DEAR JANE is about an adopted teenager with a childhood cemented in violence and neglect who finds refuge in books, especially Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The novel is structured around letters to Jane Eyre, which helps Kit Kat find her voice, her power, and the idea that reading and finding herself in literature can help her heal the wounds that come from familial neglect and silences.
Will Jane Eyre prove to forge a new path for Kat? To find out, Marina DelVecchio, the author of ‘Dear Jane’ and I have sat down to chat to explore the impact, words and wisdom that Jane still offers readers today. Marina, among other things, this books looks to the work of Jane Eyre. What was it about this book and ideas that you had that inspired you to write your novel?
This book began as my memoir, since it’s centered on my childhood and teen years. Eventually, during the many revisions over the past 15 years, my love of literature found its way in my narrative and led to combining my memoir with my teaching philosophy: books can save lives. Jane Eyre is the book that literally saved me from myself when I was young, and I wanted to bring that into my story.
Can you share a little more about how Jane Eyre relates to your own story, and how your own story has laid the foundations for this book?
Aside from writing letters to Jane Eyre, which I did not do as a child, the book in its entirety is based on my childhood in Greece, dealing with my mother’s violence and prostitution, homelessness, and being abandoned. Then my adoption shows a different kind of neglect — the psychological one — which was even worse than the physical discomforts I experienced prior to my adoption. It’s also important to note that Jane Eyre was the book that I read when I was at a loss in my life and she helped me find myself and connect with literature. This is why I became a teacher. I want to help kids the way Jane Eyre helped me find my voice.
I’m so glad to hear that Jane helped you find your voice. Do you feel that your voice as an author has improved as you’ve kept writing and allowing Jane to spur your work forward?
It has gotten strong, vibrant, and aggressive. The more I write, the better my voice gets, asserting itself in a way that I don’t in real life.
Asserting yourself in the written word is a great place to start. Do you think about developing a strong assertive tone as you write, or is there something else that you like to focus your mind on as you write?
My characters — I see them, how they walk, how they look, what they’re wearing, and the expressions on their faces. I see the objects and spaces around them and imagine what makes them seem pensive, what their interior lives and thoughts are all about.
Tell us a little more about how the lives of these characters developed in this novel. Are they also based on your life?
Yes, the characters are all based on my family members — the good and the bad. I changed some names and kept some the same, but they are all real characters.
What did you learn as you turned your experiences and family members into fiction?
Not to give up. After I wrote this version of my book and got a few rejections, I actually stopped writing and submitting — and that’s when my publisher emailed me. Persistence is everything to a writer, and it’s so easy to give up, but we have to just keep going.
Does persistence come easily to you, or do you find it exhausting?
Writing — when I do it — energizes me. What exhausts me is wanting to write and not having the time or space to write. I am a mom of two kids, I teach six college courses, and I just started my doctorate in literacy with a focus on bibliotherapy and how we can use it to help students with trauma. Writing sometimes takes a second or third seat in my life, and I want it to take first place. This desire is exhausting.
Finding the time to write can be challenging, but perhaps you can temper your desire a little when you can’t write by thinking about, and refining the central idea of your work so when you can write it you get the most out of your writing time. If you were to do this, what idea would you be reflecting on when considering this novel?
The primary message is intended for troubled teens and girls growing up with familial neglect and silences. That when the people around us — family, parents, teachers — fail us, fail to see us or listen to us or even protect us — that we can find solace in literature, in the fact that we are not alone and that we can save ourselves from the inside out with books and characters that reflect our lives and thoughts.
Has your own solace in literature ever lead you to take on the adventure of a literary pilgrimage?
I’ve been to Key West and seen Hemingway’s home, but I would love to see Emily Dickinson’s house, walk through her rooms, sit at her desk, and since my book is about Jane Eyre, I would love to visit Charlotte Bronte’s home also.
That sounds like so much fun! After visiting Hemingway’s home, and dreaming of the homes of Emily Dickinson and Charlotte Bronte have been inspired to build up your own place in the world as a writer, starting with an author brand?
As this is my first book that has come out, I have become more confident about what I want to do with my newfound voice. I want to go to schools across the country and talk to kids about books and how the right kind of book at the right kind of time can help them when they are lost and feel alone. I also want to do a TedTalk on bibliotherapy, and my Ph.D. in this will help me cement my author brand.
Wow, you’re certainly building a strong foundation there. And with any good foundation, there’s always a few new book projects. What projects are you working on next?
I have a book proposal about today’s music and how it hypersexualizes young girls, and I would like to get that out at some point. I also have a novel about an aging poetry professor who is taking care of his ailing wife, but there is a dark element to his love for her, and I can’t wait to finish this book.
And I can’t wait to read it! Marina, thanks so much for sharing a taste of your life and writing with us today, and I hope that you’ve inspired people to pick up copies of both Dear Jane, and Jane Eyre.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Dear Jane ( ASIN: B07L15TLL2 )‘.
Want to find out more about Marina DelVecchio? Connect here!