I’m delighted to welcome a guest post from Zoe Wheddon the author of Jane Austen’s Best Friend, to tell us about her book. Zoe shares the inspiration behind the story of Martha, Jane Austen’s Best Friend and why she decided to research and write about her.
Thanks for joining me Zoe, so tell us more about the inspiration behind your fascinating book, Jane Austen’s Best Friend.
Firstly, thank you so so much for inviting me onto your blog.
I have always loved a project! I remember that as a 7-year-old, I announced to my family that I was producing one on ‘Pirates’ – I wrote poems and stories and I even made a little pirate ship out of tin foil. My Dad took me to the local Art shop and bought me the largest sheet of neon orange paper I had ever seen up to that point, to mount all the work on. Another year, I organised my own bookcase like a little library, I made my own catalogue complete with numbered codes to go on the spine of each book. I was the only one to ‘loan a book’ from my library – but I still had a way for signing them in and out!
So, it is no surprise that when the summer holidays of 2017 rolled around, I was already on the look out for that year’s project. My local Borough Council were running a ‘Sitting with Jane’ Book Bench Trail in honour of the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death. There was an app where you could log your visit to each ‘book bench’ that had been designed by a local artist and placed at various locations throughout the local area once attended or visited by Jane. I coaxed my daughter into coming along with me and we ventured out in all weathers, visiting each bench, and taking our photo. We started to rank the benches in accordance with our preference and taste. We wished that we could be a bidder in the auction that was to follow at the end of the season, raising money for local cancer charities – some of them were so beautiful.
Each place we went we learnt a little more about Jane Austen. As a fan of my local hometown’s history, I became even more intrigued and started to research one of the House’s. This in turn lead to me writing a book about a Mayor of Basingstoke who had spearheaded a local campaign (alongside the mere 12,000 inhabitants of the time) to purchase one of the estate’s parks as a Memorial Park to honour those who had given their lives for others during WW1.
But this project also sparked an interest in Jane Austen the woman – I began to read everything I could about her – her letters, all her novels and about 7 biographies. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about this genius, our beloved authoress who had literally walked where I walked. I cried every time she died and my family teased me that I really should know that every biography was going to end the same way.
It was then that I was struck by a friendship, by a woman who seemed to flash through the pages and wave at me and then disappear. I began to think that if Jane Austen had lived with a man for nearly 20 years and been close friends with him for nearly 30 that we would know lots about him. Yet, here was this woman, Martha Lloyd and we knew so very little about her. It also became clear that early biographers of Jane Austen, those with the most access to family records, had all been men. Where was the female narrative? What did they know about Jane that other male family members did not? And there it was – a question – a project – something I had to find out more about – something I could not ignore. Who was Martha Lloyd and why had so little been explored about her?
At the same time, I was writing my blog, reviewing books and enjoying having a creative space to share my views. A reader, Catherine Curzon approached me and wanted to ‘pay it forward’ – her words. She had already made me feel amazing, she a published writer, praising my ‘voice’ and encouraging me that she liked the way that I wrote. She put me in touch with a publisher – Pen and Sword who went on to offer me a contract to write the story of Martha Lloyd. It was and is a dream come true.
Jane Austen herself was first published by a publisher of military history as Pen and Sword are! What a wonderful dream. I feel so blessed and I am indebted to the people who have helped me along the way. What I have learnt is that we must believe in our creative urges and responses, we must follow that urge, that idea, that itch- we must scratch it. It is the way of joy and the way of feeling truly alive. We have discovered recently through our shared experience of life in lockdown and the presence of the pandemic, that we are all truly connected and we all need each other. I have a huge desire to support and help anyone who wants to follow their dreams, I have always done that as a teacher, but now I see I can help others too, outside the classroom. I hope that my book, which celebrates creativity and friendship will be an encouraging friend to every reader and that my story encourages others to keep going, to pick up their pen…and talk.
Thank you so much Zoe for joining us today. If you’d like to find out more about Zoe’s book, Jane Austen’s Best Friend; The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd, keep scrolling. I’ve included the book cover notes below, as well as suggestions on where you can order your copy.
Book Cover Notes
All fans of Jane Austen everywhere believe themselves to be best friends with the beloved author and this book shines a light on what it meant to be exactly that. Jane Austen’s Best Friend; The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd offers a unique insight into Jane’s private inner circle. Through this heart-warming examination of an important and often overlooked person in Jane’s world, we uncover the life changing force of their friendship. Each chapter details the fascinating facts and friendship forming qualities that tied Jane and Martha together. Within these pages we will relive their shared interests, the hits and misses of their romantic love lives, their passion for shopping and fashion, their family histories, their lucky breaks and their girly chats. This book offers a behind the scenes tour of the shared lives of a fascinating pair and the chance to deepen our own bonds in ‘love and friendship’ with them both.
About the Author
A native of Jane Austen’s beloved county of Hampshire, Zoe Wheddon, lives in a village on the outskirts of the touwn that she and her husband Matt grew up in, with three grown up children and a cat called Leia.
She co-presents the popular podcast What Would Jane Do and writes articles and book reviews on matters relating to friendship, self-compassion and personal development on her blog. When not researching or writing her next book, Zoe can be found in the classroom teaching Spanish and French or singing ABBA songs loudly in her kitchen.
Where to find Zoe online
Where to Buy the Book
Further Book Info:
- Published Date: 28th Feb 2021
- Publisher: Pen and Sword History
- Page Count: 224