Friday, February 25, 2011

A Northern Tour: Following in Jane Austen's Footsteps

I've made no secret about the fact that I've always loved Jane Austen. I enjoyed reading her work, even though in today's market her writing would be considered a bit stilted. Different times and different style. Regardless, her wit and observations of life in Regency era are accurate. I also enjoyed some of the screen adaptations of her work. And while I have read a few Austen fanfiction stories they're not the first thing I reach for when I'm in the mood to read an historical. 

I've grown up enjoying Rengencies (I have my favorite authors) and I'll be first to admit we've been flooded with Regency stories in the past few years so it really takes something extraordinary in the storyline to pique my interest enough  to read another one. Yet there is a whole segment of readers that adore anything Regency and Austen Regency in particular.

Since I have several friends who write Austen fanfiction they do realize I mean no disrespect when I ask, What is the fascination with the Darcy's? What makes an author want to devote most their writing life to continuing their view the Darcy's story and future? 

My guest today is Jane Odiwe and she hails from England. She also writes Austen Regencies featuring the characters of Jane Austen's world. So I asked her the same question. What draws you to Austen's characters. What's the fascination, as an author? She takes us on a bit of a tour to help us see the whys.

Thank you, Sia, for inviting me onto your blog. I’m so pleased to be able to talk to you about Mr. Darcy’s Secret. 

Writers of Austen continuations, like me, are compelled to carry on with the lives of her characters, inventing new stories. Can we have too much Pride and Prejudice? I don't think so - I loved writing Mr. Darcy’s Secret, and part of the fun is doing research.

My sister and I headed up north to Derbyshire as I was writing my book, in search of Pemberley and Lambton. Jane Austen made up these names, but many people think that Bakewell was the inspiration for Lambton, where Lizzy Bennet stays with her aunt and uncle Gardiner when travelling through the Peak District and where she starts to see Mr. Darcy (or Pemberley) in a different light. I wanted to include scenes from Lambton in my own book, and to my surprise my sister booked us in to stay in an old coaching inn at Bakewell, The Rutland Arms, where they have a room which they claim Jane Austen stayed in. I don't know whether the evidence for this is very strong, but it's a lovely idea.

The inn is very old; from our window we had a lovely view of Bakewell, and the sitting room conjured up images of days long ago. We travelled in late November; I remember sparkling, frosty days, blue skies and mists in the valley - and sitting by a roaring fire when inside - perfect!

Not far away, one of the fascinating places we visited was the Red House Stables Working Carriage Museum. It was in the middle of winter and as we were the only people there that afternoon, we were able to really explore the place and completely monopolise one of the lovely staff who told us all about the adventures they'd had working in lots of television and film. I was especially interested to hear that some of the carriages had been used for the 1996 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

We certainly had a lovely time on our ‘northern tour’, sampling the delights of the landscape and the famous Bakewell Pudding!

Mr. Darcy's Secret

One dark secret can completely ruin a bright future...

After capturing the heart of the most eligible bachelor in England, Elizabeth Bennet believes her happiness is complete-until the day she unearths a stash of anonymous, passionate love letters that may be Darcy's, and she realizes just how little she knows about the guarded, mysterious man she married... Excerpt


Jane Odiwe is the author of Mr. Darcy's Secret, Willoughby's Return, and Lydia Bennet's Story. She lives in High Barnet, North London, and Bath, England, with her husband, three children, and two cats.

In 2003, her obsession with all things Austen really took off when she wrote and illustrated a little book, 'Effusions of Fancy, consisting of annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen in a style entirely new,' which is a light hearted celebration of Jane Austen's early life, in letters and paintings. In 2007, Jane was thrilled to be asked if Sony Pictures could use her Jane Austen illustrations in a short film; a biography feature about the author on The Jane Austen Book Club DVD.

It was a short step to writing her first novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Her lifelong dream of becoming a published author came true when Sourcebooks editor, Deb Werksman, rang her one cold, December evening asking to meet her in London the next day to discuss publication. Sourcebooks published Lydia Bennet's Story in October 2008.

