Lipstick Chronicles

Why I couldn’t put down Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

Lisa

Like many writers, I am a fan of Jane Austen. I am not, however, a fan of stories involving time travel. The idea always seemed too goofy to me.

But last year, a publicist sent me a book called Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler– the story of Courtney Stone, a Jane Austen-addicted woman from modern-day Los Angeles who finds herself transported to Regency England, to Jane Austen’s time. Courtney wakes up one morning and finds she has taken the place of a woman called Jane Mansfield.

The book had a lovely cover, and I was going to the beach with nothing more interesting to read. Besides, it had been edited by Trena Keating, my former editor, and I always liked her taste. That was enough for me to at least read a few pages.

So I planted my beach umbrella, coated myself in sunscreen, and cracked open the book.

Five or six hours later, I was nearly finished. Unfortunately for me, it was time to go pick my daughter up from preschool.

It was so good I was almost late for pickup.

It was so good that I was reading at stoplights just to get a few more paragraphs in.

It was so good that I plopped my daughter in front of Dora the Explorer on a continuous loop the second we got home so that I could finish the book.

It was so good.

Imagine my delight a few weeks ago when the sequel, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict arrived at my doorstep.

This time, Jane Austen -era’s Jane Mansfield finds herself transported to modern day L.A. What could be more fun?

After I read the book (Fabulous!), I had a few questions for author Laurie Viera Rigler, a Jane Austen addict herself. (Lisa confession: I occasionally semi-stalk my favorite authors via interview questions. Like, er, the first time I read Sarah Strohmeyer.)

What gave you the idea to send a modern woman to Regency England, and in RUDE AWAKENINGS, to send poor Jane to modern LA?

The opening scene of the first book, CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, was a surprise gift that just popped into my head. I was puttering around my kitchen one day and suddenly I saw, in my mind’s eye, this twenty-first-century Austen fan named Courtney awakening in Regency England in another woman’s body. Though I wasn’t trying to think of an idea for a novel, let alone an Austen-inspired novel, I’m such an Austen addict myself that if any character were going to show up in my mind, this was the perfect one to make an appearance.

As for my new book, I knew that if Courtney was taking over the nineteenth-century woman’s life, the nineteenth-century woman would be taking over Courtney’s life. But hers was a very different journey, and it just had to be its own book. Which is how RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT came to be. And I had so much fun writing this book.

If you were sent back to Jane Austen’s time, what is the modern convenience you’d miss most?

Freedom. Coming from a place and time where I have a lot of choices, I would find it challenging to be told I couldn’t live alone, travel alone, or have my choice of career. Self-determination would be a lot harder to live without than my computer or my iPhone!

RUDE AWAKENINGS felt like a great stopping point – will we see these characters again?

That is such a great question! I’m inclined to agree with you; their stories feel complete now, but the truth is, I don’t know what the future will bring. I never expected the first scene of the first book to pop into my head, so anything is possible.

Why do you think Jane Austen is so appealing, even so many years after her death?

Austen’s stories are about self-discovery and self-mastery and love as the great reward for both. She makes witty and insightful comments on human nature in all its folly and majesty while weaving plots that are complex and deeply satisfying. Human nature hasn’t changed at all since the days of horse-drawn carriages–we still crave a page-turning tale that takes us outside of ourselves while leaving us with the feeling that perhaps we know ourselves and our fellow humans a little better by the time we close the book. And we still want to believe that love will be our reward. All of that is what makes Austen timeless.

How tough was it to keep Jane’s inner dialogue century-appropriate?

It was great fun, and at the same time it required constant questioning of usage, even of the most commonplace words. It helped that I’ve read Austen’s texts many times and immersed myself in her language over the years. But writing in an authentic first-person voice of someone from that time required a deeper and broader level of familiarity with the lexicon. Which is why my online subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary became my constant friend. The first two places I’d consult for any language question were the OED and Mollands.net for its searchable e-texts of Austen’s works. I would check to see if a particular word was used during Austen’s time or earlier and if that word had the same meaning then as it does today. If I wasn’t satisfied with the answer, I’d turn to Google Book Search for e-texts of other works from the period. I even created my own mini-glossary for the book.

Another thing I had to keep in mind was a language arc, because as my protagonist spends more time in her borrowed body and her borrowed life, she begins to access more of the modern lexicon from within as well as without.

How many times have you read Pride & Prejudice?

At least twenty times.

Who is your favorite onscreen Mr. Darcy?

That would be the inimitable Colin Firth, though I have to say that Matthew MacFadyen also inspires me to break out my fan and reach for my smelling salts.

I’m a MacFadyen fan myself. At the end of the film when he confesses his feelings to Elizabeth — that little stutter on “I lu… I lu… I love you” — makes my heart skip a beat every time. Any plans for a CONFESSIONS/RUDE AWAKENINGS movie?

No plans yet, but I believe it will happen for both RUDE AWAKENINGS and CONFESSIONS. And I can’t wait to see your novel, FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME, as a movie!

Thanks so much, fingers crossed!

Thank you to Laurie Viera Rigler for her time, and more importantly, for offering one lucky Lipstick Chronicles reader a signed copy of her brand new book RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, in stores next week.

To win, leave a comment on today’s blog. One winner will randomly be selected on Monday morning. (Which makes today It’s a terrible day to lurk. 🙂

Lisa

Posted June 21, 2009