Today I am going to post an interview I recently took part in. The lovely Michaela of Stepping Toward The Son contacted me to ask me if I would be willing to take part in an interview for her blog. Of course I was happy to and I would just like to say thank you very much to Michaela very for asking me. I feel very honoured to be asked and the questions were a lot of fun to answer - it actually got me thinking about what I personally do really love about Jane Austen, given that I had to put it down in words (and I promise I do love all of Jane Austen’s work and not just one of them in particular, which it may appear to you when you read this interview!)
1. When did you encounter your first book by Jane Austen?
My first book by Jane Austen... well I think to explain that I need to talk about my first ever experience with anything Austen. A few years ago when I was 9 (ok, so maybe it was more than a few years, nearly 9, in fact; wow) I saw the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen but I was too young to really understand the language so it didn’t exactly make an impression on me... I watched that film quite a few more times and as I grew up I began to love it – as I could understand it! But I still wasn’t hooked on Austen (I think I was more just hooked on Mr. Darcy!) However, in 2011-2012 I was going to study the novel Pride and Prejudice for my English lessons at school, so the summer of 2011 I had to read it. Ok, so up to this point I really wasn’t a reader and had never read another ‘proper’ book before! (I know I know it’s appalling!) However even though I wasn’t a reader and given that I enjoyed the film I was rather looking forward to reading it! Over the summer when I went on holiday I read it in a week (which is pretty quick for a new reader!) I could not put it down once I had started! My mother found it strange to see me reading as until then I had been like Emma Woodhouse in regards to books and reading... I re-read it straight away afterwards and I really enjoyed studying it at school. As Pride and Prejudice was my first, it will always remain my favourite and hold a special place in my heart, as will the 2005 film as that was my way into the world of Austen (and I cannot imagine my life without her!)
2. What was your impression after reading your first book by Jane Austen?
I was astounded by the humour and sarcasm and the way the narration describes certain scenes which I remembered from the film. I knew Jane Austen was funny because of the films I had seen but you really don’t get to appreciate her wit first hand unless you read the books; something seems to get lost in translation when it is gets made into a film, the true Austen humour must be experienced straight from the authoress herself. It then struck me that the film had to leave out and condense a number of scenes, and I loved reading all these scenes in full or discovered new scenes which I didn’t know existed! It also surprised me how accurate the 1995 mini-series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth really is (with the exception of adding a few scenes where Colin Firth is wearing... minimal (or wet) clothing, but who’s complaining?) and I immediately wanted to re-watch the mini-series again (which I did.) I think my main reaction after reading the story was to immediately seek out and read her other novels! So, I read Sense and Sensibility, then Emma, followed by Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and finally Mansfield Park. I loved them all I was completely addicted, fascinated and captivated by Jane Austen and the regency world; I wanted to learn more and more about her and her works as well as find other authors writing similar regency romances for me to read! I also wanted to discuss the books with other people however no-one else in my class at school had any interest in this subject (very few even read Pride and Prejudice for the English classes so I had no one at school to discuss it with!) I eventually found Goodreads, a wonderful website which I describe as a literary version of Facebook and I am part of many groups (two Jane Austen ones, one of which I now run.) I also wanted to get my hands on as many of the film and TV adaptations as possible (and a few months ago I finally completed my collection – that was a very proud moment!)
3. What are some of your hobbies?
My hobbies... Well, many of the hobbies are very ‘Jane Austen heroiney’ activities. But I didn’t start all these after becoming obsessed with Jane Austen, honestly! My favourite hobby I think would be playing the piano. It is my way of relaxing after coming home after a stressful, busy day at school! I love to play the music of composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Phamie Gow and Helen Jane Long but I also enjoy playing (since watching more and more Austen films) the soundtracks from the films. My favourite music to play is from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film (‘Dawn’ and ‘The Secret Life of Daydreams’ in particular) but the theme to the 1995 Pride and Prejudice and some songs from Sense and Sensibility and Emma are also a lot of fun! I also enjoy cross stitch (ok, so I am now cross stitching Jane Austen quotes but I started cross stitch before my addiction took hold, I did, I did!) and I used to do knitting as well, but I prefer cross stitch these days. I take pleasure in baking as well – that is baking sweet things, not cooking savoury things! Obviously since beginning my blog about a year and a half ago I have been blogging, and I try my hand out at drawing but... well let’s just say the National Art Gallery won’t be knocking on my door any time soon! Oh, well I suppose I should also say reading but I don’t think that should be classed as a hobby – I think it should be a compulsory daily activity!
