Posts Tagged ‘Jane Odiwe’

Scheduled for this week are:

  • A review of Mr. Darcy’s Secret and interview with author Jane Odiwe on February 7th
  • A post by Tony Grant about the highwayman, Jerry Abershawe
  • And an interview with Darcy and Fitzwilliam author Karen V. Wasylowski on February 10th.

Stay tuned for more!

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Three years after Miss Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, Willoughby returns. She is thrown into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty, for she is hurt and jealous over the Colonel’s attentions towards Eliza, his ward. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with Marianne as ever. And the timing couldn’t be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back ….

Willoughby's returnJane, I have thoroughly enjoyed ‘Willoughby’s Return’. Your writing style is lovely and has matured since your first book. Was it easier to write a second novel?

Jane: Thank you Vic for inviting me onto your blog, and for your lovely comments; I am so thrilled that you enjoyed my novel. I did find it easier in some ways, yet I feel I still have so much to learn. Writing the first one teaches you so much, and I was able to draw on those experiences. Feeling confident to experiment a bit more was very helpful, I wasn’t so afraid to write the book as I wanted to – I’m always conscious that people are constantly comparing what I write to Jane Austen. It isn’t possible to emulate Jane, of course, but I try to retain the tone and flavour of her books, bearing in mind that I am writing for a modern audience.

How were you inspired to write this book? How did you come up with the plot? It was a stroke of genius to make Margaret Dashwood the heroine of your story and yet retain Marianne. They shared center stage much in the way that Elinor and Marianne did in Sense and Sensibility. Was this done on purpose?

Jane: Like a lot of people who have read Sense and Sensibility, I never felt completely convinced at the end of the book that Marianne would have fallen in love so easily with Colonel Brandon as we are told in the two paragraphs that Jane devotes to their courtship and marriage. I wanted to believe that they were right for one another, and this is what started me thinking about how he might have won her over, and about their relationship in general. Marianne is a passionate romantic, a little self-centred, and a firebrand. I imagined that although she might love the Colonel as much as she had Willoughby, it would have been quite a different courtship, and a complicated relationship, especially as they have both loved and lost in the past. The fact that Brandon is guardian to the daughter of his first love who is also tied to Willoughby as the father of her child, I felt would cause big problems. Marianne thinks only of others in terms of herself, I think she would be very jealous of Brandon’s relationship with his ward and her child. Starting with these ideas as a background, I wondered what might happen if Willoughby returned, and how he could be worked into the plot so that Marianne could not avoid him.

Jane Odiwe and Dracca2

Jane Odiwe, left front, at the Reform Club, London. Dominique Raccah, publisher with Sourcebooks, sits in back looking down, with her husband beside her.

I wanted to introduce an older Margaret, who we are told has a character very similar to her sister. The relationship between the sisters is an important part of the book – would Marianne be able to chaperone Margaret as Elinor might or would she indulge her sister, encouraging her to fall head over heels with the first love that comes along? Would Margaret make the same mistakes as her sister?

Finally, I’ve always wondered about Brandon’s sister that we hear Mrs Jennings mention in S&S. Why was she in France? I decided to bring her and her family back to Whitwell, and this gave me an opportunity to introduce one of the young men central to the story. I love all the twists and turns in the plots of Jane Austen’s books, and I spent a long time thinking about how I could achieve a few of my own. I had a lot of fun with the plot, which changed several times before I got to the end!

Mr. Wickham and Willoughby are central to the plots of your two novels. Do you have a penchant for bad boys? Or do you think they are more complex characters than Edmund Bertram or a Henry Tilney, let’s say?

Jane: I don’t have a penchant for bad boys as such, but I understand how such characters have a certain appeal for most women – I think most of us have probably come across a Willoughby at some stage when we were growing up – I am convinced Jane knew of one or two! Bad boys are central to Austen’s plots also, and what fascinates me is that these characters are always introduced as handsome, dashing young men on first acquaintance. But, I think what’s important about Jane’s writing is that even when it is found that they are far from the good characters they are initially painted, they are not caricatures, never wholly bad. Willoughby, for instance, does realise his mistakes by the end of the book even if he doesn’t suffer forever. The development of a character like Willoughby was something I wanted to bear in mind with my book. I love the fact that Marianne is his ‘secret standard of perfection in woman’ – wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Willoughbys spent the rest of their lives in such secret regret?

