Final Guest Post and Giveaway: Sophie Andrews

SA black dress

It’s the final week in our series of guest posts (for now, at least!), and today we’re welcoming Sophie Andrews, also known for her popular Blog, Laughing with Lizzie. 

As it’s the final one, we’re making sure we finish with a bang, so the giveaway is a double one (more at the end of the post)!

Sophie was given three questions to consider, much as our other guests were, and here are her responses!

How and when did Jane Austen enter your life?

Jane Austen has been very important in my life, for many different reasons. I was just 9 when I saw the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice, but I was a little too young to fully understand the language, so it didn’t really make an impression on me. (I remember very vividly the evening I watched it with my mother, and how she had to keep pausing it to explain what had just been said whenever I looked particularly confused – they often speak very quickly in that film too!)

I watched that film a few more times, and as I grew up I began to fall completely in love with it! But I still wasn’t hooked on Jane Austen, it was just Pride and Prejudice – or actually, to be more accurate, I was just hooked on Mr. Darcy!

SA bookHowever, back in 2011 I was going to be studying Pride and Prejudice for my English exams, and so that summer I had to read it – you have to understand that at the time I really wasn’t a reader. However, given I enjoyed the film, I was looking forward to it. When I was on my summer holidays (in the, rather appropriate even if Lizzy didn’t get there in the end, Lake District!) I read it in a week. I just couldn’t put it down! It seemed strange to my family to see me engrossed in a book, as I guess I used to be like Emma Woodhouse in regards to books and reading!

Pride and Prejudice was amazing from start to finish; I was entranced by the humour and social commentary, and I enjoyed reading the scenes I knew well from the film. I knew Jane Austen was brilliantly funny, but you really don’t get to appreciate her wit first hand unless you read the books. Something seems to get lost in translation when it is adapted into a film; the true Austen humour must be experienced straight from the authoress herself.

SA notebookFrom that moment I was caught up in the elegance and eloquence of Miss Austen’s world and words! I re-read Pride and Prejudice straight away, and I really enjoyed studying it at school, becoming the class expert, and earning myself the nickname “Mrs Darcy” – hence the blog persona! I also got Sophie Jane “Austen” Andrews, as Jane actually is my middle name!

SA notebook interiorAs you can see from these photos, my poor homework diary was completely vandalised that year – I had very dedicated friends too, as the “I ❤ Mr Darcy very much” was scrawled on EVERY page. (They even went so far as to go backwards and write it on the old pages from previous weeks as well!)

Following this, I read Sense and Sensibility, then Emma, followed by Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and finally Mansfield Park. There was no stopping me! Having devoured the 6 main stories, I devoted myself to studying all aspects of the Jane Austen phenomenon, from the film and television adaptations, to the fan fiction, commentaries, critiques, information books and biographies, as well as the worldwide online Jane Austen community. There was no going back now – I had become a true and proud Janeite.

Tell us about Laughing with Lizzie 

Carrying on from the above, fast forward a year or so, and after a lot of ‘persuasion’ (if you’ll excuse the pun!) from a friend, along with the offer that she would set it all up and design the layout for me (I am such a technophobe!) I eventually started my blog, “Laughing With Lizzie“.

It was my space to rant and rave about my passion for Jane Austen. It was also my escape; I was having a hard time at school and some family health issues at the time, and so I really threw myself whole heartedly into the world of Jane, enjoying my escape into her world through her books and, subsequently, my blog. Slowly, slowly my blog became more well known, and then about 2 years ago I started my Facebook page. From there, I have no idea how, but so many amazing things have happened for me, and I have participated in so many wonderful events. I have to pinch myself every day, as it is all beyond my wildest dreams!

I have now been blogging for just over 4 years, and I still love to rant and rave about Jane – I don’t think I will ever run out of things to say about her! Since my blog becoming more well known, I have enjoyed being asked to participate in blog tours and having various authors visit with excerpts or guest posts, and I have enjoyed the various interviews I have hosted there too.

SA Zombies
My friends and me having fun at the Vyne recently being Zombie fighters, as we all enjoyed the recent film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Also, since beginning to participate more in the annual festivals and events throughout the year, I have loved sharing my Austen adventures in posts on my blog.

Beginning my Facebook page has been a wonderful way to meet many more Janeites and has been a fun way to share smaller and often silly Jane Austen related things which don’t really necessitate a blog post, so I am very pleased to have gone down that route. (I am currently attempting to get to grips with Twitter as well, but I am still learning the ropes at the moment!)

