Guest Post and Double Giveaway! An Interview with Jackie Herring

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We are delighted this week to welcome Jackie Herring, Director of the Jane Austen Festival held every September in the beautiful city of Bath!

With Bath and the annual Festival being the main setting for The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, we are doubly excited to have Jackie as our special guest!

As with all our guests, we were keen to know how and when Jackie first discovered Jane Austen, to hear more about the Festival and its organisation and to find out what the impact might be on Jackie if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

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When and how did you first discover Jane Austen and her works?

I was introduced to Austen by my best friend when I was about 16. She handed me a copy of Pride & Prejudice and said “you will like this it is better than Jilly Cooper”. We had been working our way through Jilly Cooper’s girl novels. My friend was right!

Which is your favourite novel and why?

It probably is Pride & Prejudice but I love them all for different reasons.

P&P because of the wonderful characters and the language. How I would have loved to say what Lizzy does to Lady Catherine de Bourgh (chapter 56 is my favourite) plus it is the only book that I have ever felt really sad about finishing because I would never again be able to read it for the first time!

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Parade Gardens after the Promenade

How did you become involved with the Jane Austen Festival?

I started doing walking tours for the Jane Austen Centre in 1999, then worked in the Centre as Shop Manager and Guide. In 2001, when David Baldock created the first Festival, I helped behind the scenes and as a steward until 2008 when I took over as Festival Director.

What is your favourite part of your role as Festival Director? And the most challenging?

Very difficult question, because I love it all and particularly anything that is a challenge. I really get a kick out of when all the bits of a plan come together and the Festival starts.

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Gathering on the lawn opposite The Royal Crescent

There are some very stressful times, usually in the planning stages. The most challenging event is the Promenade, where I have to deal with so many different agencies, including the Council for permission for us to cross the roads, use the park and disrupt the city on a busy Saturday!

Can you share anything with us about how the Festival is organised, such as how many people are on your team, how many venues are used or anything else you think might be of interest to readers?

My team throughout the year is very small, it consists of me and Rachel, my assistant. Then, at Festival time, we have lots of lovely volunteer stewards who give up their time to help. They are wonderful, and some keep coming back, for which I am really grateful.

Most of the organising of the Festival is done by email, but we do have visits to the venues to check their suitability. I like to try and use different places – this year we are using the Abbey Hotel, the Assembly Rooms, St Matthews Church at Widcombe and Bath Function Rooms. The Mission Theatre is the main venue for most events as it is easier to have a base besides I get a good deal on the hire price for having it for more than one day. All in all this year there are 17 different venues!

Do you have any funny stories about past festivals – either during the preparation or the Festival itself?

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Crispin Bonham-Carter signs copies of Pride & Prejudice in Bath Central Library after reading the final chapter aloud

There are lots of amusing things but the one I can mention and which I know she will not mind me talking about was when:

A lovely lady called Joyce (who used to come to the Festival every year and who sadly lost her husband recently) at her first Festival came to an event at The Mission Theatre in a gorgeous Regency outfit. Unfortunately the look was spoilt by a modern plastic hair roller in the very front of her fringe which she had forgotten to remove and which her husband, who had dropped her off, had failed to tell her about! She did take it out of her hair very quickly when we pointed it out to her!

When do tickets for this year’s Festival go on general sale and where can they be purchased?

Tickets go on general sale on Wednesday, 6th July 2016 at 10.30am from Bath Box Office or via our website,  Jane Austen Festival Bath, which has direct links for each event on sale.

Finally, what would you be doing if Jane Austen had never published her novels?

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Drinks Reception at Roman Baths prior to masked ball in The Pump Room (and Jackie’s gorgeous pelisse!)

Since talking to you about your book, I have thought about what I would have lost without Austen in my life. I have so many friends through working at the Jane Austen Centre and Jane Austen Festival and long term friendships that I simply would not have had otherwise.

Before my son was born, I worked for a firm of Solicitors as a Systems Administrator and then afterwards I took up part-time work at the Bath Chronicle, setting the adverts. I left that job to go to the Jane Austen Centre, but I also worked part-time on the open top buses. That was great fun and kept me on my toes, having to remember lots of information and also adjust what and how much I said to the traffic conditions and speed of the bus!

The short answer is, I would probably still be on the top of a bus and doing walking tours but would have needed something more, so perhaps I would have also gone into the Tourist Information Centre or Ticket Office, something like that.

~o0o~

That was fascinating, Jackie; thank you for sharing it with us! We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule, especially as the Programme of Events for this year’s Festival has just been announced!

The Giveaways!

This week, we’re offering two lucky commenters the chance to win giveaway prizes!

Giveaway One

  • A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)
  • A laminated bookmark showing the topaz crosses given to Jane and her sister, Cassandra, by their brother, Charles
  • A map of Bath in the time of Jane Austen (specifically, from 1803, a significant date in the story)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A charming necklace with a quote from one of Jane Austen’s Bath novels
  • NEW addition! A Jane Austen silhouette pin badge!

Giveaway Two

  • A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)
  • A build-your-own Chawton Cottage!
  • A dress-your-own Regency doll
  • A miniature book of Pride & Prejudice
  • A charming necklace with a quote from Jane Austen
  • A Jane Austen silhouette pin badge

There will be further chances to win bundles of prizes next month when we continue our series of guest posts on 20th July with a visit from Hazel Mills. Hazel is one of the founding members of the Jane Austen Society Cambridge Group and a regional speaker for the Jane Austen Society UK.

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Jackie’s interview above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winners, which will be announced the following week.

Week 4 Giveaway Winner Announced!

IMG_8506We’re delighted to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway prize bundle and book is:

Kim P!!

Congratulations to Kim (we will contact you via email) and thank you to everyone who left comments on Meredith’s lovely post about Jane Austen’s influence on her life!

PrintThere’s double the chance to win from tomorrow, when we are visited by Jackie Herring, Director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath!

This week, there will be two prize bundles on offer!

Guest Post and Giveaway 4: Meredith Esparza

IMG_0555Today, we are delighted to welcome Meredith Esparza from the popular blog,  Austenesque Reviews,

Meredith is an avid reader and reviewer who enjoys sharing her thoughts by blogging about and reviewing the books she has read.

Today, she is here to share with us how she first discovered Jane Austen and how having Jane in her life has shaped and changed it!

Over to you, Meredith!

First I’d like to start by saying thank you Cass and Ada for so kindly inviting me to be a part of their lovely new series! Ladies, I’m honored to visit your blog and I’m so very excited to celebrate the release of your new book!

I love thinking back to when I first encountered Jane Austen, because for me it was such a pivotal moment that changed my life. I found Jane Austen by way of the 1940’s Pride and Prejudice film. During my sophomore year of high school I was big into classic romantic films (i.e. Roman Holiday, Three Coins in a Fountain, The Philadelphia Story) and was working my way through the DVD selection at my local library. The cover of the 1940’s Pride and Prejudice film caught my eye. It looked wonderfully romantic and from an elegant time period so I decided to add it to my pile.

Pqdg2MEW_80.movieposterI instantly loved it! I know many despise this adaptation for its inaccuracies, costumes, and actors, but I will forever hold it special and dear for introducing me to this world I now happily inhabit. I watched that film probably close to 30 times that first year. I read all of Jane Austen books, watched any movie I could get my hands on. By junior year of high school I was a full-blown Janeite, avid reader, and Jane Austen heroine in training!

If I never heard of Jane Austen or never read any of her works, I think my life would be quite different. I found Jane Austen when I was 15 and credit her for shaping me into the person I’ve become. I was a terribly quiet and shy person in high school (I still am around new people) and felt like I didn’t belong with the people of my age group. When I discovered Jane Austen I felt like I found my niche, I found the mindset and world that I could relate to, understand, and be “perfectly and incandescently happy” in. If I didn’t discover Jane Austen, I don’t know how well I would have matured or how I would have dealt with my shyness and feelings of not fitting in.

CollegeIn addition, if I didn’t encounter Jane Austen, there is a good chance that there would be no Mr. Bingley in my life (my sweet, affectionate, and amiable husband has always been more Bingley than Darcy!) In my childhood I saw a lot of couples fight and divorce, and not too many that were happy. I thought married people looked perpetually unhappy and I used to vow to myself that I would not marry and become unhappy like them. But after seeing Jane Austen’s heroines find “marriages of true minds” and “perfect happiness,” I started to warm to the idea and hope that such happy unions can exist in real life. When I was 20 I met this warm, easy-going, fun-loving, and persistent music major and fate sealed the deal. This Jane Austen heroine was going to have her very own lovely hero and happy ending. 🙂

Since discovering Jane Austen in 2002, I’ve become a voracious reader. More so than I ever was as a child. After learning who my new favorite author was, a family friend recommended I try some Jane Austen sequels! I spent months looking for them in bookstores to no avail, but luckily I was able to track them down on Amazon! Some of the first ones I read were A Visit to Highbury by Joan Austen-Leigh, The Friendly Jane Austen by Natalie Tyler, and Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken. Back then Jane Austen inspired books were few and hard to find (not like now!). Many of the ones I found were already out-of-print and were purchased as used copies from third-party sellers.

