Read on and find out more…
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
Well, the first scene would be when I was 9, in 2005 when my mother showed me the then-new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed it a lot (even if I didn’t fully understand quite all of what the characters said!) I continued to re-watch that film every now and then as I grew up, but I wasn’t a Janeite, just a Darcy fan at that point.
So, now we skip quite a number of years to probably the most important scene, which happened back in the summer of 2011. It was the day I picked up the book, Pride and Prejudice, (or actually, picked up my iPod touch and opened my iBooks app… it is awful that I read it that way, I know!), and started reading, ready for my English course at school, when I was 15. Embarrassingly, I never really ‘read’ up to that point, other than the odd children’s book, but Pride and Prejudice was my first ‘proper’ book that I had read. Whilst holidaying in the beautiful Lake District, I finished it in a week (which is pretty quick for a new reader) as I just couldn’t put it down! It seemed strange to my family to see me engrossed in a book, as I used to be like Emma Woodhouse in regards to books and reading!
Pride and Prejudice was amazing from start to finish, and from that point I was completely hooked! And soon, I became the class expert, reading all the other Jane Austen novels, then adaptations, then books on the life of Jane Austen, information about the Regency period, commentaries, critique, and anything I could get my hands on! There was no going back – I was lost to the world of elegance and eloquence, manners and mannerisms, carriages and courtship!
A few months later, and after considerable ‘persuasion’ by a few Janeite friends I had started talking to online through Goodreads, I began my blog, Laughing with Lizzie!
As to embarrassing early efforts there are plenty of those to be found in the early posts on my blog, as I turned some of my school homework assignments into blog posts, and I cringe when I read them back, being now 4 years older than I was when I wrote them! If you want to read them, you better do so quickly as I am slowly going through and ‘improving’ the earliest posts!
So, those few scenes really explain my origins, and slowly over the years, things have just been building and taking off with my blog, and I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think of all the things I have done and all the wonderful books I have reviewed, all thanks to my blog!
All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
A secret identity? Well, so long as you won’t tell anyone, I am Laughing With Lizzie by day, and Sophie the Dog Whisperer by night. I have always loved animals, and I have had pets since I can remember. However, I really wanted a dog. After a lot of parent ‘persuasion’, when I was 13, I got my first dog, Izzi, a Sprocker (a cross between a Springer and a cocker) spaniel. After some work experience I did with Guide Dogs for the Blind, we ended up with another dog, as I met a lovely breed of a dog there, Working Golden Retrievers. Our golden is called Lotte. I have just always seemed to have a way with animals, particularly dogs, and I was always told ‘you should be a vet’.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
Partners in crime… Well, I run my blog and my facebook page on my own, so I don’t have an official partner really. But I think I have to mention the source of all Jane Austen knowledge, Mrs Hazel Mills. She is my ‘go-to’ for any facts I want to check, or information I want to know. She knows it all, believe me! Another superpower she has is definitely a talent for finding bargains! She has an amazing bookshelf, filled to the brim with different editions of Jane Austen’s novels. It is truly a site to behold! She seems to be able to find the most interesting editions, and many of the rare ones, and usually for a very good price! She is a bad influence though, once I had seen her collection, I had to start my own. I think I am about to about 40 editions of Pride and Prejudice now, but I have a long way to go to match the 200 and something editions Hazel owns! (And that is 200 of Pride and Prejudice alone, she has loads of the other 5 novels as well!)
Where do you get your superpowers from?
I don’t have any superpowers! My ability to write about Jane Austen and perhaps review books linked to Jane Austen in such detail (or so I have been told that my reviews are detailed) is just because of my passion for Jane Austen, and so my ‘superpower’, if you really want to call it that, is all thanks to Jane Austen herself, and her amazing writing!
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
My lair is my bedroom, no doubt about it. It is where I read all my books and write most of my reviews or blog posts. It is my little Austen paradise – or shrine! Have you seen the film, Austenland? If you have, think of her bedroom, as mine looks quite similar! Bookshelves over flowing with Jane Austen related books, my walls covered with anything Austen I could find (including a lovely drawing of Lyme Park, Pemberley 1995, done by my very talented friend for my 18th), and items covering my floor where I have run out of room for all things I have managed to collect, most notable at the moment would be the boxes containing my beautiful Franklin Mint figures I have been collecting recently. It really is just Jane heaven in there!
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
Jane Austen really is at the centre of my life, and she is never far from me, whether it be emails from authors or messages on my facebook page on my phone. So, I really don’t need to keep myself in shape, for I have so far never been out of ‘Austen-shape’! Keeping up with the facebook page as well as other pages to keep on top of any Austen-related news, or preparing blog posts for various tours I may be part of, or reading books I have been asked to review, I am kept rather busy, and Jane Austen is never far from my mind! I am always in fine form where that is concerned! How do I use it only for good? How could anyone use Jane Austen for anything but good reasons? When I started this, it was all for my own pleasure and because I enjoyed doing it, but while this is still true, now I like to continue to regularly update my facebook page and keep the blog posts and reviews going is because of my amazing followers. I do it for them! One advantage of my blog is that I am a young, thoroughly English girl living in the heart of Jane Austen’s own England, so I am able to visit all the places I know many of my followers (in such a wide variety of countries) can only dream of visiting. I have been told many times that people ‘live vicariously’ through me, and so I want to keep this going, so they can keep experiencing Jane Austen Country through the eyes of a 19 year old young lady!
Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
Indeed I do have a superhero costume and I wish I could wear it more often. It is my proper regency outfit that I put together last year, of course! I put it together for the Jane Austen Festival in Bath (read about my day here – ) I love to wear it as it is very pretty (well, I think it is anyway!) and it is very comfortable. I am hoping to be having a new costume made soon, in case my superhero services are needed and I am called to a more formal event, such as a ball or a soiree! A superhero must be prepared for all situations!
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your book reviewing/blogging?
It is definitely hurting people’s feeling, for example, if I read a book I was asked to review which I really didn’t enjoy and then had to work out how to write a review which won’t be too hurtful. I would do anything rather than upset someone. When I read some book reviews, on Amazon for example, it makes me mad seeing the horrible things some people will write. I don’t understand it. Do they not realise that the author will very likely read the review, and will be very hurt by the words? I know from talking to authors that even if they have twenty 5* reviews and just one cutting 1* review, it will be that one which stays with them. On the whole, I have been very lucky with the books I have reviewed (I am quite easy to please) but if there is something I didn’t enjoy or believe I do need to comment on in my review (as I do have to be fair in reviews, and give my honest opinion), I will approach it carefully, and usually try to sandwich it between two compliments. I also will never say ‘I didn’t enjoy this book so you won’t either’ as this is never true. People’s tastes are very different, and so a story that might not be to my tastes, someone else may well absolutely love. I always take that into consideration, and while I am fair, I do everything I can to make sure I don’t hurt someone, and I am (I hope) never unjustly negative, and never mean or rude in my reviews.
What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
Well, my most recent project, or adventure, was a very exciting one! I was the guest of honour at the Jane Austen Society of Cambridge’s lunch in honour of Jane Austen’s birthday! I performed a piano recital of music from various Jane Austen adaptations. It was a really lovely day and I really enjoyed myself! The supervillian which threatened to stop me would have to be nerves! I had never done anything like it before, and hardly ever performed in public, so the thought of doing a whole recital to an audience of about 25 really did rather frighten me! But, I was asked by the afore mentioned sort of ‘partner in crime’ Hazel Mills, who runs the society in Cambridge, and I didn’t want to let her down. To overcome my nerves, I just practiced, practiced, practiced! I am so glad I did for it was a fantastic day! Actually, it was filmed as many followers wished they could have been there, so if you would like to see it yourself, it is on youtube here –
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
I have learnt to have more confidence in my own abilities; I never imaged I would perform a piano recital at a society lunch when I started my blog 3 years ago! But I did!
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
The whole day was memorable! But I think the most amazing moment was after I had just finished the recital (and could relax!) and I received such wonderful feedback and that everyone seemed to enjoy it! It was also very memorable to meet all the lovely members of the society who gave me a very warm welcome to their group.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I would love to do it again! The buzz I felt from the whole experience was amazing and if in doing that I can bring enjoyment to people then I would happily do it again! Well, cosmetically, I would change the programme a little if I did it again, but more importantly, I would also try to be less nervous about the whole experience, as I have proved to myself that I can actually do it! What I wouldn’t change? Doing the recital all dressed up, as I really enjoy that part of it!
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
Well, this is one of my favourite quotes; ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ (Oscar Wilde), and after years and years of hiding who I really was whilst at school, when I began my blog and starting to really find my Jane Austen self, which really seemed to be who I was (an old fashioned romantic), I decided to always try, from now on, not to hide who I was anymore. I had had enough of hiding. (Although, I say this, but one of my other favourite quotes would be; “Be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. In that case, you should always be a unicorn. (Alice in Wonderland), and if I could be unicorn, I would definitely be a unicorn!)
I think another valued piece of advice I have been given, is to not be afraid of asking, to try, and to go for it! If I hadn’t been persuaded to start my blog and to ‘have a go’ then I dread to think where I would be now and how much I would have missed out on! Also, there are many things that I wouldn’t have done and achieved if I hadn’t ‘asked’.
Tell us about your blog and why we need to drop everything and read it now.
If you need a good laugh, or want to read something new or interesting, or even want to decide on a book to read next then you will find all that at my blog! I have reviewed many books now, had a lot of fun interviews with various people and I have some fun (and sometimes controversial!) posts! There is also a huge variety and so I am convinced that all Jane Austen fans will find something on there to interest them! Also, a good way to keep up with any new posts and giveaways (I have a lot of giveaways!) is to follow my facebook page. You can also see what Austen adventures I get up to on a daily basis!
Do come along and I am sure you will all be ‘Laughing With Lizzie’!
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
Well, I am actually just about to start a voluntary position at the lovely National Trust property Basildon park, which you will know better as Netherfield Park in the 2005 film. I am looking forward to it. I will be a room guide and sit in a room and chat to visitors as they walk through. I am also going to be a piano player from time to time and fill the house with beautiful (in theory!) music for the visitors! I am also aiming to suggest sometime soon that they allow me to come in all dressed in my regency costume some days as, from my experience in Bath during the Festival, the public would love it, not to mention it gives me more opportunities to showcase my superhero costume!
I am also starting to work with the Jane Austen Online Gift Shop quite a bit, with reviewing some of their products and giving my opinion on products they are thinking of stocking. Again, this wouldn’t have happened had I not had a blog to review products on!
Also, very excitingly, I have just launched myself into the world of audiobook narration! My first book is now for sale, Snow Storms and Kissing Games (available on Amazon, iTunes and Audible)and I am working on my next one. It has been a real challenge and learning curve, but I have (mostly!) enjoyed the experience; coming up with all the character voices has been interesting, and building my own little make-shift recording studio in my bedroom was fun!
You can find Sophie at: