Continuing 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!
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.
I 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.
However, 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.
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.
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:
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.