A few years ago, pre-pandemic, my husband, Angus and I, made a day’s trip to Hampshire to visit Jane Austen’s House, something I had wanted to do for years being a great lover of her novels. It didn’t disappoint. It still stands out in my memory as one of the best days ever.
Recently, I took a virtual tour of Jane’s house in Chawton. This was a much easier prospect in that it didn’t mean a long car journey and, as we now have a dog, it would mean finding a convenient dog-sitter too, so much more complicated. I can also say that I learnt a lot more on the virtual tour too. The two ladies who took it, were a fount of knowledge about Jane and her family and it was an hour well spent.
During the tour, they mentioned the influences on Jane’s writing. Both Fanny Burney and Mrs Gaskell were very popular novelists at that time and Jane is known to have read and enjoyed their books and been influenced by them. This led me to thinking about an article I read recently about women writers, popular in their day, but now largely fallen into obscurity.
There was the prolific Scottish writer, Annie Shepherd Swan (1859 -1943), who was made a CBE in 1930, for her services to literature. Then, Zora Neale Hurston, a black American writer (1891-1960), who influenced poet, Maya Angelou, and novelists, Tony Morrison and Alice Walker. Or Irish writer, Molly Keane (1904-1996), who was shortlisted for the 1981 Booker Prize for her unpublished manuscript ‘Good Behaviour’ – I’m not sure if it still remains unpublished! This brings me back to novelist, Elizabeth Jenkins (1905-2010) who was awarded an OBE in 1981 for her novel, ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. She was also instrumental in restoring Jane Austen’s house in Chawton and in founding the Jane Austen society. Perhaps Jane owes as much if not more to her than Fanny Burney and Mrs Gaskell, at least for keeping Jane’s own influence and popularity alive.
This got me to thinking of why I write. At one time, as a bit of a loner as a child and bullied at school I always told myself that one day I would be famous and then those who had rejected me would be sorry. Now, as I approach my senior years, I’m not so sure I want to court fame. One writer who is fairly well-known, told me that she spends a lot of time away from home speaking at various literary festivals. That sounds like hard work to me. As I get older I realise that I want a quiet life. No, I don’t expect my two books, Alpha Male or Waireka, to make me famous or be that popular, or my many articles. What I do hope in the case of Alpha Male, (available on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and select local bookshops), is by explaining what an Alpha Course is through the story, that I might hope to lead someone to explore the Christian faith by reading it and perhaps commit to following it.
My second book, Waireka, is more of a retelling of the story of my ancestor, through the eyes of my character, Eliza, who travels from Scotland in the nineteenth century as an early pioneer to New Zealand. I hope that the Christian faith of Eliza shines through the tough challenges and trials of her life.
Both these books are available through me if you visit my website at http://www.journojohnson.com
I hope by both of these books and my various articles and contributions, to challenge and influence my readers. Maybe one of those I influence may even be the next Jane Austen. Who knows?