Last week, Putnam released “Jane Steele” by Lindsay Faye. As part of the launch, Putnam also sent out “A Conversation with Lindsay Faye About Jane Steele.” Here is an excerpt, which gives insight into Faye’s fifth novel and may serve as inspiration for writers who want to try something quite different.
Q. What inspired the idea for this novel, and gave you the confidence you could pull it off? After all, Jane Eyre as a serial killer is a pretty outrageous concept, and it re-imagines one of the most beloved and famous novels of all time?
A. Unwarranted hubris? I’m kidding. It’s absolutely outrageous, and I think that the outrageousness of the concept was freeing. It’s a ridiculous notion to conceive of Jane Eyre as Dexter. So I was enabled by that rather than hampered, if that makes sense? She wants to get rid of truly evil people, and there’s something satisfying about the notion of a female protagonist accomplishing what “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” did. I don’t ever condone murder, of course. But I will point out that Charlotte Bronte actually lived at that horrible school she describes in Jane Eyre, and two of her sisters later died after having been terribly weakened by lack of care at the Cowan Bridge facility. What ought to be outrageous is that any such thing was ever allowed to happen in the first place—children were fairly routinely abused in the 19th Century at such boarding schools, like the one equally vividly brought to life in “Nicholas Nickelby” by Charles Dickens.
Additionally, this novel is unabashedly also a satire. I call it a satirical romance, but I don’t even know if that’s a real thing, though I hope so! And I wasn’t worried about people who love “Jane Eyre” being offended because I already love “Jane Eyre” so much it oozes out of my pores. The entire undertaking came from a place of deep affection and respect for the original material. It’s very tongue in cheek.
There was much more to the “Conversation,” but this answer gave some great insight into the story behind the story of “Jane Steele.”