After high school, I decided to seriously pursue becoming an author because that was the only thing I felt God calling me to do at that point. After several years, I finally completed a novel (Family Reunion, the first book of the Six Cousins series) and was ready to publish.
E: What a blessing to have a love of books in the family! I understand that Sense and Sensibility is your favorite Jane Austen book. Could you talk a bit about spiritual parallels in the book?
K: Sense and Sensibility has always meant a lot to me since I first read it, but by writing Suit and Suitability, I was able to more deeply appreciate the underlying spiritual themes and how they relate to me. Protagonist Elinor Dashwood (Ellen in my retelling), although imperfect, understands that selflessness is the best lifestyle. She is excruciatingly challenged by people and events, but she pulls through because she denies herself and has a strong character (in Suit and Suitability, I made sure to show she drew her strength from God). I want to be like Elinor/Ellen—someone God can use to help and support other people. I have to work on selflessness. In Suit and Suitability, Ellen also had to learn to trust God more, something I need to work on as well.
Second protagonist Marianne, Elinor’s younger sister (Marion in my retelling), has a very different personality. In both versions, she’s fun and passionate, but she carries a lot of selfishness, which she doesn’t always recognize. As I was writing her parts, I discovered how easy it is to want things your own way…and I could actually identify with her, which was a little disturbing! But that made me realize a little bit of Marion resides in all of us. We have qualities that we need to learn to use for serving God instead of ourselves. And because we’re all flawed, we need to have grace toward one another, especially with our family members.
E: Thank you for sharing that insightful perspective! What excellent reminders for us to depend entirely upon God and to deny ourselves – counting ourselves as crucified with Christ and allowing His Spirit to live within us, powering and directing every act. It’s so easy to put ourselves first!
On another note, what is your biggest challenge in the writing/publishing process and how do you handle it?
K: My biggest challenge is getting the word out about my books. I’m a reticent person, so, like many authors, I find self-promotion awkward and unnatural. But to help me handle it, I remember that I write my stories to bless other people, and if they don’t know about them, I haven’t completed my calling. Once I overcome the reticence, marketing is another steep step; for that, I watch for whatever opportunities come along that can put me or my books where other people can find us.
E: I can definitely relate! What’s your biggest pet peeve as an editor?
K: Maybe you can relate to this, Erika—when I discover a glaring typo on my last read-through that I missed on my first readings! But it’s also combined with a feeling of relief that I actually caught it.
E: Yes! It makes me wonder where my brain and eyes have been during all those previous edits!
What is your favorite Scripture passage and why?
K: This is a tough question! One of my favorite passages is Jeremiah 31:30-36, which talks about the new covenant God will make with Israel and a time when everyone will know the Lord. It’s quoted several times in the New Testament. It ties the whole Bible together, showing the reason Yeshua/Jesus came . . . so that we may all know the Lord and have new hearts that will follow Him completely. I love that promise.
E: Amen – I love that passage! Isn’t it wonderful that the Almighty God has covenanted with us? And that through Jesus Christ, His law is within us and we intimately know Him! Praise God that Jesus is the mediator of that better covenant!
Thank you so much for joining me today – I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Anything else you’d like to add?
K: Thank you for having me, Erika! I hope both Jane Austen lovers and those who are new to Jane Austen get to enjoy the Vintage Jane Austen series. I consider it a privilege to have worked alongside the other authors in this project. We enjoyed it so much!