Sunday, September 04, 2016

An Interview with Jackie Herring, Jane Austen Festival director

Welcome Jackie! Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview with me today, to find out a little more about what's involved with organising such an event as The Jane Austen Festival.

I was very excited to receive this year's programme - the 16th annual festival! - and the schedule is as packed and brilliant as ever. I am very much looking forward to attending my 3rd festival.

1.      First things first, how did you first come to love Jane Austen? I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice at school. Do you have a firm favourite among her works?

My first festival in 2014
I was given the book Pride and Prejudice by my best friend when I was about 16, she said “you will like this it is better than Jilly Cooper” we were reading all the girl books by Jilly Cooper at the time. She was right too!
Probably P&P as I have read it more times than any of the others but I love them all really for slightly different reasons. Northanger Abbey is hilarious and great if you know Bath.

2.      Aside from a love of Jane, of course, what inspired you to begin the festival? How did you go about starting such an event? When you had the first festival I was only 4 years old, but I believe it was just a few days to begin with?
Meeting Wickham, Adrian Lukis, a festival patron, in 2014

I didn’t begin the festival – David Baldock the owner of the Jane Austen Centre started the Festival and was its first Director. I was involved from the beginning but behind the scenes and acting as a steward in the early days when the numbers were less. His inspiration was that at the time there was not much going on in Bath in September, the weather was usually ok and he wanted to celebrate our favourite author with special events and do something different not just the Jane Austen Centre exhibition.

Now I feel old! Only 4 when we started! The first Festival was 2001 and was held over a weekend and the majority of events were at the Jane Austen Centre. The following year 2002 it changed to 10 days and 2004 was the first year of the Promenade.

3.      Now the festival spreads across a wonderful 10 days! I remember in a conversation we had last festival about the vast number of tickets you have to handle with the number of events through the week there are to attend. So, what exactly are the numbers? Just how many tickets do go up for sale for the festival?
84.5% of the tickets on sale were sold in 2015. There were 466 Prom tickets sold (some join in without paying and some are comps so the estimate is that there were over 600 taking part in the Prom). With Prom tickets added to the Box Office total the stewards during the ten days deal with just over 4,000 tickets and people!

(This photo shows the gathering before the promenade in 2014 with about 550 people!)

4. The festival has an international attendance. I meet people from all over the world during the events. Outside of the UK, where do most attendees come from? Does the number of countries keep rising every year? Where are the most obscure countries you have had visitors from?

In 2015 the figures were:
                        That's me! ^

UK – outside of Bath = 44%

USA = 24%

Europe = 19%

Australia = 6%

Canada = 4%

Locals/Bath = 3%

Europe covers Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Eire, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Austria, Norway and Germany. We have also had visitors from Russia and this year have some coming from Japan and China. The Russians are very into JA and we had a Russian TV crew filming aspects of the Festival in 2014. Jane Austen enthusiasts are worldwide.

The number of different countries does keep increasing. Japan is probably the most unusual.

5.      What is your favourite thing about the festival? I always love the feeling of community and the happy atmosphere around Bath during the festival!
Promenade 2015

This is a really difficult question to answer – I work all year round to prepare for the ten days (and the Summer Ball) and to make it go well I am on tenterhooks the entire time but I love it when the plan comes together! My favourite event however has to be the Promenade as I get to walk at the very front and I love seeing the visitor’s faces on the streets as we pass by.

I also get a big kick out of people enjoying themselves and hate it if anything goes wrong. The best thing is when someone comes up to me and says how much they liked an event or how they are coming back next year because they have had such a good time. That really is why I keep doing the job and next year will be my 10th as Festival Director.

6.      I have to say, you have a wonderful wardrobe! Where do you get your gorgeous outfits from? Do you sew them yourself?

They are a mix of made by my Mum who was a professional dressmaker, bought online and made by a local dressmaker. Unfortunately I simply don’t have the time to make them myself and after making my Ball gown and evening pelisse Mum has refused to make anything else. But then she is 86 so I think she can retire don’t you.

