Novel Reaction is excited to welcome author April Lindner as part of her blog tour for her debut novel Jane, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre.
April Lindner is an associate professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her poetry collection, Skin, received the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry, and her poems have been featured in many anthologies and textbooks. She holds an MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in English from the University of Cincinnati. Jane is her debut novel.
NR: How difficult was it incorporating the Gothic elements of the original Jane Eyre into a modern telling without delving into the paranormal genre?
AL: I’m drawn to what’s dark, selfish and conflicted in human nature, and I never really felt the urge embody that darkness in the paranormal. There’s only one nearly paranormal moment in Jane Eyre—when Jane hears Mr. Rochester calling her name at the exact instant he really does cry out for her from a great distance. But that kind of communication can and does happen in the real world. Some twins are said to have that kind of connection—one is in danger and the other one somehow knows it even from another continent. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester have that kind of inexplicable connection, but the fact that we don’t fully understand it doesn’t necessarily make it paranormal.
AL: While I was writing the novel I was obsessed with the Del Lord’s Get Tough (their “Best of” album), especially the songs “Cheyenne” and “Judas Kiss.” I also was listening to anything and everything by the whip smart and not-as-famous-as-he-deserves-to-be John Wesley Harding, particularly his albums The Confessions of Saint Ace and Adam’s Apple.
Also, right about the time I started revising, Bruce Springsteen released his wonderful Magic album, so I was listening to it obsessively and plotting to get to as many shows as possible, all in the name of research. Bruce’s earlier song “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” became a kind of theme song while I was writing, as did Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.”
NR: Both Jane Eyre and Jane have very complex characters, especially Jane and Mr. Rochester/Nico, which character did you find more difficult to write?
AL: Nico was more difficult. I wanted to make as much like as Mr. Rochester as possible and still be believable as a rock star. Finding his voice was tricky. In early drafts he sounded like a Victorian gentleman—way too formal. With each rewriting he came a bit further down to earth. Also the character has to have a selfish and somewhat manipulative streak and yet still be vulnerable and appealing—a hard balance to strike.
NR: With the prevalence of retelling of Jane Austen’s works, why do you think the Bronte sister’s works have been relatively untouched for so long?
AL: I wish I knew! Maybe the over-the-top passion of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights don’t suit the ironic spirit of our times as well as Jane Austen’s sparkling wit does? As much as I adore and admire Austen, I’ve always felt more of a kinship with the Brontes, and I know I’m not alone.
NR: Do you have any plans to write any other retellings or any other projects you are working on that you would like to share with us?
AL: I’ve been working on a retelling of Wuthering Heights. It’s set in a nightclub on the lower east side of Manhattan, and the Heathcliff character is a punk rocker.
Thank you April for stopping by and answering some questions about your novel Jane, you can read my review of the book here. I look forward to the modern retelling of Wuthering Heights and I know that I am not the only one.