What I love about my blog and Facebook page is seeing the vast numbers of people, and in so many different countries, that the Jane Austen fandom reaches. I find my blog statistics fascinating; about a year ago my country count reached over 100 different countries, and I have just hit 10,000 followers (or ‘likes’) on Facebook, which just astounds me. It really makes me feel happy to know that through sharing my thoughts and adventures with so many wonderful people and Janeites across the globe, in some small way, I am helping to bring us all together as a ‘family’ with a common interest and passion!

A winter picnic at Basildon park. Another fun adventure, if a little cold!
A winter picnic at Basildon park. Another fun adventure, if a little cold!

Through my various Internet mediums I just love to spread the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen to every corner of the world, and the fact that people seem to enjoy what I share, and like following all my adventures is just a bonus!

How would your life be different if something had prevented Jane Austen from publishing any novels?

SA mirrorOh don’t even say such a thing! Jane Austen really was a saviour for me, so it just doesn’t bear thinking about! She has been such a huge influence in my life, even in this short time since I really got absorbed by the Jane Austen fandom. She has really helped me to find myself as well.

How would it be different… Well, where to begin! Probably most significantly, would be, well, you know how I mentioned earlier that I never used to be a reader? Well, the truth is that I had never read another ‘proper’ book before Pride and Prejudice! Jane Austen brought me to reading, and so without her, I highly doubt if I would be a reader today!

My most recent ball at the Guild Hall in Bath, in my new ball gown!!
My most recent ball at the Guild Hall in Bath, in my new ball gown!!

My love of all things Austen has opened up so many exciting opportunities for me; I have dabbled in the world of audiobook narration, I have been asked to and have had a go at editing or reviewing new Austen-related publications, I play the piano and naturally love to play Regency era piano pieces and music from the screen adaptations which has led me to being asked to perform music recitals for various Jane Austen societies across England, and I attend many annual events, festivals and (which are my favourites!) balls across England throughout the year in full regency costume – I even organised my own regency house party!

I have also been given the opportunity to become an ambassador for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, a charity founded by Caroline Knight, Jane Austen’s 5th great niece, which has been a wonderful chance to give something back and feels like a way to thank Jane Austen, and in a way which is going to do some real good for others who are less fortunate.

I could go on and on and on, but I don’t want to bore your readers! In summary, I really don’t want to think about my life without Jane. I can’t even try to imagine it anyway! As well as being the perfect escape when I first read Pride and Prejudice, she is also a perfect escape for me now, for, as many of you are aware, I suffer with some health conditions and have been battling them for the past few years, so yet again, Jane Austen is there for me to escape to, and to give me a welcome and much needed change from hospital appointments!

SA ParasolRight, I shall end my rambling there. Thank you, Cass and Ada, for inviting me to your blog and congratulations on the new book! I remember sitting with you both at Basildon Park over a year ago and hearing you talk about this book – I look forward to finally reading it! And so, all that remains to be said is…

My dear Miss Austen, I thank you. Most ardently.

Links:
Blog: Laughing with Lizzie

Facebook: Laughing with Lizzie page

Twitter: @LaughingWithLiz

YouTube: Laughing with Lizzie YouTube Channel

JALF Charity: Jane Austen Literacy Foundation

The Giveaway!

Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!
Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!

As this is our final guest post for this series, we’re offering two lucky commenters the chance to win (one from the US and one from Europe/Rest of the World)!

Up for grabs is a copy (paperback or eBook) of our new release, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen* (find the blurb here), along with the following:

For US entries:

  • A ‘Peacock’ cover tote bag
  • Darcy & Elizabeth paper dolls
  • Blue beaded replica Jane Austen bracelet (from the Jane Austen House Museum)
  • A Pride & Prejudice colouring book (hope you can supply your own pens!)
  • A laminated bookmark

For Europe/Rest of the World entries:

  • A silver Jane Austen silhouette charm (made exclusively for the Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop in Bath)
  • A set of Jane Austen bookplates
  • A set of Bennet sister badges
  • A laminated bookmark
  • A Mr Darcy miniature canvas and easel (how cute is this?!)
  • A build-your-own Chawton Cottage

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Sophie’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 the draw to select the prize winners, which will be announced the following week.

IMPORTANT! Please let us know in your comment which of the two draw categories you fall into: US or Rest of the World! Many thanks!

Good luck!

Latest Giveaway Winner Announced!

Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!
Cass & Ada on the Royal Crescent!

We’re delighted to announce the winner of the latest giveaway:

Sophia Rose!!!

Congratulations, Sophia Rose! You have been commenting all through our many guest posts, and we were delighted when your name finally came out of the hat today when we drew the winner for Hazel Mills’ post last week!