7.      As I mentioned, I was thrilled, yet again, with this year's programme. I was particularly pleased to see the return of John White and John Mullan. I am also looking forward to Austen Undone which I missed last year, and I am very excited by the prospect of Pride and Prejudice the Musical! Of course, the promenade is always one of the highlights for me. The number seems to rise every year; how many took part last year? The weather wasn't wonderful but it still seemed to be a very good turn out!
John White's crime and punishment talk last year

466 bought tickets, another 50 at least were comps and then there were the gatecrashers who just join on without paying. All in all just under 600 I should think. I

8.      Was there a reason where the promenade route has been changed this year? It will, of course, be lovely to have the fayre in the Assembly Rooms. I will miss having everyone in their finery strolling around the Parade Gardens at the end though!

My silhouette I had cut at the
fayre in the guild hall

Yes and not my choice either – though actually the Assembly Rooms will be lovely to use. Unfortunately the Guildhall was booked out for a charity dinner in the evening. Apparently a long standing booking so as I couldn’t use that venue I had to rethink. We could have used the Pavilion but that isn’t an 18th Century building so I went for the Assembly Rooms. I have booked the Guildhall for 2017 though.

9.      As we all know, next year is a big year for Jane Austen, being the bicentenary of her death, and of the publication of Northanger and Persuasion. Are plans already underway for 2017? Do we have much to look forward to for such a monumental year? I am also pleased to see Jane Austen coming onto the ten pound note in 2017 too.

2017 is the bicentenary of Austen’s death which is a sad time really, so anything will be low key as far as marking that anniversary goes. I have lots of things in mind for 2017 and one thing booked but not for public consumption yet. It is also my 10th anniversary as Director so I might think of something really special!

John White's 'So, you think you're sick' talk

Thank you very much for visiting Laughing With Lizzie and for giving us a further insight into everything that goes into The Jane Austen Festival!

Thanks Lizzie/Sophie, see you at the Summer Ball and from 9th to 18th September 2016 at the Festival. Full details of the festival are on our website

Best wishes

Jackie Herring – Festival Director

The Jane Austen Festival


Your affectionate friend,

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Guest Post: The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad by Jean Burnett

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Jean Burnett's new release, The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad.  My thanks also goes to Hayley Steed for inviting me to take part.

When I searched for a literary heroine in the swashbuckling mode to write about, I was reminded that there was no female equivalent of the picaresque novel where the protagonist strutted around having adventures and making his mark.

There were obvious reasons for this, women didn’t get around much in earlier times and their adventures, if any, tended to be via the boudoir. Leaving aside the few documented cases of female pirates and women enlisting as soldiers, the possibly mythical Amazons and a few feisty queens, the page is bare.

Jane Austen wrote on her “inch of ivory” about her near neighbours and their goings on because that was her small world. When I chose Lydia Bennet, the youngest sister in Pride and Prejudice I decided to keep her more or less within the confines of her time. Lydia endeavours to stay respectable, outwardly, at least. I also used the language and customs of the period as far as possible. Even so, purists will sneer at the liberties I have taken.

It’s a tribute to Jane’s eternal popularity, surely, that her characters are now being toyed with in remarkable ways. American writers are leading the way in making the well-known Austen heroines more exhilarating. They may still be corseted but they can still destroy a room full of the undead with some nifty sword play. There is no reaching for the sal volatile here. This is a genre known as ‘mashup.’ One can only imagine what Jane would have made of it all.

In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the Bennet sisters still find love alongside their fighting partners as they deal with a plague of the walking dead in Regency England. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters finds the Dashwood sisters living among tentacled mayhem with ghastly human/sea creature combos lurking around. In Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, another demented P&P spinoff, Elizabeth remains unflappable as Darcy turns very strange, Mr Collins becomes dastardly, and Lydia is abducted by aliens. In another version Elizabeth is forced to decapitate Darcy when he turns into a vampire, although she hopes to have him resurrected later! It’s all good, clean, wacky fun but Austen purists will gag in horror.

There will be many people who will ask, ‘why can’t you create your own characters instead of stealing Jane’s?’ This a whole other argument, but one answer is the fun of seeing what can happen to a classic plot or heroine when they are taken in a different direction – usually a fantastical one. Modern readers tend to demand more action from their heroines and the classics of literature are now fair game.

