Wednesday, 08 August 2018 - Author Interviews Interview with The Spirituality of Jane Austen author Paula Hollingsworth

Paula Hollingsworth is an author and vicar of three village churches in Somerset, Sub Dean of Wells Cathedral, and Dean of Women’s Ministry for the Diocese of Bath and Wells. Lion Books is thrilled to publish her wonderful debut novel, The Spirituality of Jane Austen!

Paula has a background in English literature, maths and science. She has been fascinated by Jane Austen for some time, and wrote her thesis on Jane Austen's spirituality as part of her studies at Sarum College for her MA. She is a frequent speaker on English literature, and will be giving a talk on The Spirituality of Jane Austen at Bath's Jane Austen Festival on September 21st. For more information on her talk, see our events page here.

Here Paula chats with us about what inspired her to write The Spirituality of Jane Austen, the best bits of being a writer, and her most rewarding experiences as an author!

What does it feel like for The Spirituality of Jane Austen to be nominated for the Woman Alive Book of the Year award?

I was delighted to hear that I had been nominated!

What inspired you to write The Spirituality of Jane Austen?

I have enjoyed reading stories and novels all my life, always encouraged from an earliest age by my parents. For both my mum and dad, reading as children had been life-giving – my mum had a very unhappy home life and she escaped by finding a local library and burying herself in books, my dad was diagnosed with polio when he was nine and spent a lot of his childhood in hospital, and again reading was an escape for him. Mum left school at the age of 14, but when I was a child she took O levels, A levels and then a degree in English at Bristol University – which meant she did even more reading! My mother died when I was 21 – but by then she was head of English at a girls’ school – and the last thing she did before she became really ill was to produce and direct a dramatised version of Pride and Prejudice at her school!

I first explored the spirituality of Jane Austen when I did an MA course twelve years ago. After I had finished the course, I was invited to lots of churches and groups to speak about Jane Austen. After I had led a Jane Austen weekend at Lee Abbey, a Christian retreat and conference centre in Devon, I was approached by Lion Hudson and invited to write the book. My first response was that I was far too busy, I could never write a book, but then I realised that if I said no, I would regret that decision for the rest of my life. So, somehow, I found the time!

Can you tell us a little about The Spirituality of Jane Austen for readers who haven’t read your book yet?

I explore Jane Austen’s life, her character and the plots of her novels through the lens of spirituality. I do this by looking at spirituality in a more general sense. Spirituality can convey the importance of your values, and the part they play in your life; it can be about where you find meaning and purpose in life; it can be about an inner journey, how to find the essence of your inner path. All these themes can be found and explored in Jane Austen’s novels. In the later part of Jane’s life, in her letters and written prayers, and, I believe, in her later novels, she becomes more explicit about her Christian faith, so the book also explores the nature of Jane’s Christian spirituality, and how she can inspire Christians today as we reflect on how we live our lives in our world.

What are the best bits about being a writer?

I had never written a book before and I didn’t find it easy! Usually, the first time I wrote something, I would read it over and think it was rubbish. I would go back to it a few days later, make some changes, and still think it was not very good. Later, I would go back, re-write parts of it, and begin to think that it might be OK…. I had to learn to trust this process, that this would happen with each chapter of the book! I felt better as the book began to take shape! It was a most extraordinary feeling when the editors first sent emailed me a pdf in a book format, and when the first actual book was delivered, the feeling of elation was indescribable!

What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?

When people I know stop me in the street, or strangers write to me, and tell me that my book has got them re-reading Jane Austen’s novels, and they are now getting even more from reading them…..that is why I wrote it!

Enjoy reading The Spirituality of Jane Austen! Buy your copy here.

Interested in learning more about The Spirituality of Jane Austen? Why not attend Paula's talk at Bath's Jane Austen's Festival on September 21st. For more information, please see our events page here.