Psst...Remember that the Giveaway is on!!! 5 COPIES of this fascinating book! Enter at every post written this week on Jane for extra chances).
Please welcome Robin Maxwell!
JANE: A New Perspective on an Old Literary Heroine
Tarzan was my first heartthrob. After all, what girl wouldn’t crave the undying affection of a gorgeously muscled, scantily clad he-man (and an English lord at that) living free from the confines of civilization in a lush paradise? Though I'd read Tarzan comic books, I’d never dipped into a single Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. Yet Tarzan and Jane were as hard-wired into my fantasy life and consciousness as any characters in popular culture.
“Sheena Queen of the Jungle” was my favorite TV show. And who didn’t love the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films with the peppery sophisticate Maureen O’Sullivan as his “mate,” Jane. I waited breathlessly for the film “Greystoke,” but was sorely disappointed by the filmmakers decision to keep their Jane (Andie MacDowell) from setting foot in Africa till the last frame of the movie. By 1999 when Disney made their animated "Tarzan" I'd stopped caring, and didn't even both going to see it.
I’d just completed my manuscript of O, JULIET when the question arose as to the subject of my next novel. I’d had a ball with my take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” fleshing out the characters, their world and families, and expanding the timeline from three days to three months. 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. When I told him I liked the idea he asked who they would be. Not three seconds passed before I blurted out, “Tarzan and Jane!”
“Where did that come from?” Max wanted to know. At the time I had no memory of Sheena or the old Weissmuller/O’Sullivan movies, but the images must have been bubbling in the depths of my subconscious just waiting to erupt like magma from a dormant volcano. The more I thought about it, the better the idea became.
The Jane in my novel comes from one of the most uptight times and societies in history, but she is an aberration. Even before she leaves for Africa Miss Porter is a tomboy who rides horses hard and rough-houses with her hounds. She knows how to swim, not just "bathe" like proper young ladies do, and she understand human anatomy. Because of the circumstances of her meeting Tarzan, they are on incredibly intimate terms immediately. So of all the women in the world she is, perhaps, the best-suited to revert to her primordial self and go wild with Tarzan in his jungle Eden.
My Jane is far too intelligent, outspoken and ambitious for her time, but she wasn't altogether alone. By this time such females were known as "New Women," and it was believed that if there were enough of them they might actually bring down the British Empire. Happily, my Jane had role models -- female explorers and adventurers like Mary Kingsley, Annie Smith Peck and Lady Jane Digby, and she voraciously read of their exploits. But her presence on the African expedition that stumbled on Tarzan would never had been possible without her extraordinary father, Archie Porter -- a professor of anatomy at Cambridge University and an "enthusiastic amateur" in the field of paleoanthropology. He's a progressive thinker who not only believes in women's higher education, but depends on his daughter to assist him in his studies.
I've been writing strong women ahead-of-their-time for so long now that I can't imagine having a damsel in distress as a protagonist. The gutsy women (there were so many of them in history), besides being so much more interesting to write about, are the role models for future generations. More than ever, people -- men and women alike -- need to be strong to survive in this world. We all need to learn to stand on our own two feet, move forward fearlessly, practice kindness and compassion, and accomplish something in our life. That "something" can be anything from bringing up a child well to making a beautiful garden out of your backyard or rooftop, to teaching, to having a high-powered career, to making art, to rescuing animals. I hope that my heroines, whether real-life or fiction, inspire men as well as women to aspire to their personal best or perhaps to greatness. If you want to hear about eight hundred of the greatest sung and unsung females in history, read my dear friend Vicki Leon's four volumes of UPPITY WOMEN (of The Ancient World; The Middle Ages; The Renaissance and The New World). They're brilliantly researched and laugh-out-loud funny.
Anyway, I hope that readers come away from JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan with a great new literary heroine in their hearts. She is certainly one of mine.
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