I’m afraid that reading some of these versions can be infectious. I’m contemplating writing something similar, but I think I will choose an author or a heroine who hasn’t been trifled with as yet.

I have always thought that the Lady of Shalott got a very raw deal in Tennyson’s poem.   Why couldn’t she escape from her castle, jump on to Sir Lancelot’s horse and ride off with him to slay a few dragons? She could use the spindle from her spinning wheel as a weapon. Of course, she would have whiled away some of the time in her castle practising unarmed combat for just such an event.

The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett is published on 23rd May by Canelo, price £3.99 in eBook.

 Hold on to your bonnets: Lydia Bennet is back

The Bad
Miss Bennet Abroad

by Jean Burnett

To be published on 23rdMay by Canelo,
price £3.99 in eBook

“High-spirited, great fun and full of rackety Georgian atmosphere”Daily Mail on Who Needs Mr Darcy?

At the end of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice16-year-old Lydia Bennet had just begun married life to the roguish Mr Wickham. But after some risky gambling and a liaison with an Austrian count in Jean Burnett’s Who Needs Mr Darcy?, Lydia decides to leave London.

Lydia sets sail for Rio, accompanying Austrian noblewoman, Dona Leopoldina, who is travelling there to marry heir to the Brazilian throne and notorious womaniser, Dom Pedro. But troubled waters lie ahead when Dom Pedro sets his sights on wooing Lydia instead.

Finding his flirtatious ways impossible to resist, Lydia is thrown out of the court for her indiscretions. On discovering she is pregnant, Dom Pedro sets Lydia up in the coastal town of Paraty where, in boredom, she begins writing a gothic romance. But things soon liven up when a pirate ship anchors in the bay and kidnaps Lydia and her baby…

Lust, love and kidnapping…The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad is the story of the naughtiest Austen character as she travels between Brazil, Jamaica and England.


Jean Burnett grew up in London but has also lived in Canada, the US and Mexico and previously worked for the University of Bristol. After her children left home she decided to become the ‘world’s oldest backpacker’ for a year and later wrote about her adventures in Vagabond Shoes, winning the novel prize at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. Who Needs Mr Darcy?, Jean’s first spin-off novel starring Lydia Bennet, was published in 2012.

Jean lives in Bristol and is available for interview and to write features.

The Bad Miss Bennet Abroad by Jean Burnett is published23rdMay by Canelo, price £3.99 in eBook. For further information or review copies, please contact Hayley Steed or Heloise Wood ated public relations on 020 7732 4796 or email

My thanks again goes to Jean for this great post, and I wish her all the best with this release and any future books.

Your affectionate friend,

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Northern Rain by Nicole Clarkston - with giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for Nicole Clarkston's latest release, Northern Rain.  My thanks also goes to Janet Taylor for inviting me to take part.

"There is nothing like a long walk in the rain to guarantee a little privacy… unless the last person you wish to encounter happens also to be in search of solitude.
John Thornton is a man of heavy responsibilities who has many things on his mind, but the most troublesome of them all is Margaret Hale. She wants nothing to do with him, and he wishes he could feel the same. When a moment of vulnerability allows her a glimpse into his heart, she begins to see him very differently.

Is something so simple as friendship even possible after all that has passed between them? Thornton has every good reason to move on, not the least of which is the lovely Genevieve Hamilton and her wealthy father. Will Thornton act according to duty and accept an opportunity to save his mill, or will he take a chance on love, hoping to change Margaret’s mind?"

Nicole has written a vignette of John and Margaret's first love letters. Enjoy!


My Dearest Love,

Would that it were my arms you found on your pillow for your comfort tonight, rather than this simple note. How I shall miss you, my darling! I had promised myself that we should never spend a day apart, but I suppose that was a selfish notion. I much prefer to know that you are safe at home, my love, and resting as you should be. I have commissioned both Mother and Dixon to ensure that you do, in fact, rest a little!

