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Janeite Spotlight: Introducing Georgie Castilla

Hello, dear readers! This year, we’ve begun a blog series highlighting Austen-lovers around the world—sharing how they first discovered Austen’s fiction, why they love Austen, how they’ve contributed to the Janeite community, you get the picture. Fans, who cultivate and engage in discourse surrounding Austen’s life and fiction, participate in workshops and conventions, host book clubs, and don I ❤️ Darcy merchandise with pride (but hopefully not prejudice—wink, wink), are the reason Jane’s spirit survives in the twenty-first century. We deserve a shout-out! And we deserve the chance to connect with like-minded individuals across the world. This Spotlight features Georgie Castilla, a true “Renaissance Man” whose love for Jane Austen shines through in every aspect of his life, including his work as a writer and musical theatre lyricist, performer, illustrator, and costume designer.


 

Georgie Castilla

Georgie Castilla’s introduction to Jane Austen was not what one might consider “traditional.” Born and raised in the beautiful south of Mexico, Georgie’s mother gifted him a Spanish-language copy of Sense and Sensibility following his eighth-grade year in school, where he struggled to fit in with the other kids. His mom had always encouraged Georgie and his siblings to read the classics, but she told him he’d especially like Austen’s strong female characters. Upon reading Sense and Sensibility, he fell instantly in love with Marianne Dashwood, having never before encountered a character who spoke to him so strongly—someone dramatic and passionate who wears her heart on her sleeve.


“She completely changed my life,” Georgie says emphatically, though it is difficult to tell whether he is referring to Marianne Dashwood or Jane Austen herself.


He gobbled up Spanish translations of Austen’s works as quickly as possible after Sense and Sensibility, and it wasn’t until the end of high school that he began to re-read them in Austen’s original English. Having grown up in Mérida, a very privileged corner of Mexico, Georgie was already familiar with many high society conventions characterizing Regency England. His community regularly hosted debutante balls and quinceañeras, or “coming-out” balls signaling a woman’s transition from girlhood to womanhood, and emphasized the importance of making “good matches” between certain families.


Georgie found it fascinating that a book written two-hundred years ago would so accurately capture the dynamics of life in Mexico throughout the 1980s and 90s. “I consider myself a person who knows how to read people,” Georgie says, elaborating on Jane Austen’s unique universal appeal, “and something that I immediately got from reading [her novels] was that she definitely knew how to read a room.”


In 2008, Georgie moved permanently to the United States to pursue his theatrical career, although his love for the arts extends far beyond the stage. He works as a musical theatre lyricist, historical and theatrical costume designer (he attended fashion school in Madrid, Spain to study nineteenth-century clothing—how very adventurous!), and comic artist and illustrator. His webcomic series, Your Sense & My Sensibility and What Would Jane Do?, draw inspiration from Austen’s novels, respectively capturing wholesome moments of daily life with his husband and imagining Austen’s reaction to other pop-culture sensations.


Currently, Georgie is working on a graphic novel adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma that he hopes to publish in print with the help of crowd-funding next year. The script took two years to write—in true Janeite fashion, Georgie had a difficult time cutting certain aspects of the original work to best serve his own adaptation—but he is currently working on formatting illustrations and finalizing character design.


Georgie's illustration of Emma

Perhaps surprisingly, Austen was not adapted to the graphic novel medium until Marvel’s 2009 Pride & Prejudice. Since then, several comic-style Austen adaptations have entered the market. Georgie says, “What makes my adaptation stand out from other Emma graphic novel adaptations is the fact that I’m trying to be a little bit more colorful with the cast… depicting people of different looks that have not had the chance to see themselves in an Austen adaptation before.”


In fact, one of Georgie’s favorite parts of engaging with Austen fandom is meeting people who aren’t the “average audience,” or people the general public wouldn’t usually imagine as Jane Austen’s ardent devotees. When he first began joining Jane Austen societies after moving to America in the early 2000s, he was disappointed to find that very few Janeites he met looked like him. But now, with increasingly diversified film and novel adaptations of Austen’s work, as well as new Regency-inspired media—such as the pop-culture sensation Bridgerton and its spin-off Queen Charlotte—Georgie is happy to see more people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community expressing their love for Austen’s work.


Although gatekeeping has historically been an issue in the Janeite community, Georgie is happy to see the rise of social media platforms allowing people to be more vocal about the discrimination they’ve faced in the Janeite community, exposing organizations that spread hate instead of love and acceptance—to take a stand and say, “We aren’t going to take this anymore.” Because at the end of the day, “Jane Austen is for everyone” is more than just a happy platitude; it’s the truth.


Today, Georgie expresses his love for Austen by attending Austen-themed conferences, socials, and especially Regency Balls—including JASP 2023, where he performed in Adam McCune’s theatrical production of Austen’s Evelyn. He also donates money to Chawton House to keep Austen’s legacy alive and is currently planning an Austen-themed trip to the UK in 2025. It will be the first time he has returned to England since being “fully converted” to Austen fandom, Georgie laughs.


Connect with Georgie via Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and the Duniath Comics website. To purchase items from his online shop, click here!


Excerpted from Zoom interview with Georgie Castilla, February 26, 2024.


 

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