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!
However, 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.
From 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!
As 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.
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!
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?
Oh 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 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!
Right, 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.
Blog: Laughing with Lizzie
Facebook: Laughing with Lizzie page
YouTube: Laughing with Lizzie YouTube Channel
JALF Charity: Jane Austen Literacy Foundation
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!