Monday, 20 May 2019

Dear Jane by Allie Cresswell - Author Interview and US Giveaway

Book cover: Dear Jane by Allie Cresswell I'm welcoming author Allie Cresswell to the blog for the first time. Allie has written 3 books based in the world of Jane Austen's Emma. These books focus on the ladies from the Bates family. The first, Mrs Bates of Highbury is about Mrs Bates when she was younger, The Other Miss Bates is about Jane Fairfax's mother, and Dear Jane is about Jane Fairfax herself.

Book Description

The final installment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.

Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.

Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.

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Allie has kindly joined us for an author interview, which is fantastic as I get to ask her lots of nosey questions. She's also brought a US giveaway for a copy of Dear Jane. Read on for details!

Author Interview with Allie Cresswell

  1. A quick search of your name on Amazon or Goodreads brings up quite a few titles. What was your path to becoming a published author?

    The path was a long one! I wrote stories at school, which I enjoyed doing and which my teachers told me were good. There is nothing like a little encouragement and so I began to write in my own time, for my own pleasure. I was (and am) also an avid reader. Immersing oneself in books of all styles is hugely beneficial and made me begin to think of what made good books good; the role of language, character, setting and theme.

    When I was in my early thirties, with two small children to care for, two jobs and a demanding husband, I turned to writing as something that was mine, an intellectual pursuit and an emotional outlet. I also found a story which I thought was important, which needed telling. It took me ten years to complete that book but by then writing had become such an essential part of who I was that I couldn’t stop.
  2. What is your favourite of Austen’s works, and which are your favourite characters?

    Emma is my favourite. I studied it as school and had many a lively debate with my teacher and my fellow students because I couldn’t quite forgive Emma Woodhouse. You’ll see in Dear Jane that my rendering of her character is less than sympathetic!

    I have always been intrigued by Jane Fairfax (hence this book) and Miss Bates makes me laugh. In other Austen works, I feel very drawn to Anne Elliot who, like me, found again a love she thought she had lost.
  3. So many of the Austen-inspired stories out there are based on Pride & Prejudice. What led to you writing books based on Emma?

    Jane Fairfax comes across in Emma as a thoroughly sensible, level-headed girl and yet she enters into a secret engagement with a man who, to say the least of it, is pretty unreliable. I couldn’t understand why and so I set out to investigate their childhoods and their situations in the Campbell and Churchill households to see if I could get to the bottom of it. I think I’ve succeeded but in the end it’s the readers’ opinions which count.
  4. Have you read any JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) yourself? If so, would you like to mention any stories or authors that you have particularly enjoyed?

    I read some of Joan Aitken’s spin-offs many years ago. She has written a book about Jane Fairfax too but I haven’t read that one. I haven’t read any other JAFF except A Contrary Wind by Lona Manning, which is an alternative Mansfield Park. It’s very good.
  5. Your three Austen-inspired stories are all based in Emma’s world – Mrs Bates of Highbury, The Other Miss Bates and Dear Jane yet the focus is on the Bates family rather than the Woodhouses. What drew your notice toward the Bates ladies?

    My intention all along was to explore Jane Fairfax’s character and history, and to do that I needed to understand her family. Her mother gets barely a mention in Emma, so that was a story begging to be told. In Emma, Mrs Bates utters one sentence, she is elderly, ‘past everything but tea and quadrille’, and yet I get the strong impression that she has a lively, enquiring mind. I wondered what she had been like as a younger woman. Last of all, Miss Bates is such a gift, her endless diatribe of inconsequential details is funny but also useful, studded as it is with nuggets of important clues.
  6. Austen described Emma as a “heroine whom no one but myself will much like”. How do you feel about Emma?

    Just as Miss Austen expected! I don’t like her much and can’t forgive her at the end. I foresee a whole new world of meddling for the mistress of Donwell! On the other hand I feel a little sorry for her, especially now I have fleshed out Jane Fairfax’s character. What a narrow, insular life Emma led. Her father’s disposition meant that she never travelled, even to Box Hill which is in her own county. We do not hear that she ever visits her sister in London. In comparison to Jane she has led a really sheltered existence, confined to Highbury, given indifferent teaching by Miss Taylor and exposed to no particularly admirable people whom she could use as role models. How could she have been any different?
  7. Dear Jane is the final book in the Highbury trilogy. Do you see yourself writing any more books based on Emma?

    There is certainly scope for more. Who was Mrs Goddard and how did she get enough money to start a school? What is Miss Taylor’s story and why did she become a governess? The Coles are in trade, but what kind of trade? How have they elevated themselves to comparative gentility?

    But on the whole I feel I have completed the task I set myself, and I would not want to be limited by writing only one genre. My other books vary in genre and I wish to keep that flexibility.
  8. Are there other characters in Austen’s works that you think might be interesting to write about?

    Of course. The story of Colonel Brandon’s first love. The backstory of Persuasion, relating the courtship of Wentworth and Anne the first time round. The story of the three girls who became Mrs Price, Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris. Maybe I’ll come back to them one day but for now I think I’m done.
  9. What are you currently working on?

    I promised my sister I would write a sequel to The Hoarder’s Widow and so I have made a tentative start on that. The Hoarder’s Widow is a book about a woman who only really begins her life in her mid-forties, when her husband dies. She meets a number of other widowed women who all have stories to tell. This one will be called The Widow’s Mite and will focus on a woman whose late husband was wealthy and who lives in a large house, but who lives in utter poverty. It’s a story with poignant modern day resonance. So many people do struggle, these days in the UK, relying on food banks, choosing between eating and heating in the winter time. Even children of parents who both work are being sent to school hungry. Charity shops are many people’s go-to stores for clothing. And yet Britain is a wealthy country and an altruistic one. We have an annual charitable appeal night on TV which regularly raises as much as £70 million. Go figure! It’s a conundrum I feel I’d like to explore.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Allie!

    You are very welcome!
About the Author

Author Allie Cresswell
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B&B and a group of boutique
holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and
lives in Cumbria, NW England. You can contact her via her website at or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Buy Links

All three books in the Highbury Trilogy are available to buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon CA / Add to your Goodreads shelf.

Allie Cresswell books - The Highbury Trilogy

Giveaway Time!

Book cover: Dear Jane by Allie Cresswell
Allie Cresswell is giving away a print copy of Dear Jane to a US reader. To enter, use the rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much to Allie Cresswell for visiting me here at Babblings of a Bookworm today. Thanks also to Serena at Poetic Book Tours for arranging this blog stop.

Blog Tour Schedule:
May 1: Celtic Lady’s Reviews (Spotlight/Excerpt)
May 6: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)
May 7: My Jane Austen Book Club (Spotlight/Excerpt)
May 9: So Little Time (Guest Post)
May 14: More Agreeably Engaged (Excerpt)
May 15: Austenesque Reviews (Review)
May 20: Babblings of a Bookworm (Interview)
May 28: A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
May 30: A Convent Garden: Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (Guest Post)
May 31: True Book Addict (Review)
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  1. Thanks so much for the interview questions for Allie. I loved learning about her path toward becoming an author. Thanks for being on the blog tour. Good luck to all the entrants

    1. Thanks so much Serena, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to pose Allie these questions.

  2. Fascinating interview! I really appreciate that Creswell loves the book Emma without liking the character Emma. While I'm rather fond of Emma myself, I can certainly understand why others might not be! I can also see how Creswell's perspective allowed her to develop characters like Jane Fairfax -- characters who must remain in the background when Emma is front and center. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing, Ms. Creswell, and thanks, Ceri, for the post!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Christina! Personally I'm very fond of Emma. Although she is by no means perfect I think she's a product of her environment and I always felt so sorry for her because her life is so narrow and constrained.

  3. So neat getting the background on Allie Cresswell and her books. I raise my hand with her in being more intrigued by Jane Fairfax and finding Miss Bates a fun character. I look forward to reading the trilogy.

    1. Jane Fairfax is such an enigma; I find her intriguing too.

  4. I just finished the second book in this series and I cannot say enough good things about it. Of course I honor Ms. Cresswell's desire to keep her published works flexible in genre, so I will rejoice that she has given us this amazing gift. Tjis is one of the best series I have read. Thank you for this interview, it was lovely to hear about Allie Cresswell's background and the beginnings of her decision to write this series. Thanks also for the generous giveaway. And best of luck in her future writing career wherever that takes her.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Michelle. I haven't read any of Allie Cresswell's books yet, it's good to hear such positive feedback about them.