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I was recently interviewed by Red Roses for Authors blogspot in celebration of the publication of Willoughby’s Return. It’s always an interesting experience being interviewed – I’m always surprised by how much I learn about myself as well as my book!

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m an English author, an artist, and a wife and mother to three children. I live on the edge of London and enjoy indulging my passions of reading Jane Austen, writing and painting.

What do you write?

I write books inspired by Jane Austen’s life and works. I’ve written and illustrated a book about Jane and have also written three novels, Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return, and Mr Darcy’s Secret.

Why do you write?

I love escaping into a different world and the sheer pleasure I get when I write is something I’ve enjoyed since I was a little girl. I like the fact that each book is like a puzzle waiting to be worked out with ideas coming to life on the page with my words.

What are you writing now?

It’s another Austen sequel. I’ve just finished another Pride and Prejudice sequel – Mr Darcy’s Secret, which Sourcebooks Inc. is publishing in Spring 2011.

What kind of clothes do you like to wear?

I live in jeans, trousers and tops, though I do enjoy wearing dresses now and then. I like soft, colourful fabrics and I have a weakness for accessories, necklaces, scarves and earrings.

Are you in love? Have you ever been?

I am in love with the man I married twenty five years ago.

Do you have a dream lover – and what does he or she look like?

I do – it’s my husband. I still get goosebumps when I look at him and when he kisses me….

What kind of comfort food do you like best?

A bowl of soup or a tasty stew with mashed potato is my favourite comfort food – something savoury and warming!

What makes you laugh? Cry?

Family mealtimes are hilarious in my house – I sometimes wonder what my neighbours think at the noisy laughter they must hear, especially on a Sunday when everyone is at home.

Hearing about suffering of any kind makes me cry – the injustices that some people have to suffer in their lives through illness, death or misfortune.

What do you do to amuse yourself when not working?

I love spending time with my family, reading, going out to watch music gigs, cinema and the theatre. I really love dancing – I studied ballet for years and I am often to be found twirling round the kitchen.

What is it in a man or woman that turns you on? The clean version please!

A man who really listens and makes you feel as if you are the only person that matters in their world is a turn on for me.

What do you hate about life?

Nothing – my mother died when she was very young, and it’s made me appreciate every second. There’s too much to love to waste time thinking negatively.

What do you hope to achieve in life and when will you know that you have been a success?

I’ve achieved my dream of becoming a published writer. The only other ambition I have is to feel satisfied that I’ve done all I can to make those around me happy – I’m not sure if I shall be able to say when or whether I’ve been a success!

What are you going to write next?

I’ve got at least two more Austen sequels I’d like to write, but I also have ideas for other historical books I want to write. My daughter wants me to write down the book I used to tell them as children a few years ago – I’d just like more time to do everything I’d like to accomplish!

Illustration by Phillip Gough from Sense and Sensibility
Book cover – Willoughby’s Return – Sense and Sensibility continues

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I am delighted to announce the winners of the competitions held during the last fortnight. I just want to say thank you to everyone who entered the competitions and also to everyone who joined in the fun and left their comments. I’ve been very touched by your comments and personal e-mails; it’s so lovely to hear from you all.

Names were drawn from the hat for each competition – here are the winners!

Painting of Marianne and Elinor – Milka

Greetings cards – Sylvia Chan and Etirv

Sense and Sensibility CD – Mer

Willoughby’s Return Books – Michelle W and Laura Gerold

Jane and Cassandra painting – Alexa Adams

Here’s a review from Jane Austen Today

Humans are complex creatures. We are all multidimensional, like the characters that Jane Austen created in her delightful novels. Take Willoughby, the handsome cad from Sense and Sensibility. At the end of Jane Austen’s tale, he expressed his love for Marianne to Elinor, even though he had become engaged to another woman . The reader, sensing his regret, almost feels sorry for him, for he had exchanged his dearest possession for empty coin.

Jane Odiwe’s novel, Willoughby’s Return, centers around Willoughby’s reappearance in Marianne life. But which man does she write about? The scoundrel or the romantic hero with the complicated emotions? Jane O. does not reveal this important bit of information until the very end of her tale. Marianne, although three years older, married, and the mother of a small son, is still as volatile as ever – sensitive, romantic, and impressionable. She has fallen deeply in love with her husband. Although their marriage is sensual and the Colonel spoils her, Marianne has become suspicious of her William. His obligations to his ward, Eliza and her daughter, call him away frequently. When Willoughby reenters her life, as handsome and attractive as ever, Marianne has become unsure of her husband’s affections and is feeling vulnerable.

Adding richness to the plot of Willoughby Returns is the tale of Margaret, Marianne’s and Elinor’s youn sister. Now seventeen years old, she plays the other central role in this novel, in which the happily married Elinor takes a back seat and is barely glimpsed. Margaret experiences her own romance with dashing Henry Lawrence, William Brandon’s nephew.

Like Jane Austen, Jane Odiwe is spare in her descriptions of the characters, but unlike Jane A., she is free with her depiction of an age long gone, of market days and vegetable stalls and flowers in a meadow. An artist as well as a writer, Jane O.’s details of scenery and village life are vivid. She has no need to imitate Jane A.’s writing style and in this, her second novel, is developing a keen style of her own. Favorite characters like Mrs. Jennings are revisited, and Lucy Steele (now Ferrars) and her sister Anne also make a reappearance. Jane O’s plot has its twists and turns, the suspense coming from the characters’ actions, which comes to a satisfying conclusion only after several misunderstandings are cleared up.

Readers who love Jane Austen sequels will find this charming book a more than satisfying read. I give it three out of three Regency fans.

I was a guest on Jane Austen’s World – here’s the interview

Jane, 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.

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?

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.

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!

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Well, I’ve come to the end of my blog tour – I’m feeling a little bit sad, it’s been so lovely to ‘meet’ and hear from everyone who has made comments and entered the competitions. Thank you to all who have interviewed me and spent time reviewing Willoughby’s Return, I greatly appreciate all your efforts on my behalf.
There’s still time to enter the competitions – I’ll announce the winners on Monday!

Here’s an interview I had with Serena from Savvy, Verse and Wit

Most authors dealing with classic characters fell in love with them early on, but wanted something more. Is this how you felt about Willoughby, and what is it you sought to do that Jane Austen had not?

Rather than falling in love with Willoughby, I suppose it was really that ideal of romantic love that I fell in love with early on, and the relationship that Willoughby first shares with Marianne Dashwood. Jane Austen painted him initially as the epitome of the dashing hero and that is very attractive!

I wanted to discover if Marianne had truly recovered from the heartbreak that he caused and wondered how she might react if he re-entered her life. I also felt we needed to know more about Marianne’s relationship with Colonel Brandon who is her husband, a subject Jane Austen hardly touched upon.

Willoughby is often considered the villain of Sense and Sensibility, is this what attracted you to writing about his character or was it something more?

He is a villain, but I think his character is more complicated than that. I think a little part of me wanted to believe that he was not all bad and even Jane Austen made him remorseful in Sense and Sensibility. What was more important to me was examining the way Marianne perceived him – we see him through her eyes – and I wanted to take her feelings on a journey.

Many readers are eager to know which character or characters authors most identify with, so in your latest novel, which of the characters do you identify with and why?

I’d like to say Marianne or Margaret Dashwood, both romantic and passionate heroines who think with their hearts not their heads. Like Marianne, I can wax lyrical on a falling leaf from the sky and a picturesque scene, but that’s where the comparison ends. I think these days I probably identify more with Mrs Jennings, the interfering busybody friend of Colonel Brandon – I have a habit of asking totally outrageous and embarrassing questions of my children’s friends much to their great mortification!

Why choose Jane Austen novels versus other classic authors’ novels?

I just love them – I’m actually obsessed, as my family will tell you. Jane’s writing is the best and her books work on so many levels. I’m still discovering new wonders in every one, which is just as well, as there are only six.

Who is your favorite Jane Austen hero and why?

Captain Frederick Wentworth. The story of Persuasion has a special significance for me and that’s why he’s my favourite. It is the most wonderful love story – whenever I go to Bath my husband and I like to stroll along the Gravel walk and follow in the footsteps of Anne and Captain Wentworth. I also think Colonel Brandon would be gorgeous and I have to include Mr. Darcy in this trio of equally splendid heroes.

Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

I just asked my youngest son what he thought for an answer to this question and he immediately answered – your computer! I’m afraid it’s true, but it’s really my writing that is the obsession. I also Google anything and everything on Jane Austen every day – I told you I was obsessed!

Which books have you been reading lately, and are there any you would like to recommend?

I’ve been reading Jane Austen’s Letters and Persuasion, Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise, Samuel Richardson’s The History of Sir Charles Grandison, Sarah Waters’ Dancing with Mr Darcy, and Sue Wilkes’ Regency Cheshire. I’d recommend them all.

Finally, following Willoughby’s Return, do you have any other projects in the works? Do they deal with other classic literature or do you see yourself flourishing in the Jane Austen market?

Sourcebooks will be publishing my next book, Mr. Darcy’s Secret, in the Spring 2011, so that’s exciting to be having a third book published by them. I have started two other books which are both Austen related. I have other non-Jane books I want to write, but I’m really happy living in Austenland at the moment. I’d be really interested to hear what kind of books your readers would like to see – more Jane Austen inspired fiction or maybe another classic author. What do you all think?

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