Jane Odiwe efford3

Photograph taken in the area of Efford House on the Flete Estate where Sense and Sensibility (1995) was filmed.

I also enjoyed the historic touches that you managed to weave into your plot. It is evident that you know the countryside well and that you are familiar with Regency customs. Tell me a little about your research. I know you have visited many of the places you describe.

Jane: Research is a favourite part of writing these books – I probably spend far too much time on it, and always end up with more than I need, but England at this time is so interesting. My book starts off in Devon and Dorset, counties I’ve known and enjoyed since I was a little girl. My father used to take cine films of us when we were little – I have film of me in Lyme when I am about seven, and I have very fond memories of holidays taken in the area. I had to include Lyme in the book for these associations and for those that Jane wrote about in Persuasion.

I also spent a lot of time wandering around London finding all the places where the characters spend the season, and deciding where Marianne and her Colonel might have their house. As you know, Vic, there is still so much to see of Georgian London!

Oh, yes! I envy your living so close to the places that I research and your proximity to London. You write, paint, oversee at least three blogs and a twitter account, and have a family. How do you find time for it all? I am curious how you still manage to paint, for I always found that to be the most time consuming of my talents and the easiest to drop when my schedule is hectic.

Jane: The truth is that I find it difficult to find time for it all, but I am an early riser, and get a lot done when everyone is still asleep. We always come together for meals in my family, that’s most important and, we spend time together in the evenings – sometimes we paint together. There are several artists in the family; I love it if we are all working round the table. My own painting has taken a back seat at present, but that’s more to do with the fact that writing has taken me over for the moment.

Jane Odiweefford1

Holbeton is the nearest village to the Flete Estate in South Devon, an area rich in natural beauty.

Any other thoughts about your book that you would like to share with our readers?

Jane: One of the themes in the book concerns that of love, lost and found. Both the Colonel and Marianne have been in love before, and their relationship is a second attachment. I wonder what your readers think of second attachments – and have they ever encountered or suffered at the hands of a Mr Willoughby?

Thank you so much for this interview and for the photos you supplied. I can’t recommend ‘Willoughby’s Return’ highly enough to people who love to read Jane Austen sequels.

Jane: Thank you for inviting me to talk to you about my book and for a fantastic interview with such thought provoking questions!

Want to talk to Jane or Dominique? Join Twitter!

Find other interviews and reviews of Willoughby’s Return at these sites:

Sourcebooks is holding a blog tour for author Jane Odiwe on other blogs. The schedule is as follows:

Follow Jane Odiwe’s adventure as an author on her blog, Jane Austen Sequels. By the way, today is Jane Odiwe’s birthday: Happy Birthday, Jane!

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Inquiring reader,

Last year I met Jane Odiwe online. We immediately struck up an email friendship discussing all things Jane Austen. She had just written Lydia Bennet’s Story, which came out in the U.K. Sourcebooks will be bringing out the book this month with a new and beautiful cover. Jane not only writes, but she also paints lovely watercolours and maintains several blogs and websites. Below is my interview with Jane. I have also added links of interest at the bottom.

1. Jane, you have such a wonderful light and deft touch with watercolours, a difficult medium at best: Have you always painted? And were you schooled? Where, and for how long?
I have painted as long as I can remember, sitting with my mother at the kitchen table. It was also a love of hers which she passed on to me. I went to art school in Sutton Coldfield, studying at Foundation level and then at Degree level in Birmingham, England, five years all together. Mine was an unusual degree, I was able to indulge my love of History, Art History and Literature whilst specialising in Fine Art. Watercolour and oils are my favourite medium.