My Margaret, I scarcely know how I shall face these few days apart from you. You have brought so much wonder to my life, Love, that I cannot comprehend how I survived so long in my cold, colorless world. I am loath to return to it, but now I have the assurance that very soon, I shall come again to your loving embrace and your delicious kisses. I shall sleep well tonight, Love, knowing that this brief sojourn will only serve to sweeten the reunion when I take you in my arms again on Saturday.

All of my heart,


Darling John,

As I write this, you are even now making your preparations for your trip. Should you find any smudges on the paper, you may be assured that they are not tears of sorrow, but of deepest joy. That is what I shall tell myself! It was not so very long ago that I had begun to think I would never know the contentment of love, or the pride that I feel in you. My husband, you have taught me the truest meaning of the word, for it is not in any merit of my own, but in my fine, loving husband and his affections that I boast.

I am so proud of you, my darling; of your devotion, your honor, your cleverness, and the sacrifice you make in leaving us for these interminable few days. I understand the value of your efforts, and I feel the full measure of your faithfulness to the mill and to us. I think there is no more blessed wife in the kingdom than I! I quite rival your mother now in her pride for you. I shall try to conduct myself in a worthy manner while I wait for you to return to me, but I cannot quite promise that I shall bear up as bravely as I should like. I fear that I am not always myself of late!

I must close this now, for I hear you coming up the stairs to kiss me goodbye before your train. I am privately wondering how long it will take you to find this note which I secrete in your bag, so do be certain to write tomorrow and tell me.

I remain entirely yours,


My Dearest Margaret,

I was still at the rail office when I began searching for the note you so cleverly tucked into my bag. I treasured it for the duration of the ride to London, and it kept me company in the small hours of the night. Did you rest well, Love?

I expect you will have passed two nights by the time you receive this. I am immeasurably grateful to your cousin for her hospitality. Not only am I assured that you already have the address, and I may soon expect the comfort of word from you, but her library is more than adequate. I spent a good many hours in it last night, so you may be certain that I know that of which I speak.

Mrs Lennox is faring quite well, but I expect that her confinement draws very near, if I may speak so indelicately. I look with some jealous sympathy on the Captain as he hovers over his wife, and I almost wish that I had stayed elsewhere at such a momentous time for their family. Your cousin, however, would not hear any objections. She received me very warmly on your account, and questioned me for a long while last night- and such plain questions she had for me! I think I was quite blushing when her husband at last drew her away.

It is nearing dawn now, my love, and I am reminded of that first morning I awoke in your arms. I believe I know now why a woman’s hair is said to be her crowning glory. It is because the man blessed to hold such a laurel close to his heart may rightly feel himself a king. I still think myself quite unworthy of such a gift as your love, and wonder at heaven’s mercy in imparting your heart to me, but I shall never cease to grateful. It is because of you that I can look boldly to the future and laugh at what troubles may come our way.

I must now put down my pen, Love. I dislike doing so, for in writing you, it seems we are not so far apart. However, if I am to make myself at all useful when I meet with Mr Colthurst and his associates today, it would behoove me to seek out a cup or three of hot coffee.

Yours forevermore,


My Husband,

I would ask how you passed your first night in Edith’s home, but I expect I know the answer- despite your first note’s assurances to the contrary. I fared little better, I am afraid. It seems that I had come to lean against you a great deal as I slept, and being deprived of your support, I found your pillow wholly inadequate to my wants. It seems that I can no longer balance myself in my sleep, and the babe protested quite violently no matter what I tried!

John, I am so longing to see our child! Are we to expect a boy or a girl? Will I look down into the eyes of my husband, and see that spark of his that I adore shining anew in our child? I now begin to understand your mother a little better, for in anticipating our babe, the fiercest thoughts come to my mind! I never thought myself capable of such feelings, but I would turn over the world, John, to spare our son- or daughter- the faintest measure of grief. I know that is a foolish notion, and a vain one, for life has shaped you into the man I love, and it will do no less for our children.