4. Which is your favourite of Austen's books?
I think you may have already guessed this by now... but my favourite is *drum roll* Pride and Prejudice! As I said, it will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first Austen (and my first... book...) but, aside from it being my first, Pride and Prejudice is just, to me, perfect in every way. I won’t discuss my every reason but my main two reasons I think would be... One, it has an ideal balance of characters to love and characters to hate as well as having very relatable characters; everyone knows a flirt like Lydia, a chatterbox like Mrs Bennet, a buffoon like Mr Collins or an overbearing interferer like Lady Catherine! And then there is the hero and heroine; Darcy and Lizzy are two of the most famous character in all literature! Their classic hate growing to love relationship is a great story to read and I think most people come away from reading Pride and Prejudice with a strong literary crush on Darcy – I certainly did! Many of my favourite conversations were between them. And two, Pride and Prejudice contains some of my favourite (and I personally think her best) humorous comments, witty conversations and sarcastic remarks. Mr Bennet made me smile and there are many moments when I laugh out loud at what Austen writes (of which, again, I won’t (and no doubt have no need to) list now!) The entire feel and combination of everything makes Pride and Prejudice, to me, so enjoyable to read (as well as to watch) and in a word, perfection.
5. If you had to choose, who would you say is your favourite of Austen's characters and why?
(Ok, I am really starting to sound completely bias towards Pride and Prejudice but I would be lying if I didn’t say this (I mean, have you seen my blog?!)) Elizabeth Bennet. Do I really need to explain why? She is such a wonderful character; she is witty and fun, likes to defy society and its rules and she is a great tease! Like the best characters, she is not, by any means, perfect; she may think she is a good judge of character but she can be too quick to judge (as Darcy finds out!) and she is also proud and can become easily prejudiced! I love her connection with her sister Jane as well as with her father, and not to mention how her relationship with Darcy alters. Her character development through the story is a great development to read about as, to me, it seems very realistic and entirely plausible given what she experiences and has to learn through the story.
6. What do you love most about Jane Austen's books?
I have already mentioned the humour, wit and sarcasm as well as the wonderful and realistic characters but as well as that I really enjoy the complex story lines of Austen’s novels. When I first learned the story of Pride and Prejudice I was taken in by Wickham and found Darcy rather proud and disagreeable and I never guessed the real relationship between those two! Emma as well – I was always wary of Frank Churchill but never did I imagine him to have been secretly engaged to Jane for the entire novel! Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility as well, and so the list goes on and on... Her stories are so well written that it is hard to make all the connections between characters and I much prefer stories when you don’t know what is going to happen! I also enjoy the light-hearted nature of Austen’s stories; a happy ending is guaranteed and this leaves you feeling much happier than those stories which have a very unsatisfactory ending! The romance in her stories is also so pure and innocent, not like the gothic romances that were becoming increasingly popular thanks to the novels of the Bronte sisters. I much prefer the clever conversations and cheerful atmosphere portrayed in Austen stories to hearing constantly about the pain and torment the heroines are experiencing which is being, coincidently and conveniently, reflected by the weather all the time! (Yes, I am not a Bronte fan.)
7. If you could be the heroine in one of Austen's stories, who would you choose to be?
I have often thought about this question as well as which heroine’s story I would not like to experience. I am going to start with those I would not want to experience; I would find Anne Elliot’s story hard to live through... I admire her patience! I also would find Fanny’s life hard; what she suffers and the hands of her supposed relations is horrible! I wouldn’t mind being care-free, mistress of the house like Emma – I think I would rather enjoy the match making, however badly it goes! But, what a surprise, I would mostly like to be Lizzy...( Is this getting boring? I know how much of a typical Janeite I am!) I would love to be Lizzy because, as I have already said, I love her journey through the novel! I also love the sound of Meryton and her neighbourhood where she lives. Ok, yes there are some relations I would hate to have to experience but there are many others I would love to meet (Jane, Colonel Fitzwilliam, the Gardiners, Georgiana Darcy, the list goes on!) What would the best thing be about being Elizabeth Bennet? I get to become Mrs Darcy of course! And to live at Pemberley, located in the gorgeous and beautiful Peak District.... The love which you can see Darcy has for Elizabeth would be something which I would love to experience (and which I do hope I will experience from my own husband, whoever he may be, not just from my literary husband!)
8. What is your favourite genre of literature?
What would you say if I said psychological horror or paranormal fiction, that you don’t believe me? Yes, yes ok maybe that is not true (Am I really that obvious in my preferences?) Astonishingly, my favourite genre of literature is historical romance and in particular regency romance – shocking isn’t it. I wanted to read more books by authors similar to Jane Austen and it is definitely my favourite genre – I enjoy the regency era in particular but have read everything from medieval romances to romances set during the war and even the industrial revolution. I love to read a romance because I am such a hopeless romantic but I think I prefer to read ones set in a historical era because it is a nice way to escape from this modern world in which we live in today – I love the manners, behaviour and the world of regency England. It is also interesting to read about historical eras to learn more about the past cultures and social customs. Reading a contemporary romance has no appeal to me – I know what life is like today – I live in it – and I find that what is considered and passes for romance today is... mostly not romantic at all; the regency world is much more appealing to me which I why I like to read books set in this genre, it is my escape.
9. Do you aspire to be like any of Jane Austen's characters?
I aspire to be like many characters from Austen’s stories, well certain aspects of her characters; all her characters have their flaws (and anyway, being perfect I think would be... boring!) Let’s think about the obvious... well, Elizabeth Bennet for her the sharp wit, Emma Woodhouse for her care free attitude, Elinor Dashwood for her self-control and sense and Anne Elliot for her patience. Other than heroines, I also admire other characters such as Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Weston for their kindness and Jane Bennet and Eleanor Tilney for their sweet natures. I also admire both Jane Bennet and Mr Bingley for their ability to see the best in people and not to judge people too quickly. As well as aspiring to be like some of her characters, I also seek to avoid being like some other of her characters, at all costs! I hope to not end up as a chattering Miss Bates or Mrs Bennet or act as silly as Lydia Bennet or be as deceiving and false as Caroline Bingley, Isabella Thorpe or Mrs Elton! (This list could continue and go on and on for a long time which just shows how diverse a range of characters Austen has written into her 6 wonderful stories!)
10. If you had to compare yourself to one of Austen's female characters, who do you think you are most like?
I am sure you have done the ‘Which Jane Austen heroine am I?’ quiz, (and probably the one saying who your hero is as well!) I have, and, happily, I got (I’ll give you three guesses)... Elizabeth Bennet. I have done a lot of those quizzes and every time I get the same answer (and I always get the same hero too, and yes, it is Darcy, and no, I don’t rig my answers to get the answer I wish for (well, not much anyway!))
I am like Lizzy in many respects – I do have a rather teasing nature (but nothing like her sharp wit) and I also have her wish to go against the grain of society and not to follow the rules and conventions you are expected to follow. As well as Lizzy, I am also very much like Marianne Dashwood; I am, just like Marianne, a complete and utter hopeless romantic and my romantic sensibilities can get the better of me... If I was to be swept of my feet after spraining my ankle (which I do do frequently, I am so accident prone...) by a handsome man on a white horse I would fall for this man without really finding out much about him first (and believe me, I have gone for many long walks in the rain in the hope of being rescued... as yet I have had no luck, but I will keep trying! Someday...) The final strong characteristic I share with a character would be the naivety of Catherine Morland; I am not so naive as to not realise I am naive, but I am still quite inexperienced and clueless about some things and also I am very much like Catherine in being a very easy target for teasing! I can be wound up, mocked and laughed at far too easily (which I discovered to my cost...) Of course, I much prefer to think of myself as a Lizzy rather than a Marianne or Catherine!
Once again, go over and check out Michaela lovely blog Stepping Toward The Son
Your affectionate friend,