We will email you, but in the meantime, thank you for following our guest blog posts so ardently!

Our final guest in this series will be here on Wednesday, and as it’s the last one for now, we’re ending with a mega-giveaway (open internationally, as always). Do come along to read Sophie Andrews‘ (from Laughing with Lizzie) post and leave a comment to enter!

New Guest Post & Giveaway: Hazel Mills

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Now that all the excitement of the release of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is behind us, we are happy to resume our series of guest posts and giveaways today! Please welcome Hazel Mills to our Blog!

Hazel is a founding member of the Cambridge Group of the Jane Austen Society, and a dedicated book collector (including finding different copies of Pride & Prejudice, her current tally being 246!)

Over to you, Hazel!

I must first say think you for inviting me to be part of this series amongst such august Austen people celebrating this exciting new venture and book. I feel highly honoured!

My Austen journey began many years ago, in the late 1960s, thanks to Thomas Hardy. I was brought up in the beautiful county of Dorset and as such was required to read, in my first years at school, the celebrated local author, Mr Hardy. The books we were forced to read were The Trumpet Major and Jude the Obscure, the latter being an incredibly depressing book for any twelve year old girl to read with children being murdered. However, the next class reader was…Pride and Prejudice! Suddenly death and destruction was replaced with sparkling wit and Mr Darcy. I was hooked. Pride and Prejudice became the first class reader I completed before it was necessary and I soon followed up reading Jane Austen’s other books as quickly as I could.

Hazel pp coverThe books, Pride and Prejudice particularly, continued to give me pleasure throughout my school life and my set of Penguins followed me to college when I left home to learn to be a science teacher. My relationship with Mr Darcy was very strong, (even though Captain Wentworth and Colonel Brandon were making claims on my heart too) and I found that I went back to the book many times when I felt in need of a bit of comfort. At that time I did not realise that, as much as I loved Jane Austen and her works, that she would in fact change my life and what I would do with it!

Living in Cambridge certainly had its benefits; there were often days dedicated to different writers. I was so glad that I chose to attend a literary day dedicated to Jane Austen at Newnham College. I picked up a flyer asking if there were any people interested in starting a Cambridge Jane Austen Society. Did I need asking twice? Of course not! Then I saw the date, my husband’s birthday! To say I have an understanding husband is an understatement!

Hazel Keith 2Duly, on the 11th November 1997 I became a founding member of The Jane Austen Cambridge Group for which I am the social secretary and editor of the newsletter, so a great deal of my time is taken up thinking of all things Austen for the group. Thanks to them I began giving illustrated talks, some of which have become very popular, particularly a talk on travel in Jane Austen’s time which I have been lucky enough to give in many places including Dunfermline, Exeter, London, York, Bath and even, most satisfyingly, Chawton Cottage.

I am also thrilled to have worked for the Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom as a regional speaker giving Society talks on Jane Austen and her works to groups, societies and schools who contact the society for talks in the eastern region of the UK. One week I could be helping a group of schoolgirls understand what it was like to be a woman in the early nineteenth century and the next telling a Rotary Club group about Jane Austen’s life!

Dinner Table at QueensThe Cambridge group meets five times a year for a variety of events. We have talks by a range of speakers, discussions, a Strawberry Tea every July when the sun always shines, and a wonderful Birthday Reception and Lunch in December at Queens’ College, Cambridge in rooms which were built in the mid fifteenth century so would have been known to Harry Austen, cousin to Jane’s father and rector of Steventon before her father George; Sackville Austen, son of her Godmother Jane Chadwick Austen and Old Uncle Francis; Samuel Egerton Brydges, brother of Jane’s particular friend Anne Lefroy and John Papillon, rector of Chawton in Jane’s time, as all were Queens’ men.

Anyone interested in more information on the Cambridge Group can find it here.

One of the most momentous moments of my life was a group visit to Kings College Library where I was able to hold the manuscript of Sanditon in my own hands, without gloves! A very precious experience indeed!

Hazel KeithI was asked how my life would be different if something had prevented Jane Austen from publishing any novels. The short answer would be, I would be a lot richer financially! I mentioned my set of Penguins that followed me everywhere earlier. The Pride and Prejudice had become so tatty that, in about 1984, my lovely husband replaced it with a beautiful copy from Purnell. It was so lovely that I almost didn’t want to read it. About the same time I found a very old biography of Jane and bought that too.

Peacock editionThat was the slippery slope. I then began buying other copies of Pride and Prejudice and biographies. Then came the purchase of the other novels and literacy criticism, swiftly followed by historical books, books Jane may have known, influences on her writing, the Juvenilia etc. At the last count I have about 246 copies of Pride and Prejudice including the much desired Peacock Edition and 14 audio books, and about 2,500 books in my collection altogether. My Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Walter Scott collections and modern novels were all relegated to the attic as my collection grew. However they are now all boxed for our move where I will have a library!

Without doubt, a life without Austen would not be as full as my life is now. I cannot imagine a world without my books but as importantly, it is the wonderful people I have found in the online Austen world that have now become ‘real’ friends whom I meet regularly, maybe in Regency Costume, maybe not. Previously my love of Austen was shared with those people in my Cambridge group. Now I can share my passion with fellow lovers of Austen from all around the world!

Thank you ladies, for allowing me to share my Jane Austen story with you all.

Hazel, 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! Thank you also for supporting us last week by coming along with your husband to the launch party for our book in the beautiful city of Bath!

The Giveaway!

PrintOnce again, we’re offering one lucky commenter the chance to win a copy of our new release, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (find the blurb here), along with the following:

  • A ‘Peacock’ tote bag
  • A Jane Austen silhouette pin
  • A miniature version of both Persuasion and Sense  & Sensibility, from the Jane Austen House Museum
  • A build your own Chawton Cottage

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Hazel’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 Many Thank You’s*

To say our book launch celebration was a success would be a gross understatement.  We had the BEST TIME.  I know so many of our loyal friends and family could not be there, but we love you and appreciate you!  For those of you that could, we can’t thank you enough. There were some serious accomplished authors and just plain wonderful people there who graciously donated to the Jane Austen Literary Foundation for a signed book of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.

I am in the US, though still another leg to go before I’m home and I already miss the city of Bath and everyone there (and those in Alton too ;)). Cass was concerned that I would feel my family and friends were not represented at the launch but she forgot I adopted her family and friends long ago as my own.  Plus I felt the love from back home (a reminder social media can be great!).

We hope you enjoy some photos of the evening.  If you look closely enough at them you will see our fantastic husbands who gave us a beautiful toast, a few of our effervescent supporters (including Ann from the Bath Central Library who shared some very appropriate volumes from 1796) and Cass placing our book in the Austen book shelf in 4 Sydney Place maintained and let by Bath Boutique Stays.

For those of you who have already received the book: we are so glad!  Please do us a favor and review the book on your favorite review location.

Thank you everyone so so very much!

 

 

 

*I wasn’t sure whether to use Thank Yous or Thank You’s and I asked the internet and it wasn’t terribly helpful:  http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/166500/100k-thank-yous-or-100k-thank-yous

Cass & Ada in Bath Part 2

What day is it again?  I am highly thrown off by that question, but otherwise overjoyed to have spent another day with Cass and family and friends in Bath.

We are so thankful for the support of family and friends far and near – but we’ll save that speech for tomorrow.

For now, here is what we were up to on WEDNESDAY (that’s right, right? Yes, Wednesday)

We went to the beautifully preserved Lacock.  We had a great lunch on The Carpenter’s Arms where I learned “lemonade” here is basically Sprite.

Then we had a drink at The Boater before dinner at Bill’s Restaurant (both highlighted in our BOOK which launches TOMORROW).  At dinner we met with the wonderful Julia, the effervescent Chrystal, and the fantastic Rachel & Rob.

We are gearing up for tomorrow where we might not get things posted here for a little while, but we’ll try!  Thank you!

Cass & Ada Return to Bath

Hello!

Today Cass & I met up in England and had an incredible day!

We met up with the lovely Joan from St. Mary’s Hall B&B in Alton for our first ever joint book signing!

From there we went to Chawton together (I had never been and it was very moving and worth the stop).  P.S. they have hats.

Then off to Winchester to see Jane’s finally resting place and lunch at The Wykeham Arms.

We made it to Bath and have been having a great time revisiting all the locations we mention in The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen!

More Tomorrow…

It’s Release Day for Our Book!

Please excuse us for our excitement, but we’ve been so looking forward to today (which is extra special, as it’s also Ada’s birthday)!

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The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is now available through all the usual outlets. You can find links to them here!

We hope you enjoy reading the story as much as we enjoyed writing it.

If you decide to give it a try, we would love to hear your thoughts (during or after!) you read, so please share them with us!

Today, Ada and I are still thousands of miles apart with a 9-hour time difference between us, but as of next week, we will be together in the beautiful city of Bath (of course!) to celebrate together, and we’ll share news of our adventures, including our book launch party being held at No 4 Sydney Place, here on Tabby Cow!