Friday, February 8, 2013

Feature Friday: April Lindner

April Lindner the author of Jane, a contemporary retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, published by Poppy, and of Catherine, a Wuthering Heights retelling, due out in early 2013. April is also a poet.  Her new poetry collection, This Bed Our Bodies Shaped, was just published by Able Muse Press, and her first collection, Skin, will be coming back into print in early 2013. She also writes literary criticism and edits poetry anthologies.  Last but far from least, she is a professor of English at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

April:
Read, read, read, and read some more.  The more widely you read, the stronger and more original your own voice will become. 

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

April:
Jane Eyre is my all time favorite novel.  There’s something about the blend of Jane’s quiet strength and her vulnerability that I’ve always found very moving.  Besides, Jane Eyre is a love story about not losing yourself when you fall in love—as relevant a topic today as ever.

A.L.:
What made you want to start writing modern retellings of books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights?

April: 
I love to read modern retellings—or any kind of retelling of classic literature.  I guess I’m obsessive.  When I love something, I can’t get enough of it—sometimes even rereading a book isn’t enough.  Writing a retelling is another way of getting back into a novel I love, getting to know its characters better as I spend more time with them.  Best of all, it’s a way of interacting with them, having a kind of conversation with them.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Catherine?  What were they and how did you fix them?

April:
I hit many snags.  The main one was that I included a lot of characters who weren’t strictly necessary to the plot, but who were based on characters in Wuthering Heights. There was a character based on Nellie Dean, the gossipy servant who tells most of the story, and another based on Mr. Lockwood, the outsider who bumbles into Wuthering Heights and listens to Nellie’s tales. Over time, it became clear that none of these characters were strictly necessary to my version of the story.  It hurt to cut them away, but the book is stronger and more streamlined without them.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Catherine is your favorite and why?

April:
I’m fondest of Hence, the character based on Heathcliff.  When we first meet him, he’s been hardened by life.  He’s angry and defensive, because, like Heathcliff, he’s been hurt over and over by the people he considers family. Hence has a whole backstory, but I didn’t include it in Catherine because I wanted him to be as much of a mystery as Heathcliff was to his adoptive family.  I’ll say here that I envision Hence as fleeing an abusive childhood, and having a certain amount of shame about the things he had to do to survive, which is why he isn’t willing to share even the most innocuous details about his childhood with Catherine. 

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

April: 
Ever since I learned to read, I’ve wanted to be a writer.  I started out writing a little bit of everything: fiction, poetry, screenplays, even a rock opera.  I always thought I would write novels some day.  That changed in college, when I took a class with Mekeel McBride, an inspiring teacher and a wonderful poet in her own right, and I began to consider myself a poet.  For quite a while—decades, really--poetry and literary criticism about poetry were the primary things I wrote.  But I’ve always loved losing myself in the world of a novel, and hoped to write one of my own some day, if only I could come up with a premise that could hold my interest long enough. When I came up with the idea for Jane, I knew I’d finally found my premise.  I still write poetry, but these days my novels take up a lot of real estate in my head.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

April:
I’ve been bitten by the modernization bug and I can’t seem to shake it.  Right now I’m working on an update of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View, about American backpackers in Italy.

A.L.:
According to your bio page on your website, you've backpacked around Europe.  Can you tell us 1) about one of your favorite places to visit and 2) about one of the misadventures you had.

April:
At twenty-two, I set off for a two-month solo backpacking adventure.  I was terrified when I left, but travelling alone turned out to be so empowering; I found I could go anywhere, learn my way around, and teach myself enough of the language to get by.  One of my favorite things to do was just show up at a train station, pick a destination at random, and hop on a train. 

But to answer your questions, Venice was—and still is—my favorite city.  You can’t help but get lost in its twisty maze of streets and canals, and just when you think you’ll never reach your destination, you turn a corner and find yourself in St. Mark’s Square, with the Doge’s palace looming on one side and the glamorous byzantine St. Mark’s cathedral on the other.  There’s a hint of mist in the air, as you plunge so you plunge into St. Mark’s square, and when you emerge on the other side you find the cool sea green lagoon spread out in front of you.  It’s a magical place.

As for misadventures, I’ve had a few, but my all time favorites is, not surprisingly, Venice-based. I’d heard that the hostel in Venice had fleas, so with a couple of backpackers I met along the way, I decided to camp out on train station steps instead of paying for a night in a hostel.  I don’t think Venice lets people sleep in front of the train station anymore, but back then it was the thing to do, and the plaza in front of station was completely full of backpackers from all over the world as well as some homeless Venetians.  The whole scene was wild and weird and festive. Somebody had a boom box, and to this day whenever I hear Toto’s Africa I’m instantly back in Venice, huddled in a sleeping bag, laughing with friends, looking out over the moonlit Grand Canal, and wondering how I got there.

A.L.:
You teach creative writing at a college in Philadelphia.  What is your favorite assignment to give your students and why?

April:
I love to give my students any writing assignment and to write alongside them, because there’s such energy in a room full of people all writing at the same time.  I especially like to read a poem with the students and then immediately give them a writing exercise that grows out of that poem.  (An example: read “No” by Mark Doty, then write a poem about a time you said “no” or wanted to.)  I think writers—myself included—always write a bit more surprisingly when they’ve got another writer’s voice fresh in their ears.  And the great thing about a poetry assignment is that you might walk out of the class with a working draft of a whole new poem.

A.L.:
You have a guinea pig named Leeloo Dallas Multipass...I have to ask: What is the story behind giving her The Fifth Element name?

April:
I’m not generally a Sci-Fi fan, but a friend took me to see The Fifth Element when it first came out, and I was captivated by the film—the wild visual imagery, the love story at the center, and especially the character of Leeloo, who embodies love, but who is also a total badass.  Besides, my guinea pig is bright orange—like Leeloo’s hair.  And I never get tired of saying Multipass the way Leeloo says it: Moolteeepass.

The Giveaway:
April is giving away an ARC of Catherine!

CatherineA forbidden romance. A modern mystery. Wuthering Heights as you’ve never seen it before.

Catherine is tired of struggling musicians befriending her just so they can get a gig at her Dad’s famous Manhattan club, The Underground. Then she meets mysterious Hence, an unbelievably passionate and talented musician on the brink of success. As their relationship grows, both are swept away in a fiery romance. But when their love is tested by a cruel whim of fate, will pride keep them apart?

Chelsea has always believed that her mom died of a sudden illness, until she finds a letter her dad has kept from her for years—a letter from her mom, Catherine, who didn’t die: She disappeared. Driven by unanswered questions, Chelsea sets out to look for her—starting with the return address on the letter: The Underground.

Told in two voices, twenty years apart, Catherine interweaves a timeless forbidden romance with a compelling modern mystery.


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