Rummanah Aasi
  I recently read and enjoyed a modern retelling of Jane Eyre called Jane by April Lindner. I contacted April and asked if she would be willing to do an author interview with me. She graciously agreed. April is not new to writing. She is a poet, an editor, an Associate Professor of English at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where she teaches creative writing, freshman composition, and literature. April is also the mother of two teenage sons. Besides writing, she also loves rock and roll, coffee, dark chocolate, thunderstorms, and exploring cities she has never been to. April and I chatted about her debut YA novel, her love for the Brontes, and writing. Here is the first part of our interview.

Rummanah: Welcome and thank you for stopping by my blog, April. I’m so excited to have you here. What inspired you to retell Jane Eyre? Why did you choose Jane Eyre?

April: Thanks for having me. Jane Eyre is my favorite novel, and I love retellings of classic books, so I’ve long had the idea of a modernized Jane Eyre in the back of my mind, but I could never figure out how to make the class difference between Jane and Mr. Rochester work in the modern world. Then one day it occurred to me that the Mr. Rochester could be a rock star. My twin passions are books and music, and I have a major thing for rock stars. I knew right away that I had to write that book.

Rummanah: Who doesn't have a thing for rock stars?!  I have to say that making your Rochester character a rock star makes perfect sense when I think back on your book. The characters of Jane Eyre are iconic figures and the central pair, in particular, is beloved by many readers. Did you have a hard time making these characters your own? In what ways to do they retain their original characteristics and what ways (if any) are they different?

April: Nico Rathburn (my Mr. Rochester character) was definitely more elusive than Jane. I needed for him to be a bad boy rocker who was too busy touring to take time out for college, but he had to be smart and well-spoken in order to be worthy of Jane. Finding Nico’s voice took a long time. He started out channeling the patrician and hyper-articulate Rochester, but with each revision his voice got a little more down to earth. Another key difference is that Nico genuinely loved his first wife, and doesn’t blame her for her afflictions, something that always troubles me about Mr. Rochester.
    Jane was easier to write, probably because Jane Eyre made such an early and deep impression on me. I’ve always felt as though I had an inner Jane, counseling me to be true to myself (not that I always listened). I’ve written Jane to be a little out of her element in the modern world just as young Jane Eyre was a fish out of water in her adopted family. Like Jane, she’s practical and self-contained, capable of great love and friendship but without many opportunities to express the warmth in her nature. One difference is that my Jane is more shy and self-conscious, and sometimes clumsy about expressing herself. I wrote her that way probably because I’m a bit that way myself, but her shyness came in handy in answering the all-important question of why Nico doesn’t just come right out and profess his romantic interest in Jane as soon as he feels it. He can’t read her, and he doesn’t want to make an unwanted pass at her. He’s used to women throwing themselves at him, and Jane’s an enigma. 

Rummanah: To be completely honest with you, I never understood Jane and Rochester's relationship. I didn't get why they liked each other, but your book really helped clear a lot of my confusion. Bringing these characters into the 21st century, particularly their personality and dialogue, allowed me to appreciate them a lot more. Some people may say that retelling a novel is relatively easy because you already have the characters, setting, and plot, but in my opinion, it’s a whole other ball game. What challenges did you face writing Jane?

April: There were difficulties along the way, mostly having to do with translating plot elements in Jane Eyre into the 21st century. The biggest one was finding an equivalent for the fate of Nico’s first wife in our age of medical miracles, but there were lots of smaller ones. I’d hit a roadblock and panic. What if I couldn’t make it work? Would I have to abandon the whole project? But then I’d take a deep breath and talk the problem over with my husband or a good friend. Then I’d sleep on it, and somehow a solution would appear. 

Rummanah: Besides Jane and Nico, who are amazing characters by the way, who did you have most fun writing about? Why?

April: I especially enjoyed the minor characters who piped up in my imagination with loud and distinct voices. I’m very fond of Diana, whose voice sounds quite a bit like my best friend’s. I also feel great love for Yvonne and Dennis, characters from Nico’s rock star milieu who could have ignored Jane or made her feel inferior, but who chose to be kind to her. I didn’t plan it that way; I meant for Nico’s friends to be callous or snobby like Mr. Rochester’s party of visitors to Thornfield Hall, but Yvonne and Dennis had other plans. 

Rummanah: Jane is your first novel, but I know you have also written poems and worked on anthologies, how is writing prose different from your other writings?

April:  Poetry is very intense and concentrated; ideally a poem doesn’t contain a single extraneous word, and packs a whole lot of music, imagery and emotional weight in a very small space. Writing and teaching poetry has taught me a lot about how to bring out the musicality in language and how to pare a piece of writing down to the bone. Another upside to poetry is that you can usually have the whole thing in front of you, which is great when you’re trying to make everything cohere. Writing a novel is much trickier in that way; it’s impossible to see the whole thing at once and there are so many details to keep track of.
  That said, the downside of writing poetry is that it involves a lot of starting from scratch. Once I’ve finished a poem I’ve got to come up with a whole new idea for the next one. I’ve spent countless frustrating days when the new idea just won’t come, and I fear I’ll never write another word. In contrast, there’s so much work to be done on a novel that even if I’m not feeling particularly inspired I can rough out a scene I know has to be in there, and inspiration has a way of sneaking up on me when I’m already busy writing. I love having a long project to dig into; there’s much less time spent staring at the blinking cursor waiting for lightning to strike. 

Rummanah: Writing in general is very hard. Personally, I know that I can't just write. I need an idea or an inspiration that moves me to write. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true. 

Readers, please tune in tomorrow for the second part of my interview with April Lindner!
6 Responses
  1. Hey, cool! This is in my to-read pile.

  2. Great interview! I read Jane Eyre in 9th grade and enjoyed it. It's interesting and cool that the author didn't feel the need to keep most of the names the same. The characterization if most important. Which character is the equivalent of Helen? I liked her.

  3. Hallie: It's a really cool book. I had my suspicions at first, but I was definitely won over.

    Alison: Thank you! I hope you check out Part 2 today. Jane begins when she is already a teen. She does have a brother and sister, though they are distant. I think that part has somewhat changed.

  4. Demitria Says:

    Adding this one to my list.

  5. Nat Says:

    Great interview! I have not read this book yet but have been looking forward to it for a while. I never did read the original version.

  6. Kelli: I think you'll enjoy this title a lot and it may even inspire you to read the original too!

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