Living Read Girl

On the Shelf With Laurie Viera Rigler, plus a double Jane Austen Addict giveaway

Out of the many Jane Austen related original novels that have come out over the past several years,author Laurie Viera Rigler has chosen to share her literary love of Austen’s work by blending her own unique take on the genre with a dash of fantasy and clever social satire into the bargain.

Her first novel,Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict,had it’s modern day heroine Courtney Stone trade bodies and places with a young woman in 18th century England named Jane Mansfield. The only connection either of them seemed to have in common was their devotion to Pride and Prejudice as the perfect pick-me-up prose for their troubled lives.

Over the course of the story,Courtney saw the other things that she and Jane shared,such as choosing who each of them truly loved and finding their own path to happiness,regardless of social conventions.

The book was so well received by critics and Austen fans alike that there was true joy when the follow-up to Confessions was released this summer. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict shows us Jane Mansfield’s journey thru the 21st century looking glass of Courtney’s world and the touchingly humorous bouts of future shock that she experiences along the way.

In addition to collaborating with others,along with writing her own books,Laurie V. Rigler also teaches the craft in workshops set at Vroman’s,one of the oldest and most respected independent book shops in Southern California.

She holds a B.A. in Classics from SUNY in Buffalo,NY,where she graduated summa cum laude and has been a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America for many years. She also shares her Austen love at her blog featured on her Jane Austen Addict website.

I was very honored to be part of Laurie’s blog tour for Rude Awakenings and delighted to have a Q and A with her about not only the book but other Jane Austen hot topics as well. She was not only gracious enough to give me her time,but to offer both Rude Awakenings and Confessions as giveaways to the LRG readers. More on that in a moment,but first,let’s chat with Laurie a bit:

1)Rude Awakenings is a follow-up to your previous novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Which book gave you the most challenges as a writer?

First may I say how happy I am to be here on Living Read Girl? Thank you so much for inviting me!

CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT was somewhat easier to write, because I could very naturally put myself inside the mind of Courtney, my twenty-first-century protagonist going back in time with everything she knows (or thinks she knows) about Jane Austen’s day.

After all, I’d spent a lot of time myself fantasizing about going back in time to Jane Austen’s world, and I read a great deal about the period. It was more challenging to imagine the perspective of Jane, my nineteenth-century protagonist in RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, going forward in time to the twenty-first century and having no concept of modern technology and morals:

2) In doing research for both novels, what similarities between Jane Austen’s time and our own did you find?

That is a fascinating question, because we usually focus on what’s different about the two time periods rather than on what is similar. What hasn’t changed at all since Jane Austen’s day is the human heart and all of its flaws, beauty, and potential for self-awareness and self-mastery.

One of the things that completely confuses my protagonist in this novel is love. She is falling in love with a man in the modern world and has no idea how to deal with it. That is a major similarity between our time and Jane Austen’s day.

Although in our contemporary world we are supposed to have absolute freedom to declare our feelings, we play as much of a guessing game about who cares for whom and how much as people were forced to play in the highly regimented and restricted social world of Regency England, when couples were not even allowed to correspond unless they were engaged. You’d think between cellphones, text messages, email, and Facebook we could work that all out, wouldn’t you? But now we simply have multiple technological avenues for miscommunication.

3) Are you planning on writing any more Jane Austen related stories?

I’m not quite sure yet, because my next project is in a very early stage. But in any case I do believe that what I love best about Jane Austen will always inspire my work.

4) What is your favorite romantic comedy(book or film)?

Do I have to choose just one? With books, Jane Austen’s come to mind first—no surprise there! PERSUASION is my favorite Austen novel, but I could not exactly classify it as a romantic comedy, even though there are some very funny moments.

I’d have to say that of all her novels, the ones that best fit the bill of romantic comedy are EMMA and NORTHANGER ABBEY. As for my favorite film romantic comedies, I’d choose LOVE, ACTUALLY and two of the Emma adaptations, the 1996 one with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam, and the brilliant CLUELESS:

5) If you had the chance to adapt any one of Austen’s novels into a screenplay, which one would you choose and why?

NORTHANGER ABBEY for a couple of reasons. It’s one of the lesser known Austen novels and often not appreciated as much as it should be. It’s a lovely coming-of-age story about learning self-reliance and how to discriminate between false friends and true friendship, and it’s got an adorable love story between a charmingly naïve and innocent girl with an overactive imagination and a young man with an irresistible sense of humor.

The girl is constantly reading Gothic horror novels and lets her imagination run away with her to the point that she is convinced that her friend’s father either drove his wife to her death or keeps her locked up in a disused wing of their home. For her the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. The whole book is a defense of the virtues of reading fiction and at the same time a send-up of the Gothic horror novels that were so popular in Jane Austen’s day.

I think a screenwriter could have a blast giving this story a modern spin. Perhaps the heroine could be someone who is so immersed in the vampire books and graphic novels she’s always reading that she is starting to see evidence of vampires everywhere in her real life. And at the same time she is falling madly in love with her friend’s brother, who loses no opportunity to tease her gently about her obsession.

6)What modern day innovation do you think someone from Austen’s days would appreciate the most?

Hot showers, electric lights, the Internet, and all the other wonders of modern technology are innovations that anyone from Jane Austen’s day would likely appreciate. But the aspect of modern-day living that would be most appealing, especially for someone like my protagonist, would be freedom of choice.

For Jane, a thirty-year-old unmarried woman in Regency England, her future was basically a choice between living with her parents or entering into a marriage of convenience if a love match didn’t come her way.

Having already had her heart broken, and at 30 years old, the prospects of that happening were slim. So what were her options? As an unmarried gentleman’s daughter, she could not live alone, travel alone, or earn her own money—except perhaps as a paid companion or governess, neither of them appealing prospects. So being in the modern world and having the ability to choose her career, her living situation, and even her daily activities would be a revelation.

7) Pride and Prejudice has been the most remade and reimagined book of Jane Austen’s canon-which of her other five novels should future Austen adaptors turn their attentions to?

Aside from my thoughts about NORTHANGER ABBEY, I also have this idea that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE could do with yet another adaptation—also a contemporary one. This idea came about when I saw the film “Talk to Me,” starring Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character reminded me so much of Mr. Darcy that I decided he should actually play Mr. Darcy. He’d be perfect.

And I would like to see another filmmaker give MANSFIELD PARK a try; of the three adaptations I’ve seen, the one I enjoyed the most was the least faithful to the book. This is not an easy book to adapt, but I’d like to see if someone can get it right.

My thanks to Laurie for sharing her thoughts with me(I would love to see a better version of Mansfield Park made as well),and if you would like to either check out Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict or go back to the beginning with Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict,we will be giving away a copy of each here at LRG.

Just leave a comment mentioning your favorite Jane Austen book,movie or reimagined version at this post and please state your preference for either Confessions or Rude Awakenings. The deadline is Thursday,with the winners being announced on Friday and asked for their mailing info so that the good folks at Penguin can send out their prizes as quick as can be.

Good luck to all who enter(this contest is open to both the U.S. and Canada) and I hope you get to enjoy these stories of what it would be like to live in the dreams of Jane Austen’s world: