Questions and Answers: with author, illustrator and Austen fanatic, Jane Odiwe
Jane Odiwe, born in Sutton, Coldfield, is not only the author of Lydia Bennet’s Story: A sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistable Temptation (a Sense and Sensibility sequel) she is also a keen regency illustrator– having compiled ‘Effusions of Fancy: Consisting of Annotated Sketches from the Life of Jane Austen in a Style Entirely New’. Originally self-published, and now under the wing of Sourcebooks, she is a Janeite with an eye for detail.
When taking a look at her artworks, it is strikingly obvious that the images not only come straight from Austen’s novels, but also from Odiwe’s own creativity and sense of placement and colour. ‘Meryton Assembly’ is a sensitive portrayal of one of the most memorable moments of the book, and is not only accurate in costuming, but is a beautiful depiction of the Bennets, Bingley, Darcy, Mrs. Hurst and Caroline Bingley that brings in sharp colour pigments but retains the regency feel. Another image that is an absolute standout is that of ‘Kitty Bennet’, a portrait-style painting that is remarkable in tone and depth and allows Kitty to be seen away from the Bennet family structure.
Her latest book has taken the online Jane Austen community by storm with reviewers calling it a ‘light and enjoyable read… a charming tale’ (Austenprose) and ‘compelling and expressive’ (Austenesque Reviews). What do you think? Check out what Odiwe herself has to say about her work, life and everything Austen, below.
Obviously you are a great Jane Austen fan- how did your love of her novels begin?
I remember watching the old black and white film of Pride and Prejudice first of all and loving it. I was very young, but remember vividly dancing around in my Mum’s regency style nightdress – I always loved dressing up. My Mum later bought me the book but like a lot of people I think what inspired me to start reading the books again was the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle production.
Which Austen heroine do you relate to most?
Anne Elliot, I think – not because I am like her in any way, she’s far too perfect, but because I completely understand her story.
When did you start painting and what was it that caused you to start painting the Regency era?
I’ve been painting as long as I can remember – my Mum always painted and I just grew up with the fact that there were always paper, pencils and paint in the house. I use watercolours mostly, but I love to use oils too.
I started painting the Regency era because there was an image of Jane Austen in my head that didn’t match the ones I’d seen. I also loved the fashion.
There isn’t a lot of material out there on which to base an image of Jane Austen, how did you work around this?
I just used what I could find, but also looked at paintings of her family. I’ve never been entirely satisfied with the portraits I’ve painted, none of them totally match the ‘Jane’ in my head.
Sony Pictures used your illustrations for a featurette on the Jane Austen Book Club DVD. How did it feel to be asked to do this?
I was absolutely thrilled! I love film – and to see my pictures alongside the commentary of such respected Jane Austen scholars was a dream come true.
If we put you back into the Regency period, you would be considered an accomplished woman. Is there any other talent that you wish you had developed?
You are very kind, but I’m not sure I would satisfy Mr Darcy’s scrutiny! I taught myself to play the piano and wish that I’d learned to play when I was a lot younger. I find it difficult to remember pieces of music now, that I know would have been an easier task twenty years ago!
Do you find that people in your own family remind you of characters from Austen’s novels?
Yes – I think that’s all I’d better say. Joking apart, I wouldn’t say anyone is exactly like one of Jane’s characters, but perhaps one or two share certain characteristics which are recognisable. I’m sure most people can identify with that. And I am married to the wonderful Captain Wentworth
What made you decide to take on Lydia for a story sequel? Do you have any other book ideas in mind at the moment?
I wanted to write a funny book – and I thought Lydia had the potential to be a great comic heroine. I liked the idea of taking a character who is not sympathetic, and seeing if I could make people like her. The humour in it is definitely British!
Willoughby’s Return is the book that’s out now and is Marianne’s story from Sense and Sensibility. I always wondered how she and Brandon would cope with all the complications in their marriage – Brandon’s ward and the existence of Willoughby’s child to name but two of the obstacles to complete marital felicity. What would happen if Mr Willoughby came waltzing back on the scene to stir things up? Again, I wanted to re-examine the characters and look at their motives for behaving in particular ways. Jane Austen was always keen to point out that her characters were not one dimensional and I wanted to see if Mr Willoughby was indeed a total scoundrel! I love writing descriptions and I went to town in this book, plus I had a lot of fun plotting all the twists and turns. Mr Darcy’s Secret comes out next spring – again, I so enjoyed writing this, especially the characters of Elizabeth, Darcy and Georgiana who take centre stage. I am currently writing a book which is inspired by Persuasion. It’s the first book I’ve written which is not a sequel.
What is the best part about being an author and an illustrator?
I feel incredibly privileged to be a published writer and illustrator and I don’t think I’ll ever get over that pleasure of seeing my work in print, whether it’s writing in a book, or an illustration on a poster or in a restaurant menu.
I love the interaction with the people who read my books. If people write to tell me they like an illustration or they’ve enjoyed one of my books it makes my day.
You may have also heard about Jane’s recent problem with her work being used against copyright. As the creator of the illustrations and novels, they are her own work to be reproduced and used at her will. If you want to use/reproduce any of Jane’s work then please contact her on the above links.