Thursday 24 February 2011


Adam Spunberg  is the creator of The Jane  Austen  Twitter Project with English author Lynn Shepherd. Their amazing idea of  writing a new Austen-inspired story on Twitter has gained remarkable popularity in the Austen webworld these days and even  the media and the press ( The Times!) have shown great interest and appreciation.
Adam Spunberg received his B.A. from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Florida. However, his affinity for literature -- like Jane Austen, for instance -- easily outweighed his middling interest in the legal profession, and he happily gave it all up for a career in sports journalism and film review. When not producing websites for Major League Baseball, Spunberg relishes the chance to watch movies, read books, and write with Oxford commas. He also wanted to take residence at Netherfield, but he heard it was let at last. Instead, he practices Anglophilia from across the pond in New York City.
I'm very glad to welcome Adam on My Jane Austen Book Club and to offer you the possibility to enjoy our lively, humorous chat ....

-          MG: When was your first encounter with our darling Miss Austen?

A: My first encounter was going to see Ang Lee’s Sense & Sensibility with my parents, but I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to reading. During my freshman year of college, we were assigned to read Pride & Prejudice in my Literature Humanities class. You might say I was instantly smitten – unlike the hero and heroine, interestingly enough – and if I was late in arriving to the party, I can at least say I partied hard.

-        MG:   Really? Great , Adam. And what did you like best in her work and in her world?

A: There was a lot to like. At first, I was drawn to the Pride & Prejudice plot itself; what’s not to love in your classic, he-offends-her-and-she-hates-him-but-then-he-secretly-loves-her-and-eventually-she-comes-around-magnificently tale. Then again, it’s not every day that “the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry” becomes the man of a girl’s dreams. I hope I could be so lucky as to offend a girl as wondrous as Lizzy Bennet so!

Eventually, it was an appreciation for her insatiable wit, the eloquent diction. There is as much to relish in her secondary characters as in the main ones, and the stories read so quickly and enjoyably. Really, Miss Austen is a breath of fresh air on the world.

-         MG:  Is there anything  you envy to men and women of her time?

A: I wouldn’t mind being as wealthy as Mr. Darcy, lol. I do wish we had some of the same chivalry nowadays. It almost seems like a Regency romance today would involve restraining orders, therapy, Facebook de-friendings, and details about someone’s sex life exposed on the Internet.

-         MG:  Have you got a favourite Austen hero? Heroine? Couple?

A: You know, I always feel the need to stick up for Fanny Price. Maybe she was a little bland and meek, but you have to admire her genuine goodness and conviction. I also remember absolutely revering Elinor Dashwood for being so wise and understanding in the midst of misfortunes.

Still, I hate to be so ordinary, but Elizabeth Bennet is my favorite. She just has so much spunk! If someone can find a way to make Lost in Austen happen, I’ll be waiting here for her – especially if she looks like Gemma Arterton.

-        MG:   Since you are collaborating with Lynn Shepherd, author of a brilliant Austen -inspired murder mystery, Murder at Mansfield Park (which I loved reading so much!) , what do you think of the huge quantity of Austen fanfiction - sequels, spin-offs, modern re-telling, mash-ups  - released in the last few years?

A: This is something I didn’t know about until recently. I think it’s wonderful that there’s such an Austen resurgence, and many of these writers – as you can see from A Ball at Pemberley – have an incredible grasp for the material. I’ve become very friendly with Sharon Lathan, Jane Odiwe, and of course – Lynn. And if I can just say: I agree wholeheartedly about Lynn’s book.
Is she something special or what?

-         MGWhat is the great appeal of Austen on 21st readers ?

A: I think there are some common themes that really originated in the 90’s. Female liberation, suburban strife, a rise of individuality. More than anything, I think the people of today crave Austen’s breed of romanticism: love and courtship, with a little bit of satire and practicality thrown in. We all know couples like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet or Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, but we want to believe there are Darcys and Knightleys, too.


-         MGYou are interested in experimenting with literature and technology. Anyone who loves  books and is interested  in writing/reading must come to terms with modern book formats and completely new marketing. Is the traditional book format bound to disappear soon, then?

A: I could be wrong, but I think people cherish the feeling of paper in their hands too much to throw away the old-fashioned book. Over time, however, paper-bound books may go the way of enyclopedias: entire shelves coverted to one, razor-thin display format.
This revolution may be inevitable.

-         MGAre the new technologies contributing to spread the habit of reading  among young people? Or are they , the young people I mean,  more interested in social networking and chatrooms?

A: At least they’re reading! But seriously, I think young people are passing hours of time on the Internet rather than reading novels. I can relate to that impulse personally. I could be reading Dickens right now; instead, I’m tweeting, going on Facebook, and answering online interview questions – although this interviewer asks GREAT questions;)

-         MGFor what you know about her, what do you think Jane Austen’s most congenial way of conveying her thoughts, keeping in touch with friends and family  or  launching her novels would have been today? A blog? Twitter? Facebook? All of them?

