Friday, January 18, 2013

Retell Me a Story Guest Post: April Lindner

I'm happy to welcome my next guest poster, April Lindner, who was gracious enough to answer some of my questions.  She's the author of Jane and Catherine, both fabulous retellings of Bronte sisters' works.  She can also be found on twitter and goodreads.  

What kind of research did you do on the original tale(s)?
I begin with books I already love, books I’ve read over and over, and then I steep myself in them some more. When I was writing Jane, I kept a copy of Jane Eyre beside my bed and read before I fell asleep it at night, or whenever I started to feel writer’s block coming on. I also drove around town with the audiobook in my CD player, just to absorb as much of the language and mood as possible.

While writing Catherine, I gave myself permission to roam a little more freely away from the source material—to absorb the characters and the mood, but not to worry so much about hitting all the major plot points. Though I reread Wuthering Heights before I started, while I was actually writing, I set the book aside. I did load Wuthering Heights on my iPod, though, and I listened to it at night while I drifted off to sleep. Considering how dark Bronte’s novel is, I’m a little surprised it didn’t give me nightmares.

How did you incorporate the original tale into your story?
Jane is a pretty faithful adaptation of Jane Eyre. There are so many moments in the original that I couldn’t imagine leaving out, so I found ways to work all my favorites in. By the time I set out to write Catherine, though, I wanted to experiment with going further afield from the original. Wuthering Heights, with its multiple narrators and multigenerational sweep, was in many ways much more challenging to retell.

Film adaptations of Wuthering Heights have tended to focus on the love story between Catherine and Heathcliff, and leave out the rest. I knew I didn’t want to go that route. I’ve always thought the second half of the story is as important as the first. When Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is thwarted, his pain and resentment cast a shadow over the lives of their children. The second half of the novel is really about how Catherine’s daughter finds her way out of that shadow, and I wanted to tell that story too. In my retelling, Catherine’s daughter’s name is Chelsea, and she gets a chance to speak.

How did you determine what elements of the original story to include in your story?
Some elements of Wuthering Heights would have been really hard to translate into the 21st century. For one thing, Catherine’s daughter marries both her first cousins—first one, then the other. For another, Catherine’s father picks up a stray orphan child from the streets of Liverpool and brings him home to raise among his own children—which nowadays would be considered kidnapping. I gave myself permission to step away from the more anachronistic parts of the plot and to concentrate on its more universal elements.

Also, one defining aspect of Wuthering Heights is the cruelty that propels much of the plot. I originally set out to recreate that intense violence, but I found myself constitutionally unable to pull it off. I’m basically a pretty sunny personality, and I found that a little cruelty and violence went a long way. Unlike in the original, in Catherine no children are abused and no puppies are killed.

Why did you choose to retell the original story?
I have an endless appetite for retellings. When I fall in love with a book, I want to revisit it again and again. One way of doing that is, of course, rereading. Another is watching film adaptations. But writing a retelling takes things to a whole different level. Not only do you get to revisit characters you bonded with; you get to interact with them—to play with them. In many ways, it’s the same impulse that leads people to write fan fiction, I think.

Why do you think we are so drawn to classic stories? What makes them stand the tests of time so well?
The stories we think of as classics are the ones that have stuck with us for centuries or, at least, decades. People still read those stories, despite the passage of time, because they say something crucial about what it means to be a human being, and they do so in language or imagery or archetypes that burn into our collective memories.

Did you like reading classics in high school?
Yes, I did. I even sometimes read classics that hadn’t been assigned. Does that make me a total geek? I hope not. I remember reading Romeo and Juliet in English class and all but swooning from the gorgeous romantic poetry of passages like this:

Give me my Romeo; and when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Does it get any more romantic than that? I don’t think so!

What are some of your favorite classics?
I love everything by Jane Austen and E. M. Forster. (I’m currently working on a modernization of Forster’s A Room With a View, an all time favorite of mine.) I also adore George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and all of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

What are some of your favorite retellings?
Last summer I read Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, a ravishing retelling of Heart of Darkness. And the summer before that, I read and was blown away by On Beauty, Zadie Smith’s retelling of Howard’s End. But my favorite quasi-retelling of all time is probably Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, which definitely draws elements from Jane Eyre. Some of my favorite retellings have been screen versions, films like Easy A and Clueless. And, while it’s not exactly a retelling, the British series Lost in Austen is a really fun riff on Pride and Prejudice.

Thanks for joining us, April!
(And don't forget to check out my review of Catherine and the giveaway that includes my ARC of Catherine)

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. I think almost all the retellings you've featured this week, Moley, look so good/intriguing!

    1. There seem to be so many wonderful retellings coming out now!

  2. Great interview. Glad to hear Lindner is going to play around with the source text a little more in CATHERINE than she did with JANE.

    1. Definitely there are some deviations from the original in Catherine. Though, it has been a LONG time since I read Wuthering Heights.

  3. K, I know Jane Eyre is a beloved book buy I've never been a fan. So, sadly, I never read this retelling. I have read Wuthering Heights twice because I love the story of Catherine's daughter. So the retelling of that one sounds very good!

    1. You should definitely enjoy Catherine then, since most of the story focuses on her daughter.

  4. Fascinating! And now, I'm all anxious to read Catherine, as if I needed to add another retelling to my list! Argh!

    1. I know what you mean about adding to the list! I've got an outrageous number for this year.


Love it when you comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Copyright © melissa of One Librarian's Book Reviews 2008-2015