ANNA K. author, Jenny Lee, shares her tips for writing a modern-day retelling of a classic
"Pick a book that you really love."
If you’ve always dreamed of rewriting a classic but never known where to start, today is your lucky day.
If there’s anyone who knows anything about reimagining a classic, it’s Jenny Lee, author of modern day Anna Karenina retelling, Anna K. Jenny’s no stranger to the art of successfully reclaiming a beloved story and making it her own and with the help of her five top tips for writing a modern day retelling of a classic, we hope you’ll be inspired to pick up that pen and start rewriting that story you’ve always dreamed of.
1. You must make sure the book you are thinking of retelling is in public domain.
It’s the only time you can use another author’s story without first getting permission to adapt or “retell it.” In 2020, for example, any book written in 1924 or before is in the public domain, as works older than 96 years old enter the public domain each year.
2. Pick a book that you really love.
Anna Karenina is a book I have read several times, so it was a story I knew incredibly well. I was in no way trying to rewrite Tolstoy, but simply offering up a reimagining of this incredible love story. I hope that people who read my book will go and read the classic, if they haven’t already. But for people who have read Anna Karenina before they read Anna K, I wrote in some fun Easter eggs as an homage to the original.
3. You must decide how your book is going to be different from the original.
In Anna Karenina the constraints of women in Russian society in the late 1800s was very limiting and quite harsh. In my modern version it was very important to me to empower all the female characters and give them strong voices and choices.
4. Think about where it’s best to set your story.
The train is very iconic in Anna Karenina and I definitely knew I wanted to use it, which is why I set Anna K in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut (as opposed to Moscow and St. Petersburg).
5. Make it personal.
There are so many personal details that I included in my novel as it was inspired by meeting my husband six years ago and how I told my friends “we were falling in love teenage-style #obsessed.” I first arrived in NYC at the age of 18 for college and lived there for the next twelve years. As a poor college student, I often fantasized about how fun NYC would be if you had money, so it was exciting to see the city through this particular lens. Also, Anna K is half Korean and that was very personal to me because I have two nieces and a nephew who are half-Korean. I wanted to make sure they saw themselves reflected in the world at large in books and TV.