Mr Willoughby's Return, a Sequel to Sense and Sensibility, was published in autumn 2009. Mr Darcy's Secret is to be published in February 2011, and Jane is contributing to a short story anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, to be published by Ballantine Books, autumn 2011. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


My guest says she started writing when she was seven about an abandoned puppy. At nine, Anjali created a “series of mysteries and adventures with preposterous premises and impossible plots.”

It appears the desire to write has remained a constant in her life and she has graduated to writing both adult fiction and YA. Including her latest, Haunting Jasmine.

Please welcome Anjali Banerjee to Over Coffee.

She has also brought her Muses: Luna, Simon, Teddy, Cheyenne and Ruby. Aren't they gorgeous. All writers need cats, lol!


I’m stuck in a dark house during a storm-induced power outage – surrounded by cats. As I lie under the covers, trying to stay warm, typing this blog entry on a lightweight netbook computer with an emergency flashlight propped on the keyboard, my eighteen-pound tabby cat, Luna, is climbing onto my chest. She keeps licking my hand and trying to burrow under my armpit. Our smaller ragdoll cat, Cheyenne, just jumped onto the windowsill, scrambled for a foothold, and fell to the floor. Our sleek black kitten, Ruby, sleeps in a basket on the bureau. Oops, not any more. She leaped down onto the bed, then to the floor and sauntered off. Simon, a rather large, orange and white male tabby, has left through a secure tunnel into a safe outdoor enclosure, where he makes believe that he’s defending a vast territory.

 I hear Teddy, our fluffy Maine coon kitty, scraping the litterbox to cover his latest fragrant droppings. I have to decide whether to interrupt my writing process and scoop the litterbox, or endure the pungent scent of cat poo while I work.

I choose to scoop. Be right back.

Yes, I live and work in a circus of cats – five, to be exact. They graciously allow my husband and me to live in this small rambler in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. We’re charged with feeding the fur people, loving them, brushing them, clipping their claws, providing them with fresh running water and clean litterboxes, and generally catering to their every whim. Occasionally, they allow me to work and write so that I might make a living and continue to, um, feed them.

It’s not easy.

This morning, while I raced to complete a project on deadline, Luna threw up a hairball on the bedcovers. Decision time again. Clean hairball or keep on working? I chose to clean up the hairball.

 Then Cheyenne hissed at Ruby, and Ruby skidded down the hall and crashed into the wall. I had to comfort her. Teddy climbed onto my keyboard and batted around a pen or two.

So I moved my laptop to another room, thinking I might get a little peace, but no… as the computer was booting up, I walked away for a few moments. Mistake. When I returned, Ruby was sitting in front of the keyboard, her innocent gaze focused on a blue screen. In only a few seconds, she had managed to crash my computer. I somehow got it working again after three reboots.

If cats are so difficult, why do I live with them?

Ruby and Anjali

Luna has settled down next to my leg. She’s a warm, purring ball of fluff - loyal, sweet, loving fluff with affectionate green eyes. She never cares what I look like or what mood I’m in. She just wants to be close and to be loved. And Ruby, my little intelligent gem of a black cat, curls up next to me and gazes into my eyes with the wise soul of an ancient goddess. The cats make me laugh with their antics, and they give unconditional love while asking little in return, relatively speaking. Cats know how to meditate, to eat when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, and play when they feel playful – they experience the world in a pure, joyful way.

They are also my muses. They find ways to sneak into my books. In my children’s novel, Seaglass Summer, a young girl learns that her idealistic dream to become a veterinarian can bring sadness – when an old kitty passes away – as well as satisfaction. In my novel for adults, Invisible Lives, my heroine tests the quality of a man by his reaction to her cats.

In my new release, Haunting Jasmine, Jasmine Mistry, an overworked L.A. businesswoman, agrees to run her aunt’s bookstore on a rainy Pacific Northwest island while her aunt is away in India. Little does Jasmine know that the bookstore, in a cluttered Victorian mansion, is haunted by the ghosts of dead authors, who help her to slow down, reinvent her life, fall in love with a mysterious stranger… and adopt two shelter cats, of course.

In my current novel in progress, a cat graduates from cameo role to central character, helping a young widow emerge from her isolation and find love -- on the same Pacific Northwest island.

