I am absolutely thrilled that Laurie Viera Rigler, author of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, agreed to answer a few of my questions. I read her book back in June when I was fortunate enough to participate in Book Club Girl's BlogTalk Radio Show; and I really enjoyed both the book as well as the discussion with Ms. Viera Rigler (you can read my review here.) I highly recommend CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, and I hope this interview will give you some insight into the book and entice you to read it!
Booking Mama: I love the concept for CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT – it’s such a unique idea to combine time travel with a historical fiction-type book. How did the idea for this novel come to you?
Laurie Viera Rigler: Hi, Julie, and thanks for asking me about CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. The idea didn't come about deliberately; I wasn't trying to think of an idea for an Austen-inspired novel or an idea for any novel. I was just standing in my kitchen one day and saw, in my mind's eye, this twenty-first-century Austen devotee, Courtney Stone, waking up in that four-poster bed in 1813 England in someone else's body.
Booking Mama: To write a historical fiction book like this, you must have done a ton of research to make it “feel” authentic. What types of research did you conduct, and how much time did you spend doing the research for CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT?
Laurie Viera Rigler: I spent six years writing the book and did research throughout that entire period. I read many books and periodicals about the period, traveled to England, and made use of excellent Internet resources such as Google Books and the Jane Austen Society of North America's website, http://jasna.org. I also conducted some experiential research (not time-traveling, unfortunately) by taking English country dance lessons and going to a few balls, including one I attended with my husband in which I discovered that English country dance is indeed a very sexy thing to do with the handsomest man that ever was seen.
Booking Mama: Jane Austen is huge right now with so many books and movies out there! Why do you think she is so popular today, almost 200 years since she wrote her novels?
Laurie Viera Rigler: What makes Jane Austen timeless is her keen observation of human nature, and human nature has not changed at all in the past 200 years. That is why we can read about Elizabeth and Darcy and see ourselves in a heroine who thinks she knows everything about another person and realizes she's been blinded by the same pride and prejudice she ascribed to him. That is why we can see ourselves in Anne Eliot of Persuasion and relate to someone who has been misguided and unappreciated, and who finally gets a second chance to make things right. The other novels have equally resonant universal themes. Plus there is the pure delight of reading a well-constructed, funny, and touching story with a satisfying conclusion and so many layers of mastery that it can be read again and again with increasing pleasure.
The movies attempt to capture that mastery, and some succeed better than others. Emma Thompson wrote the best Austen screenplay, in my opinion, because she truly captured some of that Austen wit and genius. In any case, the movies are almost always fun escapist entertainments, providing a doorway to another time and place, an accessible and low-risk form of time travel. And they are an excellent way to introduce potential readers to Austen's novels.
Booking Mama: I found the ending to be very interesting, and I like how you left the ending open for different interpretations by your readers. As the author of the story, do you have a definite theory on the ending or does your opinion change?
Laurie Viera Rigler: What an intriguing question! The ending has a very specific meaning for me. However, once I started hearing various interpretations of the ending from my readers, I decided not to interfere with the individual reader's interpretation by imposing my own. Generally, the interpretations fall into two main categories, but to say any more might spoil it for those who have not yet read the book. I will only say that the ending is a truly happy one, and that my protagonist gets exactly what she wants.
Booking Mama: Your second novel is kind of being described as a sequel to CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT since it will have some of the characters who were in the first book– this time Jane finds herself in the body and life of a 21st-century woman. Did you always know that you wanted to write this book when you began CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, or did you decide to tell this story after the success of your first book?
Laurie Viera Rigler: The sequel to CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is more like a parallel story/sequel in that it follows the adventures of Jane Mansfield (the nineteenth-century character from CONFESSIONS, not the twentieth-century screen goddess) who has woken up in Courtney Stone's twenty-first-century life (and body). So basically, while Courtney is taking over Jane's life in the first book, Jane is taking over Courtney's life in the second book.
The idea for the second book came up while I was writing CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. I did consider including Jane's twenty-first-century story in the first book; however, it just didn't feel right. Her journey is a very different journey, and it just didn't fit inside the first book. So I decided it would be my second novel, and I decided this way before I had a publisher.
