Becca Hemmings, Online Giftshop Manager for The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, is my guest today with an interesting interview and a lovely Austenesque giveaway. Read through her answers to my questions, discover more about her job and her love for Jane Austen, leave your comments and e-mail address to enter the giveaway contest. For more details about the gift and the giveaway, check at the end of this post.
Thanks for accepting answering some questions for My Jane Austen Book Club, Becca. Welcome!
My first curiosity is … What is living and working in such a lovely place as Bath like?
Thanks for having me! Last year I moved from Bath to London, but still work on the site remotely. I loved Bath for the 7 years that I lived there, and didn’t leave with ‘such happy feelings of escape’ as Jane did. Bath was a great as you always feel like you are on holiday; even walking to work through the golden buildings was a pleasure. However, I must confress I love London with its incredible history and culture!
How do you like working at the Jane Austen Centre, instead?
The Jane Austen Centre is wonderful, the staff are like family to me and, despite being in London, I still see them often.
What kind of people visit you and where are they from?
People visit our online shop from literally all around the world! It just shows that there are Austen fans everywhere. Our low Worldwide postage means we can send our Austen treats at a good price.
Did you already love Jane Austen before starting working there, or did it come as a result later on?
I already loved Austen, which is why I was so thrilled when I got the job at the centre! My mam introduced me to her; we watched the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice together every Sunday. I was 12 and read the book straight after the series ended.
Is Jane more part of your professional life, or is she someone like … an old friend to you?
Austen is part of both, really. I have to ensure I am always supplying Austen fans with affordable, good quality gifts - which means being quite professional. At the same time she is my favourite author.
What is it that you most admire in her?
Her wit. I would love to have come up with some of her comebacks!
What is your favourite Austen novel?
This has to be Pride and Prejudice, as it was my ‘first love’. Though Persuasion comes very close as it is so romantic, but then Emma is so funny. Ah it is hard to choose!
Most charming Austen hero?
Most charming has to be Mr Knightley. I think he is wonderful. Everyone would love him on first aqquantience (unlike Mr Darcy I suppose!)
And what about the heroine you most sympathize with?
Definitley Anne Elliot - it must have been awful for her to have been persuaded against marrying her true love, then never forgetting him or forgiving herself. Can you imagine how hard those first few chapters would have been for her? Dear me!
What do you most like in JA’s world?
The clothing is beautiful, and, so long as you were a lady of good fortune, the way of life would be bliss!
Walks, sewing, reading, balls, how nice would that be?
We know that the years she spent in Bath were not her best , but she chose to set part of Northanger Abbey and of Persuasion there. How much of her Bath can a Janeite visitor recognize nowadays?
I would say most of it! The main building are all still there; Camden Crescent, Westgate Buildings, Putney street. You can still walk along the paths of Anne and Catherine, as well as where Austen herself. When the Jane Austen Festival is on and hundreds of people dress up in Regency attire you could be in the Regency period.
And what are the places/sites which are unmissable for a Janeite?
The Jane Austen Centre (of course), 4 Sydney Place (where she wrote of seeing the fireworks in Sydeny Gardens) and St Swithin's Church, where her lovely father, George, was buried.
What is exactly your job at the Jane Austen Centre?
I run the online giftshop, which includes keeping the site up to date, sending out newsletters, posting on Twitter and Facebook and (my favourite) sourcing Austen goods that everyone would like.
So you never meet customers visiting the centre?
When I worked at the centre as a guide I would often meet with customers. It was really nice to hear positive feedback about the work we do and find out what they would like to see for sale online. Now I souly run the online giftshop.
What Austen related gifts are the most popular?
Definitley the ‘I Love Darcy’ range, the bags being the most popular. But we have a new contender - the ‘Keep Calm and Read Jane Austen’ tea towels are this month’s best seller - and we are going to extend this range in the next few months!
Where do you mostly send gadgets and books to? What countries in the world, I mean?
No.1 is here in UK, but USA is a very close second. Australia is third. We literally sell goods to Austen fans everywhere! Our low Worldwide Postage rates means everyone can enjoy a bit of Austen. Sometimes we have free worldwide postage weekends!
Have you got a very special item to recommend these days?
I would personally recommend the ‘Keep Calm and Read Jane Austen’ Tea towel - it is such a good price and excellent quality. I have mine framed so it looks like a canvas print! It always reminds me to pick up an Austen novel before I venture out into the modern world :-)
That’s all Becca. Thank you very much for being my guest. Good luck and great success with your job.
Thanks very much, I have enjoyed answering your questions!
Becca Hemmings has granted the readers of My Jane Austen Book Club the chance to win a ‘Keep Calm and Read Jane Austen’ Tea towel . Have a look at the lovely gift HERE, then leave your comment and your e-mail address in order to be entered in the giveaway contest. The name of the winner will be announced on March 23rd. This giveaway is open internationally.