Brant Flakes

Monday, June 29, 2009
AustenFest: Laurie Viera Rigler

Hope you all had a great weekend. (I got to go to a wedding. Quite an exciting event!) I wanted to start the day by saying “Congrats!” to our newest winner–Aimee–for winning the third of four $10 B&N giftcards. Yay! Aimee, please email me at marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com with your address so I can get that out to you!

Also, I have 2 mini prizes for commenters from Abigail Reynold’s post. I just came across these this weekend and I love them already: Starbucks Via Ready Brew packets. Each one has 3 soluble, microground coffee servings inside. The nice Starbucks guy assured me they can be served hot or cold (I’ve only done it the hot way so far), but you simply open up a little pack, pour it in the water, stir or shake and…voila! I picked up a Colombian flavor and an Italian Roast. And…the Colombian brew goes to Bloggin BB ; the Italian Roast goes to Lois. (Hurray for you both! Please email me so I can mail them out.)

See? Aren’t Monday mornings fabulous? For me, they’re extra fun when when I get to give away prizes and when I’ve got a terrific guest here on Brant Flakes. So, without waiting a moment longer, let me introduce my final AustenFest author, Laurie Viera Rigler.

At the Chicago AGM, where I had the pleasure of hearing Laurie present a workshop, I asked her to autograph my copy of her wonderful debut novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (Dutton, 2007)–a book Publishers Weekly smartly called “a winner.” When she told me a sequel would be coming this summer, I giggled in gleeful anticipation, hoping the months would pass quickly…

Well, the wait is now over! Just a few days ago, Dutton released Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, and being that I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview, I’m here to tell you all that it’s as fantastic and fun as the first, and it earned 4 1/2 stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times BOOKreviews!! Want a window into the world of Laurie’s heroine? Take a look at her new book trailer (it’s also up on AustenBlog, check out the June 12th post).

Welcome, Laurie! Can you tell us the basic premise of your new book?

Yes, but first may I just say how excited I am to be participating in AustenFest? It’s such an honor to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Marilyn! [My pleasure, Laurie!!]

Here is the premise of my new book: Imagine you are a 30-year-old gentleman’s daughter in 1813 England named Jane Mansfield (no relation to the 1950s movie legend). You go riding, fall from your horse, and the next time you open your eyes you are in a strange bed in a strange room in a body that is not your own. On the wall is a calendar: It is no longer 1813, it is 2009. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. You’re in a bewildering city called Los Angeles, a place of wondrous machines, questionable morals, and byzantine courtship rituals. Good thing you have the words of your favorite novelist, Jane Austen, to help you make sense of it all.

That’s Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. It is the parallel story to my first novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, in which a twenty-first-century Austen fan awakens as the nineteenth-century gentleman’s daughter from Rude Awakenings.

What’s one scene from this story you loved writing?

In the very first chapter, Jane has her first close encounter with modern technology, i.e., a glass box in which tiny figures act out scenes from her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. She is delighted to see Lizzy and Darcy come to life yet absolutely puzzled as to why they cannot hear her when she calls out to them and introduces herself. It was great fun to see my world through the eyes of my protagonist and imagine her reactions to all the things we take for granted, from electric lights and DVD players to computers, cars, and airplanes.

What’s a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel?

Adventurousness. Despite landing in a bewildering and potentially frightening world, my protagonist doesn’t waste much time in fear. Instead, she finds pleasure in the miraculous conveniences and delicious freedoms of life in the twenty-first century while trying to come to terms with our curious mating rituals and other bizarre social customs.

Who was the first person you told when you got The Call announcing you’d sold your first novel?

My husband. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what was happening, and telling him made it all real. I had gone from sitting in a room, for years, unraveling the story in my head, to realizing that this story in my head was going to be an actual, tangible book, out there in the world, that other people were going to read. I’ll never forget the sensation; it’s how I imagine someone would feel who won the lottery. After all, isn’t that what everyone tells us, how the odds are solidly against our ever getting our first novel published? Glad I didn’t listen to the naysayers. And if anyone who’s reading this is also writing a novel, don’t you listen either. Because as my teacher reminded me, someone wins the jackpot every week! [Great advice…]

What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your journey to publication?

