I am thrilled to welcome author and artist Jane Odiwe as part of the Blog tour for her new book Project Darcy. Jane is also the author of Lydia Bennet’s story and Willoughby’s Return and has written two of my favorite Austen sequels to date – Searching For Captain Wentworth and Mr Darcy’s Secret. Jane has a fantastic vision and her words truly reflect her artist’s eye.
This new book is a fascinating look into Jane Austen’s life, her inspiration for that beloved book Pride and Prejudice, time travel, a lovely young heroine, and a wonderful cast of characters.
Thank you, Shamitri-I’m honoured to be here!
MM- Tell us how you write – do you collect items of inspiration before you begin the early stages of writing, and do you have any rituals?
JO– It varies from book to book, but it’s usually ideas that first prompt me to write, and then I find later on I’m inspired by paintings or interiors or even by textiles, clothing, or a piece of music that might be evocative of the time in which I’m writing. Fragrance and after shave – smells, odours, scents, of the outdoors, indoors, food, and of people all play their part in the inspiration. I enjoyed using Pinterest to make a mood board for Project Darcy for imagining both the present and the past.
I can’t think that I have any rituals apart from having a morning snack of a cup of coffee with a bag of twiglets, which is a kind of snack – I think I’m addicted to them!
MM- What is your favorite genre of music and do you listen to composers from the Regency era to inspire you?
JO – I haven’t a favourite genre – I listen to a wide range of music from classical to pop and contemporary. I suppose it depends what mood I’m in when deciding to listen to music, but it tends to be classical music when I’m writing. I like Haydn, and enjoy the music that Jane Austen played – and I particularly love music from the opera and ballet.
MM- Do you like to travel and which part of the world would you like to visit the most?
JO– I do like to travel and have been lucky enough to visit many European countries and Africa. I have never been to Florence or New York – those are two places I would love to visit! I love travelling round England and visiting all the places that Jane Austen wrote about.
MM- Do you often find that your characters speak to you as you begin outlining the book and do they take you on a different journey than the one you had originally planned for them?
JO – Yes – I used to write very detailed plot outlines, but always found that the characters changed the storylines, and I think that’s been the case with every book I’ve written. Now, I have a rough idea of where I want to go, and how it should end, but even then I can be surprised. Project Darcy’s ending even surprised me!
MM – Do they leave an impression and can you please give us an example?
JO – I’ve really enjoyed writing about my heroine Ellie in this book – she reminds me very much of my daughter who is also an illustrator, and she’s very strong, funny, independent and someone who is lovely to be around.
MM – Best friends Ellie and Jess are similar to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, along with Martha, Cara and Liberty, who all possess similarities to the other Bennet girls. How were you able to draw from those connections in Jane Austen’s past and retain each of the girls’ personalities with this modern twist?
JO – I didn’t set out to modernise Pride and Prejudice because I’m not sure I could have done that satisfactorily, but I wanted the girls to be recognisable. Girls today don’t have the same problems as they did back then – women are not dependent on men to earn a living. But, Project Darcy was inspired by Jane’s novel, and I wanted to have characters that were similar in spirit. Jess and Ellie are best friends, as close as any sisters can be. I am very close to my sister, and have very dear friends, and so much was drawn from personal experience. Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra were clearly very close, and I’ve often wondered if Jane and Elizabeth were extensions of the Austen sisters. Cara and Liberty are just as silly as Kitty and Lydia, with the same superficial concerns about parties and dances, dresses and men. Martha is as socially awkward as Mary, but she has her own happy ending – at least, I hope it really does work out for her in the end!
MM -The Christmas card scene from the past is beautifully written, even in terms of aesthetics. I’m not there but I see what Ellie sees, How were you able to make it so ethereal?
JO – Thank you – I enjoy writing descriptive scenes and winter is one of my favourite seasons. I collect lists of favourite words and enjoy thinking of different ways to use them. I’ve always had a thing about glass snowstorms – and imagined the scene a little like that.
MM – How did you juxtapose Jane’s past with Ellie’s present so smoothly and draw her back from the intensity of those emotions, while allowing your readers to experience them as well?
JO – It’s always quite difficult going from the past to the present and vice versa, but I hope I got the transition right most of the time. I thought about it in the way you’d experience a strong memory – however much you get drawn into another time and place, when you’re back in the present those emotions you once had fade as real life kicks in. Using different tenses was a device I used to help make the emotions intense – when Ellie goes back in time, we see her feelings, experience her emotions in the first person. In the present, we are standing back a little watching the story unfold from the third person.
MM – Donald was a wonderful and humorous addition to the story, he surprised me on some levels and reminded me a little of Mr Collins. Was this your intent and how difficult is it to make a character pompous yet funny?
JO – Yes – Donald was my version of Mr Collins – I wanted to make those scenes funny, but it’s a hard call when you follow the genius that is Jane Austen. I can only hope that I succeeded on some level.
MM – Was there any research material that you really wanted to include in the book and couldn’t, if so, tell us why?
JO – I had a few extra scenes with Jane’s brother Henry and her cousin, Eliza de Feuillide. I enjoyed writing them enormously, but in the end, I wasn’t sure if they added anything of significance to the story. I lopped and cropped them out – but, I daresay, they’ll turn up in another novel!
JO – I’d just like to say thank you very much for hosting me on your blog and for asking such interesting questions!
To find out more about Jane Odiwe, you can find her here:
Jane Odiwe – Austen Effusions: http://www.austeneffusions.com
Jane Austen Sequels: http://www.janeaustensequels.blogspot.co.uk
Austen Authors: http://austenauthors.net