Dr Donaldson came by this evening to discuss some hospital business, and told me that new medicines and supplies are arriving daily. I am glad of that. If it is all I can do to improve my own little corner of the world, I shall continue to aid his efforts. It may seem small, but I do hope some good will come of it. I feel I owe our children- yes, I hope for more!- a better world than the one we found. I thank you for your indulgence and understanding in allowing me to spend much of my time so employed. I blame your influence entirely, John, for your ambitions have rubbed off on me.

I do hope your meetings with Mr Colthurst are productive. I know you felt yourself undeserving of the honour to be chosen as Milton’s representative in these affairs, but I do not. None understand the legislation, or its impacts on the industry, better than you do, my husband. I have every confidence that you will carry out your duty faithfully and with distinction, and that at the end of it you will return to find me

Ever yours,


P.S. I think I ought to inquire which of the staff has the keys to my room and my writing desk. Someone has been gaining access when I am away. I discovered the pilfering because each day, they are carelessly leaving a rose behind with my ink jars. I am determined to solve the mystery!  -M

My precious wife,

Have I mentioned lately how delicious that word tastes when I speak it? It looks just as well on paper. I, a married man! A year ago, I never could have dreamt that I might call you my own. Before I met you, my Margaret, I am convinced that the desire was not even in me. Whether you planted it there, or merely awakened what I had long forgotten, I shall not trouble myself to determine. I know only that our marriage has brought a richness to my life that I had never dared believe in for myself.

I am sorry to read of your troubles in sleeping comfortably. You may be assured that I will hurry back to your arms as quickly as possible. I cannot have the mother of my child in distress! Ah, there was another word I had failed to appreciate until just now. The entire phrase sounds purely exquisite! There is such a sense of belonging, of oneness with the woman I love, to think that even now she carries our future within her. I have not the words to express my heart, but to simply say that it is nothing short of miraculous. I, too, wonder if I shall see my love’slikeness as our child grows. I hope, my Margaret, that if we should be blessed with a daughter, she will look just like her beautiful mother. I would count it a privilege to watch you grow up all over again before my very eyes.

It would be unfair of me not to report the progress we have made here, for I know that you are curious. Mr Colthurst has proven an agreeable, intelligent fellow. I believe he may be reasoned with, and has shown himself willing to consider new perspectives. I have great hopes that our efforts may result in a more thoughtful draught of the bill at hand, which will mutually benefit all.

Henry Lennox was here to dinner last evening, and we two spent a long while over drinks in the study. I cannot fathom why you did not marry him, Margaret, for he is quite an inoffensive chap. It seems you have missed your opportunity, for he has recently made the acquaintance of the daughter of one of his law partners. He spoke very little out of sensitivity for the lady, but it sounds a promising attachment. I am afraid you shall have to continue to make do with your humble manufacturer!

I expect that this is the last letter I shall be writing on this trip, for on the day after tomorrow I intend to board a train bound for the north, and home. The words I would wish to express on paper, I shall preserve in my heart to whisper into your ear. You will be glad to know, however, that I am at last comfortably installed in my room and finding it much to my liking. I believe it was just after your cousin informed me that it had once been yours that I discovered what an agreeable room it truly was. I shall again rest my head on your old pillow tonight, and think on my sweet Margaret who dreamt her girlhood dreams as she lay under that very coverlet. On second thought, perhaps sleep may be more difficult than ever now!

Your sleepless and fervently devoted husband,


p.s. We have never yet had a dishonest housemaid. Are you certain that you are seeing correctly, Love? I should hate to unjustly accuse any of the staff. Perhaps your lack of rest has made you delusional. -J

My John,

I do hope this letter reaches you before you leave London. Should you board a train before receiving this, however, I do not think I shall complain.

Father has been nearly insufferable of late. He does not confess as much, but I think he misses you, John. He comes out of his rooms, sits by the fire but a few moments, and then returns. He offers no excuse for his strange behavior, only making some comments that he had thought of something of a sudden, and that it will keep for another time. It is amusing, I think, but your mother finds it all most disturbing!

She bears up rather the best of us in your absence. John, I really rather like your mother. Fancy that! She has been a great deal more conversant of late. I know she only tries to comfort me while you are away, for it is not at all her nature, but only this morning she suggested that we ask Nicholas and Mary to tea! I nearly dropped my pretty rose pot in shock!

