AT: I’ve read quite a few of these mash-ups and authors always seem to take a different approach. I’ve read through books that go for pages without making a change. How did you handle adapting the original version?
BW: There aren’t that many passages in Android Karenina that are wholly unchanged. There are some stretches where you’ll find only a word or two changed, but once you make as radical a change as underlining this whole novel with this society in which exists this advanced set of technological limitations, based on the discovery of an alloy called groznium under the Russian soil, that has allowed us to do things that Tolstoy could have never imagined. Once you make a change as dramatic as that, it has to flow through nearly everything that happens. It would be strange if there were parts of the book that were untouched by that.
At the same time, what I really hoped to do was preserve the flavor of the original. The parts of the book that don’t need to be changed, I don’t change them. There’s a long, beautiful stretch of Anna Karenina were Levin is awaiting the birth of his son. His wife is in labor and he’s pacing around and every time the doctor speaks, his heart jumps in his chest because he’s terrified and he’s ecstatic and he’s in love and he’s praying. And I didn’t change it that much because I didn’t need to. I feel that whether a man is living in 1870s Russia or in contemporary America, or even 200 or 300 years from now when these technologies might actually exist, he’s still going to feel that same cocktail of emotions when his wife is delivering their child.
But other things, like earlier in the book when Levin is first courting his wife-to-be, Kitty, in Tolstoy’s book it is at an ice-skating rink. In my book, more advanced technology exists and it’s called a skate maze, where the skates hover a quarter-in. off of the ground because they’re Polaroid magnets, so you’re skating off of the ground. In that sort of scene the emotions and relationships are the same, but everything else is different.
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AT: Personally, do you think you’re done with Jane Austen?
BW: Well, never say never. I loved writing that book. Sea Monsters was a delightful experience. The prose was so good that just getting the chance to re-imagine it was priceless. I would be surprised if I were to go back to that well, just because there are so many writers out there. It’ll be interesting, if I am to do another one of these books to see which other books are out there.
I don’t want to say anything. I’m not working on anything right now, but I know that Quirk is the originators of this idea and I think they’re doing the best job of keeping the mash up novel, doing it properly and I think they’re going to be doing some more, but beyond that I can’t really say.
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