After all, what would a story be without cats?

But how does one balance the good and the difficult – the at once loving, muse-like qualities and disruptive tendencies of cats? My husband helps, when he’s home. We provide outdoor enclosures - play areas for the cats - and toys, cat beds and condos. When we adopted Ruby as a kitten, we also adopted a male kitten, Teddy, of roughly the same age. The two kittens bonded, sleeping together and playing together. I write while the cats are resting, or I close my office door.

Sometimes, though, I simply have to leave the house. I write in a friend’s office, or I go to a café. It’s always a balancing act - a little of this, a little of that. But isn’t that what life is all about?

As I close this blog entry, my husband and two cats are asleep here on the bed, allowing me to write. The wind is howling, and the power is still out. The battery is about to run down on this netbook computer, so I’d better shut down for now.

Haunting Jasmine

Divorcée Jasmine Mistry is intent on restarting her life when she gets the chance to do just that. A call from the past brings her home to Shelter Island, a green dot in the middle of Puget Sound, to run her beloved aunt's bookstore. The familiarity is heartening – the rocky beaches, pewter skies, country boutiques, and above all, Auntie’s Bookstore, nestled in a quaint Queen Anne Victorian, and believed, not incidentally, to be haunted.

With that knowledge, Jasmine embarks on a mystical journey, urged along by her quirky family, guided by the highly emotional spirits of long-dead authors, and moved to heal her broken heart when she falls unexpectedly in love with an enigmatic young stranger. He knows about blurring the lines between truth and fantasy. In redefining the meaning of everlasting love, he urges Jasmine to reinvent herself in a place she calls home. All she has to do is close her eyes and say yes.  Excerpt

Anjali Banerjee was born in India, raised in Canada and California and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her books have received accolades in many review journals and newspapers. The Philadelphia Inquirer called her young adult novel, Maya Running (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House) "beautiful and complex" and "pleasingly accessible." The Seattle Times praised Anjali's novel for adults, Imaginary Men (Downtown Press/Pocket Books) as "a romantic comedy equal to Bend it Like Beckham."
Anjali loves hiking, reading, watching movies, supporting local animal welfare organizations, feeding birds, and playing piano. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, in a cottage in the woods, with her husband and five rescued cats.

You can find Anjali: Facbeook and Website

Sweet Simon

Photo Credits: Carol Ann Morris -Author bio picture, Anjali and Ruby, and Teddy. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, February 21, 2011

MONDAY'S MUSINGS: Adventurous Odds And Ends

Magic happens when you open a book...

This is going to be a quick post. Mainly because the brain just isn’t up to anything particularly entertaining and I think Theraflu, on the whole, isn’t conducive to clarity of thought. Or at least mine isn’t. Hmmm, maybe I should have added some bourbon or a good scotch…Nah, I’d probably fall asleep over my keyboard, or start babbling in a foreign language. But then given my week that might not be such a bad thing.

I’ve read a few really good books and will be posting some reviews soon. Some four and five star reads too. Like the laugh out loud Linda Wisdom story, Demons are a Girls Best Friend, or the fabulous love story from Olivia Cunning, Rock Hard. Elaine Coffman gave me a real treat with The Return Of The Black Douglas and I had a grand time visiting renaissance Scotland. Didn’t want to come home, either.

I also have some other *adventures* lined up to go on as well. And isn’t it a grand thing to have books take one to different points of history and introduce you to the culture and the people of the time. I love a well done, richly detailed historical and I’ll be visiting Renaissance Italy, with The Second Duchess, Elizabeth Loupas, and going back in time to visit North America of the early 1400’s, with The Dawn Country Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear—love their stories. Both Elizabeth and the Gears will be guests later next month.

Wednesday, you’ll want to stop by and visit a bit with Anjali Banerjee—and her darling cats. I’ll be sharing an excerpt of her latest adult fiction, Haunting of Jasmine. Friday, Jane Odiwe will be visiting with some discovered letters, which harbor some dark secrets in Mr. Darcy’s life— Mr. Darcy's Secret.

Your turn.

Where have you *been* recently via a good book? Any fun books you’d recommend?