IMG_3443But that didn’t stop me! I was determined to read anything and everything I could find! I noticed that for a lot of these books there weren’t many reviews on Amazon. And if there were reviews a lot of them were vehemently berating the author for daring to write about Jane Austen’s characters or in her style. Since I didn’t agree with such opinions, I decided to start writing my own reviews for all the books I was reading and enjoying.

In the summer of 2009 I noticed more and more Austenesque books were being published and met author Mary Simonsen through some Amazon chat boards as she was gearing up to publish Searching for Pemberley with Sourcebooks. Mary and I exchanged several emails over the summer and it was she who suggested I start sharing my reviews on my own blog. 🙂 Mr. Bingley encouraged me in this endeavor and on September 22, 2009 Austenesque Reviews was born. Almost 7 years and 400+ reviews later, I am so very happy that I daily get to read, share, and discuss Jane Austen and books with lovely Janeite friends and authors all over the world! It’s amazing how Jane Austen continues to bring so many people together!

Thanks again to Cass and Ada for allowing me this opportunity to share my story with you! 🙂

~o0o~

damask_wallpaper_seamless_background_pinkMeredith Esparza is a piano teacher, business owner, avid reader, and blogger. She lives off the coast of North Carolina happily married to her very own Mr. Bingley. Her blog, Austenesque Reviews, is devoted to the reading and reviewing of numerous Jane Austen sequels, fan-fiction, and para-literature. Visit Meredith at her blog Austenesque Reviews, follow her on Twitter as @Austenesque, and on Facebook as Austenesque Reviews.

~o0o~

Meredith, thank you so much for visiting Tabby Cow and for such a delightful post! It’s been lovely to learn all about how you discovered Jane Austen and about the impact she has made on your life!

The Giveaway!

Once again, we’re offering one lucky commenter the chance to win a free copy of our upcoming new release, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (find the blurb here), along with the following (all of which have a connection to the plot in one way or another!):

  • A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)*
  • A laminated bookmark showing the topaz crosses given to Jane and her sister, Cassandra, by their brother, Charles
  • A map of Bath in the time of Jane Austen (specifically, from 1803, a significant date in the story)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A charming necklace with a quote from one of Jane Austen’s Bath novels

There will be further chances to win the same bundle of prizes each week throughout our series of guest posts.

* eBooks will be sent out once the release date is reached (7th July), but we already have some copies of the paperback, so it can be sent out ahead of the official release date!

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Meredith’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week. So far, we’ve had 3 winners, and  2 of them won on their second attempt, so don’t give up if you don’t win first time around!

Week 3 Giveaway Winner Announced!

Congratulations to Gosia, who wins last week’s giveaway prize bundle and book!

Gosia – like Agata, last week’s winner – entered more than once by commenting on each new blog post as they were published, so give it a try!

There are plenty more chances to win the bundle of gifts and a free book, starting tomorrow with a new guest blog post from avid Janeite, reader and reviewer, Meredith Esparza, so do pop in to read what she has to say and have another chance to win!!

Many thanks to everyone who commented on Gaby’s diverting post. It was wonderful to hear all your thoughts!

Guest Post and Giveaway 3: Gaby Malcolm

GabyWe’re delighted this week to welcome author, editor and playwright, Dr Gabrielle Malcolm, to Tabby Cow!

Gaby throws an alternative perspective on the question we’ve been asking about how not having Jane Austen in your life might affect it, and asks: would it really be so terrible?

Read on to hear what she has to say on the subject, and do please comment with your thoughts! Over to you, Gaby!

~o0o~

If I allow my mind to wander over the possibility of an alternative universe – of a world without the novels of Jane Austen – there are a few things that occur but, perhaps unexpectedly, one of the first questions is: would it be such a bad thing?

41ynQhJNk8L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_When I was growing up there were bookshelves everywhere in my home. They lined the walls in almost every room of the house. We built bookshelves out of books to accommodate more books. Boredom was never an option. Austen was a member of the universe of authors that lived there with my family. My mother talked about literature all the time. Austen and Shakespeare and Dickens sat at the dinner table with us on a regular basis.

