"Erwin seems to be channeling Brontë and the monsters are a seamless addition to the text...a gripping revision of a well-loved classic."
I shall preface this interview by saying that I am very skeptical about paranormal/classic novel mashups. However, the reason I'm skeptical is that most are written by men who I doubt ever read the original except to spoof it as a gimmick. Yes, I have Issues with men mocking writing by women. What of it?
But when I heard that Sherri Erwin had written a mashup on a novel she admired (a book I admire, too), Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece, Jane Eyre, I was immediately intrigued. Jane Slayre, just released this weekend, takes the beloved gothic novel and incorporates werewolves, vampires, and zombies into the plot.
Publisher's Weekly said, "Erwin displays great affection for Brontë and her characters; the undeniable spark between Erwin's Jane and Rochester is made all the more delightful by Jane's plucky fearlessness in the face of evil. With the possible exception of purists, fans of Jane Eyre will find much to love, with moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity; horror fans unfamiliar with the original will also be pleased, though they'll miss out on some of the comic nuance."
Sherri's written both paranormal novels and historical novels, so it makes sense that she'd want to write a historical paranormal. I always think the task of writing a historical novel is daunting, mostly because it would take forever to research the etiquette about gloves and the complicated undergarments, so I wanted to know how Sherri approached this project. I especially wanted to know how she fit one of my favorite characters into a paranormal them.
Simon & Schuster's new Gallery imprint (that's mine, too!) is kindly giving away a copy of Jane Slayre to one lucky Vampire Wire visitor. CONTEST INFO is at the end of this post.
MARTA: Welcome, Sherri! Why don’t you tell us a little about your book?
SHERRI: Jane Slayre is a retelling of Jane Eyre, with Jane as a demon slayer who is raised among vampires, faces zombies at school, falls in love with her employer only to find he’s married to a werewolf, and eventually strikes out on her own to find her destiny among the legendary slayers of her time.
MARTA: What makes Jane, the character, still relevant today, especially in a story in which supernatural forces are running amuck?
SHERRI: Jane doesn’t run from challenges. She faces them with a self-awareness and determination that strikes awe in the reader. Nothing or no one, not even vampires with superhuman strength, will stop Jane from accomplishing her goals or being true to her beliefs.
MARTA: While I adore and admire Jane, Edward Rochester’s a piece of work. Yeah, I know he’s emotionally tortured. What do the characters of this gothic masterpiece offer to a paranormal tale?
SHERRI: Rochester inspires some mixed emotions, doesn’t he? I was happy to have the chance to explore his character to see if I could gain some new understanding for him. The paranormal elements actually add some more points of conflict between Rochester and Jane after the revelation of who and what Bertha is.
I’m not sure it makes Rochester any more sympathetic, but there’s a resulting deeper examination of the moral argument that comes between Rochester and Jane due to Bertha’s condition. She’s not just dangerous because she’s mentally ill. The man is keeping a werewolf in the house. With a child present! What was he thinking? And how does that contribute to possibly preventing a reunion between Jane and Rochester? It’s no longer just as easy as becoming independent and killing Bertha off for Jane to find her way to happily ever after.
MARTA: Did your perception of the characters and Charlotte Bronte’s novel change after you wrote Jane Slayre?
SHERRI: Absolutely. I didn’t actually change any of Charlotte’s conflict or motivations, but the paranormal elements seem to heighten the conflict and force closer examination of all the characters’ actions and motivations. I came away with a different opinion of some of the characters when looking more closely at what would change or stay the same with new elements added.
MARTA: What are the challenges and rewards of writing a period piece? Do you believe in staying within historical confines, or is it okay for your characters to have anachronistic qualities?
SHERRI: The comedic elements keep me from having to take anything so very seriously. I try to stay true to the attitudes and events of the time period, of course, but I have a little more flexibility with historical confines when some of the elements are supernatural from the start. I do love writing period pieces, though. I was an English major and I have always loved and felt very comfortable with Regency and Victorian England.
MARTA: You’ve written other paranormals like To Hell with Love and Naughty or Nice, and you’ve contributed a story to the Mammouth Book of Vampire Romance anthology. What draws you to the supernatural genre?
SHERRI: I love getting lost in a fantasy. Paranormal elements draw me more away from very real problems and help me escape to a whole new world with new sets of rules.
MARTA: Will this book have a sequel, or are you onto other projects?
SHERRI: I’m not sure yet, but I would love to spend more time with the character of St. John Rivers. I would put him in a position of being not so sure of himself and maybe a little surprised and overwhelmed by some emotions coming to the surface.
MARTA: Which is your favorite film version of Jane Eyre, or any other classic?
SHERRI: I can watch the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle again and again. I think it’s a perfect version, so true to the book. I haven’t seen a Jane Eyre that gets everything quite right yet. Maybe I’m holding out for the addition of paranormal elements.
MARTA: Obligatory inane question. If your editor asked you to write a paranormal version of a more recent classic, Saturday Night Fever, who would be what kind of creature? (Yes, the BeeGees are playing on my playlist now…how did you know?) What would be the climatic scene?
SHERRI: Wow. My mind just jumped to the sequel, which I know is Staying Alive, and it feels so right for paranormal elements. With that hair, Tony would be a werewolf for certain. Annette would be a mortal girl caught in the middle, very attracted to Tony. Stephanie must be a vampire. I think the racial tensions in the movie could be replayed with a vampires vs werewolves take, and it makes sense that werewolf Tony would be intrigued with the vampire allure. In the end, Tony would give up on Stephanie as all flash and fangs and appreciate Annette’s substance, make her a werewolf, and have beautiful puppies together.
MARTA: Thanks, Sherri! Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
SHERRI: Thank you, Marta. It has been fun. Readers can find out more at my website, or at my Sherri Browning Erwin Readers group on Facebook. Sometimes, I can limit myself to the 140 characters at Twitter, as SherriErwin.
CONTEST INFO: To enter, leave a comment for Sherri, or tell us what paranormal creature you'd like to see in what classic story. Yes, it can be zombies in "Cinderella" and that sure would explain her stepmother. The contest runs through April 21 and is limited to U.S. entries only. (Sorry, my international pals, but maybe next time.) A winner will be selected at random.
GRATUITOUS VIDEOS OF THE DAY
I was going to do a Phil Collins week, but I can't find the videos. So I'm moving on. Saw last week's awesome "Supernatural," that made me love the show all over again. Enjoy!