On Retellings, Strong Women Protagonists, and Bopping Around Europe

Glimpsed in Tuscany

As the Love, Lucy launch day grows tantalizingly close, some terrific book blogs have been running reviews and, in the case of Dizneeee's World of Books, an interview. Thanks to Lisa for asking me some really great questions, and for letting me share our conversation here with you.


Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions with me today. My book club recently read Love, Lucy and we had a great time discussing it and dreaming of taking a European excursion to see the sights and meet cute boys! We loved your retelling and spin of A Room With a View! What gave you the idea to write a new adventure for this particular story? 

A: You’re welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Like Lucy, I was given the chance to backpack through Europe when I was pretty young. Ever since, I have wanted to write a novel inspired by my backpacking experiences, and A Room With a View—Forster’s novel and also the glorious 1985 Merchant Ivory film version—is such a romantic, funny, beautiful expression of what it’s like for a young woman to be transformed by her travels through Florence. After writing Catherine, I was looking for another novel to retell, and A Room With a View seemed like the natural choice, especially since it gave me an excuse to revisit Italy and travel in Lucy’s shoes. 

The Duomo, Florence

Q: Your previous two books, Jane and Catherine, were also retellings. Both of those were based on the Brontë sisters’ works. Do you have a favorite retelling you've written? 

A:  I think of my Jane and Catherine and now Lucy as my three daughters. I love them all differently but equally. It wouldn't be right to pick a favorite!

Q: Obviously, you enjoy retelling stories. Are you currently working on your next book? If so, what can you tell us about it?

A: I’ve been working for a while now on a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion set on a high school study tour to Greece. Anne, my heroine, is too easily swayed by the opinions of a confident, sophisticated girl she wants to impress. She lets the study tour group’s popular clique get between her and the boy she likes, then struggles to undo the damage she’s done.

Delphi, Greece
Q: Do you think you'll stick to writing classic retellings, or do have other story ideas in mind?

A: I have a few ideas for novels that aren't riffs on existing books, but for the time being I've caught the retelling bug. Few things inspire me as much as the chance to move into someone else’s fictional world, rearrange the furniture, and make it my own. Each time I finish a retelling I promise myself I will write just one more…and, true to form, I've started drafting another one that may or may not turn out to be my last. 

Q: Are you a classic literature fan? Are these classic stories that you give new life to some of your favorite books? Who are some of your favorite authors and books?

A: Yes, I adore classic literature—big, thick novels that feel more vivid than the world itself. I was an English major in college, and when I got out of school I worked a series of temp jobs I hated. The thing that made those jobs bearable was spending my lunch hours with the Bronte sisters, E.M. Forster, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Tolstoy. I can’t tell you how many subway stops I accidentally rode through because I was so lost in whatever it was I was reading. 

Q: Have you traveled through Europe like Lucy and Charlene? You gave a great set up for the story and I felt as if we were there with the girls and seeing Italy with them.

A: When I was a lot closer to Lucy’s age, my parents gave me a wonderful gift—a two-month trip to Europe. None of my friends could go with me, so I travelled solo, and the experience was magical, life changing—going where I wanted to go, filling my days with art, gorgeous landscapes, new people, a new language to practice. I’ve been a travel junkie ever since.

Plus I’d grown up pretty sheltered, so it was freeing to realize I could find my own way around a strange city, getting lost and getting found again, basically feeling more competent than I ever had in my life. The best experience in the world was showing up at a train station, Eurail pass in hand, looking at the signs listing all the departing trains, picking one at random, and hopping on—starting the day in, say, Vienna, and knowing I could end it in Paris or Munich or Venice.

One of my favorite corners of Venice

Q: By the end of the story, we were so happy to see Lucy deciding her future for herself. Is this a main goal for you in your stories? Do you like to have strong, independent women who do what they believe in?

A: I try to make each novel I write a different kind of challenge than the last, but you could say that each of my novels so far is about a young women finding her way in the world—figuring out how to be true to herself. In Jane, my protagonist is quietly strong, a survivor who has to struggle against a lot of disadvantage and against the temptation to go against her own better judgment. Catherine, in my second novel, is headstrong from the start—confident, talented, sure of what she wants, and uncompromising in a way that gets her into trouble. And then there’s Lucy who just loves to please people—she lives for applause. She makes a promise she fully intends to keep, until she realizes that doing so would mean being untrue to herself, living someone else’s life.

Q: If you could be any of your characters in your books, who would you choose? And why?

A: I would be Jane (from Jane, naturally), who falls in love with Nico Rathburn, a legendary rock star about to make his big comeback. Let’s just say there was a certain amount of wish fulfillment involved in writing about an ordinary girl who sweeps a rock star off his feet.

Q: When you're not writing, what do you like to do with your free time?

A: I love to go on road trips to strange cities and wander around, popping into bookstores and coffee shops. And I’m crazy about live music, getting as close as possible to the stage, losing myself in the crowd. My other favorite thing is reading in bed with my dogs—a lab mix and a cockapoo, both shelter dogs—especially if it’s a cold rainy day outside. 

Did someone say "cockapoo"?
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us? Any writing habits? How you get your ideas? Favorite genre to write? What other genre would you like to give a try? Dream story to re-tell? Anything!!!

A: I’ve always wanted to write the libretto for a rock opera. In high school I did write one—about the tragic love story of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon—but I was too much of a goody two shoes to really pull that gritty subject matter off! 

At the moment I’m collaborating with a friend on the libretto for an actual opera opera…something I never thought I’d do. It’s way too early in the project to say much about it, but I love the idea of seeing something I’ve written take physical shape on an actual stage with musicians and costumes and scenery—instead of just inside my own mind.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! We honestly enjoyed the book and we're so happy to be doing a little mini-tour this week from our book club. Thank so much to NOVL for providing us with the books so we could all read and discuss it together! It truly meant a lot!

A: This was so much fun! Thanks for the great questions, and for being such a generous host.


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