Comment this part I of Talking Jane Austen, leave your e-mail address and you'll get the chance to win a signed copy of Confessions or Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. Two lucky winners will get their copy directly from Laurie! One winner for Confessions and one for Rude Awakenings . Next week, Sunday 11th, the first two winners will be announced and I'll post the second part of this incredible interview + a new double giveaway!!!
First of all, Laurie, welcome on my JA cyber corner. After reading your Rude Awakenings and following you online for me it's an honour to have you here! I'd like to start talking about your love for JA and her work. When was your first meeting with her wit and her world? What do you most appreciate in her novels?
First I want to thank you for inviting me to your blogs, Maria Grazia, and for all these great questions!
It was fifteen years ago when I first read Austen ("Sense and Sensibility") and saw my first Austen-inspired film (also "Sense and Sensibility"), and it was love at first story. All I could think of was how did I not read this author before? I immediately read Austen's other five novels in quick succession and have been re-reading all of them ever since.
What I most appreciate about Austen is that each story feels new to me in some way no matter how many times I have read it. Her novels have sublime insight into the mysteries of human nature, and thus I learn something new about myself every time. They are also eminently re-readable books because they have all the elements of master storytelling and something for everyone: humor, social satire, suspense, and a deeply satisfying love story.
Your heroines, Courtney and Jane, swap their lives and travel in space and in time: Jane wakes up in Los Angeles in our days but is a well-mannered, Regency England’s young lady ; Courtney travels the opposite route from our time and Los Angeles to Regency and England. Can you tell us how this idea came to your mind?
I was doing some mundane chore in the kitchen of the house I lived in at the time, and suddenly I saw Courtney, a twenty-first-century Austen fan, waking up in that four-poster bed in Regency England in someone else's body. I guess it's no surprise that such an idea would pop into my head, being as obsessed with Jane Austen as I am. I couldn't stop thinking about Courtney, and I began to write down the scene. There was more to the story, and I kept writing (and rewriting), and eventually I had a book.
It’s great fun to follow the sensation of displacement and astonishment the two girls experience, the misunderstandings and the humorous situations resulting from their being in a different body, time and place. Who of the two experienced the greater shock? Which is the most disagreeable experience to Courtney and which one to Jane?
Jane's is the greater shock, because she has no frame of reference for the future, whereas Courtney at least has some idea of the past. Just imagine that you, like Jane, come from a proto-industrial world where the only man-made light is from candles, where transportation is on foot or by horse, and where your only way to communicate with someone not right in front of you is by letter. And that's just the technological side of things. Far more shocking than the technology of the twenty-first century are its manners and morals (or lack thereof).
I think that Jane's most disagreeable experience in the twenty-first century is the realization that she is inhabiting the body of a single woman who has had intimate relations with a man outside of marriage. She cannot for the life of her understand why Courtney would sleep with a man and then refuse to marry him, no matter how unfaithful he had been to her. The consequence for a woman of Jane's time was ruin and disgrace.
As for Courtney, even though she lands in Jane's life in 1813 England with some idea of Regency England (she is, after all, a Jane Austen addict), her idea of Jane Austen's world comes from a combination of reading Austen's novels and watching the movies. Jane Austen's work, though steeped in the morals and customs of the time, was quite spare of period detail. She did, after all, write for her contemporaries, who didn't need an explanation as to what an entail was or what a barouche looked like. As for the movies, what Courtney discovers is that while they may be pretty accurate as to gowns and hairstyles, they present a rose-colored and highly sanitized picture of a less hygienic reality. Besides, it's one thing to read a book or watch a movie and fantasize about living in Jane Austen's world. It's quite another to actually be there, especially if you are a single woman under the control of your parents. And thus Courtney's most disagreeable experience is her close encounter with healthcare, Regency style, complete with dirty knife and copious bloodletting. It's enough to make me fetch my smelling salts!
Love is, of course, one of the main features in your stories but there are also other important aspects you deal with. What about social criticism? Do you use your story-telling to get to a social commentary like JA did?
My wish is that my stories inspire people to look at their own world with new eyes; in this case, through the eyes of someone from another time and culture. Jane, who comes from 1813 England in "Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict," really allowed me to look at my world anew. All the things I take for granted, from the lamp and the laptop on my desk to the freedom I have to walk down my street and talk to whomever I want whenever I want, would be unimaginable to Jane. Most especially, I wanted Jane to shine a light on the potential cost as well as the benefits of all the freedom we have, especially for women. I for one would never want to trade all the choices and mobility I have for the restrictions placed on women in Jane Austen's time. How we use those choices and freedom, however, is not always in our own best interests, and I wanted to take a look at those choices through Jane's eyes.
It's also my wish that we take a look at Austen's world through the light of social realism as well as romance. After all, didn't Jane Austen always want us to temper our romantic sensibilities? And so Courtney, my twenty-first-century protagonist who is absolutely in love with everything she thinks she knows about Jane Austen's world, gets a bit of a rude awakening of her own in "Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict." Nevertheless, she also gets that grand love story she always dreamed of. As does Jane.
What do you think of the many Austen adaptations? As much as I love watching them, I feel they’ve quite distorted the satirical, witty, humoristic spirit of JA ‘s major novels, turning them into just romances. What’s your opinion on this issue?
I think both your novels could become delightful comedy on screen. Would you accept if they asked you to adapt them ?
In a heartbeat! Thank you for that lovely thought. Now that my books have inspired the new comedy web series SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL I can see the books even more clearly as a movie or long-form TV series. Especially because the actresses in the web series, Arabella Field and Fay Masterson, are doing such a brilliant job of bringing Courtney and Jane to life. And there are few things more exciting for an author than that!
Before we end this week lovely chat I’d like to remind you that Laurie’s site Jane Austen Addict, has been nominated for a 2010 Jane Austen Award, an annual award event sponsored by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict has also been nominated this year. Follow the link and vote !
(End of Part I )
Now... Don’t forget to leave your comments and e-mail address. The giveaway is OPEN WORLDWIDE. One of you will have the chance to win a signed copy of Confessions and another one a signed copy of Rude Awakenings. Good luck! Remember, next week Talking Jane Austen II. Laurie Viera Rigler will answer to other questions and will giveaway other two signed copies of her awesome novels! The names of the first two winners will be announced next Sunday July 11th.
Laurie and I will be waiting for you next Sunday!