Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tour Interview and Giveaway: Jane, The Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell

On Tour with PR by the Book...

The Woman Who Loved Tarzan
by Robin Maxwell
Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: Sept 18th 2012 by Tor Books


Cambridge, England: 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat, dissecting corpses, than she is in a corset and gown, sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of travelling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin. 

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane finds an Africa that is every bit exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.

Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its 2012 publication will mark the centennial of the publication of the original Tarzan of the Apes.

Welcome to Colorimetry, Robin Maxwell!!  I have always loved the story of Tarzan... only it missed a little something, that amazingness that is Jane-done-right. 'Cause she had to have been incredible, you know? This is a retelling of the most wonderful sort. It's a whole new story that honors the first - on it's 100th Anniversary. I am thrilled to welcome Jane and Robin Maxwell who tackled the great story!!

What was your inspiration behind this story?

I didn’t realize it till recently, but my first heartthrob was Tarzan.  To a pubescent girl with raging hormones and an out-of-control imagination, what could be more appealing than a next-to-naked, gorgeously muscled he-man?  A guy who lived totally free, who feared nothing, and had wild, death-defying adventures in a jungle paradise?  The romantic in me adored that he was madly in love with and devoted to an American girl…and had a chimpanzee for a pet. You can’t get much better than that.

My favorite TV show when I was growing up was “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”  Irish McCalla was incredibly sexy in that tiny leopardskin dress and those thick gold armbands.  Sheena had adventures that polite young ladies weren’t supposed to have.  I also loved “Jungle Jim” and “Ramar of the Jungle.”   And while I’d never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan novels, I’d relished all the Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies late at night on TV.  Though I didn’t realize it then, there was a pattern emerging.  The jungle. Fabulous African animals.  High adventure and sweaty thighs in skimpy leopard-skin outfits.  

I started growing up and Tarzan slipped out of my consciousness.  But when I heard about the movie called “Greystoke,” I was first in line on opening night.  I loved the beginning, but the second half left me cold.  I could not believe that Jane never even made it into the jungle.  It was sacrilege! Bo Derek’s “Tarzan the Ape Man  was simply unwatchable.  And by the time Disney made its animated feature, I was “too old” for Tarzan, and didn’t bother to go.

What I didn’t realize was that – like people in nearly every country on the planet – I still had Tarzan and Jane jungle fantasies buried in my brain.

So now FLASH BACK to almost three years ago. I had been an historical novelist for fifteen years and had eight published books under my belt.  The question arose as to the subject of my next project.  My last had been the first novelistic interpretation in all of literary history of that most famous love story, “Romeo and Juliet”.

Riding down the road one day with my husband Max, he wondered if I might want to choose another pair of literary lovers rather than historical characters for my next book. I thought, to myself, “Yeah, that’s a great idea.” And then he asked who they would be. Not three seconds passed before I blurted out, “Tarzan and Jane!”  Max’s first reaction was “What!?  Really? Where did that come from?”  He was very dubious. At the time I had no memory of Sheena, Ramar or Jungle Jim.  Or even of the old Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies.  But the images must have been bubbling in the depths of my subconscious like magma waiting to erupt from a dormant volcano.

Jane is clearly a trailblazer. Do you think she is largely ignored as a strong feminist example in popular culture?

 This requires a complicated answer because it has so many moving parts.  The way people perceive the character of Jane Porter in popular culture comes from two sources -- the twenty-four ERB Tarzan novels in which she was only a character in eight, and the movies (and to a much lesser degree some short-lived Tarzan TV series).  In the earliest books Edgar Rice Burroughs, a product of his times and societal values, wrote Jane as "everygirl," not a bold suffragette, but a Baltimore belle thrown for a short time into an exotic situation with an even more exotic man.  In later books, such as Tarzan the Terrible, Jane has definitely evolved.  She has learned "the art of woodcraft," is resourceful, capable of handling herself alone in the jungle, killing to defend herself, and even leading a group of people through the jungle to safety.  

However, most people today don't read the original novels of ERB.  We are left to the movie portrayals of Jane Porter.  The most famous was Maureen O'Sullivan's (including "Tarzan the Ape Man" -1932- and "Tarzan and His Mate" - 1934) who happily donned skimpy and quite fetching costumes and swung around in the jungle with her lover, engaging in rather shocking out-of-wedlock sex.  She even did a four-minute long nude underwater swimming sequence with Tarzan that so enraged the nascent Hollywood censors that from then on Jane was forced to cover up in little brown leather dresses...and true Hollywood censorship was born.

Janes of the 50s, 60s and 70s were mere pretty appendages to Tarzan.  Bo Derek tried to put the focus (1984) in which Tarzan doesn't meet Jane (a gorgeous young Andie McDowell) until he's brought back to England.  Their love affair is conducted in an Edwardian mansion, and Jane never even sets foot in the jungle!

For my role model as I was growing up I had "Sheena Queen of the Jungle," my favorite TV . A beautiful leggy blonde -- Irish McCalla -- could hunt and fight and survive like her male counterpart, Tarzan.  

Since I'm known in my historical fiction writing for strong, ahead-of-their-time females, I knew "my Jane" would be no different.  Because she lived much later than my historical heroines and herself had role models (women explorers and adventurers like Mary Kingsley and Annie Smith Peck) I had much more freedom to make her a feminist -- what was in those days known as a "New Woman."  These women were feared and hated, much as feminists are today.  It was thought that if there were enough of them, they could bring down the British empire.

 Do you see any yourself in any of these characters?

 Of course I want to be Jane, defying a repressive society, traveling to an exotic location and being left entirely alone in paradise with a gorgeous, uninhibited male specimen who can protect me from virtually anything, loves me to distraction and makes wild primal love to me.  Don't you?!

About the Author:

Robin Maxwell grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Tufts University School of Occupational Therapy, and practiced in that field for several years before moving to Hollywood to become a parrot tamer, casting director and finally a screenwriter. Working for the major studios and networks she wrote comedy, drama and even feature animation for Disney. Her credits include "Passions," a CBS movie of the week, starring Joanne Woodward.
A bestselling author, screenwriter and Huffington Post blogger, Maxwell specializes in women "ahead of their time." Her historical fiction novels take readers straight to the heart of the period, offering fresh and unique perspectives on well known figures from the past. Moving like a detective through the brittle pages of history she finds the "untold" stories, then tells them from the heart. "With Robin Maxwell...history doesn't come more fascinating" (Entertainment Weekly).

Robin's latest novel, JANE: The Wo man Who Loved Tarzan, is at first glance a departure from historical fiction. Yet while taking two of literature's most beloved and iconic characters into a world of exotic adventure, it was only natural that she use her skills as a historical researcher to entwine real people and events with life-long passions for archaeology, ancient civilizations and the search for the "missing link" in human evolution. Set during the post-Darwinian scientific revolution at the turn of the twentieth century, Maxwell's Jane Porter is a budding paleoanthropologist with a rebellious streak who will make a discovery that will rock the world -- just as her own world is unexpectedly rocked by love for a gorgeous young savage reared by anthropoid apes.

Maxwell's previous book, O, Juliet, fused the classic characters of Romeo and Juliet with the historical Florentine families on which Shakespeare based his original play. Signora da Vinci tells the story of Caterina da Vinci, Leonardo's mother, a woman who has been remarkably absent in most historical accounts of the era, but who nonetheless gave birth to one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Robin Maxwell's historical fiction classic, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, has been published in 16 languages and is now in its twenty-fourth printing. 

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I have a print copy of Jane to give away to one winner in the US or Canada. Must be 13 to enter. See all my rules under About Me.

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