Interview with April Lindner, author of “Jane”
My special guest today is April Lindner, author of the 2010 debut novel, Jane. If you missed my original review of Jane, you can view it here.
Can you tell us a little about Jane?
Jane is a modernization of Jane Eyre. My Jane is a 19 year old art major forced to drop out of college by the sudden death of her parents. She takes a job as a nanny for Nico Rathburn, a rock legend on the verge of a comeback. Despite her best intentions, she falls in love with her employer, and finds herself drawn into a mystery at his estate.
In your author’s note, you mentioned that this book was partially inspired by all of the Jane Austen/Zombie books that were just coming out on the market at the time. Recently, books such as “Little Vampire Women” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” are overflowing in the Young Adult sections at libraries and bookstores. Why did you decide to not go that route with Jane?
I love a good retelling, and have often lamented that there there haven’t been all that many retellings of my favorite novel, Jane Eyre. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the various other paranormal rewritings fired up my desire to do a retelling of my own, but as much fun as zombies, vampires and sea monsters can be, they just aren’t me. I’m intrigued by human nature, and the ordinary day to day world can be pretty wild, strange and fascinating even without vampires.
Your love for the original Jane Eyre truly comes across on the page. Nico Rathburn, Jane Moore, and their journey to each other has a “timeless” feel to it, even though it is set in the twenty-first century. Did you struggle to stay true to the classic but give it a modern appeal for young readers— even with the constraints of the original Bronte work?
There are so many “greatest hits” moments in Jane Eyre, moments I couldn’t bear to leave out, and the trick was doing them justice. Working through the puzzle of how to translate certain key elements of the plot into the twenty-first century was the trickiest part of the fun of writing Jane. Every now and then I’d hit a roadblock and panic thinking there was no way I could make, say, the fate of Mr. Rochester’s wife work in our age of medical miracles, but then I’d sleep on it or talk it over with a trusted friend, and before long a solution would present itself.
Thornfield Park is at the center of the events unfolding in the plot, and had a hidden sadness to it that really added to the book’s tone, without revealing the true identity of the unknown house guest in the attic. Did you use a real location as the inspiration for Thornfield Park?
Nico’s estate is mostly imaginary. I did browse the internet for pictures of mansions and chose one to keep in mind as I described the house and the grounds. I have no sense of direction, so I had to draw blueprints for the house and grounds to make sure the various rooms weren’t shifting around from chapter to chapter.
Your author’s note also mentioned your love for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. How much did Bruce Springsteen influence the way that Nico Rathburn was written?
It’s true; I’m a rabid Springsteen fan. I love music and live shows in general, but I’ve seen Bruce 21 times and counting, and I’ve been known to go on a ten hour road trip to get to a show. So it’s true: in a very real way Bruce inspired Nico, but Nico’s an imaginary character. He’s younger and more of a reformed bad boy, and though he’s a softy on the inside he can come off as gruff and sardonic. Also, he’s a bit neglectful as a father—all characteristics that don’t fit with the public persona of Bruce Springsteen, who by all accounts seems to be a family man and a pretty good guy.
That said, there are glimmers of Bruce in Nico. The voice that’s a little rough around the edges, the years Nico spends reading to make up for the college education he was too busy touring to get—those are Bruce-inspired. And the night of Nico’s big comeback concert is written straight out of my concertgoing memories. I’ve certainly been one of the crowd of passionate fans Jane watches with fascination and alarm.
If Jane were made into a feature film, who would you choose to play Nico and Jane? Why?
I love this question. I’d be thrilled to see Toby Stephens as Nico, though I suppose he’s a bit older than the character. Of all the thirtyish actors I can think of, Milo Ventimiglia looks the closest to the Nico in my imagination. I can imagine James Franco in the role too. He’d have to play against type, but he’s so versatile I can see him pulling it off beautifully.
As for Jane, I really like Carey Mulligan’s quiet intelligence, though it’s tough to imagine Carey Mulligan looking drab (the way Jane sees herself), even on a bad day. And Felicia Day (also very pretty) has a vulnerability that makes me think of Jane.
Some writers have daily routines they stick to when working on a project. What is a day in your writing life like?
When I’m not teaching or grading a stack of essays, I’ll wake up at 7, brew a pot of coffee, and settle down to work at 8:30 or 9. On nice days, I’ll go out to the front porch with my laptop. It’s my favorite place in the house to write, but I have two very exciteable dogs, and they scratch on the door to get out there with me, and then they have to bark at every human and animal that passes…so my porch time never lasts very long. I might write in a comfy chair in the living room, or maybe treat myself to a long session at a coffee shop—my other favorite writing spot. I’ll eat lunch while I work and keep going until one of my sons gets home from school or work.
What was the most difficult part of the writing process for Jane? What about the easiest?
Writing Jane was ridiculously fun. I loved entering into her world, and the excitement I felt for the project made it feel like playing. The most difficult part was when I had to stop writing and step back into my own life. Ordinarily, writer’s block is a very real part of my life, but Jane felt like the book I was born to write.
Do you have any interesting stories about the writing of this book that you would like to share?
I don’t know if this counts as a story, but while I was writing Jane I had a handy excuse for attending lots of rock shows: research!
Did you listen to music a lot while working on this project, and if so, what kind of soundtrack would Jane have?
I’m too easily distracted to listen to music while I write, but Jane absolutely has a soundtrack, one that’s still growing. Here it is in its current form, taken straight from my ipod:
It Happens Every Day (Dar Williams)
Bad Reputation (Freedy Johnston)
American Slang (The Gaslight Anthem)
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)
Can you tell us a little about your other writing projects and what you are working on right now?
I’ve got a poetry manuscript out in the world looking for a publisher. (It’s my second; my first, Skin, came out in 2002). Right now, though, my main focus is revising a young adult novel I finished drafting last summer.
Do you have any plans to retell another Bronte work?
In fact, the novel I’m working on is a modernization of Wuthering Heights, my other favorite novel. It’s set in a night club on the lower east side of New York, and the Heathcliff character is a punk rocker.
Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and potential readers?
I hope my readers have as much fun reading Jane as I did writing it, because I had a blast. And if they haven’t read Jane Eyre, I hope Jane moves them to check it out.
A special thanks to April Lindner for her fantastic interview, and if you would like to learn more about April and her upcoming projects please visit her website:
Interview Copyright 2010 Shylock Books
Photos courtesy of Amazon.com