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Interview With Jane Odiwe, Author of LYDIA BENNET'S STORY (With Giveaway!) from Diary of an Eccentric Blogspot

Interview With Jane Odiwe, Author of LYDIA BENNET'S STORY (With Giveaway!) From Anna at Diary of an Eccentric

Yesterday I reviewed Lydia Bennet's Story by Jane Odiwe, which fills in some gaps in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and gives readers a glimpse of how things fared between Lydia Bennet and George Wickham. It was an enjoyable read and put the spotlight on a different Bennet sister for a change.

I appreciate that Jane Odiwe was willing to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions, and I want to give a big THANK YOU to Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for arranging the interview.

What inspired you to tell Lydia's story?

Wanting to tell Lydia's story crept up on me very slowly. Like many people I dreamed of writing a novel, but although I had written short pieces over the years, I had not attempted a full-length work. I knew I didn't want to write about Elizabeth and Darcy, I didn't have any interest in them at the time, because I felt that Jane Austen had told their story.

Lydia appealed to me because I saw a challenge in developing a secondary character who is recognised as an anti-heroine. I wanted to take her on a journey, helping her to evolve into someone I hoped my readers would understand better and come to love. Jane Austen wrote Emma with this sort of idea in mind, and I like to think she would approve of my reasons for writing the book. I also wanted to have a go at writing a comic novel, and I thought with Lydia there would be plenty of opportunity for laughs.

I have family in Brighton and have visited the town many times. It was during a trip that I started to wonder how Lydia and George Wickham get together in Brighton. Jane Austen doesn't give us any details of how their relationship starts or how their elopement takes place, and as I walked along the seafront admiring the wonderful Regency architecture, I decided I would like to find out. I could imagine the balls at the Castle Assemblies and the promenades along the Steyne, against the backdrop of fashion, scandal and frivolous living at the Marine Pavilion, home to the Prince Regent.

How did you prepare yourself to get inside Lydia's head and write in her voice?

I've read Pride and Prejudice hundreds of times, which was the ultimate inspiration, and I also loved Julia Sawalha's interpretation of Lydia in the BBC adaptation. The first draft was written as Lydia's diary, starting at the beginning of Pride and Prejudice. I must admit I really enjoyed writing in her voice, being able to say all the outrageous things that you would never dare to say ordinarily.

I did want to show that for all her bravado, underneath she is very vulnerable. Lydia is always painted as a "bad girl" with a despicable character, but I am interested in what makes someone act as they do. Being the youngest, quite spoiled by her mother and ignored by her father, is bound to affect her behaviour. She craves constant attention (and love) as a result and rushes into situations without thinking. I enjoyed showing the difference between the person she shows to the world against the one inside her head. I liked the idea of "seeing" her very different view and responses to events in the plot.

Why did you decide to add to the many Pride and Prejudice sequels?

Pride and Prejudice was the first Austen novel I ever read--I loved it. I started thinking about a novel based on Lydia as far back as 2002. They were not many sequels around in those days and to be honest, I didn't know if I could write a book, let alone a Jane Austen sequel. I started to write it but was not brave enough to do anything with Lydia for a long time.

Who is your favorite Pride and Prejudice character? Who is your favorite Austen heroine?

Impossible question! Of course, I have grown very fond of my naughty Lydia; she really is learning how to be a much nicer person. I am secretly in love with Mr. Bennet, despite his bad parenting. He makes me laugh, and a man who does that is excellent in my opinion. Although having admitted that, I don't think he'd be my choice for a husband. My favourite heroines (I'm sorry, I can't pick one) are Marianne Dashwood, Anne Elliot and Elizabeth Bennet.

How long did it take you to write Lydia Bennet's Story? Do you have a writing routine?

Lydia Bennet's Story was written over four years. There were many, many drafts and re-writes for publishers who said they would take it on and didn't. I think if you've never written a novel length book before, there is only one way to learn--writing, writing and more writing, then editing, re-reading and more editing. I had very good advice from writer friends, and I just kept going.

I try to write every day and usually keep to fairly normal 9-5 working hours, but sometimes if I wake in the middle of the night with an idea or with the solution to a problematic bit in the plot, I just have to get out of bed and get on with it--largely because I know from experience that if I go back to sleep I will have forgotten my ideas by the morning. I am getting a bit faster; my latest book took a year to write.

My long-suffering husband and children admit that they are very jealous of my computer.

Are you working on another book? I'm curious if there will be a sequel to Lydia Bennet's Story. I really want to find out what happened to her after the book ended!

I have recently finished a Sense and Sensibility sequel, Mrs. Brandon's Invitation, which Sourcebooks is publishing next autumn. Marianne and Margaret are the main characters/heroines of this book, although most of the other characters from S&S are to be found in abundance. I loved writing Lucy Steele/Ferrars and Mrs. Jennings' characters. This is a book I've long wanted to write.

A sequel for Lydia is not in the cards at the moment. Although I have been tempted to carry on her story, I have held back. She certainly grows up a lot in my book, but I have a feeling she might not do the sensible thing for her happiness, and I am a little afraid to find out what she is going to do next. With Lydia, I always think I'm going to tell her story when I sit down to my computer, but you might know, she always has her own way and takes over. Being so mischievous, unpredictable and with so much spirit, she is sometimes difficult to govern. I think I prefer to leave her where she is for the moment, looking forward to her future. Still, you never know...

I am writing another Pride and Prejudice sequel, which is really a challenge to myself, but it is early days, so I do not want to give too much away. I am enjoying it enormously! After that I have a synopsis written for a Persuasion novel, and there is a character from history who won't go away. I've promised myself to write her story.

Why do you think Jane Austen is so popular more than a century after she wrote her novels?

There are so many reasons! Most importantly, her characters are timeless. We all know and recognise the people that she wrote about with such skill. Her plots are wonderful; twisting, turning, leaving us in suspense until the last minute, her stories told with humour and wit. Jane's voice is very strong, speaking through her characters to tell us what she thinks about men, society, and women's position, but sweetening her outrage with a bit of romance. I think we all enjoy glimpsing back into the past, becoming absorbed in and inhabiting Jane Austen's worlds, which were created with genius.

Thanks so much, Jane, for providing such entertaining answers to my questions! I wish you much success, and I will definitely check out your novels in the future! Click here to enter the competition.