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Monday, 8 April 2019

Be More Jane blog tour - an interview with author Sophie Andrews

Front cover of Be More Jane by Sophie Andrews

I first met Sophie Andrews at the Jane Austen Festival 2014 Regency Promenade in Bath. We were both taking part in the parade for the first time and were very excited to meet Adrian Lukis aka Mr Wickham from the BBC’s superb 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It was a real pleasure to see that a passion for Jane Austen and her works had reached the next generation.

Joana Starnes, Rachel Knowles and Sophie Andrews at Jane Austen Promenade Bath 2014
Joana Starnes, Rachel Knowles and Sophie Andrews
at the Jane Austen Festival Grand Promenade Bath (2014)
I am delighted to be able to weclome Sophie to my blog today in support of her literary adventure – a book entitled Be More Jane which is, unsurprisingly, all about Jane Austen and the inspiration her writing can be to us today. Be More Jane is a beautifully illustrated little gift book, ideal for Janeites. It is full of Jane Austen’s wisdom and some light-hearted sections drawn from Jane Austen’s novels such as The perfect way to catch a husband! - according to Miss Lydia Bennet.

Giveaway of Be More Jane

Thank you for all the wonderful quotes and comments on my blog. I found it too hard to choose and so asked my daughter Abi to pick. The winner of the copy of Be More Jane is Romancing Romances with a quote from Northanger Abbey:
Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.
An interview with Sophie Andrews

Sophie Andrews © Brian Hubbard
Sophie Andrews © Brian Hubbard
Thank you, Rachel, for welcoming me here today and for starting my blog tour! It has been such an exciting journey, writing Be More Jane, and it feels wonderful, if nerve-wracking, to be finally sharing it with others!

What inspired you to write Be More Jane?

I had been toying with the idea of a book for a little while, but I could never decide exactly what to focus on, or how to go about it, so it remained just as an idea at the back of my mind, for a future date perhaps. But then, out of the blue last summer, I received an email from CICO books, enquiring whether I had ever thought of writing a book! As well as being very surprised and rather flattered, this persuaded me to go for it and gave me the impetus to begin planning! It was talking through my ideas with my publishers at CICO Books that gave me confidence and finally convinced me that perhaps after all, I could have a go at writing my book. 

I really like the line: ‘Some people tell a good story, but it takes time to establish the truth.’ I think there’s a lot of truth in that. In the long run, character beats charisma every time. What is your favourite quote from Be More Jane and why?

Such a hard question! I have included so many favourite Jane Austen quotes in Be More Jane, and there are many more I didn't have room for! One of my favourites would be ‘Where shall we see a better daughter, or a kinder sister, or a truer friend?’ which I use in the chapter Jane on Brothers and Sisters. I have one older sister myself and we have always been close, very much like Jane and Lizzy Bennet. Seeing the many sibling relationships that are included within Austen's novels (some of them unhappy ones), as well as reading about Jane's relationship with her own brothers and sister, makes me appreciate my own sister. In times of trouble, a sister is often your best friend. (And, as I say in my book, I am sure brothers are great too!)

Jane Odiwe’s illustrations are beautiful. I really like the picture of the Cobb in Lyme Regis, just along the coast from where I live in Dorset. Which is your favourite and why?

Aren't they stunning? I was so pleased to be able to recommend Jane for the illustrations, as she is a good friend and I have always loved her artwork. I know she is knowledgeable of both the books and the Regency era and was confident she would create beautiful, historically accurate images with a classic feel that would complement my style of writing - and she did not disappoint. In fact, Jane exceeded my expectations with her bright colours and thoughtful scenes. Choosing just one favourite is impossible! I simply can't, sorry! I am particularly fond of the front cover artwork. Jane informed me she had drawn the image with me in mind - a brunette - and wearing a blue dress!

I feel the drawings fall into two categories - landscapes and character-based scenes - so I can perhaps narrow it down to a favourite from each. Landscapes: I think my favourite has to be the Sunrise at Box Hill. I adore the morning colours and the serenity of the scene. Characters: I think it has to be Lizzy walking to Netherfield Park, her hem 'six inches deep in mud'! This scene really resonates with me - I have muddied my hem many a time! I also love Netherfield in the background, based on Basildon Park. This National Trust house was used as Netherfield in the 2005 film, and it is near to where I live, so I have many happy memories there.
Emma Woodhouse paints a portrait  of Harriet by Jane Odiwe © CICO Books
Emma Woodhouse paints a portrait of Harriet by Jane Odiwe
 from Be More Jane by Sophie Andrews © CICO Books
You mention the only known proposal of marriage that Jane Austen received, from her friends’ brother, Harris Bigg-Wither. What do you think prompted her to originally accept his proposal? And why do you think she changed her mind?

Of course, in Austen's time, the need to marry was paramount. We see this truth reflected often in her novels, a prime example being Mrs Bennet, who is very aware of the need to find husbands for her five daughters. Some would say she is a little too enthusiastic! Jane Austen would of course have understood the importance and the security which an advantageous marriage would bring her and, especially after the death of her father, the need to secure a comfortable future for herself, her mother and her sister. However, she was also a very strong-minded woman who wrote about heroines who do not conform to society. They will marry, only if it is for love, and not because society demands it or their father has arranged it. 

Therefore, I feel that she would also have wished this for herself. She did not want to tie herself to a loveless marriage. This is why I think she first accepted, only later to refuse; I believe the security this marriage could have brought to her family would have played heavily on her mind and initially persuaded her to accept, only later to then mull it over and really think about what she wanted for herself. And that was not to become Mrs Bigg-Wither. It was such a brave decision, but one I do not think she will have regretted. I am glad she turned him down; had she married, I do not think we would have the 6 amazing novels, the unfinished works and all the delights she gave us. She would have been too busy keeping house and becoming a mother, as she would undoubtedly have been expected to produce an heir. 

Lizzy Bennet on her tour of Pemberley by Jane Odiwe   from Be More Jane by Sophie Andrews © CICO Books
Lizzy Bennet on her tour of Pemberley by Jane Odiwe
 from Be More Jane by Sophie Andrews © CICO Books
What is the best piece of advice for you personally that you have gleaned from Jane Austen’s writing?

Again, I have taken so much from Austen in all aspects of my life - well, that's what my book is about! But I think one of the most important pieces of advice is what I touch on in Jane on Self-Belief: ‘Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion.’ I went through many of my younger years hiding my true self and pretending to be someone I wasn't. I even hid my love for Jane Austen from most people for quite a while too! But Austen taught me to be proud of who you are, and an ‘obstinate, headstrong girl’ if necessary - which I certainly can be at times! Now I am not afraid to tell anybody and everybody how much of a Janeite I am. 

Thank you again so much for letting me pop into your blog, and for some great interview questions. And now I really hope you all enjoy my book, Be More Jane!

CICO books are giving away a copy of Be More Jane on every blog in Sophie's blog tour, so be sure to follow the blog tour for more chances to win. 

Be More Jane blog tour poster

About Be More Jane

Are you more Marianne than Elinor, Lydia rather than Lizzy? Be More Jane will teach you to address life with more sense and less prejudice, taking useful lessons from the novels and letters of Jane Austen, one of the world’s best-loved writers. Times may change, but many of our problems remain the same. Sophie Andrews, a young Janeite, knows from personal experience that in times of trouble, or just on matters of friendship, family, and love, answers are to be found in the pages of Miss Austen’s novels.

About Sophie

Sophie Andrews is a founder member of the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society, and organises events such as picnics, balls and house parties for her fellow Austenites. Sophie started her blog, Laughing with Lizzie, in 2012, aged 16, after studying Pride and Prejudice at school. She has been attending Austen-themed events since then, and was featured in the BBC documentary My Friend Jane which focused on the fun and friendship she has found with her fellow Janeites. She lives in Berkshire and has over 100 different editions of Pride and Prejudice on her bookshelves.

Find Sophie on social media:

Laughing with Lizzie Facebook page

Be More Jane: Bring out your inner Austen to meet life’s challenges by Sophie Andrews
Published by CICO Books (£7.99/$9.95)
Illustrations by Jane Odiwe © CICO Books
Buy Be More Jane on /


  1. I think my favorite quote would be "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." only because it is the start of everything. :)

    1. True. It is a wonderful creation of Jane, is it not?

  2. Delightful interview, ladies! I loved your answers, Sophie! Congratulations on this wonderful achievement! I'm so proud for you. Jane's illustrations are lovely!

  3. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.
    This just seems so appropriate for Darcy, Col Brandon, Mr Knightly, Captain Wentworth, et al.
    Congratulations on your book, hopefully the first of many!

  4. I really like this quote: "Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love." And I do think it's very true ��

    1. Congratulations! Yours is the winning comment. Please email me at with your contact details and permission for me to forward them to CICO books so that they can arrange to send you your prize. Best wishes Rachel

  5. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.
    Probably my favorite of all as it is so appropriate for Darcy, Mr. Knightly, Col Brandon, Capt Wentworth, et al.
    Sophie, congratulations on your first book; hoping there will be many more to follow!

  6. The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Northanger Abbey

  7. My favorite quote is: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago.” Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun....

  9. One of my favourites.....I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.

  10. My absolute favourite has been mentioned already. You pierce my soul etc. But my other favourite statement by Jane is this one: "What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance."
    I totally love that one.

  11. Favourite Jane Austen fact, if this can be counted as one...that she wrote to her niece often. I love the idea of her keeping in touch with her niece Fanny, as I do with mine.

  12. Sophie has written a truly lovely book-I loved painting the illustrations for it!