Please do hurry home to us, my love. I miss the way you tease me when I try to be serious, and the way you clasp my hand under the table when you think no one is watching. I miss hearing you snore when you have had a particularly taxing day, and how silently you try to rise in the morning, thinking that I am still asleep as you dress. I miss the look in your eyes when you come to me, and how during those exquisite moments, all the world vanishes and there is only you. I am aching to kiss you and to drink in every delicious, unique detail which makes you my John. Can you really marvel that I chose you over Henry Lennox? I must take care to whisper in your ear all of the reasons why when you return to me.

Your loving


p.s. Just as I was sealing this letter, the door to my room opened very silently. I believed for a moment that I had caught my burglar! Alas, it was only your mother, claiming she had mislaid something. How very odd, that she would not show me what was in her far hand.


If my instructions have been carried out, you are just now sitting down to your vanity to arrange your beautiful hair. There should be a bower of roses blocking the view of your mirror, and this sealed little missive should have been nestled in the blossoms. Perhaps by now, you will have discovered the identity of my accomplice!

Today, I come home to you, my darling. I write this several days before you read it, and so the ache of missing you has yet to grow to its fullest measure. I have no doubt that this week will have been torment for me of the most glorious sort, such as that of a starving man who only waits to return home to a feast. Do keep these letters, my love, as I do not anticipate having many opportunities to write more.

I trust you have nothing important planned for a few days, for I intend to entirely monopolize your schedule. I do hope you have all of the locks secured again.

Your impatient and immeasurably blessed husband,



Blog Tour Schedule:

7/8-9: Launch Vignette, Excerpt & Giveaway at Fly High

7/ 10: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm

7/11: Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride & Prejudice

7/12: Author Interview at More Than Thornton

7/14: Review & Giveaway at Just Jane 1813

7/16: Excerpt & Giveaway at Half Agony, Half Hope

7/17: Vignette & Giveaway at Laughing With Lizzie

7/18: Author/Character Interview & Giveaway at From Pemberley to Milton

7/19: Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway at So little time…

7/20: Vignette & Giveaway at Stories from the Past

7/21: Vignette & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged

7/24: Review, Excerpt & Giveaway at Margie’s Must Reads

7/26: Guest Post & Giveaway at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life

9/10: Review & Giveaway at The Calico Critic

Author Bio:

Nicole Clarkston is the pen name of a very bashful writer who will not allow any of her family or friends to read what she writes. She grew up in Idaho on horseback, and if she could have figured out how to read a book at the same time, she would have. She initially pursued a degree in foreign languages and education, and then lost patience with it, switched her major, and changed schools. She now resides in Oregon with her husband of 15 years, 3 homeschooled kids, and a very worthless degree in Poultry Science (don't ask).

Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties- how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project (undertaken when her husband unsuspectingly left town for a few days) she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Nicole's books are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.

Contact Info:

Buy Links:




My thanks again goes to Nicole for this sweet vignette! My thanks also to Janet for setting up this tour.

I wish Nicole all the best with this release as well as any stories in the future!

Your affectionate friend,

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Friday, July 08, 2016

Jane Austen Speaks by Maria Emilia de Medeiros - with giveaway!

I am thrilled today to be part of the blog tour for the lovely Maria Emilia de Medeiros' new book, Jane Austen Speaks.

In JANE AUSTEN SPEAKS, author Maria Emilia de Medeiros “channels” the great Jane Austen from her heavenly home and allows her the opportunity to speak her mind about the modern world nearly two centuries after her passing. Readers will gain a healthy dose of wise counsel and witty advice for leading a sensible, well-mannered twenty-first century life. Jane Austen’s heavenly exploits (not to mention her recipes) will both entertain and delight you. At times serious, drily humorous, or even a bit naughty, JANE AUSTEN SPEAKS is a necessary addition to every Janeite’s library. Dear Readers, if you have ever asked yourself, “What would Jane Austen think?” you have indeed come to the right place.

Thank you so much for welcoming me to Laughing with Lizzie today, Sophie!  I am most grateful for your kind welcome and for so graciously hosting me on your lovely blog during the tour for my recently released book, Jane Austen Speaks About Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits. 

