Jane Eyre has long been my favourite book. When I was at school I remember watching an old black and white film version and thinking what a drip she was! For a long time, then, I didn’t have any desire at all to read the book and I carried in my head an image of the lead character being a rather dreary, too-nice-for-her-own-good, simpering idiot. It was my best friend at the time who persuaded me to give the novel a chance. She’d read it and loved it, and as I trusted her judgement in these things, I agreed to give it a go.
I couldn’t believe the difference. Jane Eyre was a feisty little character. I loved her strong sense of justice. I loved the way she defended herself and others who were put upon and abused. I loved the way she spoke the truth about her horrible aunt and the appalling treatment she was given. I loved her devotion and loyalty to her weak school friend, and her strength of character as she survived the dreadful regime at school. Most of all, I admired her courage and dignity, as she coped with a broken heart and shattered illusions, remaining true to herself and knowing her own character so well that she could walk away from Rochester and risk everything, knowing that to stay would ruin her, destroying her integrity and sense of self.
So much did I love the book that I have read it several times, always citing it, without hesitation, as my favourite novel when asked. So when I heard there was a new BBC adaptation for television, I was a bit worried. Would they ruin Jane Eyre? Would she be portrayed as weak, timid – a shadow of the character so deftly created by Charlotte Bronte?
The adaptation in question was to star Ruth Wilson, then relatively unknown, and Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester. Of course I was going to watch it. How could I not? And then I discovered something even more exciting. After each episode of Jane Eyre, there was going to be a follow-on programme called Reader, I Married Him. Presented by Daisy Goodwin, the programme would be in three episodes, and the episodes had the following titles: Happily Ever After, Heroes and Heroines. I was hooked.
The Jane Eyre adaptation turned out to be the best version I’ve seen to date (in my humble opinion) and afterwards I was glued to the screen as Daisy Goodwin delved into the mysterious world of writing romantic novels. It included contributions from legendary writers such as Jilly Cooper and Marion Keyes. It was wonderful. I had written endless stories when I was a child and teenager, but as I grew older and had children I’d stopped writing. Writing seemed like something only the very young or the very rich could do. It wasn’t for the likes of me. Watching Reader, I Married Him, I was reminded of how much I’d loved writing, and I felt a long-buried desire starting to unfurl inside me – the desire to put pen to paper once again. Was it possible? Could I do it?
A year or so later, the idea was still burning away inside my mind, but fear held me back. I had children to look after and I was studying for a degree with the Open University at the time. I didn’t have the spare time to spend writing fiction, did I? There was always an excuse if I looked hard enough.
Then I read Jane Wenham-Jones’ book, Wannabe a Writer? I followed it up with Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? I suddenly realised that, yes, I did! And, finally, I was starting to believe it was all possible. That’s when I picked up the notebook in which I’d been jotting ideas down for characters for a few months and began to write. That year I signed up for NaNoWriMo, and completed the first draft of what would become There Must Be An Angel.
And the first line of There Must Be An Angel? “Reader, I married him.” What else could it possibly be? 🙂
Have a great weekend xx
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Don’t forget, you can still win a signed copy of There Must Be An Angel. All you have to do is fill out the contact form in this site and I’ll enter you into a giveaway draw. You have until midnight today (Saturday 11th). Good luck!