Jane Was Here: an illustrated guide to Jane Austen’s England

We are so exciting for a team of our past interns whose new book Jane Was Here: an illustrated guide to Jane Austen’s England is now available for purchase!

It’s an unconventional travel guide filled with information, illustration, and interactive material (because who doesn’t like a Jane Austen quiz?!). It’s perfect as a gift, a coffee table book, or for any Jane Austen fan or travel enthusiast.

After having Lexi’s amazing illustrations and Devynn’s writing skills grace the The House that Lars Built blog in the past, it has been SO fun to see their work in book form. And a book about Jane Austen?! It could not get better. You’ve seen us dive head first into the Jane Austen’s world in posts like this one, and we will take any opportunity to dive even deeper. Jane Was Here is the perfect guide to do just that!

Of course we jumped at the opportunity to interview Lexi, Devynn, and their amazing co-author Nicole. Keep reading to get to know the three amazing women behind Jane Was Here. You’ll learn all about what inspired their book, which Jane Austen characters they are most like, and how you can support their stunning new book!

Get to know the authors and illustrator of Jane Was Here: an illustrated guide to Jane Austen’s England

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.?

I am a writer and a teacher. And an artist in the sense that I create with words and have an eye for the beauty that Lexi creates! -Nicole

I am an illustrator and all around maker. –Lexi K.

I am a creative business strategist- Devynn

How did you get started in your field doing what you do?

I have written for a long time–bits of poetry here and there, literary analyses for school, and whatever pops into my mind. I studied English and French at BYU, which is when I had many opportunities including a study abroad. As well as an internship that brought me to England, where I fell in love with the landscapes and the buildings, everything that was brought to life in the British literature I’d been reading my whole life. -Nicole 

As a lot of people who like to draw will say, “I’ve drawn ever since I was little…” But it wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I had an art teacher who studied illustration and I realized that was a profession. I had always believed in spending my life doing something I loved. So, when I got to university, I applied for the program, got in, and never looked back. (Except to thank my parents, friends, and teachers for never discouraging my creativity). Jane Was Here is my first published book and it has taught me so much about the book industry and how excited I am to pursue a career in book illustration. -Lexi K.

I’ve always had a creative spirit and the tenacity to make things happen. Luckily, I had parents that drilled into me that I can do, create, and become what ever I want as long as I put in enough work. Coming from a small town, I didn’t realize that you could combine the arts with business in a beautiful yet lucrative way, until studying Advertising at university. I never wanted to limit myself, and since I loved French, Advertising, and always wanted to do hair styling, I decided to do all three and double majored in Advertising and French, while getting a cosmetology degree on the side. Though there were many people that disagreed (mainly some difficult professors), I was able to really excel in my field of Marketing and Creativity when I learned you can have different passions and fields of work and still be dedicated to each one of the individually. -Devynn

Which Jane Austen character are you each the most like?   

I think I’m the most like Elizabeth Bennet, but I have a little Catherine Morland in me. Elizabeth is no-nonsense and speaks her mind, which I resonate with. And she bemoans the failings of humankind, which I think I’m pretty prone to do as well. And Catherine because she fell in love with Henry Tilney–he’s totally my type. -Nicole

I always want to say Elizabeth because she’s the first Austen heroine I fell in love with, but the truth that I cannot run away from is that I’m most like Marianne Dashwood. Ponies, nature walks, wildflowers, zeal for the very sake of it, we connect on all sorts of levels. I’m very emotionally driven and while I feel like it gets me into trouble at times, I think it also keeps me quite fond of thunderstorms, Marianne gets that. -Lexi K.

Though I think everyone wishes they were Elizabeth Bennet, I would have to say I am definitely the most like Emma Woodhouse. Like Emma, I have a love for all things social, beautiful, and fun. She and I both are extroverts who try to play match-maker (even when they shouldn’t), and fell in love much quicker (and younger) than we anticipated but to our perfect match. -Devynn

When and how did the idea for your book come up?

Early fall semester of 2017 at Brigham Young University, I was starting my senior year in the Illustration BFA program. My professor, Bethanne Anderson, had told my friend and I about the Laycock Grant which funds interdisciplinary student-led projects. She encouraged us to come up with an idea and apply. I had gone on a study abroad to Italy for Art & Design the year before and was incredibly inspired by the way that my art connected me to the places we traveled to. On that trip, I started formulating the idea for making an illustrated travel guide that taps into the unique experiences one has while traveling when they take the time to sink into a place, noticing its little nuances in the moments they’re there to experience. This project was my chance to explore that idea. We chose the UK because we were on a Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice kick and had dreamed of visiting Pemberley for years. Soon enough we had a team of 3 Jane Austen lovers and a project to go explore her world and make it into a book so others could too. -Lexi K.

What inspires you about Jane Austen? 

I am inspired by her wit and independence and the ways she reads society and human behavior so well! She didn’t shy away from exposing the limitations women had in her time, and I think so many of her lessons are transferable to today’s world. She’s also really funny. -Nicole

Jane had a way of watching the world, being a part of it, and immortalizing it in her writing. Her accounts of the society she lived in inform much of the way we think about the Regency Era because she was so prolific and determined to make sense of the life she lived. I think that sort of intention and care behind her work is admirable. -Lexi K.

Jane Austen was a strong, independent woman who understood her value and talents. Not only did she use her words to create timeless novels, but she created them in a way where all of her readers feel understood and empowered. She also was a loyal and devoted friend and sister, something I aspire to be. – Devynn

Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life? 

I can think of many teachers and professors who have had a profound impact on the way I approach the world, even in ways I may not recognize today. They’ve helped me to love art and writing but also to be critical of its shortcomings. That’s something I’ve thought a lot about recently–Jane Austen was certainly not perfect, and she’s not the only author we should honor today, but she was most definitely very influential and inspiring. Reading through different lenses is something I have learned from reflective and influential teachers, and that’s something I hope to pass on to my own students and through my writing. -Nicole

My first thoughts go to my parents, Kim and Todd. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have parents who told me I could be whatever I aspired to be from the time I can remember them saying anything to me. Both artists in their own rights, my mom a talented designer and my dad a skilled photographer, they taught me to look for beauty from different perspectives and encouraged me to develop my artistic practices. In high school, my mom and I struck a deal that if I could keep my room tidy, I could paint the walls whenever and however I wanted. For three years until I left for college, I curated a wonderland with every inch of my room covered in murals, hanging branches, paper mache statues, etc. I didn’t realize how much that fanned my creative flames until now when I’ve learned that creativity is a gift that needs care and encouragement. My parents have never stopped being my number one fans. I’m so grateful for all the ways they have shaped my life. -Lexi K.

Cathy and Cam MacLennan (my parents) expect excellence from everyone, and mostly everyone steps up to that plate. Though at times it was daunting (and i’ll admit, frustrating), their fire and drive to have those who surround them reach their potential is life changing. Because of them, I don’t see limits, and the unattainable never seems that far off. They have never questioned my talent, or ability, and have helped foster my drive for success despite my limitations. Next, is my foster sister, Amber. She taught me love, compassion, and that anyone can do anything they set their mind to. Amber, who has Down Sydrome, was welcomed into our home when I was just at the age of three. I grew up with her, and loved her like a sister. We fought, we laughed, and lived my childhood together. She was an amazing basketball player, artist, and had the sweetest spirit. Because of her, my heart is three times bigger, I never doubt anyone’s ability, and am able to see the joy life has to offer. -Devynn

What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?

“If you don’t tell your stories, they’ll never get told.”  – Bethanne Anderson. “Audacity is worth more than talent.” – Luke Gibson. And something along the lines of “you have a strong voice, use it.” – David Dibble. All Illustration/Design professors at BYU who lifted me up on various occasions when I got tripped up by having chosen a creative career. It’s hard to want to support yourself doing something so emotionally charged and competitive too. The key to it is finding the confidence to say things with your art that is worth listening to. These words remind me often that having the courage to feel deeply and the skills to communicate those feelings is worth something. My work becomes more meaningful when I let it connect me to the people and places around me. -Lexi K. 

My mother told me this quote often: “I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage, or bravery, or generosity, or anything else”. -Roald Dahl. It doesn’t matter how brilliant, creative, financially successful, or famous you are if you aren’t kind. Kindness is the most important thing and will bring you further in life than anything else. Always. -Devynn 

What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative field? 

Find your people. The project of writing and publishing this book would never have happened without this team. I’m so grateful to Lexi and Devynn for the opportunity of realizing our collective vision. Also for the more mundane parts like reading what I wrote and giving me feedback. -Nicole

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl said it first but I’ll echo it until I no longer exist. Working in a creative field is hard, there’s a reason not everyone chooses it. And it’s because believing in yourself and the ideas that come out of you is scary, difficult, and at times, emotionally draining. Creativity is a forever-long journey, embrace that. Keep moving forward, believing in yourself and the magic you have to share with your work and life simultaneously; a life lived deeply and honestly informs genuine creativity and people can feel that. When they do, they support you and your work. It’s a magic cycle, you have to believe in that. -Lexi K.

Just because you aren’t an artist, doesn’t mean you’re not creative. You can be in ANY field and still be creative and use your creativity to maximise your talents. If you’re in accounting, finance, engineering, marketing, computer science, etc YOU CAN STILL BE CREATIVE. Find what you love about creativity and make it work with what you have. Find a way to display your findings in a new way, organize presentations in a more visually appealing fashion or make a website that’s more user friendly. You can live creatively even when you’re not specially in a “creative field”. Find inspiration online through instagram pages, Pinterest, blogs, etc. Find what you like about them, and figure out how you can incorporate it into your life. Don’t set limits on yourself! -Devynn

What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present

Currently? Morgan Harper Nichols and Chanel Miller. Both do great work in many forms that combine the incredible power of words and illustration/design. -Nicole

Elizabeth Gilbert (writer), Mary Oliver (poet), and Taika Waititi (filmmaker). Gilbert for her determination to be creative in spite of the fear of failure that never goes away. Oliver for her willingness to be still and be a part of tiny moments that make up infinities. And Waititi for finding both humor and pain in the human condition and making things that help me recognize the need for both.

Marie Antoinette (Queen of France, but also a fashion icon) Kristen Ess (Hair Stylist & Entrepreneur), Lauren Conrad (don’t @ me, she’s amazing). -Devynn

What is your favorite Jane Austen book and why?

I feel like a broken record now since I’ve said this so many times. Pride and Prejudice is such a classic and pulls me in every time, but I have a not-so-secret fondness for Northanger Abbey, which I think is underrated and so so witty. -Nicole

I’m leaving Pride and Prejudice off the table because no one forgets their first love and I’d like to express my new love for Sense and Sensibility. I recognize myself in all three Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor most prominently. And I love the way that Jane Austen uses Marianne as her dramatic poet to proclaim the beauties of the world. -Lexi K.

I love Emma. This one sometimes gets a bad reputation since people can find the heroine selfish or annoying. But I love the character development and realness of the novel. -Devynn

If you lived in Jane’s time, what would be your favorite and least-favorite parts of that lifestyle? 

It’s so hard for me to detach all the context required to answer this question. However, supposing I were in the position of the Bennet family. For example, I would love visiting the grand houses and having a slower pace of life. Pretty much everything else, though, sounds pretty terrible–vast disparities and inequalities, heavy uncomfortable clothing, marriages of financial convenience, etc. A pretty depressing answer, maybe, but I’m all about honesty. -Nicole

I don’t think I will ever be over my fantasy of taking dramatic walks through the woods, brooding over social injustices or the complexities of my emotions. I think there is something about the Regency Era that amplifies the beauty of contrast. Namely the inherent power in womanhood juxtaposed by strict social codes that tried to tidy the wilderness of a woman’s beautiful mind. However, I don’t think I’d bode well in a corset or feeling like everyone is watching me to make sure I comply with silly rules. -Lexi K.

It’s no secret that I am a lover of parties. I would love nothing more than to live a lavish lifestyle filled with corsets, dancing, and ballgowns. However, in stark contrast I don’t think I would do well in that era as I am a feminist who believes in equality and opportunity for all genders and races (something that wasn’t highly regarded during those times). Also I can’t imagine a life without plumbing, so that would be extremely difficult for me. -Devynn

What else can people do to support your book?
  1. Engage with us on our social media platforms! On Facebook here, and Instagram follow @janeaustenwashere | We have an instagram that is dedicated to all things Jane, posting some of her most famous quotes, and beautiful illustrations that remind us of her England. 
  2. Share our book, and our social media platform, with your friends. We want to do more than just sell our book. We also want to create a community of lovers of Jane, travel, and all things beautiful.
  3. Get on our mailing list here!
  4. Ask your local bookstores to carry our book! How to do it: Call your local bookstore and request to have them carry our book, Jane Was Here: An Illustrated Guide to Jane Austen’s England.

Click here to purchase your own copy of this beautifully done guide to all things Jane Austen!

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