A: I imagine Jane Austen communicating on two different levels. For her public, there would be all kinds of clever status updates, tweets, and blog entries. Close friends and families would get private e-mails and direct messages.
Goodbye quills and parchments, hello carpotunnel syndrome!

-         MG: I’ve asked this several times before to Austenite authors I interviewed,  especially is they were also teachers. Now I’m going to ask the same question you as a representative of humanity with the Y chromosome: why is it always so difficult for me as a teacher to read / watch Jane Austen with my teeanage male students? Any suggestions to win their prejudices against “that girlish stuff”? (their words, not mine, of course!)

A: I’ll watch Austen with you any time. Meet you under the Arch of Titus?

Really though, I think there’s a stigma that enjoying “chick books” like these diminishes masculinity, and secretly more of them would like it than they let on. How about coming up with book covers? Wrap a cover around Persuasion that says, “AC Milan and Juventus” and nobody will know.

Oh, and tell them that hot girl in History class loves men who are man enough to read Austen.

And by the way, if you’d prefer we meet at the Spanish Steps, that works too.
I’ll bring some nocciola gelato.

-         MGMmm... I love icecream but... Let’s see Adam...It’d be nice talking Austen with you in Rome but I’ve never seen New York skyline from the Statue of Liberty –though I was there twice . Do they let tourists  go up or is it prohibited? Jane Austen and skyscrapers! Why not? 

MG: Now , seriously , your amazingly original Austen project on twitter! Tell us something about how you came to meet  Lynn Shepherd and decided  to join efforts and  start this great new adventure

A: Not surprisingly, we met over Twitter. She followed me after I had an Austenesque discussion with a woman about the origins of baseball. From there, I ended up reading (and loving) her book, tweeting back and forth with her, and eventually sharing this idea I had. We became tremendously good friends.

And though I haven’t asked her formally, I might have a place to stay if I’m passing through Berkshire. Not to be discounted, the way the American dollar is holding up to the pound these days, lol.

-        MG:   How is it going? Give us the “figures”  of your success (numbers of participants, tweets, interest from the media, etc)

A: It’s going better than I ever imagined. So far, we have nearly 50 tweeters signed up from 13 countries and six continents (if you know anyone on Antarctica, pass it on). The quality of the tweets has been extraordinary, and we have over 15,000 words written, based on just two days of tweeting.

There has been significant media interest, from the BBC in Northern Ireland and Oxford, to The Times and ... Austen blogs.  There’s one in particular you should read: Maria Grazia does an amazing job!

MG: Flattered  and honoured to be appreciated by a young expert of media and technologies like you, especially because you also like old  aunt Jane. Tell me the truth, you’ve learnt how to win women’s benevolence from her heroes. Smart indeed, Adam! That’s all , for now. Thanks a lot for being one of my rare gentlemen guests on My Jane Austen Book Club. Good luck with your Austen project ,  your work and your life!

Leave a comment here or a question for Adam and you 'll get the chance to win a copy of MURDER AT MANSFIELD PARK by Lynn Shepherd.  The giveaway is open internationally and ends on March 2nd, when the name of the winner will be announced. Don't forget to add your e-mail address,  if you want to be entered! Good Luck! MG


Anonymous said...

¡Hola Adam & María!;)

What a great interview!!Very interesting and so much laughing!
I am so happy in taking part in this original project!I have to admit that for me (not used to writing in Jane Austen times' English at all and let alone, in fifteen minutes!)#A4T it's being so exciting and fun!A real pleasure!
It's so amazing (almost incredible) how so many people, from different languages and parts of the world, could be united in this kind of project, isn't it? So beautiful, indeed^^
Thanks again for this amazing idea and congratulations for every interview and success on it.

All the best from Seville,


Misha said...

Great interview! I feel Fanny Price is underrated too. Everyone seems to dislike her!

Thanks for the giveaway! I have been dying to read the book.


Mystica said...

Thanks for a great interview and thanks once again for making this open to all. Much appreciated


Claudia said...

I'm laughing out loud on this interview! By the way, I'm going to try your suggestion about putting a cover around the JA novels, it seems a smart idea :)
Thanks for the giveaway, it sounds great!


Linda said...

Great interview. I especially liked Adam's comment about people who cherish and actual paper/print novel in their hands. That certainly describes me.

Margay Leah Justice said...

Very interesting interview!

The cover of the book is gorgeous!


Laura Ferrari said...

I would have loved to read Jane Austen's tweets, she would have rocked!
Funny how Darcy is always everyone's choice, had I been a man I would have picked out Wentworth.
Great interview!
I'll start following too on twitter :-)

Laura Ferrari