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Janeite Spotlight: Introducing Judy Tyrer


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. Next up, we’re featuring Judy Tyrer, a computer-science whiz putting her technological skills to use creating video games for the Janeite community.


 

Judy Tyrer

Now in her seventies, Judy Tyrer has been an avid reader since childhood, growing up with a Scrabble-loving family of fellow literature-lovers. (Her sister is now an author—her book The Far Side of the Desert comes out March 5. “Readers read,” Judy says.)  While Judy doesn’t remember exactly when she first encountered Austen’s novels, she guesses it happened sometime around seventh grade, at which point she was in the middle of an intense English literature phase.


Even in her youth, Judy understood the timeless appeal of Austen’s work. “[Jane Austen] defied the patriarchy long before the patriarchy was being defied. She saw the absurdity of the social order and wasn't afraid to write about it.” Compared to other novels written in the same era, Judy believes Austen was head and shoulders above her contemporaries: “She was a twenty-first century spirit in the eighteenth century.”


Mr. Collins: romantic ideal?

While Judy’s favorite Austen heroine is the sprightly young Marianne Dashwood, her overall favorite character, the boiled-potato-loving inheritor of Longbourn estate, might surprise you—that’s right! It’s the one and only Mr. Collins. “Think about it. Would you rather have a husband whose good opinion, once lost, is lost to you forever?  Man, I'd be walking on eggshells the whole time. One huge blowout and my marriage would be over,” Judy laughs. “Or would you rather be with someone who gives you your own space, wants nothing more than to make you content, is so grateful you married him, and only asks you to attend two social events a week?” Touché!


In college, Judy majored in English Literature, later picking up classes in secondary education. However, she began teaching around the same time computer-based education emerged in the job market, allowing her the opportunity to enter the private sector and move to Los Angeles.


In Hollywood, Judy decided to return to theatrical performance, which had been a passion of hers since she was eight years old, to supplement her income as a computer scientist. She saw a posting for The Importance of Being Earnest, auditioned, and snagged the coveted role of Lady Bracknell. After forty-five years, she finally got into the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which—you’ll know if you followed the news in 2023—went on strike almost immediately following Judy’s acceptance to the organization. Thankfully, SAG is no longer on strike, and Judy has since returned to performing.


Her biggest Austenian project to date was the creation of Ever, Jane: The Virtual World of Jane Austen, an Austen-inspired video game that ran for seven years. “When I first decided to make Ever, Jane,” Judy says, “my sister worried that I was somehow violating the Author's words. I suggested that with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, followed by Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I really didn't think I was doing anything that hadn't been done before. Our game allowed people to play characters that might have inhabited Jane Austen novels…. Gossip was our weapon of choice.”


The gorgeous graphics of Ever, Jane

The game began much like the opening of Sense and Sensibility, placing the player at a funeral that necessitated the need to find a suitable spouse. Ever, Jane was quite popular among fans who wanted to feel as though they, too, could play a role in their very own Austen novel. Judy has spoken about her work at several conferences, both literary and video game-related, meeting a range of premier Austen scholars and gaming experts.


Today, Judy still builds games for an audience that loves Jane Austen, with what she hopes is “the same kind of wit and charm” that have endeared her books to readers for centuries. She also produces a podcast helping others to re-write their childhood narratives through paradigm-shifting and is currently working to develop a time-management app to help herself and others manage their busy schedules.


Connect with Judy via her work email: judy3t@3turnproductions.com.


Excerpted from email correspondence with Judy Tyrer, February 7, 2024.


 

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