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Sunday, February 13, 2011

April Lindner Interview

If you know anything about me, you know I love Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  The book is haunting and beautiful and it has a big impact on the novel I'm still writing/revising right now.  So, when I saw that April Lindner had written a modernization, entitled Jane, I was intrigued.  I was even more interested when I read that the character of Rochester, (Nico Rathburn in Jane) is a rock star.  Might seem a bit crazy to die hard Eyre fans but I decided to give it a chance.  I'm glad I did.
Lindner was meticulous about remaining true to the original, despite what Rochester as a rock star might make you think.  I was particularly pleased with how she handled the relationship between Jane and St. John Rivers.  I found it more satisfying in Jane than in the original.
However, no one can top the original, but the fact that Lindner so obviously loves the Bronte makes Jane an excellent read.
Lindner is currently working on doing a modernization of Wuthering Heights, which excites me to no end.  Have you read Wuthering Heights?  I love the story, but I feel like it's a mess to read.  I have read it twice and both times were very painful.  Not just because it's a horrible/wonderful story but the language, for me, is very difficult to get through.  There are a lot of passages written with an accent that I just can't get through.  It hurts yet I want to love it.   Heathcliff fits my ideal literary love interest, horribly flawed, somewhat dangerous but consumed by love for his woman.  (see the Phantom of the Opera, Rochester, and Edward from Twilight as a few examples of the kind of crazy lovers I like to see in books).
     I greatly admire April Lindner for tackling this modernization project.  I think it's wonderful.  In a way, I wish I'd done it myself.  (longtime friends will know that I did do a rewrite of the Phantom of the Opera as my very first 'complete' novel when I was in 8th grade.  I'd be tempted to resurrect it if it didn't involve so much research.  However, I may have outlined a modernization of it myself to be worked on when I'm done with my current novel.  Don't go stealing that idea...)
   Anyway, without further sidenotes, and with great admiration for my fellow Eyre lover, I give you April Lindner.   

1. Restless Writer (RW): Clearly, you love Charlotte Bronte's original Jane Eyre.  Were you ever afraid of taking on a classic and making it your own?
  April Lindner (AL):  I probably should have been at least a little afraid. Modernizing a beloved classic like Jane Eyre is treading on sacred ground, and it would be easy to make a misstep and alienate the novel’s longtime fans. While I was doing the actual writing, though, I didn’t let myself worry about what readers would think. What I did do was try to write in good faith, to be as true as possible to the spirit of an original book, and I hoped—and still hope—that my respect and affection for Jane Eyre comes through.

2.  RW:  What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
AL:  Taking plot elements in the original and finding believable contemporary equivalents was the book’s big challenge. You can’t have Jane Eyre without having a madwoman in the attic, but how could such a thing happen in our age of medical miracles? That was the biggest roadbump but there were lots of smaller ones along the way.

3.  RW:  A friend of mine and I were recently chatting about how Rochester is never ugly enough in film versions of Jane Eyre.  If Jane was made into a movie, who would you envision as Nico and Jane?
AL:  Any actors I can think of are bound to be on the too-attractive side. In my imagination, Nico looks and sounds quite a bit like Toby Stephens, the actor who played Mr. Rochester in the wonderful 2006 BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre. Nico’s in his early thirties, though, and if I had to choose among thirtyish actors, I’d choose Milo Ventimiglia, who has brooding rock star looks, or maybe James Franco, who seems versatile enough to do just about anything. As for Jane, I think Carey Mulligan could do a great job in the part. She’s got a lovely, quiet intelligence that fits the character.

4.  RW:  I'm a Jane Eyre addict myself.  (it is heavily influencing the YA novel I'm writing)  As a fellow Eyre lover, I would love to know what specific scenes in the book haunt you/stick with you the most. 
AL:  My favorite scene is the moment under the chestnut tree when Jane breaks down and admits her feelings for Mr. Rochester and he has to convince her that he feels the same way about her. The speech she gives him—“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!”—is one of the most perfect moments in literature. And there’s the wonderfully understated declaration, “Reader, I married him.” Really, there are so many touchstone moments I couldn’t bear to leave out.

5.  RW:  I've read that you're working on a retelling of Wuthering Heights next.  I've read the book twice and found it a slow difficult read both times.  (although also compelling and worth the difficulty).  I'm so happy to hear you're modernizing it.  How far along are you and how does it compare to writing Jane?
AL:  I’m revising, but I’ve got a long way to go. I’ve found this particular novel much more difficult to write. With Jane, I meant to stay faithful to the original, so I had a pretty clear template to follow, but Wuthering Heights has so many elements that resist translation into the 21st century, for example, first cousins marrying and Heathcliff digging up the long dead Cathy for a last look at her body. I knew I had to give myself permission to go a lot farther afield, so I did. Like the original, my retelling, Catherine, is a multigenerational story of obsessive love. The Heathcliff character is a punk rocker and Catherine is the brilliant and somewhat spoiled daughter of a legendary night club on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It’s a darker story than Jane, but still nowhere near as dark and violent as the original.

 6. RW: The writer in me wonders if Jane was an easy sell for you.  How long did it take from idea to book deal?
AL:  Don’t hate me, please, when I tell you that Jane was a relatively easy sell. I wrote it in the summer of 2007, revised it over the next year, found an agent, and sold it in 2009, though a lot more revision ensued after that. But Jane isn’t really my first novel; I’ve got another one languishing in a drawer, unpublished. Also it took me ten years of banging my head against a brick wall to get my first poetry collection, Skin, into print. A second poetry manuscript has been a finalist or a semi finalist in multiple contests but has yet to win the competition that is the usual way into print for a poetry book. So I’ve paid a lot of dues along the way.

7.  RW:  You're also a rock fan.  What are the top 3 concerts you've been to?
AL:  1) My all time favorite concert would have to be almost any Bruce Springsteen show I’ve seen, and I’ve seen many. If I have to choose just one, it would be my very first, in 1980, during The River Tour. He played for almost four hours, and was a fireball of charisma and energy. He still plays longer, more intense shows than anyone else, and he’s got such a wealth of material to draw from that I’m always left wanting more.2) This summer a friend took me to see Paul McCartney. To tell the truth, I was more excited about seeing my friend than about seeing Sir Paul, but the show took my breath away. When Paul launched into the Long and Winding Road I surprised myself by bursting into tears; it was an instant flashback to my early childhood. The rockers—both Beatle era and from Wings and beyond--still sizzle, and nobody does a ballad better.3) On a whim my husband and I went to see Train at a free music festival in New Jersey, and they were fantastic. Lead singer Pat Monahan threw his whole soul into every song, and he has such a beautiful, powerful, resonant voice.

8.  RW:  When I write, I often listen to a specific soundtrack I've put together for my story.  Do you do the same?  If so, would you share some of the songs from your Jane playlist? 
AL: Absolutely. The playlist’s still growing, but here it is in its current form:It Happens Every Day (Dar Williams)Bad Reputation (Freedy Johnston)American Slang (The Gaslight Anthem)Parachute (Train)The Lucky One (Alison Krauss & Union Station)My Love Will Not Let You Down (Bruce Springsteen)Romeo’s Tune (Steve Forbert)Hey, Soul Sister (Train)Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House)Your Mind’s Playing Tricks on You (John Wesley Harding)Rumors (Josh Ritter)Janey Don’t You Lose Heart (Bruce Springsteen)Troubled Times (Dar Williams)Intro/Sweet Jane (Lou Reed)

9.  RW:  Do you have any projects in mind once Wuthering Heights is complete? 
AL:  I want to do another modernization, and I’ve been thinking about the possibilities of reworking E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View, to tell the story of young American backpackers in Italy. When I was 22, I backpacked solo across Europe and I’ve always wanted to work some of those experiences into a story.

10.  RW:  When can readers expect to see your version of Wuthering Heights hit the bookstores?
AL:  Fall of 2012 is the projected date. It seems so far away, but also, considering how much revising I still need to do, terrifyingly close.

11.  RW:  You're also an award winning poet.  Did you always have an inkling that you'd write for the YA audience?  Are you still writing poetry?
AL:  I always thought I would write a novel some day, and I knew it would probably be about young adults, because I’m fascinated with that time of life, the point at which people really start to grow into the adults they’ll become. But it didn’t occur to me that I was writing for a YA audience until my agent, Amy Williams, wisely pointed out the possibility. Now that I’ve fallen into the YA world, it feels like home. There’s so much enthusiasm among YA book bloggers and readers. There’s a sense among academics that high school and college students just aren’t reading for pleasure anymore, but now I know that there’s a hard core of passionate young readers hungry for more.As for my poetry, it comes from a different part of my psyche—a more personal place. I still write poetry, albeit maybe a bit less of it these days, and I don’t plan to stop.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. We'll try not to be jealous that Jane was so easy to sell. I'm intrigued because I like Jane Eyre. And I really loved Wuthering Heights. Would love to see a modern remake of it. Good luck.