2. Have you always been a Jane Austen fan? When did you first encounter her works?
I remember seeing the old black and white version of Pride and Prejudice on television when I was very young and dressing up in my mother’s nightgown. I was very taken with the dancing at the time and all the fashion which I loved. I read the book later but I was inspired to re-read all of Jane’s works after the lovely Pride and Prejudice production starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I think Jane and Elizabeth were my mother’s favourites, as my first names are Jane Elizabeth!

3. In order to create these works, you’ve had to combine a working knowledge of anatomy, history, historical places, Jane’s biography, and an intimate knowledge of her writings. That is quite a feat. Why did you decide to embark on such a difficult and exacting project?
I have always enjoyed reading the biographies written about Jane Austen but there never seemed to be enough pictures and of course, one of the reasons is, that they simply don’t exist. There is the little watercolour painting of Jane Austen in the National Portrait Gallery, the silhouette that is said to be of her and Cassandra’s other painting of Jane, sitting with her back to us but they do not give us a real idea of what she looked like. I was intrigued by her letters and her romance with Tom Lefroy and the first painting I did was of them dancing together. I painted it for the sheer pleasure of ‘seeing’ them together; I think it was an attempt to depict her happiness at being with the young man she seemed to like best. All the written descriptions of Jane seem to bear little resemblance to Cassandra’s painting; I wanted to see a younger Jane at the time when she experienced her first love and was starting to enjoy balls and attention from young men. I based Jane Austen’s portrait on Cassandra’s painting but I admit I wanted to see her smile. She had such a wonderful sense of humour, I wanted to try and show a happier Jane. I never thought of my Effusions of Fancy paintings in terms of an exacting project. I didn’t expect anyone else would ever see them and they were a purely personal tribute. However, when I thought about putting the pictures into a book, I did want to try and change people’s idea that Jane was a quiet spinster in a mob cap and I thought one of the ways I could do that was to attempt a painting of a younger woman with her hair dressed as though she is about to go dancing.
4. Regarding this painting of the Austen family, tell me a bit about your working process. I can see that you studied the actual paintings of each family member. How did you incorporate so many likenesses in one composition? Did you sketch each portrait separately first? Or did you work from an overall composition?
Because we only ever see the portraits of the family members by themselves, I wanted to picture the Austens all together around the table, showing them as the close family I believe them to have been. I started with the silhouettes of Mr and Mrs Austen. Silhouettes give us such a tantalising glimpse of a person without revealing the whole; I had no other reference for Mrs Austen but there is a lovely portrait of Jane’s father, with his white hair, which helped enormously. I used my knowledge of figure drawing and many painting references to find bodies for the heads and tried to bear in mind what I had read about their characters. Henry, for example, is depicted in the only portrait that exists of him as being a very sober looking clergyman with receding hair. Everything I have ever read about him illustrates quite a different character; handsome, fun loving, slightly reckless and witty. I painted another portrait of Henry to see if I could find the ‘handsome’ Henry and incorporated this into the painting. Edward’s portraits at Chawton are wonderful and I have studied them many times. I imagine Edward resembled his mother in looks and also has those ruddy cheeks which Jane is supposed to have had. Edward did not really grow up with the other children as he was sent to live with his richer relations and I wanted to indicate this; he is slightly aloof, not sitting with the immediate family but protective of his mother. Lovely Frank, the seafaring brother who took his mother and sisters into his home after Mr Austen died, has his arms around Henry and his sisters. I imagine him to have been very dependable and loving and wanted to portray this aspect of his character. James, the poet, I think was probably quite earnest and serious. I think he looks lost in his own thoughts. Charles, another sailor looks very dashing in the portraits I
have seen of him, I wanted to show him with a bit of a smile, as though he is about to laugh at something his mother has just said. Jane and Cassandra are talking to each other and laughing at some shared amusement. I really wanted to show how close they were, two young girls having fun and chatting, nineteen to the dozen. I used a painting and a silhouette said to be of
Cassandra for my painting, I believe she was a pretty girl. I would like to do another family portrait one of the days which tells another story, perhaps illustrating a well known event in their lives.

5. Do you feel that all your hard work in this area is paying off? If you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?
I’ve ‘met’ so many lovely people as a result of producing my little book and cards, (many through my web site and from different countries) and for me this is my greatest pleasure. If someone writes to tell me that they have enjoyed my work, that is the biggest payoff for me. Other people’s lives are always interesting to me and I like to keep in touch and hear their news.

I wouldn’t do anything differently, I’ve enjoyed the whole process of creating the paintings but perhaps I would like to add or do different versions of the same ideas. It’s essential to keep striving to improve and continue to study, I think. I would like to do a larger version of Effusions of Fancy with more paintings, perhaps telling the story of all of Jane’s life. More time to accomplish everything I would wish would be lovely, but time has a habit of running away!

6. Is this a full time career? Or are you squeezing this extraordinary passion into an already full schedule?
It is a full time career, but I also work with my husband to help earn our bread and butter! He is a graphic designer and he often needs an illustration to help with his work. At this time of year I am usually to be found drawing Christmas trees, baubles, popping champagne bottles etc. for restaurant menus, Christmas cards and invitations etc. After Christmas, it’s Valentine’s day and so it goes on. I really enjoy this type of work. I am very lucky to be able to work with my husband, doing illustrations that I enjoy working on. I get a huge thrill out of seeing my work out in public.

7. Any advice you would give to budding authors/illustrators?
You need to be passionate about your work and have a tough skin. You will face many rejections and possible hurtful comments as well as enjoy success. Try to remember why you started on this journey in the first place, believe in what you do and don’t give up, which is easy to say but not always easy to put into practice!

8. Aside from Lydia Bennett’s Journal, what other projects are you currently working on?
I’ve just completed a little map for Deirdre Le Faye’s book, Jane Austen’s Steventon, which was a lovely job to do and at present I am putting together menus for the wonderful Scottish Branch Jane Austen Birthday Lunch in December.

I’m having a great time writing a new novel, which of course is another Jane Austen sequel. It is another ‘Story’ of one of Jane’s characters but this time inspired by Sense and Sensibility. I hope this will be ready in the spring. I’m off to Devon soon to do some research. This is one of my favourite reasons for writing, although I often find it takes over!

In addition to all her other plans and activities, Jane wrote, “I’m also very excited to tell you that my Jane Austen illustrations are to be used in a documentary feature on the DVD of The Jane Austen Book Club. They asked to use about 16 of them, so I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with them.” We can’t either, Jane!

Update: Here are Jane’s thoughts about her new Sense and Sensibility sequel, out in 2009:

I am really thrilled to be able to tell you that my second novel, Mrs Brandon’s Invitation will be published by Sourcebooks next year. It will be coming out in September, which seems such a long time to wait to see it in print, but will fit so perfectly within the time frame of the book, that I will just have to learn to be more patient.

As the title suggests, Mrs Brandon’s Invitation is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The story principally centres around Marianne (nee Dashwood) who has been married to Colonel Brandon for three years and that of her younger sister Margaret, but most of the characters are there, plus a few new ones. I have so enjoyed writing this one, interweaving the stories of two heroines against the backdrops of Delaford in the Autumn, Lyme and London in winter. It was such fun to write the characters of Mrs Jennings and Lucy Ferrars, along with her sister Anne Steele. Colonel Brandon’s sister, husband and son make an appearance at Whitwell and this is where the mischief starts. I am often inspired by a secondary character or mention of one in the original books and I decided to introduce the family. If you remember, Mrs Jennings refers to Colonel Brandon’s sister as residing in Avignon at the time of Sense and Sensibility. With her son Henry coming home from university, it was time to bring the Lawrence family back to Whitwell.

Here is a little taster of what is to come.

No one is more delighted by the appearance of an eligible suitor for her sister Margaret Dashwood than Marianne Brandon, until it becomes clear that not only the happiness of the match, but also that of her own marriage are bound and ensnared by the secrets and lies that belong to the past. First attachments, false impressions, resentments and misconceptions, are the elements that conspire to jeopardise the happiness of the Brandon family at Delaford Park, along with the added predicament of Mrs Brandon’s first love John Willoughby returning to the neighbourhood.

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