Pride and Prejudice (2005) Blog

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Interview with Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Austen Addict novels

Posted by Jeane at 11:00 PM

I had the honor and pleasure of doing this fun interview with the lovely Laurie Viera Rigler (photo, artworks, and banners used her are courtesy of Laurie herself. Thanks!), best-selling author of Jane Austen inspired novels, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (as well as the creator and writer of Sex and the Austen Girl, the web series inspired by her novels).

I must confess, I’m not a Jane Austen addict (probably because I’m more of a P&P addict, lol), but I had a great time reading both of her delightful, fun, witty, and fabulous novels. I couldn’t put them down when I read them recently. They were quite a page-turner and I loved and enjoy reading them. Not too mention, in her novels, Pride and Prejudice was the favorite book of the main characters/heroines Jane Mansfield and Courtney Stone. There were lots of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet mentions too as well as the 1995 BBC/A&E P&P miniseries, Colin Firth, and Matthew Macfadyen. What’s not to love? So, I thought why not do an interview with Laurie here as I loved her books and one of her novels were on the list of my Book Recommendations: Jane Austen Inspired Novels (Part 1). She was so wonderful and gracious enough to let me do an interview with her here on this blog when I asked her. Thank you so much Laurie!

Also, Laurie is giving away two signed copies of her awesome Austen Addict novels to two lucky winners!! All you have to do is leave a comment here to be entered a chance to win her novels. First, read part 1 (of my two-parts interview with her) and read further for more details on how you can win her novels (after the cut)…

Jeane: How did you discover Jane Austen and when did you become a fan?

Laurie Viera Rigler: Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Jeane! About fifteen years ago, there was a huge wave of Austen film adaptations coming out, and I wondered what the fuss was all about, having never read Jane Austen in school. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY was the first one I read, and I instantly fell in love.

J: Have you read all six of Jane Austen novels or seen all adaptations of each of her novels?

LVR: After SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, I read the other five major novels in quick succession, and I have been re-reading them ever since. I read all six novels at least once a year. I never tire of Austen’s inimitable way of combining social satire, comedy, suspenseful love story, and even heart-wrenching tragedy in one book. And it’s all done with a keen eye for the best and worst of human nature. These are deeply satisfying stories, and I always see something new in them every time I read them.

As for the films, it’s always exciting when a new one comes out. But I have to see a new film at least twice to begin to enjoy it as a work unto itself. The first time I watch an Austen adaptation, I spend most of the time mentally comparing it to the book and thinking, why did they leave this out and why did they add that bit? But after I get that out of the way, I try to experience the film as an entertainment in its own right. I understand the impossibility of adapting any book in a truly faithful manner. The medium of film and the medium of literature are so different, that it simply isn’t possible to simply transfer a book to a screen. Even a five-hour extravaganza like the 1995 BBC PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, easily the most faithful of all the adaptations, deviated to some degree from the text. But I do enjoy watching filmmakers try to bring these beloved books to life on the screen, and many of them have done a fine job. When they get it right, it’s great fun to watch. Which is why I have seen all of the films made since the mid-1990’s, plus the 1980 and 1940 versions of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

J: Which one of JA novels is your most favorite to read and why?

LVR: PERSUASION is my favorite, for many reasons. I love the idea of second chances, and the rewards of constancy, and the balance between persuadability and obstinacy, and most of all, The Letter, which may be the most romantic in all of English literature. And I have a thing for Captain Wentworth. But then again, I also have a thing for Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney.

J: Which TV or film adaptations from JA novels is your favorite?
LVR: A few of my favorites are the 1995 PERSUASION, directed by Roger Michell and starring Amanda Root and CiarĂ¡n Hinds. It is beautifully cast and acted and directed, and has an earthy realism to it that I find refreshing after the Hollywood gloss of most of the films.

But gloss is fun, too, which is why I also love BRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the Bollywood-meets-Hollywood version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, directed by Gurinder Chadha, who also directed another of my favorite films, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM. BRIDE AND PREJUDICE makes me want to sing and dance and wear bright colors. If anyone out there is feeling out of sorts with all the holiday madness, just pop this one in the DVD player: instant antidepressant!

And of course there is the Ang Lee SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, with the brilliant screenplay by Emma Thompson. Of all the Austen adaptations, I think Thompson came closest to capturing Austen’s unique blend of satire, tragedy, and romance. It’s really a challenge to make your audience laugh within five minutes of the main characters’ losing their beloved father, but she pulls it off, just as Austen did in the novel.

