Gentle Readers: Austen-esque author Laurie Viera Rigler’s new book Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict was just released in June by Dutton. Please join us for an interview as Laurie chats about her highly anticipated new novel.
Thanks for joining us today Laurie. Your bestselling debut novel Confession of a Jane Austen Addict received rave reviews from critics and fans. Your second novel Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is a mirror story to Confessions. What was your inspiration in developing Jane/Courtney’s story, and how were influenced by your first novel?
First may I say how happy I am to be here on Jane Austen Today, which is one of my favorite blogs? Thanks for inviting me!
When I was writing Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, I knew that if my twenty-first-century protagonist, Courtney Stone, was taking over the life of Jane, a nineteenth-century gentleman's daughter in Regency England, then Jane had to be taking over Courtney's life in twenty-first-century L.A. I thought about including that mirror story in the first book, but it just didn't work—Jane's journey in the modern world was a very different journey, and I knew it had to be its own book.
As for how the first novel influenced me, I was pretty sure how Rude Awakenings would end (that is, who Jane would end up with), but I had absolutely no idea how she would get to that point. For me, not knowing is the most fun part of writing—I have no idea what's going to happen next, and how the story unfolds is a constant surprise.
Time travel is an important element in your story requiring readers to “suspend disbelief” and just go with the story as the two characters, Jane Mansfield from 1813 and Courtney Stone from 2009, swap bodies, and lives. Have you always been a fan of time travel, or did you embark on this writing journey because of your "vision" of that four poster bed as you stood in your kitchen? What plot elements of time travel did you use to make Jane's/Courtney's experiences more believable?
I've long been fascinated with the idea of time travel—is there anyone who hasn't fantasized about traveling to another time and place? And is there any Janeite who hasn't wished to go to Regency England?
What particularly fascinates me are the "many worlds" or "parallel worlds" theories of quantum physics in nonfiction works by such visionaries as physicists Brian Greene and Michio Kaku. And in fiction I love the work of novelist David Ambrose, who wrote "The Man Who Turned Into Himself" and "Superstition," two books that will definitely twist your mind into pretzels!
I think of my stories more as tales of parallel realities rather than time travel stories per se. But then again, that view is really a matter of reader's perspective. I didn't consciously make use of any of the conventions of time travel literature in my stories. For me what makes any story believable is my own willingness to believe in it—as the writer I make that leap of faith, and as the reader as well.
The bottom line is that it really was my vision of Courtney awakening in that four-poster bed in Regency England that started me on the journey of writing Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, and consequently Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.
When you wrote Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict did you also have the idea of writing a mirror story for Regency heroine Jane Mansfield time traveling into Courtney Stone’s technology infused world of 2009? How did you decide which plot elements were best to flesh out Jane's/Courtney's new life? Like dancing, modern courtship rituals, or taking a car vs. a carriage.
When I was writing Confessions I realized that Jane's mirror story had to be its own book. I had no idea how the plot was going to unfold, because I don't work from an outline, but I did make a list of what I thought would be most jarring about our twenty-first-century world to a gentleman's daughter from Regency England, and a lot of that list did find its way into the book. Certainly modern courtship rituals and so-called sexual freedom were high up on that list, because I thought these aspects of contemporary life would be even more challenging for Jane to adjust to than mere technology.
Research was obviously an important element in developing a believable and accurate experience for your heroines during both eras in each of the novels. What resources did you use to inspire your historical and modern interpretations? Did you unearth any surprise discoveries or revelations that inspired your plots or characters?
Even before I started writing my first novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, I was an avid reader and collector of books and articles about Jane Austen's world. Although Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is almost wholly set in twenty-first-century Los Angeles, it's written from the first-person point of view of a lady from 1813 England, and thus my research of her time had to be extensive. All the work I put into researching the first book, which takes place almost entirely in Regency England, really paid off, but the research didn't end there. One of my most frequently consulted resources in writing Rude Awakenings, aside from Jane Austen's own texts, was my online subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary, because my protagonist's language, both spoken and inner monologue, had to be authentic to the period. It also had to have an arc as she becomes more familiar with, and indeed begins to access from Courtney's memories, the modern lexicon. I got so deeply immersed in the language that I created my own mini-glossary of words that I used in the novel, along with a notation as to whether they had the same meaning then as they do now, and if not, what they did mean. What surprised me was how many commonplace words we use in our modern world that either were not used at all in Jane Austen's day, or had a different shade of meaning.
Jane Austen has obviously inspired your writing life. She chose to write about what she knew, “two or three families in a country village.” Were you influenced by her simple scope and emphasis on character development? Aside from inspiring two books, how has she influenced your own world? Are you indeed the biggest Austen addict of us all?
I could never presume to be the biggest Austen addict of us all, but I can say that I don't see myself giving up Jane Austen any time soon. She is an endless source of wisdom, comfort, and entertainment in my life, which is why being an Austen addict is one of the healthiest addictions I can think of. I get something new out of reading Austen every time I close one of her books. I learn something new about myself, about the people in my life, about human nature and all its beauty and flaws and potential for greatness, about the human heart and its capacity for love and growth and change. That is how Jane Austen has influenced my world, aside from inspiring me to write both of my novels. For that, and for all of her delightfully entertaining stories and enduring words of wisdom, I will always be grateful.
In conclusion, now that you have charmed us with Jane and Courtney’s stories, can you share any future plans for books? Will you stay with the Jane Austen theme, or venture abroad?
Although plans for my next novel are in too early a stage to talk about just yet, I hope that what I love best about Jane Austen will always inform and inspire my writing.
Thank you again Laurie for joining us today. Both Vic & I had a great time reading Rude Awakenings, and wish you all the best with your new novel.
Contest Now Closed: Win a signed copy of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict personally inscribed to you by author Laurie Viera Rigler. Just post a comment asking Laurie about her writing experience or tell us what you think would be the biggest challenge for a Regency era woman in our 21st-century world. The contest is open to continental US residents only and will end on midnight eastern time Tuesday, July 21st. A winner will be drawn and announced on Wednesday, July 22nd.
Read Vic’s review of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict at Jane Austen’s World
Read Laurel Ann’s review of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict at Austenprose
Purchase Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler