Hey guys! You might have seen the review of Catherine by April Lindner that I posted a couple of days ago here on the blog. I strongly urge all of you to check out the book when it arrives in bookstores!
Today I have the honour of hosting April Lindner for an interview. So here we go!
Q - Tell us in three 3-word sentences what Catherine is about.
A - Forbidden love burns. A mother disappears. Daughter solves mystery.
Q - What were some of the challenges in the process of writing this retelling?
A - Wuthering Heights is a complex novel, with multiple narrators, unfolding over the course of two generations. I wanted to keep a taste of some of that complexity, but not to try and duplicate the original novel plot point by plot point. I decided to tell the story via two narrators, one from each generation—Catherine, the daughter of a nightclub owner on the lower East side of Manhattan, and Chelsea, Catherine’s daughter, who learns that the mother she thought had died has in fact mysteriously disappeared. The real challenge, I think, was to see how far afield I could go from Wuthering Heights and still have the story be recognizable. There are elements of the original story that I didn’t think I could make plausible in the present—the extreme isolation of the setting, and cousins marrying cousins, for example. It took me a while to give myself permission to jettison aspects of the story that weren’t translating well into the present.
Q - How did you come up with your characters? Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
A - My characters all had their genesis in Wuthering Heights, but they gradually morphed as I wrote and rewrote. Cathy in Wuthering Heights is calculating and selfish, and the adult Heathcliff is vengeful and downright cruel. Somehow whenever I read Wuthering Heights I manage to root for them both despite all that. But I’m a fairly softhearted person and I suppose it’s inevitable that the characters softened a bit in my hands, losing their edges. My Catherine is gorgeous, confident and a bit self centered—like Bronte’s Catherine—but she’s not calculating. And Hence, my Heathcliff character, has been wounded by life. He’s angry, but not necessarily cruel.
Chelsea—Catherine’s daughter--is the character I identify with most, and she’s the character it took me the longest to understand. Like the others, she started out prickly. Abandoned by her mother, raised by a well-intentioned but distracted single father, she was so afraid of being rejected that she would lash out, and do the rejecting first. But over several revisions, with help from my fabulous editor Julie Scheina, Chelsea grew less guarded and more vulnerable, and I came to feel really protective of her, and to see more of myself in her.
Q - What were some of the advantages and disadvantages of writing in two perspectives, set several years apart?
A - I’m not very good when it comes to logistics so it was a real challenge to make sure Chelsea’s search for her mother matched up with the details of Catherine’s story. But the two perspectives were really important to me. Wuthering Heights isn’t just the Catherine-and-Heathcliff star-crossed romance story line, even though movie versions of the novel tend to focus on that part. It’s also the story of how their disastrous love casts a shadow over their children, and how Catherine’s daughter finds her way out of that shadow. Including Chelsea’s story allowed me to tell the whole story—to explore not just the shadow but the light.
This or That
Sweet or Sour?
Creamy or Crunchy?
Indoors or Outdoors?
Indoors, next to a window with a nice view of outdoors.
Vampires or Werewolves?
Werewolves, because they’re practically dogs.
TV or Movies?
Q - What is some of the music that has inspired Catherine (or alternatively, what music did you listen to while writing Catherine which has inspired you/fits with the novel?)
A - Catherine has a double playlist: Chelsea’s songs and Catherine’s songs. While I was writing Chelsea’s chapters, I listened obsessively to the music of Jesse Malin, a NYC rocker who, like Hence, used to be in a punk band (D-Generation) and who owns a nightclub on the Bowery. I even went to hear him play in his own club, Bowery Electric, just to have the full experience. Jesse’s song “N.Y. Nights,” could have been written for Chelsea’s sections of Catherine; it fits the plot so perfectly. And I can’t imagine Chelsea on the bus to New York City without hearing his song “Tomorrow Tonight” in my head.
While I was writing Catherine’s sections, I steeped myself in the music she would have listened to--“Mystery Achievement” by The Pretenders, “This Charming Man” by the Smiths, “Dancing Barefoot” by Patti Smith, “Judas Kiss” by the Del Lords. Not to mention Kate Bush’s haunting song “Wuthering Heights,” which I fell in love with back in college, at the same time I was falling in love with the novel Wuthering Heights.
Q - What are your top 5 Must-Read Recommendations?
A - Apart from Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights? Well, the list changes constantly, but right at this moment it would look something like this:
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder
Jennifer E Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
M. T. Anderson’s Feed
Jennifer Connelly’s Revolution
Q - I absolutely loved The Fault in Our Stars! Do you have any advice for any aspiring authors out there?
A - Read, read, read. Reading widely will help you to find your own original voice. And write, write, write. Don’t ever give up.
Q - When you're not writing, what can you be found doing?
A - I love live music, so I spend way too much time going to concerts. I also love to travel, especially to any place where English isn’t the first language. When I’m not travelling I’m dreaming about travelling or listening to Italian pop music and reading Italian magazines, struggling to learn the language. I also like to cook, and to spend time with my family, including my dogs (two labrador retriever mixes) and guinea pigs.
Q - You've written Jane, a retelling of Jane Eyre and now Catherine, a retelling of Wuthering Heights. What can we eagerly await from you next?
A - I’ve been working on a modernization of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View, tentatively titled Lucy; it’s the story of an American backpacker trying to find herself in Italy.
It sounds awesome, and I can't wait to read it! Thank you so much Ms. Lindner, for taking the time to answer our questions!
About April Lindner
I'm the author of two novels, JANE, a contemporary retelling of JANE EYRE, and CATHERINE, a retelling of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, forthcoming from the Poppy imprint of Little, Brown in January, 2013. I'm also the author of two poetry collections, THIS BED OUR BODIES SHAPED, just published by Able Muse Press, and SKIN, winner of the 2002 Walt McDonald First Book Poetry Prize from Texas Tech University Press. I have also edited or co-edited several poetry anthologies, including CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY, co-edited with R. S. Gwynn. I'm a professor of English at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia and I live in Havertown, Pennsylvania with my husband and sons.
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