I also love the 1995 BBC PRIDE AND PREJUDICE starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, even more so now that it’s been remastered. It’s always been the most faithful of the adaptations (after all, it has five hours to be so), and at the same time what screenwriter Andrew Davies added was brilliant. Its lead actors completely embody Darcy and Elizabeth. And thus it’s deeply satisfying to watch, despite its not being the most cinematically exciting of the films, in my opinion.

J: Speaking of Jane Austen and her classic novels, how did she (and her novels) inspired you to start writing your own novels?

LVR: Writing two Austen-inspired novels wasn’t something I planned. It just happened. Courtney Stone, the protagonist of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, simply popped into my head one day. I saw her, this twenty-first-century Austen fan, waking up one morning in a bedchamber in Regency England, in someone else’s body. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and I started writing down what I saw in my mind. I kept writing, the story kept coming, and eventually I had a book. Clearly my own immersion in Austen, my constant re-readings of her novels and re-screenings of the films, and my own fantasies about what it would be like to live in Austen’s world, led to this character’s appearance in my life.

J: So far, you’ve written two JA inspired novels, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and The Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. How did the concept of those two novels came about?

LVR: I knew that if I was writing Courtney’s story about taking over the life of a gentleman’s daughter in !813 England, then that lady from 1813 England would have to be taking over Courtney’s life in twenty-first-century L.A. Originally, I thought that both of these stories would be in one book, but it didn’t feel right. And so I ended up writing these stories as two separate books, parallel stories rather than sequels. They are connected, yet each one is standalone. The first book is CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, and the second book is RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.

J: The titles of your novels are pretty cool and interesting. How did you come up with the titles?

LVR: A lot of brainstorming. And though I really like these titles, I’ve decided that it would be fun to have a shorter title for my next novel. One or two words, though if I know myself those words will be polysyllabic!

J: Loved and enjoyed reading your novels as they were so different from a typical Austen inspired novels or the most common P&P continuation or sequels by other inspired Austen Authors. Instead you have two female characters or quoting here the description of your novels, “two women, who have inexplicably switched bodies, time periods, and lives – one from Regency England, the other from 21st-century Los Angeles.” Sounds like they could be adapted to a movie or TV series, has anyone in Hollywood ever approached you in adapting your novels into films?

LVR: There have been some conversations, and there are people working on putting all the right elements together. I can definitely see it happening…

J: Love the Sex and the Austen Girl, the Babelgum comedy web series, you created based on your novels. How did that started and were you involved in casting the actresses who are portraying the central characters’ Jane Mansfield and Courtney Stone?

LVR: My partners and I have been working on turning my novels into a TV series, and what stuck out in our minds in terms of an approach was the huge response I received to a guest blog post I did on the differences between courtship and romance today and in Jane Austen’s day (Read it here at Stephanie’s Written World). As arcane and strange as some of the customs of that bygone era seem to us today, our world’s idea of how to meet a mate and stay in a relationship can be seen as equally bizarre. And so we thought, why don’t we do something with this concept now, in the form of a web series?

As for the actresses, I feel so blessed. Watching the brilliantly talented Arabella Field and Fay Masterson bring my characters to life in “Sex and the Austen Girl” is a thrill I won’t soon forget. And they’re so funny!

J: If and when your novels get to be adapted to feature film, which well-known actors in Hollywood are in your wish list or dream cast?

LVR: There are so many fantasy choices that there’s even a thread on my website forum on this topic. I would love to hear your ideas and any ideas that readers of this blog might have. It’s always fun to hear how readers of the books cast the movie or the TV series in their minds.

J: You also contributed a short story to the upcoming Random House anthology of Austen-inspired fiction entitled Jane Austen Made Me Do It. What’s your part in it and when will it be released?

LVR: I’m not at liberty to say anything about the story yet, except that I’m completely excited about it and thrilled to be in the company of such a talented group of authors. The anthology is set for an October 2011 release date.

J: What’s next for you? Are you writing more novels? If so, are you sticking to a Jane Austen genre or will you be writing different genres a well?

LVR: I’m currently working on a third novel and very excited about it–but not quite ready to talk about it yet. As for my plans for future novels, I will always want to explore new areas and new possibilities in storytelling. That may include Jane Austen-inspired fiction, or it may not, but the authors I love will always be an inspiration.

Thanks again for inviting me to your blog!