Booking Mama: As I read this book, I could totally picture it as a movie. Is there any chance that CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT will appear on the big screen? Are there any specific actors/actresses you see in the roles?
Laurie Viera Rigler: I too would love to see CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT as a movie, and the rights are available if some clever producer would like to make me an offer I can't refuse. There are so many wonderful actors and actresses I admire that I couldn't possibly limit my fantasy choices. But I've certainly enjoyed reading and participating in the forum thread on my website that's devoted to casting the movie. [http://www.janeaustenaddict.com/forum.php?subject_id=21&message_id=42#42]
Booking Mama: I have to admit that I am not a huge “Jane Austen Addict;” but after reading your novel, I have to say that I want to re-visit some of her books. That has to make you pretty happy if you’re having that effect on your readers. Besides creating some new Austen fans, what else would you like for your readers to learn from or take away from this book?
Laurie Viera Rigler: I can't tell you how happy that makes me, Julie. It was my intention to write this book so that it would be completely accessible to those who had never read Austen or who had read a little Austen. And then there are all sorts of allusions to the novels that Austen addicts like myself would enjoy as well. It is tremendously gratifying to me that someone who reads my book would then become interested in revisiting Austen or reading her for the first time, which I have heard as well.
What I'd like readers to take away from this book, aside from the pleasure of a fun read, is a desire to explore some of the central questions that Courtney faces. One of those questions is: What makes up my identity? Am I who I am because of what I remember, or because of what people remember about me? Am I whoever people think I am, or am I someone else entirely? And what would I be willing to give up to live in a different time, and what would I gain?
Booking Mama: What is the best thing about being a writer? What is the strangest thing that’s happened to you since your novel was published?
Laurie Viera Rigler: The best thing about being a writer is being able to immerse myself in the world of my protagonists. It is a privilege and an adventure to see a whole new world through their eyes. I may not, in "reality," have time-traveled to Jane Austen's world and switched identities with a Regency gentlewoman, but thanks to Courtney I feel like I've shared her experiences.
The strangest thing that's happened to me since my novel was published was seeing my book in an airport bookstore, because back when I was fantasizing about being published I was traveling with my husband, and in an airport bookstore I said, wouldn't it be fantastic one day to see my book here?
Booking Mama: Besides Jane Austen (of course), who are some of your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books?
Laurie Viera Rigler: I adore Zadie Smith. On Beauty is one of my favorite books and very much reminds me of Austen, even though it is an homage to E.M. Forster's Howard's End. I also love Nick Hornby, who also reminds me of Austen (About a Boy, High Fidelity, Long Way Down, How to Be Good). And I love Ian McEwan (Atonement, On Chesil Beach), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Vine of Desire, Sister of My Heart), Jhumpa Lahiri (The Namesake), and so many other authors. I'm an avid reader. A few novels I've recently read and loved: Keeping the House by Ellen Baker, Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daily, Angelica by Arthur Phillips, The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover. I could go on and on but will restrain myself!
Thanks again for asking me about CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. It's been a lot of fun talking to you, Julie, and I hope to do it again soon!
A huge thanks goes out to Ms. Viera Rigler for this interview. If you would like to learn more about CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, you can visit the book's website. I have had almost as much fun playing around on this website as I did reading the book! The site is very interesting (as well as entertaining) and has tons of information for the "Jane Austen Addict" in all of us.
There is also another great opportunity to "talk" with Ms. Viera Rigler on August 12th. She will be joining Jane Austen Today for a live chat, and you can ask her some of your questions about the book. Click here for more details about how to participate - you could even win a copy of the book.
Not only has Ms. Viera Rigler been extremely gracious in answering all of my questions, but she has also offered to give away two signed copies of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT! If you are interested in winning a copy of this book, please leave a comment with the name of your favorite Jane Austen book (or movie). Don't forget to leave an e-mail address so I have a way to contact you. If you'd like to double your chances to win, blog about the contest (and the interview) with a link to this post. You have until August 8th to enter. This contest is open to citizens of the United States and Canada only.