Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Post by Robin Maxwell, author of "Jane"

Please welcome Robin Maxwell to So Many Books, So Little Time!  Her newest novel, Jane:  The Woman Who Loved Tarzan was released on September 18 from Tor Books and she is here today with a guest post.
 “Tarzan:  Why I Loved Him Then.  Why I Love Him Now”
 My first heartthrob was Tarzan.  There I was, a pre-pubescent girl with hormones raging, when I caught sight of the next-to-naked ape-man swinging through the vines with a pretty brunette in an equally skimpy outfit.  They’d swim nude together in an elegiac underwater ballet, and ride on the back of elephants.  He’d fight alligators and lions, to save her neck. They were friends with exotic African tribes and enemies of some pretty scary cannibals.  This wild couple lived in a cozy little “nest” high up in a tree, bathed in paradisiacal waterfalls, had a chimp for a buddy, and best of all had nobody telling them to behave or act more civilized. This was a very rich brew.
Now let me get back to the “next-to-naked” part.  I can’t overemphasize this enough.  I didn’t have brothers growing up and while I saw boys and men in bathing trunks at the local pool every summer, my first Tarzan – a the Olympic champion Johnny Weissmuller in his pelt loincloth – leaping and flying through the jungle canopy, strutting his stuff, muscles rippling and engaging in sexy, embraces with a woman-not-his-wife was, back in the 60s, nothing short of radical.  But I wasn’t just a sex-crazed tweener.  This feral, chest-thumping jungle-yodeling creature was also, to my delight, a great adventurer – protecting elephant graveyards, discovering lost cities and ancient civilizations, and hitching rides on dinosaurs.  He was always deflecting the advances of exotic priestesses in their tiny golden breastplates, fearless huntress, and Acquanetta, the smoldering “Leopard Woman.”
Even more appealing to my fantasy life than being Tarzan’s Jane was my identification with the “female Tarzan,” Sheena Queen of the Jungle”  to whose TV series I was seriously addicted. This leggy blonde beauty didn’t need protecting.  She, with her tiny va-va-va-voom animal-skin dress, daring upper arm bracelet and long spear was a perfect match for the ape-man, especially when Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane in later movies (after the 1930s censors reined in her costume and wildness) began acting like a suburban housewife.  In my daydreams it was Tarzan and Sheena as the dynamic jungle duo battling side-by-side against the forces of evil in the natural world. 
Alas, I grew up.  Junior high, high school and college provided enough real-life sexual tension to distract me from my fantasy wildman.  That is until 1984 when whisperings of a new Tarzan movie filtered into my consciousness.  I hadn’t thought of him in twenty years and yet…I was the first one in line on the Friday night that “Greystoke” opened.  With its Academy Award winning director, sensually lanky Christopher Lambert as Tarzan and a gorgeous young Andie McDowell as his Edwardian girlfriend, how could they go wrong? I thrilled to the first half of the film, watched the stranding of the noble-born parents on an African beach and little Lord Clayton was born in a tree-house.  I shuddered at his violent abduction by apes after his parents’ murder, delighted at the feral upbringing, believing he was an ape.  My heart thumped.  Memories flooded back.  Soon he’d be meeting Jane and then…
But Jane never appeared in this scenario – at least not in the rain forest.  It was all about Tarzan saving the life of a Frenchman.  Before I new it, Tarzan was put into clean clothes and whipped off to England.  What the hell?!  The first time Tarzan (now called “John”) meets Jane, wearing a high-necked, corseted dress, is on a grand staircase in his grandfather’s mansion. I was deflated, frustrated, irritated.  But I practiced patience.  Surely they would quickly make their way back to Africa so the love story could take off.  But no!  It was not to be.  The entire second half of “Greystoke” took place in England with Tarzan trying to assimilate into civilized life.  The only reversion to his primordial self happened when he visited Jane one night and he, crouching and hopping apelike around her bed, sniffs the lady a few times before jumping her bones.
I was outraged when the end of the movie arrived and Jane had not set one toe in Tarzan’s jungle.  So disgusted was I that it would be another twenty-five years before the characters would come erupting like a volcano to the surface of my consciousness.  I’d just finished writing O, Juliet, the first rendition in all of literary history of the Romeo and Juliet classic as an historical novel.  When my husband of thirty years (my own wildman – a yoga master who in his youth had – to my horror – performed Tarzanish feats, like handstands at the edge of thousand-foot cliffs) asked what my next romantic book would be I blurted out “Tarzan and Jane!” before I knew what I was saying.
Only then did I discover the magic of Tarzan’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and begin reading the original novels (there are twenty-four of them, the first published a full century ago).  This Tarzan was a truly extraordinary, complex character, one with all the strength, courage and utter fearlessness of the movies, but a man who could do more than grunt nouns and verbs.  He was fluent in seven languages! Was as comfortable in a tuxedo or flying a plane for the RAF in WWII as he was swinging naked in the jungle canopy.
With the full blessings of the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate I was given the freedom to rewrite the classic for sensibilities of modern readers.  Tarzan became a kinder, gentler savage, and Jane a woman to be reckoned with.
I got them naked and intimate in his nest fast,  only then detouring to tell the story of how she came to be stranded alone in Africa with him.  “My” Tarzan is still a perfect male specimen – the penultimate adventurer, at one with nature and ridiculously strong, with violent hatred towards all evil-doers.  Yet he is vulnerable and tender, a man who struggles with deeply buried memories of his human parents, and allows a woman to “save him,” even as he is saving her.
 Never in my wildest adolescent dreams could I have imagined I would be allowed to write my version of Tarzan, bring him to life in a way that suited my own primal fantasies.  I hope my ape-man swings his way into yours, too.
Bestselling author and screenwriter Robin Maxwell often wonders how growing up a suburban New Jersey girl, an education at Tufts University as an occupational therapist, stints as a music business secretary, parrot tamer, casting director, and dozens of Hollywood script development deals prepared her for a career in writing.  After fifteen years and eight novels of historical fiction, including Signora da Vinci and The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn (now in its twenty-fourth printing) she is preparing to jump genres with the publication of JANE: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan (Tor Books, September 18).  It is the first Tarzan classic in a century written by a woman and told through the eyes of the ape-man’s beloved Jane Porter.
About the Book:

Publication Date: Sept. 18, 2012
Tor Books
320 pp
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 traveling 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 to join an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Africa is every bit as exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined, but Jane 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 publication marks the centennial of the original Tarzan of the Apes.

Check out other reviews, guest posts, interviews and giveaway here!
Come back to So Many Books, So Little Time on Thursday, Oct. 4 to read my review of Jane!
Follow on twitter: #JaneVirtualBookTour
To learn more about the author: http://www.robinmaxwell.com


  1. Wow, I love this concept! In an era of Vampires and dystopia, I think Tarzan suddenly sounds so fresh! And with a feminine perspective... Yeah, I'm sold.

    Great guest post!

  2. I'm going to need to read this book - sounds great!


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