Issue 44: New Collectable Bookplate - Meet The Artist!

WE ARE DELIGHTED TO RE-LAUNCH OUR COLLECTABLE BOOKPLATE PROGRAM WITH THIS UNIQUE DESIGN CREATED ESPECIALLY FOR THE JANE AUSTEN LITERACY FOUNDATION (JALF) BY JANE ODIWE.

Jane Odiwe is a British author who many of you know through her Jane Austen-inspired novels. Some of her books continue the stories from where Jane Austen left them (‘Mr Darcy’s Secret’) and others include Jane Austen herself as a character (‘Searching for Captain Wentworth’, ‘Jane Austen Lives Again’). Apart from writing, Jane enjoys painting - once more, Jane Austen and her characters are the main inspiration for her paintbrush.

Jane is a member of the Jane Austen Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists' Association. Jane has been with JALF almost from the very beginning and was amongst our very first Ambassadors - it was only fitting for me to approach her with a request for a brand new JALF Bookplate. Jane kindly agreed and has produced this absolutely charming image featuring two of the most beloved Austen characters - a design fitting for the autumn launch and only available via our Bookplate Program.

Jane has also agreed to answer a few questions about herself for Pride & Possibilities readers.


Dr J.B. Grantham, JALF Bookplate Program Coordinator

JBG: Jane, thank you so much for painting this new original image for our Bookplate Program. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth walking together happily after his second proposal –what can warm the heart of a true Janeite better on a chilly autumn evening? But can you please tell us a little about how Jane Austen first came into your life?

JO: From a young age, I remember watching Pride and Prejudice on film and television with my parents who both enjoyed those early adaptations. I have a memory of dressing up and trying to do the dances when I was small, and as soon as I was old enough I started to read Jane Austen's books over and over again.

JBG: What gave you the idea to start writing Jane Austen-inspired fiction?

JO: Being fascinated by Jane Austen's writing made me curious about her life, her personality, and what she looked like. Because there are few images, I decided to make one of my own and that led to writing and illustrating a book about Jane Austen's life in pictures with letters written as if from her sister Cassandra (Effusions of Fancy). I enjoyed painting a picture of Jane Austen with her first love, Tom Lefroy, and I wondered if he was anything like Mr Darcy. I'd always wanted to write a novel, and that got me thinking about the characters and writing sequels, at a time when the mania for the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was at its height. I think with every novel, the ideas have come about because Jane's books left me asking questions.

 
 Jane at her desk.  Credit: Jane Odiwe.

Jane at her desk. Credit: Jane Odiwe.

 

JBG: Do you have a favourite amongst your own books?

JO: I've loved writing them all, but Searching for Captain Wentworth has a particular place in my heart. It's set in Bath and Lyme Regis, two of my favourite places connected with Jane Austen. I'd always wanted to write a time travel book, and in this one my heroine, Sophia, goes back in time to meet Jane Austen and her sailor brother, Charles. The dual stories, set two hundred years apart, were such fun to write, and researching the places that Jane wrote about was a joy.

JBG: Do you have a favourite amongst the Jane Austen books?

JO: After the last question, I don't think you'll be surprised to hear it's Persuasion. I love the fact that you can walk in Jane's footsteps in the book, and it's the novel that makes me think she knew what it was to have loved and lost.

JBG: Is there an Austen heroine that you feel particularly close to? Who is she and why?

JO: I love all of Jane Austen's heroines and every one has resonated with me at some time or other for different reasons. I particularly enjoy Elizabeth Bennet's joie de vivre, and fearlessness, and she was the first who captured my heart. The lovely thing about re-reading Jane's books as you get older is that they can take you back to a time in your life when you were reading them. Pride and Prejudice was the first book of Jane's that I loved, and reminds me of the time I met my husband.

JBG: You are not only a successful writer, but also an artist. Can you tell us a little about the role that visual arts play in your life and work?

JO: Drawing and painting have always been a part of my life. Art and painting were a love of my mother's too, and I can't remember a time when my sister and I were not spending every minute of our free time at the kitchen table with paints and collage or writing stories. Painting, whether it's a landscape in oils or a Jane Austen character in watercolour, is a passion of mine, and, I hope, one I'll be able to enjoy for a long time yet. We're all quite arty in my house - my husband is a graphic designer, my daughter is a portrait artist, one of my sons is at art school and the other (who is a musician) helps out when the other two are making their animations. I love it when my husband and children involve me and we're all working together - it's often chaotic and messy, but huge fun.

 
 Steventon winter.  Credit: Jane Odiwe.

Steventon winter. Credit: Jane Odiwe.

 

JBG: Do you have any passions and hobbies outside Jane Austen’s world? What else ‘makes you tick’?

JO: I love music, whether it's classical or contemporary and enjoy going to see ballet. Along with my husband, I collect books, and particularly love illustrated and children's books. Over the years I've collected pieces of china and porcelain, none of them expensive, the chief pleasure being the joy of finding a bargain. In another life, I would have loved to do interior or theatre design, but there hasn't been time to fit that in!

JBG: You became one of the very first Jane Austen Literacy Foundation Ambassadors. How did you hear about the Foundation? Why have you decided to become involved with JALF?

JO: When Caroline Knight was starting the Foundation she wrote to me (and others) about her brilliant idea. I'd always wanted to be involved with a charity and I loved the fact that it was connected to Jane Austen and helping children to read. Reading has given me such pleasure in my life (particularly Jane Austen's books), so I responded immediately, and was thrilled when Caroline asked to meet me at Chawton. It was a very special day for my husband and I when we were shown around Chawton House by Caroline and her father, Jeremy Knight, and heard all the fascinating history of their time living there. I think the charity is doing brilliant work in raising money to improve literacy, and I hope I can help raise awareness about all the good work that's being done.

JBG: Is there anything new you are working on at the moment? If it is not a secret – what can we expect from you and when?

JO: I'm always working on something, and it's painting that's taken me over at the moment, though I'm also writing a book. I would love to say that it might be coming out soon, but as I've been working on it since 1995, I cannot say for sure whether that's likely. There are so many projects I want to do in the future, and I think that's what's exciting about life. You never quite know where the next episode might take you.

JBG: Jane, thank you very much for your time and for painting for us such a beautiful image. I am sure the bookplate will be a great success and will be cherished by JALF supporters.

BOOKPLATE LAUNCH!

For every donation to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, you receive a personal bookplate with YOUR NAME in Jane Austen’s handwriting and a unique number.

The image is designed exclusively for JALF and should not be copied or published in any other context.

 
 Our new bookplate!  Credit: Jane Odiwe.

Our new bookplate! Credit: Jane Odiwe.

 

Help us to improve literacy rates in the world and enjoy your very own bookplate!

 
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Image credit: Jane Odiwe and Julia B. Grantham.