Today I would like to share with the readers of Laughing with Lizzie a bit about my long journey of finding images for the book.  Let me say first of all that Jane Austen Speaks is a unique book in many ways.  It is not a romance novel, but it is instead a series of often humorous essays written in the voice of Miss Austen, who comments on all manner of things from her place in Spirit or “Heaven.” Since a picture is truly worth a thousand words, I wanted to include images to illustrate each essay and recipe in the book.  I soon realized that doing so would not at all be a simple process.

Of course, I was able to find and use many images that are already in the public domain, including beautiful paintings, engravings, and ink drawings.  I myself created a few cartoon line drawings as well as black line drawings for some of the recipes found in the third part of the book, “Heavenly Culinary Delights.”

I was still left with many significant gaps.  Thus began the arduous, months-long process of locating appropriate photographs, contact information of the photographers, and emailing them in order to seek permission for using just a few photos in Jane Austen Speaks.  Generally, either I never received any response, or the answer was “no.”  All seemed rather bleak until my Janeite friends came to the rescue! 

One day, as I was chatting with my dear friend Sophie “Lizzie” Andrews, I mentioned my dilemma and was musing aloud whether or not I should just give in.  Immediately, Sophie asked me, “What do you need?”  She began to send me some of her own personal photographs, and thus began the process of incorporating several of Sophie’s own beautiful, personal photographs into the book.  Almost miraculously, we were able to find wonderful images for nearly all of my “blank spots.”  For those I still needed, I asked fellow Janeites on Facebook if anyone would be willing to share a photo of this or that for use in the book.  Three noble Janeites stepped forward and generously offered me the use of a couple of their lovely photos.

One of my particular favorites in the book is the very fun photograph of the lovely Sophie with her friend, the equally lovely author, Joana Starnes.  This photo was taken in the ladies’ lavatory in The Red Lion pub in Upper Basildon, Berkshire, which features the wall-sized murals of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Pemberley.  When I asked Joana for permission to use her likeness, her answer was an extremely affirming and very enthusiastic, “YES, OF COURSE!” I felt very humbled by such kindness. 

Dear Readers, Jane Austen Speaks would not have been the book it finally became without the assistance and collaboration of Sophie and other Janeites, some of whom are far too humble to be comfortable with me mentioning their names here.  In fact, it is a possibility that this book might not have come into being at all without their assistance, encouragement, and support.  For this, I am truly grateful.  Miss Austen, I believe, would be immensely proud. 

I so look forward to hearing from you!  Please enter your comments below for a chance to win an eBook copy of Jane Austen Speaks (international giveaway) and a soap from my “Jane Austen’s Simply Elegant Soaps” collection (U.S. only).

** GIVEAWAY - ends Friday 15th July **

As you can see above, Maria has been kind enough to offer a giveaway of an ebook copy, open internationally, and also one her lovely soaps, open to America only.

Please leave a comment for a chance to win, and state whether you are entering for the ebook or the soap as well.
The giveaway ends on 15th July. I will be in touch with the winners so please leave your email! The very best of luck!

I want to make it clear that there is a giveaway per blog, not just one for the whole tour, so make sure you enter them all for the best chance to win!

My Jane Austen Book Club:  July 6

Laughing with Lizzie:  July 8

Obsessed with Mr. Darcy:  July 12

So Little Time...:  July 14

More Agreeably Engaged:  July 19

My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice:  July 21

Babblings of a Bookworm:  July 25

Darcyholic Diversions:  July 28


Kindest Regards,
Maria-Emilia de Medeiros
My thanks again goes to Maria for this post and I wish her all the best with this new book. I am glad I could help you with the pictures you needed!

Maria Emilia de Medeiros is a teacher, writer, artist, and lifelong Janeite. She read her first Jane Austen novel at the tender age of twelve and has never looked back. In addition to reading, playing the pianoforte, and embroidery, she is fond of dogs, long country walks, and drawing. Jane Austen Speaks is her first published book about Jane Austen. 

Contact Information:
Barton Cottage Press

Your affectionate friend,