I think that I like Jane Austen so much because she likes me. Her writing tells me that. She is in the room with me describing the conversations that her characters have and letting me in on all their secrets. Austen and I have a conspiratorial and gossipy friendship and we share the same sense of humour. Or, perhaps, she shaped my sense of humour? But she is so discrete at doing it that she lets me take credit for it – that’s a true friend.

book-cover-persuasion-magnum1I only read dog-eared and well-thumbed copies of her novels. The cover of Persuasion was falling off. Pride and Prejudice had been dropped in the bath more than once. I had a lurid yellow and white Mansfield Park paperback with a cover illustration that bore no relation to the story inside (Why do publishers do that? Have they not read the book?). That copy saw me through my A Levels – just. It had my sisters’ scribbled notes in the margin. Vandals.

I found Fanny really irritating, and Mrs. Norris hilarious. Lady Bertram was bonkers, and Edmund was really dull and indecisive. I wouldn’t have, and still wouldn’t, kick Henry Crawford out of bed for eating biscuits. And I maintain that Tom is the coolest character and I definitely would pick him over his brother!

But what if I had never met Austen, and what if her books did not exist? Would it really be so terrible? Perhaps those who pine for the perfect man would not be so afflicted, or fussy? There is something to be said for not subscribing to the romantic fallacy. However, without Austen there would be others. Nature abhors a vacuum and readers must be satisfied. That yearning for the funny, skilful, happy, and satisfying narrative must always be met. If you can’t find the right book to do it, you might end up writing the book that will.

Austen refined the plot but it existed before her. She managed the characters expertly, and others have continued in her footsteps. Dramatic, romantic, and satiric heroes and heroines abound. Darcy has many relatives and descendents.

coverimageThanks to this I have embarked on my next writing project. This will be an exploration of all that is gorgeous, daring, threatening, sinister, and sexy about Darcy and his descendents. Heathcliff, Henry Irving, Dracula, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Batman – and many more – all in one book, and that’s before we even get to the wet shirt.

Join me in 2017 for Darcymania!

~o0o~

Dr Gabrielle Malcolm is an author, editor, and playwright. She has written a number of articles, books, and papers on Austen, Shakespeare, and Victorian Literature. She writes for children’s theatre company Moon On A Stick and her next book, Darcymania, is in the works.

Contact Keane Kataria Literary Agency for more information: Keane Kataria Literary Agency

~o0o~

The Giveaway!

Once again, we’re offering one lucky reader of this Blog the chance to win the following:

  • A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)*
  • A laminated bookmark showing the topaz crosses given to Jane and her sister, Cassandra, by their brother, Charles
  • A map of Bath in the time of Jane Austen (specifically, from 1803, a significant date in the story)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A charming necklace with a quote from one of Jane Austen’s Bath novels

There will be further chances to win the same bundle of prizes each week throughout our series of guest posts.

* Books will be sent out once the release date is reached (7th July)

How to Enter

Just leave a comment below about anything in Gaby’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week.

New Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Agata, who wins last week’s giveaway prize bundle and book!

Agata entered in week one and was unsuccessful, but she came back for another try and this time was successful! Well done!

There are plenty more chances to win the bundle of gifts and a free book! There will be a new guest blog post tomorrow, from author, editor and playwright, Dr Gabrielle Malcolm, so do pop in to read what she has to say and have another chance to win!!

Many thanks to everyone who commented on Jane’s lovely post. It was wonderful to hear all your thoughts!

Guest Post and Giveaway 2: Jane Odiwe!

JaneOdiwe copy 4Continuing our series of guest posts, today we are delighted to welcome talented author and illustrator, Jane Odiwe!

Jane has published several Austen-inspired novels, including some with Jane Austen herself as a character, and draws gorgeous illustrations depicting scenes from the novels or from the author’s own life.

Over to you, Jane!

~o0o~

Thank you, Cass and Ada for asking me to be a guest on your blog – I feel very honoured to be here, especially as I feel I was almost present at the conception of your new book, a while ago. It’s been very exciting to follow you on the journey to publication – as I’ve said many times, I’m looking forward to reading it hugely and wish you great success!

I was very young when Jane Austen first came into my life – I’m very lucky to have the names of both the heroines, Jane and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice, and the fact that Jane Austen shared my name made it doubly special. I think I was about seven or eight years old when I first saw an old film version of Pride and Prejudice, and I knew it was a book my parents loved so I just soaked it up in various forms throughout the years, as it was presented in books, on television and film. I loved watching adaptations and gradually reading all the books, discovering Jane’s genius in every one.

