I have a treat for you guys today! I had the great pleasure of interview April Lindner, author of the novels Catherine and Jane, among others. As a reader with a penchant for historical fiction, I can totally appreciate her rich storytelling and bringing the classics alive in today's world. I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her newest novel, Catherine, based upon Wuthering Heights. So, without further ado, here's April!
1. There is a careful balance of new and old in Catherine. How did you choose to balance the historical nature of Wuthering Heights in this modern-day adaptation?
The challenge was to imagine a character like Catherine Earnshaw into the present, to picture what she would be like if she lived in our time. Coming of age in the late 1980s, my Catherine doesn’t have to marry a man with money and status to preserve her social status the way Bronte’s character did. Instead she’s faced with a more modern dilemma: must she give up her own dream of attending Harvard so she can stay with the guy she loves, whose own dreams and ambitions are quite different? Like Catherine Earnshaw, my Catherine tries to have it both ways, with similarly disastrous results.
2. You chose to feature dual perspectives between Chelsea and her mother, Catherine, in this novel. How did you distinguish their two viewpoints and make them original in such a classically remade story?
I’ve always felt that the multigenerational story line is really important in Wuthering Heights. Catherine’s daughter learns to love unselfishly, without pride, and the younger generation redeems the cruelties of the older one. So I felt it was really important to have two narrators and to interweave their stories, making each bear equal weight.
Though my Catherine and her daughter Chelsea look eerily like each other and share a certain spunkiness, Catherine is confident, with very specific ideas about her future and her place in the world. Chelsea is much less sure of herself. She’s also a bit angry; she’s grown up without a mother, and she’s still figuring out who she is.
3. What inspired you to remake a classic such as Wuthering Heights, which elicits extreme emotions on very opposite ends of the spectrum?
To be completely honest, I don’t think I realized exactly how polarizing Wuthering Heights is until I sent Catherine out into the world and started paying attention to the reaction. I hear from people who passionately love Emily Bronte’s novel and from others who are just as passionately repulsed by it. Of course I’m in the camp that loves the novel’s intensity and narrative complexity. As for Cathy and Heathcliff, they certainly aren’t role models, but their bad behavior grows out of the cruelty they’ve had to live with.
I like to think Catherine stands on its own, and might be enjoyed even by readers in the anti-Wuthering Heights camp. I’m a pretty mild mannered person, and though I originally set out to recreate some of the brutality in Bronte’s novel, I wound up with characters who are, I think, more on the likeable side. Hence, my Heathcliff character, has moments of being selfish and unkind, but by the book’s end we also see his bravery and loyalty.
4. When you create a modern day retelling such as Catherine, do you try to stay true to the original tale, or do you work to carve your own little niche for the story?
I try to do both. I want to get at the heart of the original story, to convey some of the emotion at the heart of the source material. But I also want to make something new that can stand on its own.
5. Do you have plans to write any more retellings any time soon? Care to share?!
Absolutely! I recently finished my third novel, Love, Lucy, a retelling of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View. My Lucy is an American seventeen-year-old who falls for a street musician while backpacking through Florence, Italy, an encounter that changes the way she sees her life back home. The book is due out from Poppy in late 2014.