Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jane Odiwe Celebrating 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice on BBC Breakfast

This is the interview I had with David Sillito, the Arts Correspondent from the BBC. It was aired on the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I only wish that all my author friends here and overseas could have shared it with me. That would have been a fantastic party!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice!

Elizabeth and Darcy - Jane Odiwe

 We are celebrating 200 years of the publication of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"!
I can imagine how excited Jane must have been when she finally received her copies of her "own darling child" as she referred to it in a letter to her sister Cassandra in January 1813. Her book, which has become one of the most popular novels of all time, had taken 17 years to achieve publication.
"First Impressions", as it was initially entitled, was started some time in 1796 when Jane would have been coming up to her 21st birthday. Jane had recently fallen in love with a young Irishman, Tom Lefroy, a nephew of a neighbouring friend in the village of Ashe. Unlike Elizabeth Bennet who took her time to fall in love with Mr Darcy, it seems that Jane and her new friend behaved outrageously, flirting and dancing together in a way that caused a certain amount of gossip. Tom was packed off home before any more damage could be done - neither of them were in a position to marry though Jane joked that she expected an offer of marriage from him! In later life, Tom admitted he had been in love with her. I always wonder if he was the model for so many of her heroes, though looking at his miniature Mr Darcy doesn't spring to mind. Tom looks sweet, not proud and aloof, but perhaps some of Elizabeth's thoughts echoed Jane's own feelings about Tom in this sentence. "She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talentswould most suit her."
Jane had already penned a novel in letters, "Elinor and Marianne", which later became "Sense and Sensibility" but it seems she was particularly pleased with her new novel. Her family also enjoyed her readings and her father was so impressed that he sent it off to a publisher in London. However, Thomas Cadell was unimpressed and declined it by return of post.
The Meryton Assembly, Pride and Prejudice - Jane Odiwe
Having experienced a few rejections myself, I can imagine how Jane must have felt. Her novel was put away though it seems she did tinker with it from time to time. Jane's family moved to Bath when her father retired and later to Southampton. During this time, Jane's beloved father died and she, her mother and sister became increasingly dependent on her brothers. Finally, in 1809, her brother Edward gave them a cottage on his Chawton estate and Jane returned to her writing, revising and editing the works she'd started in her youth. "Sense and Sensibility" was first published - Jane paid for its publication and on its success, Thomas Egerton paid £110 for the copyright of "Pride and Prejudice". Jane had hoped for £150 - she said, "I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased".
The only reference to Jane on the frontispiece was the declaration that it had been written by the author of "Sense and Sensibility". Writing was not considered a profession for a lady and so no one knew who had written it. Jane had a bit of fun with a neighbour, Miss Benn, reading it aloud to her but not revealing that she was the author! The novel was a success and talked about, so much so, that her brother Henry who had become her negotiator, could not help boasting about the fact that "Pride and Prejudice" had been written by his sister. Soon, everyone was talking about the Hampshire lady who was the daughter of a clergyman.
Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy - Jane Odiwe

Jane was always thinking about her characters. In May of that year when she stayed in Sloane Street with her brother Henry she went to a painting exhibition in Spring Gardens. She wrote to Cassandra describing the event.

It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased, particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs Bingley, excessively like her.
I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs Darcy. Perhaps, however, I may find her in the great exhibition, which we shall go to if we have time. I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings, which is now showing in Pall Mall, and which we are also to visit.
Mrs Bingley's is exactly herself - size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs D. will be in yellow. 

Charles Bingley with his sisters, Mrs Hurst and Caroline Bingley - Jane Odiwe

Although Pride and Prejudice was well-received, it is a fact that after her death in 1817, copies were remaindered. It wasn't until the publisher Bentley brought out a collector's edition in the 1860s that the book gained in popularity once more.

There are lots of events going on to celebrate and I'm so excited to be involved in some.
This week the BBC visited me to do a little interview - if I escape the cutting room floor it will be shown on BBC Breakfast, Monday, 28th January.
Later on Monday, I will be participating in the Jane Austen Centre's Live Readathon, which is taking place in Bath from 11.00. You can watch the day's event here - it's being streamed on the internet and I will be on at 17.10.

I'm sure Jane had no idea what she was starting when she wrote her wonderful novel that has given so many millions of people such pleasure!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What a lovely week I'm having!

I am having a very exciting week!
Jane Austen, inspired by Cassandra's portrait by Jane Odiwe
Yesterday, David Sillito, the charming BBC Arts Correspondent interviewed me for a short piece about Jane Austen and my books - if I don't end up on the cutting room floor you might see a little of me on Monday morning on BBC Breakfast Television. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is 200 years old on Monday and there is a special tribute to her being put together - one of many, I believe, over the coming months. Having 'tasted' the delights of filming on Masterchef which was aired last year, (sorry about the pun) yesterday's interview was not quite as scary as I thought it would be - David and the cameraman were absolutely lovely and put me at my ease. The horror was having to run round before they arrived trying to tidy up my very untidy house for my guests. I always forget what a pleasure it is to see a neat house until I'm forced into action - well, now I don't know myself - it looks a treat!
Anyone who knows me is aware that I can 'talk for England' on the subject of Jane Austen and it was lovely to indulge that pleasure!

B.R.A.G. Medallion for Searching for Captain Wentworth
A little later I received a wonderful email from the president of B.R.A.G. Medallion to tell me that I had been selected to receive this fantastic award. Although traditionally published in the past, I decided to go Indie this time with Searching for Captain Wentworth. B.R.A.G. Medallion was set up to recognise the achievements of Indie authors. I am very pleased and proud to be a "B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree"!
If you know someone whose book deserves this kind of notice you can suggest one. Here is a little about them.

From their website:

Who We Are is owned and operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States, Canada, and the European Union. The word “indie” refers to self or independently published books, while B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group. By their nature, our readers are passionate about all books, but for the purposes of the service we provide, we focus exclusively on the work of self-published authors of print and digital books.

What We Do

Our mission is to recognize quality on the part of authors who self-publish both print and digital books. As such, we are constantly on the lookout for the work of talented men and women who have written indie books across a wide range of genres. Our primary focus is fiction, however, we selectively consider non-fiction books as well.

How We Do It

From the large and rapidly growing library of indie books that are available today, we select those that we believe deserve to be considered. These books are then read and evaluated by members drawn from our reader group. The readers judge the merits of the books based on our proprietary list of criteria. The single most important criterion that we ask our readers to use in judging a book is whether or not they would recommend it to their best friend. Once a book meets this standard of quality, we award it our B.R.A.G. Medallion™, and along with other medallion recipients, it is presented on this website. 

Then, as if it couldn't get any better I received notice of this lovely review for Searching for Captain Wentworth from Kim of Reflections of a Book Addict
My Persuasion-inspired novel, Searching for Captain Wentworth

What do Jane Austen, time-traveling, “Captain Wentworth”, and a pair of white gloves all have in common?  They’re all major parts of Jane Odiwe’s newest novel Searching for Captain Wentworth, a time-travelling tale that puts us smack dab in the middle of Jane Austen’s life!
Sophie Elliot is in a bit of a slump, to put it mildly.  Her boyfriend has cheated on her, with her best friend, no less.  Totally distraught, she can’t focus on the book she is attempting to write, and is quite depressed indeed.  So, in order to help her recuperate and focus on her writing, her great-aunt gives her the keys to the family townhouse in Bath.  She is shocked to learn that the home is located right next to the former home of none other than Jane Austen herself.  She is not alone, however, as she meets a somewhat mysterious man in the townhouse named Josh Strafford.  After Strafford drops an old glove, Sophie grabs it in order to return it to him.  Instead of simply picking up the glove, something extremely unexpected happens.  She finds herself transplanted into the body of her namesake, in Jane Austen’s time!  She is able to live out her wildest dream as she befriends Austen and experiences life in Regency-era bath.  She soon becomes caught in the dizzying travel between these two eras separated by 200 years.  She learns more about Austen than she ever thought possible.  What will become of Sophie now that this magical transformation has occurred?  What will happen with Josh once she tells him about the magical properties his glove seems to possess?
Right off the bat I was impressed with this book.  I loved how Odiwe was able to make Austen herself personify traits that fit all of her heroines.  She had the wit of Elizabeth, the matchmaking skills of Emma, the lost love like Anne, etc.  I personally like to believe that Jane truly did have traits from all of her heroines.  Knowing her characters so well and then believing they’re little parts of Jane herself makes me feel closer to her work for some reason. (Any one else feel this way??)  Also, can I talk about Charles Austen and Josh for a second?  What wonderfully male creations Odiwe has invented.  They were both written with such superbly gentleman-like characteristics that I couldn’t help but swoon over them.  Overall, Odiwe fleshed out each character quite well, with my opinions on them matching what I thought Odiwe would want to happen, making the story progress that much faster and drawing me in more.
Finally, I have to give Odiwe a lot of credit for her inspiring words throughout the work.  I was touched by several quotes, my personal favorite being:  Time is but a shadow; Too slow, too swift, but for those who love, time does not exist.  How amazing is that?  It’s all too true in our society today.  It makes the maxim “take time to stop and smell the roses” all that more important, as we are constantly bombarded by stimuli and fail to take in the importance of the people and places around us.  Between the exquisitely written story and  intriguing characters, I was hooked from cover to cover.  Even if time travelling books aren’t normally your style, I’d suggest that you still give this a try.  After all, haven’t we all wanted to be Jane’s best friend?
5 out of 5 Stars

Lastly, but by no means least, this lovely week will be topped off on Friday by a visit to my local library in High Barnet. I am giving a talk at the Chipping Barnet branch to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. My books and paintings will feature so if you're curious to know more I'd be delighted to see you. It's free!

Event Details

Author talk: Jane Odiwe

Date: Friday 25 January 2013
Location: Chipping Barnet library
Author Jane Odiwe will be talking about her love of Jane Austen and about her own writing.
Times: 18:30 - 19:30
Cost: Free
This month sees the 200th anniversary of the first publication of 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen. Help us to celebrate this landmark with a talk by Jane Odiwe - a lifelong Austen enthusiast who has written a series of successful books and sequels inspired by Austen's works.
For more information please contact Chipping Barnet library on 020 8359 4040.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happily Ever After!

Happily Ever After is Susannah Fullerton's new book which celebrates Pride and Prejudice. It is a beautiful book and one I am enjoying enormously. I am very pleased and proud because one of my illustrations features in it on page 126 in a section about Mr Wickham!

Lydia, Wickham and Kitty
This is the illustration - as you can see, Lydia, Wickham and Kitty are stepping out in Meryton. No doubt they are shopping and will be perusing all the latest ribbons and muslins to be had along the way.
I was very surprised to see mentions of my two Pride and Prejudice sequels, Mr Darcy's Secret and Lydia Bennet's Story also included in Susannah's book - you can imagine, I was thrilled!

Here's a little blurb about the book:

In 2013 Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice turns 200. Again and again in polls conducted around the world, it is regularly chosen as the favourite novel of all time. Read and studied from Cheltenham to China, there are Jane Austen Societies from Boston to Buenos Aires, dedicated to sharing the delights of Jane Austen's masterpiece.
Here is the tale of how Pride and Prejudice came to be written, its first reception in a world that didn't take much notice of it and then its growing popularity. As well as discussing the famous characters – sex-symbol Mr Darcy, charming heroine Elizabeth Bennet, and the superb range of comic characters who make readers laugh again and again – Susannah Fullerton looks at the style of the novel – its wicked irony, its brilliant structuring, its revolutionary use of the technique known as 'free indirect speech'.
Readers through the years have both loved the book and hated it – the reactions of writers, politicians, artists and explorers can tell us as much about the reader as they do about the book itself. Pride and Prejudice has morphed into many strange and interesting forms – screen adaptations, sequels, prequels and updates. Happily Ever After explores these, and the wilder shores of zombies, porn, dating manuals, T-shirts, tourism and therapy.

Congratulations, Susannah! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Reviews!

I've just found a couple of lovely reviews for Searching for Captain Wentworth. It always gladdens an author's heart to find her books are read and enjoyed!

From Leatherbound Reviews, Jakki Leatherberry writes:

It is often expressed that Jane Austen was quite the observer of human nature and folly, and her characters are portrayals of people she has met or observed. What if her fodder for Persuasion came from her neighbors while living in Bath as well as her own relationships? It is not uncommon for authors to leave parts of themselves in their novels. In Searching for Captain Wentworth, Jane Odiwe give readers a glimpse into Austen’s life that makes one wonder if these similarities are snapshots of the real Jane. Were Anne Elliot’s despondent feelings regarding leaving Kellynch Hall a sketch of Austen’s feeling upon having to give up Steventon? Was Captain Wentworth inspired by Jane’s love that got away? Embark on a journey highlighting a uniquely told love story connecting two eras.

After receiving an antique rosewood box and a key to her family place in Bath from her Great Aunt Elizabeth, and with nothing holding her back, Sophie Elliot decides to take a holiday. She can think of no better place for an Austen lover to begin writing her first novel than living next door to where Jane and Cassandra Austen resided.

Upon arriving at Sydney Place, Sophie feels as if she is in a time warp. The flat bespeaks a much simpler time with its cheval mirrors, heavy, damask curtains, gilt candlesticks, and a dressing table draped with muslin and ribbon. Between the Regency feel of the flat and the white kid glove, reminiscent of Captain Wentworth, that was dropped by her mysterious neighbor Josh Strafford, Sophie decides it’s time to seek the adventure her ancestors are calling her to embrace.

On this journey, Sophie treasures her friendship with the Miss Austens, and struggles with Society’s strictures that stifle women’s independence. In the end, Sophie finds herself torn between her feelings for Lieutenant Charles Austen, Jane’s younger brother, and those for her neighbor, Josh Strafford. Can one truly be in love with two different people from two different centuries? Will Sophie findher Captain Wentworth?

I am always a little skeptical at the outset of reading a time-travel novel. My mind is filled with questions: How is the author going to deliver on the premise? Is it going to be well executed and believable or far-fetched, prohibiting my disbelief from being suspended? Ms. Odiwe seamlessly melds together the two periods. Whether the descriptions were Regency or present-day Bath, I was easily transported to those scenes alongside Sophie. I quite love it when a novel takes me places I dream of visiting free of charge.

Searching for Captain Wentworth is an enchanting novel that gives readers a glimpse of what Jane Austen’s life possibly was like, Regency Bath and the hope that maybe our very own Captain Wentworth is out there somewhere if we just embrace the journey to find him. With so much to offer, Searching for Captain Wentworth is sure to capture the heart of any Janeite, Captain Wentworth fangirl, or anglophile. 

And from Meditating Mummy:

Persuasion became my obsession in my twenties. It surpassed Pride and Prejudice for I felt that Jane Austen left quite a bit of herself in the story, particularly because it was her last novel. I imagine she did so with all her books. Yet, I feel that Persuasion has a bit more pulse beneath its words. Captain Wentworth would never be Darcy, but he was always right there. With no film to truly satisfy the extension of my love for the book, I went on for many years, reading and re-reading it. Then, Rupert Penry Jones and Sally Hawkins came along in 2007 with a version of the film I loved. I must confess… a part of me has always wanted Jane’s stories to go on, but who would write more? No one could ever match up to her, no matter how hard they tried. I’m not sure If I’m a true ‘Jane-ite,’ I like to think I am. I do however like to search for authors who have written books on Jane Austen or her characters. On one such search, I found Jane Odiwe’s ‘Searching For Captain Wentworth.’
This particular story is sweet, light, slightly predictable at the end, but clearly written out of love for Jane Austen and who can resist that? I love the premise of traveling back from modern-day Bath, to regency era Bath. Who doesn’t want a glimpse of how simple and elegant life was back then? who doesn’t want to see what Austen saw? she seemed to have a sixth sense of the workings of the human heart, and of love. Who could resist the chance to meet Jane Austen herself? It is this concept that drew me to the story. I often wonder what it would be like to travel back in time…Sadly, the lack of good plumbing, body odor and dental floss would make me return to my time after about a day, I would think.  Reading about it, however, is altogether a different thing.
We meet Sophie Elliot when she is in desperate need to get away from all her memories in London.  Her heart is broken, she is not herself and her writing has hit a wall. Sophie hails from a family of strong, opinionated Elliot women. Sophia, her ancestor, is one of three sisters with a self-centered and pretentious father, Sound familiar? it is, the author is drawing parallels to Anne Elliot( in Persuasion) and her family. But, Odiwe adds her own little twist to the story which is slightly more intriguing.  When Sophie receives the keys to her family home in Bath, she discovers the home is perched right next door to Jane Austen’s own home.  Along with it, she finds a handsome neighbor, an old white glove, a tiny box with a portrait and hears gentle whispers and light as a feather, pitter patter on her wooden floors. She is constantly but comfortingly alerted to the fact that she is watched by her ancestors.  Sophia Elliot is closest to Sophie’s heart, naturally. She travels back in time via the glove and inhabits Sophia’s body. It isn’t the usual, strange, modern-day girl going back in modern-day clothing, sort of tale. The time travel aspect is written-in seamlessly, it doesn’t alter much of the story because there is a magical element to it. We are meeting Jane Austen after all. Sophie is transported to the house next door, in regency garb and as Sophia, she finds and befriends Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra and Jane’s interesting brother Charles Austen, all at the same time. It is a delightful, yet captivating glimpse into Jane Austen’s life. It left me wondering if Jane’s true love could have swept her off her feet and how it is that Jane was never bitter about her circumstances?  Instead, she chose to write about love, and enduring love at that. She chose to laugh at society, perhaps the same society that did her wrong through expectations of propriety and perfectly ridiculous rules. This lovely story by Jane Odiwe  serves as a reminder of Austen’s ability to introduce characters that were timeless, strong, sometimes willful, independent and genuine. It is a nice change from books that try to re-capture Austen’s legacy.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A New Year Poem to celebrate Pride and Prejudice!

