Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In the Attic With Ben H. Winters

I recently interviewed Ben H. Winters, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and the forthcoming Android Karenina. The interview, originally published in the Washington City Paper's Arts Desk blog, is excerpted below. Read the full interview here.

WCP: What was your relationship to Sense and Sensibility before writing the book?
BHW: I hadn’t read it in many years, but I loved it and I had seen the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee film version. It’s hard to express what’s so great about that book—it has a classic, almost Shakespearean feel to it. There’s something bewitching about Austen’s writing and you really get drawn into the world of her characters. I hope by adding the zany stuff I’ve done justice to the original by retaining what makes it great and having fun at the same time.

WCP: How did you change the world of the Dashwood sisters to incorporate the monsters?
BHW: The book really doesn’t take place on the water at all, so I moved the central location to a deserted island, and changed London, the fashionable place they go in the middle of the book, to a sub base. There were places I stepped back and let Austen do the heavy lifting, and I tried to get monsters in there at the points where Austen’s characters are experiencing their deepest emotional peril. I equate the dangers of finding and losing love with the dangers of sea monster attacks.

WCP: What do you say to someone who says you’re negatively affecting Austen’s legacy?
BHW: First of all, I can’t get upset about it, because the reason they get so upset and lash out is because they love Austen so much. I hope people understand that a work like this is no higher form of flattery. Her work is worth enjoying in new ways and I hope people come to it from this spirit.

WCP: Your next mash-up, Android Karenina, besides having such a cool title, is also based on a favorite book of mine. What do I have to look forward to when it comes out on June 8?
BHW: I’ve tried to make this a great science fiction novel. It’s a really intriguing, dystopian, steampunk world with Tolstoy’s intricate and beautiful love stories playing around. Tolstoy was concerned about love and humanity, and I mix that with graphic science fiction—robots, aliens. It was so much fun to see what I would come up with and I think readers will dig it.

Read the full interview here.

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