Literary Spotlight: Karen Joy Fowler
Karen Joy Fowler, author of the successful The Jane Austen Book Club, writes science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction. Her works often focus on the nineteenth century, the lives of women and alienation. Her latest book is Wit’s End.
Q: What was it like to have The Jane Austen Book Club made into a film?
How did the transformation from book to film take place? What was your role in writing the screenplay?
A: It was unexpected! And effortless. In point of fact, I was overdue on my next novel, so I wasn’t able to pay as much attention to the whole thing as I might have liked.
I went down to LA once and watched a day of filming. I went to an early screening and got to have lunch with John Calley as well as director/screenwriter Robin Swicord, which was lovely. I went to the premiere in a fancy dress. And that was about it.
I had no role in writing the screenplay. In fact, the screenplay was finished long before I even knew we’d gotten that far toward the movie. Swicord had already written an original screenplay focused on Austen, but contemporary, so she’d done a lot of thinking about what she wanted in a similar project. I’m guessing that gave her a head start.
Q: What is it about that time frame that seems to attract readers today?
A: The time frame of the Austen novels? I know from talking to Austenites that some of them are attracted to the slower pace of life, the pastoral settings, the general sense of quiet and good manners.
Not me though. I suspect the clothes are uncomfortable and the food unappetizing. And the medical care not to my liking.
Cruelty may be too harsh a word, but there is considerable unkindness in the little villages of those books, which is, of course, where the stories come from and why they’re interesting. I don’t want to live back then. I just love the way Austen tells a story.
Q: You won the Nebula for Best Short Story for the 2007 story “Always.” How different is it to write short stories vs. novels? Why aren’t short stories more saleable?
A: Short stories are quite saleable, they just don’t sell for very much so it’s hard to make a living only on those. Of course, it’s hard to make a living with novels, too.
I think most readers like the longer immersion in a world that the novel offers. As a writer, I like that, too. I like spending years with my characters—I’m much more attached to the characters in my novels than I am to the ones in my short stories.
In spite of that, I like writing short stories better. I think I’m better at it; the whole thing is just much more manageable. I can keep the whole of the story in my head and actually see how it’s working on the page. With novels, there always comes a point when I just lose my grip and have to move forward anyway.
Carlotta Holton is the author of Salem Pact and Touching The Dead, and is a member of the National Federation of Press Women and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.
Carlotta Holton has just received her second award for Touching the Dead from the National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest. Click here to purchase the book.