Welcome to Tea & Tattle Podcast.

I'm your host, Miranda Mills. Join me every Tuesday for weekly discussions on culture, books, creativity and wellbeing, as well as interviews with inspiring women.

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22 | Expanding Jane Austen's World

22 | Expanding Jane Austen's World

Listen to Episode 22: Expanding Jane Austen's World

Also Available on iTunes

Episode Summary

Today, Sophie and I are hosting a special episode, as we're in conversation with two other longtime friends: Janet Todd and Diana Birchall. Both Janet and Diana have written novels expanding upon or reworking Jane Austen's books and are highly knowledgeable about our favourite author and her world. Sophie and I were thrilled to get the chance to sit down and chat with them both about their writing and how Jane Austen has influenced their lives and friendship. 

Janet Todd and Diana Birchall 

Janet Todd and Diana Birchall 

Janet Todd is the former President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, and is well-known for her non fiction works on early women writers and for her books about Mary Wollstonecraft, Aphra Behn, and Jane Austen. Janet has also branched out into fiction and wrote a fabulous rewriting of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, called Lady Susan Plays the Game. It was Diana who first alerted me to Janet’s other brilliant novel, A Man of Genius, which is set in the early 1800s and tells the story of Ann, a writer of Gothic fiction (coincidentally, A Man of Genius has just been released in its paperback edition, so do look out for it!). It was fascinating to learn how Jane Austen, women writers and Gothic fiction influenced Janet in writing this book. 

Diana Birchall recently retired from her role as a Story Analyst at Warner Brothers, and she has written numerous stories extending the world of Jane Austen’s books, including the fabulously witty Mrs Darcy’s Dilemma. Diana regularly contributes stories and articles relating to Jane Austen to various publications and websites, including the Jane Austen Society of North America and Jane Austen Variations. Diana lives in America, but travels regularly to the UK. 

Listen for a thought-provoking discussion on Jane Austen, her writing and world. 

Episode Breakdown

  • 00:50 - Miranda introduces Janet Todd and Diana Birchall.
  • 03:08  - Janet and Diana describe how they first came to read Jane Austen.
  • 07:16 - Diana describes how she and Janet first became friends.
  • 08:49 - Miranda questions Janet and Diana on what inspired them to write continuations or rewritings of Jane Austen's novels, and how their writing deepened their understanding of her world. 
  • 14:40 - Sophie asks whether there are any other authors Diana or Janet would consider for writing further extensions, or whether they feel Jane Austen lends herself particularly well to novels such as prequels or sequels.
  • 17:59 - Janet describes how her interest in Gothic fiction and early female writers influenced A Man of Genius
  • 22:21 - Sophie questions Janet on how the process of writing fiction compares to that of writing scholarly books, and whether that was an easy transition to make. 
  • 25:10 - Diana explains what made her particularly interested to write about Mrs Elton from Jane Austen's Emma, and why she felt sympathy for the character. 
  • 30:06 - Janet and Diana tell us about their future books and projects. 

Episode Links

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Tweet: 'It is always the lady's right to decide on the degree of acquaintance.' - Jane Austen http://bit.ly/2nS8I4U


It is always the lady's right to decide on the degree of acquaintance.

  - Diana Birchall, quoting from Jane Austen's Emma

Your Thoughts

Thank you so much for listening and being a part of Tea & Tattle podcast. As always, we love to hear your thoughts, so please let us know:

What did you like most about this episode? Do you enjoy extenuations or rewritings of famous novels? Are you tempted to try Janet and Diana's books?

Next Time...

Tune in again next Tuesday, when I'm chatting with Amelia Singer of The Wine Show. Our conversation ranged from fabulous book and wine pairings, to what to order on a first date and how best to drink champagne. Amelia was so informative, but also so down-to-earth and fun in talking about wine, that I had a brilliant time and hope you enjoy listening to our conversation too!  

Happy Listening!

23 | A Chat With Amelia Singer

23 | A Chat With Amelia Singer

21 | A Chat With Robin Stevens

21 | A Chat With Robin Stevens