Pride and Prejudice was first published 200 years ago on January 28th 1813. I wondered what Lizzy might be thinking as she started a new year - and so I wrote a little poem! I hope you enjoy it.
Garlands of ferns mist the frosted pane,
As Lizzy peers out to see the icy lane,
Drifts of snow swathe the fields in white,
A New Year’s early start by candlelight.

Lizzy hears the laughter as Jane slumbers on,
Kitty and Lydia are up, eager to be gone.
Off to join the revellers sledging in the snow,
Whilst Mary shuns the cold, refusing to go.

Jane is going to London for a holiday treat,
To aunt and uncle Gardiner in Gracechurch Street.
Lizzy hopes Mr Bingley will call on Jane there,
Together she thinks they make a perfect pair.

Not so much perfection as an arrangement of a kind,
Lizzy trusts her friend Charlotte may soon find
The happiness she hopes for in heavenly wedded bliss,
And the will to pucker up for Mr Collins’ kiss!

But, what will the year bring for our precious girl?
She, whose fine eyes match every nut-brown curl.
Mr Wickham’s charms seem to be fading fast,
Elizabeth sees his preference for another at last.

Will she seek solace in mountains and rocks?
Or in muslin and ribbon, new gowns and fresh frocks?
Perhaps she’ll be won over by a gentleman true
Who will gain her heart so she’ll pledge ‘I do’!

Lizzy doesn’t know it yet, but Reader, we do,
Our beloved Mr Darcy will soon be coming into view.
Pride and Prejudice will be turned round about,
And love will triumph over mistrust and doubt.

The silence of the morning breaks as Meryton springs to life
Mr Bennet is home with the post and greets his wife.
Boisterous boys and red-caped girls skate on the frozen lake
As toast and tea to break their fast the Bennet family take.

Slender tracery on stained-glass trees standing in a row
Frame the blackwork hills and blazing cottages below.
A picture of the countryside, New Year dress’d
Jane Austen’s English landscape, seen at its best.

Happy New Year to you all!
Jane Odiwe

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year Honours!!!

What a lovely way to start the New Year - I've been honoured! Well, I may not be in the Queen's list, but Searching for Captain Wentworth is on Meredith Esparza's honours list.
I love this award which is for Favourite Austen-inspired original novel! Thank you so much Meredith, I can't tell you what it means to me - I'm absolutely thrilled.

I'm on Austen Authors today with a little poem for the New Year! Inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy looks forward to a new year - with little idea of her fate. Please join me and all my fellow authors!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Pulteney Bridge, Bath

Happy New Year - Thank you all so much for making my 2012 so memorable with all your wonderful support for my books, your kind emails and letters. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and wish you all a very prosperous and happy time throughout 2013!