American author Fowler explores crime in the blog era

NEW YORK (Reuters) -American writer Karen Joy Fowler found the interplay between fans, fictional characters and the Internet so fascinating that she made it a central part of her new crime novel, “Wit’s End.”

Cover of author Karen Joy Fowler's novel "Wit's End". Fowler found the interplay between fans, fictional characters and the Internet so fascinating that she made it a central part of her new crime novel, "Wit's End." REUTERS/Handout

Fowler’s biggest success so far has been “The Jane Austen Book Club” which was made into a movie starring Kathy Baker and Jimmy Smits.

She told Reuters the fan Web sites for the television drama/mystery series “Veronica Mars” made her think about how passionate fans can appropriate the plotlines of their favorite TV shows and books.

Q: Were you surprised by the reception “The Jane Austen Book Club” got?

A: “Surprise is too weak a word. I was expecting to attract the Austen aficionados, but what ended up being even more commercial were the words book club. Book clubs are an astonishingly burgeoning movement -- it’s quite wonderful.”

Q: Did you like the movie version?

A: “I was quite happy with the movie. I had a lot of trepidation going in because usually when I love a book, and I go see the movie version, it is a very rare occurrence that I walk out happy. And certainly I think the movie is quite different from the book, but I think the movie is a lot of fun.”

Q: What inspired “Wit’s End”?

A: “I started it thinking about some of the things that were interesting to me that happened on the Web surrounding books and movies. There was a television show called “Veronica Mars” when I was thinking about writing the book, and I started reading some of the fan sites.

I was struck with how unhappy the fans were with the writers. The fans were outraged when the writers who made the characters up didn’t seem to have the same sense of who those characters were. I thought it was fascinating how much ownership the fans felt over the characters, and their need to protect them from the people who’d actually made them up.”

Q: One of the main characters in “Wit’s End”, the crime writer Addison, has strong political opinions. Are you a political person?

A: “Most of my family would say I’m obsessed, over the top, perhaps. I wasn’t obsessed before this administration -- it has just been so distressing, the horrible, horrible, horrible eight years of George Bush.”

Q: Addison bases some of her characters on real people. Do you?

A: “When I was first writing stories, because at that point I had no thought of being published, I was pretty free and easy about using people that I knew and disguising them only in the most rudimentary way. But then some of those were published and I just realized that you can begin with a person you know, by the time you finish, it’s not the person anymore. And yet, if the person recognizes themselves, they think that everything you say about the character is what you feel about them.

I tend to make up characters when people tell me a story involving someone I don’t know, and I think to myself ‘what kind of person would this happen to?’”

Q: What are you working on now?

A: “I am working on a book that I actually started before “The Jane Austen Book Club”, about 1950s psychological experiments with chimps.”

Q: A very different genre...

A: “I read very different genres, I like stuff all over the book store, I’m always trying to keep the writing fun, and for me that is doing something that I’ve never done before.”