My teacher very wisely encouraged me to think of myself as a “storyteller” rather than a “writer,” because the word “writer” has all sorts of baggage attached to it. (You know, the kind that starts with “You’re not a writer unless you…” Or worse, “You’re not a REAL writer unless you…”) Storytellers get to sit around the fire and weave tales and mesmerize their listeners, unburdened by all those cumbersome expectations.

What’s the most surprising thing that has happened to you on your publishing journey? Have you learned things about the industry you never knew before?

I’ve learned that I should treasure every moment I have with every one of the remarkable people assigned to work on my books and realize that they may not always be there, because there is a great deal of turnaround in this industry. I had assumed that my original editor and I would be immune to the impermanence of working relationships, as she was editor-in-chief of the imprint and not likely to leave. Less than two years later, she left to become an agent. Three of the publicists assigned to my books and two directors of marketing and publicity have also moved on. I am fortunate that every person who has been assigned to work on my books has been stellar. Moreover, my angel of an agent has been a stable, consistent force throughout.

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

I’d like to be one of those authors who says, “I never pay attention to reviews.” But I’m not there yet. I had the jitters—big time—right before my first novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, came out in North America. I was hugely relieved that the very first print review it received, in Publishers Weekly, was a positive one. Recently Confessions debuted in the UK, and I had the jitters all over again. These days to get reviewed at all in print media is a stroke of good fortune, what with all the cutbacks in that industry, so when a reviewer at The Observer said that she “spent a blissful day” with my book, my heart definitely did the happy dance!

Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?

I cannot imagine a day without reading, and aside from the pure enjoyment of immersing myself in a good book, I find reading to be a great writing teacher. No matter how busy I am, I always find time for reading, even if it’s just a few pages before I drop off to sleep at night. I read during breaks, when I’m standing in line at the post office, wherever I can squeeze it in!

At the moment I’m re-reading a mind-blowing novel by David Ambrose called Superstition.

Any favorite movies you’ve seen? Ones you’ve watched over and over again?

I’m a movie fanatic, and not surprisingly, many of my favorite movies are Austen adaptations. I love, own, and have watched these films multiple times: “Sense and Sensibility”(Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet), “Emma” (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam), “Bride and Prejudice” (the Bollywood-meets-Hollywood delight starring Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson), “Persuasion” (Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds), “Pride and Prejudice”(Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), and “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” I own and enjoy almost all the others as well. My favorite of the more recent adaptations is the “Sense and Sensibility” mini, penned by Andrew Davies. And I loved “Becoming Jane,” which, while not strictly factual, I see as delightfully true to the spirit of the feisty, trailblazing author I love so well.

On the non-Austen side, my favorites include “Love Actually,” “Notting Hill,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Sliding Doors,” “Groundhog Day,” “Still Crazy,” “The Winslow Boy,” and, more recently, “Duplicity,” which I loved so much I saw it in a movie theater two nights in a row. [I’ve seen and enjoyed several of these films, especially “Groundhog Day” and “Bend It Like Beckham.” You’ve convinced me to watched “Duplicity” now!]

Laurie is giving away two signed copies of her books–one of each title! So, for a chance to win a copy of either Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict or Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, all you have to do is leave a message in the comment section of this post by July 7th, the day we’ll be having our big book giveaway. Good luck! The fourth and final $10 B&N giftcard will go to someone who comments on Laurie’s post between now and July 3rd. I’ll draw the winning name that morning and do a little AustenFest wrap up then, too, so please check back :).

One last note, voting for the Regency World Awards ends tomorrow, June 30th, and Laurie is up for one! If you haven’t yet cast your votes for her first novel, Confessions, and you want to show your support–go here now!!