Cassandra and Jane AustenI became more and more fascinated by the author herself, and wanted to know all about her life, reading every biography I could get my hands on. When I discovered that other people shared my obsession, and websites dedicated to her began to appear online, I spent all my spare time reading those too. I started making some drawings of Jane Austen and her family, and accompanying them with letters, as if written by her sister Cassandra, and after I published a little book, I felt further inspired to attempt writing a novel. Jane’s life and work has continued to inspire every book I’ve written.

You asked me about my latest book – I’ve just written a novel where I imagine Jane Austen has been given another chance to live. Her doctor’s ancestor discovers the secret to immortal life, so Jane grabs the chance to have more time to write all the novels she’s ever wanted, and in the body of a twenty-one year old with all the wisdom, memories and knowledge from her former life.

JALA-Cov-Lo-1However, it is now 1925, and Jane has to get used to a new way of life, and earn her living as a governess, the one job she always dreaded having to do. Her new employers, an aristocrat unable to keep his crumbling castle from going to rack and ruin, and his bohemian nightclub singer wife, are struggling to raise their children, though it soon transpires that the task is not quite what Jane expects. There are no small children, only five grown-up daughters and the charming heir to Manberley, who seem to have no firm ambition or direction. It’s immediately clear that the troubled Milton family need someone to help set their lives on the right track. Using her great sense and vast experience from the past, Jane tackles every problem, guiding her charges, unravelling every romantic entanglement and offering sage advice, even when her writing has to take a back seat. In the midst of the chaos that ensues, she finds she is not immune to falling in love herself, not only with the Milton family, but also with an unexpected suitor, as much as she rails against it.

I loved putting Jane Austen in a different time frame, and it was fun to write about the Jazz Age, and what I imagined would be Jane’s reaction to it. I always think Jane’s books are filled with timeless advice on living life and lessons on how not to have your heart broken, and I really wanted to see if she could turn round the lives of a hapless family who all desperately need her unique talents and help. And, of course, as in Jane’s novels, there is a happy ending.

PersuasionAnneand Frederick
Captain Wentworth and Miss Anne Elliot in Bath

I can’t begin to imagine how different my life would be without Jane Austen. She is my greatest inspiration for my writing. Is there a single author on the planet who has not been influenced by her work in one way or another?

Just thinking about a small selection of my favourite authors – did you know there are at least two hundred and fifty references to Jane Austen’s name alone in Virginia Woolf’s Complete Works, six in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, two in Stella Gibbons’s Cold Comfort Farm, two in The Collected Works of Elizabeth von Armin, and one in A. S. Byatt’s novel, Possession? That’s just six authors I’ve happened to mention who probably wouldn’t have been writers if not for Jane Austen, and the true number of those influenced and inspired by her work must run into thousands, if not tens of thousands of authors, or even more when you consider those around the world. The numbers likely run into millions. Just think of all those books that would not have been published or seen the light of day – all that pleasure, unknown, lost, and denied to us all.

And that is just one difference – my life would be considerably poorer in every way imaginable. When I think of the friendships I’ve made through my love of Austen, the music and art I’ve come to appreciate, all the more because it was produced in her time, and the very many special people I’ve met along the way, a life without her is too awful to contemplate.

~o0o~

Thank you so much for being our guest, Jane, and for such a great read! You can find Jane on her blogs or on social media via the following links:

Austen Effusions

Jane Austen Sequels

Facebook

Twitter

The Giveaway!

Once again, we’re offering one lucky reader of this Blog the chance to win the following:

  • A copy of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (eBook or paperback, open worldwide)*
  • A laminated bookmark showing the topaz crosses given to Jane and her sister, Cassandra, by their brother, Charles
  • A map of Bath in the time of Jane Austen (specifically, from 1803, a significant date in the story)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A charming necklace with a quote from one of Jane Austen’s Bath novels

There will be further chances to win the same bundle of prizes each week throughout our series of guest posts.

* Books will be sent out once the release date is reached (7th July)

How to Enter

Just leave a comment below about anything in Jane’s post above, or share with us how your life would be impacted if those wonderful novels had never been published, those much-loved characters never existed, and Jane Austen had remained completely unknown to the world.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week.

Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy at Ashe
Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy at the Ashe Ball