October 27, 2009
Chatting with Jane Odiwe
Jane, thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.
Lori, thank you for giving me this opportunity to have a chat about my book and tell you and your readers all about it.
I really wanted to explore the lives of several of the characters from Sense and Sensibility. At the end of Jane Austen’s book I had no worries that Elinor and Edward Ferrars would be happy. I was a little more concerned about her sister Marianne and Colonel Brandon, not because I couldn’t believe that they loved one another, but that there seemed there might be other obstacles and difficulties that might make their married life together more challenging. Marianne and the Colonel have both loved and lost in the past and although they have both moved on, their past lives and loves are inextricably linked in a way to the present that is unavoidable. This set me thinking about what might happen after Sense and Sensibility especially if Marianne’s old flame, Mr Willoughby, returned to the district to claim his inheritance, a large estate near her mother. What would happen if they met again? How would Marianne feel if he were to return to live with his wife in the house that she once thought was to be her own? Has Marianne been able to bury all thoughts of that doomed love affair and, how would she cope with her husband’s frequent visits looking after the needs of the daughter of his first attachment?
Marianne’s youngest sister Margaret is just at the age for falling in love and I wanted to weave her story into the mix as she finds out, like her sister before her, that the course of true love does not always run smoothly.
Do you find it more challenging to take a character or characters that an author as esteemed and beloved as Jane Austen has created and pick up their stories and/or give them new stories versus creating a character from scratch?
It is challenging, especially when the characters are so beloved and everyone has their own ideas and interpretation of them. I enjoy taking Jane Austen’s characters and carrying on their stories very much, but it is also fun to add in a few of my own. Creating new characters and stories is just as testing, but I try to imagine the sort of people that Jane would have had some fun with. I’ve read Jane Austen’s books so many times over the years that to me her characters are like old friends. As my family will tell you, they pop up daily in conversation, and favourite characters are always being quoted. I enjoy the fact that I can enter the world that Jane created and continue the books that I love so much.
Lydia Bennet’s Story was my first novel, and it is a very light-hearted look at the naughty, youngest Bennet sister. I wanted to take a character that I thought would provide me with comic inspiration and see if I could make people like her better. It took me a long time to write it, but I learnt so much.
With Willoughby’s Return, the experience of having written one book gave me the confidence to try something more challenging. I wanted to write a more dramatic story which still explored the themes of Sense and Sensibility where both Marianne and Margaret struggle to find the balance between reason and passion, but without losing the humour that is such a vital part of Jane’s books. I am always learning something new about writing and this has been a very rewarding experience.
How much research goes into writing books like Willoughby’s Return and Lydia Bennet’s Story?
So much, too much! I really enjoy the research. Not only do I have to read Jane Austen’s books until I know them and her characters backwards, but the time period they are set in means that every detail must be accurate. Because I am writing in the period roughly between 1796-1803, that presents problems in itself. My readers may not know anything about this time and so I ‘paint’ in the details of dress and setting as much as I can. I love writing descriptions of the clothes and interiors – give me a ball, a skating party, the Gravel Walk in Bath or the treacherous Cobb of Lyme Regis and I’m in heaven!
I do visit the places I write about to get a feel of the time. I am so lucky that in England, towns like London, Bath and Brighton have so much architecture of the time still standing.
In Willoughby’s Return I had a lot of fun deciding where Marianne’s London Townhouse might be. I chose a house in Manchester Square after wandering round with a map from 1803, and whenever I go past, I imagine her inside with Colonel Brandon, perhaps getting ready to go out for an evening party. Unfortunately, not all places have remained. I loved finding the research for Gunter’s Teashop, but Berkeley Square has changed a lot. The type of café to be found in the existing plot is set behind modern plate glass – more than a little disappointing!
I had no idea of writing a full-length novel then – the paintings were the inspiration for the book, the letters were simple accompaniments. I’d always enjoyed writing and had started a children’s book, but I didn’t think that Jane Austen or writing would completely take over my life.
Let’s talk about your love of all things Austen. When did it start and how?
I think it was the old black ad white Pride and Prejudice film that I first saw on television that set me off. My Mum bought me the book – she always loved it – my first names are Jane and Elizabeth!
What’s your personal favorite of Austen’s works?
This is hard, but I would say Persuasion is my all time favourite.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’ve just finished Mr Darcy’s Secret, which Sourcebooks will be publishing next year. I wanted to write a Pride and Prejudice sequel with the main characters, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy. I haven’t felt until now that the time was right, but I have enjoyed writing this book so much with all its plot twists and turns. Georgiana’s story runs through this one also, as I was determined that she should find happiness after her experiences with that scoundrel, Mr Wickham. It was a delight to write about the other characters that Jane created so deftly – Jane, Charles and Caroline Bingley, Mr and Mrs Bennet, Mr and Mrs Collins, and Lady Catherine de Burgh help the story along and provide many comic opportunities.
I’ve started another book, but it’s too early to talk about just yet.
Can you take us through a day in the life of Jane Odiwe?
I get up early and make sure anyone who needs to leave the house has left at the right time, hopefully with some breakfast before they go. Then I’m off upstairs to my little room where I write all morning. This is usually my most productive time. I always stop for lunch – I love to make home-made soup, and enjoy a bowl with any members of the family who might be at home. I like to catch up in the afternoon with blogs and the internet before I get down to some writing again. Then it’s time to cook the supper and then spend the evening with my family. There’s always lots of coming and going in my house, which I love, so I’m never quite sure who will be there in the evening, but it’s precious time for a chat.
I might watch some television in the evening, or go out to catch some music somewhere, but I love to curl up at night with a good book in bed before I go to sleep!
If you could offer one piece of advice to an unpublished author, what would it be?
Just keep going, believe in yourself, keep trying to improve, and don’t give up!
If you could use only one word to describe or sell Willoughby’s Return to a reader, what would it be? Why?
Passion – Love and passion drive this story, sometimes in a destructive way, but always because the characters believe their passion is right and true.
Last, but certainly not least, who, in your opinion, is the best Mr. Darcy - - Laurence Olivier, David Rintoul, Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen or Elliot Cowan and why?
I think every actor brought something to the character, I enjoyed them all, but if I had to choose it would be Colin Firth because of the magical chemistry he shared with Jennifer Ehle in their roles as Elizabeth and Darcy.
Thank you, Jane, for a fun and informative interview! We wish you the best of success with Willoughby's Return.
To purchase Willoughby's Return, available November 1, you may visit Jane Odiwe's website, Sourcebooks' website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookseller.
Jane Odiwe's website: http://www.austeneffusions.com/
Jane Odiwe's blog: http://www.janeaustensequels.blogspot.com/
I have been fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Willoughby's Return. Please stay close as a review will be forthcoming!