Friday, September 30, 2016

The Rakshasa's Bride Paperback Release + Giveaway!

I am super excited this morning to join Suzannah Rowntree in announcing the release of The Rakshasa's Bride in illustrated paperback! This beautiful retelling of The Beauty and the Beast, which I personally loved, can now come to your personal bookshelf!

so cool i can't even 

In celebration of this special occasion, Suzannah is joining me for a wee interview. So pull up a cup of hot cider and some nice doughnuts, and join us for a cozy chat. (Plus, keep reading to the bottom all the way until the giveaway!)




1. The Rakshasa's Bride is a fairy tale retelling. What are your favorite fairy tales, and what attracts you to this genre as a writer?

I grew up on Grimm's Fairytales and also devoured others wherever I found them, so I have a lot of favourites. The Rakshasa's Bride retells Beauty and the Beast, which is obviously a favourite with everyone, including me! Jorinda and Joringel, which I retold in The Bells of Paradise, was deeply comforting to me as a child because of how the power of the witch is so completely overthrown. I always felt a deep kinship with Rapunzel because of the length of my hair, though I've recently had to cut it. The Black Bull of Norroway, with its repeated motifs, is my favourite for telling aloud to children. But my most favourite, for several years now, has been King Thrushbeard.

When I first penned The Rakshasa's Bride I didn't intend a whole series of fairytale retellings. But fairytales are very powerful--sometimes the simplest stories are the rawest, the most compelling. We get lost in the princessy trappings, and forget the underlying meanings that praise humility, diligence, and faithfulness. It's these deep themes, and the raw power of the storytelling, that attract me to fairytales. I don't yet feel completely confident in my own power to invent such tales from scratch--though I am becoming more confident as time goes on--and working on an already-established pattern gives me a creative sandbox to experiement within.

It also gives me an overarching theme within which to experiment with homages to multiple different genres! The Rakshasa's Bride, for instance, is a bit of a homage to what I like best about *ahem* Bollywood movies...

2. Is there a power in fairy tales that other stories can't quite match? What are their unique strengths for conveying a message?

Referring back to my previous answer, yes, I think so! Fairytales are stories that work without a really strong sense of setting or characterisation. They have to rely on raw plot, on situations that everyone can sympathise with. They tend to be deeply mythic, in some ways almost (but not quite) allegorical. In stories like this, it's the plot itself, more than the characterisation, that provides an explanation of the human condition and the divine rescue. Now, fairytales aren't the only stories that work like that - The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are just two recent examples of mythic stories that have this raw, simple plot power. But myth seems to go closer to the bone than any other kind of storytellings.

As a result, fairytales provide an explanation for how the world works. They lay down certain incontrovertible laws that often echo heavily off Biblical themes - from "He has exalted the humble" to "The elder shall serve the younger". There's a magnificent chapter in GK Chesterton's book Orthodoxy, "The Ethics of Elfland", that explains how reading fairytales as a young man paved the way for his surrender to Christ, by instilling in him an idea of both the fundamental lawfulness, and the fundamental wonder, of the created cosmos. This is not allegory, though it's a close cousin. It's more like catechesis; it makes more definite claims about the way the world actually is.

3. Who's your favorite fairy tale hero?

Well, fairytales tend to be pretty light on characterisation, but I have two favourites from two obscure Grimm's fairytales. There's John from Faithful John, who risks everything to save his master's life. On the more humorous end of the scale, there's the absurd Kate from Frederick and Catherine, who is gloriously dim (we're talking Amelia Bedelia levels of dimness) but endlessly well-meaning, and who winds up saving the day in the end, anyway!

4. Do you love any movie adaptations of fairy tales? Which ones?

Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella, seriously. While the CGI bluebirds and the declarations of faith in fairies are about as much as I can stand, I was deeply impressed to see the original fairytale's essential meaning come through with such shining power. Branagh's Cinderella is a paean to idealism, humility, kindness, bravery, and forgiveness, of a kind that I never expected to see adorning the film screen. For someone who isn't apparently a Christian, Branagh's made some of the most Christian movies of recent years--I suspect his long apprenticeship to Shakespeare may have something to do with it.

I'm not big into the Disney animated canon, and I detested Ever After as passionately as I loved Cinderella, so I think that's my sole recommendation!

5. What's your favorite way to celebrate the completion of a writing project? Chocolate? A fun day? A shopping spree?

Well, my idea of a really good time usually involves silence, solitude, and a really good book, so that's what my celebrations usually look like! Otherwise, I might relax with a favourite movie, or buy a long-awaited book or some listening music. Champagne is also very festive. ;) When I finished the first draft of OUTREMER, my major historical project, I treated myself to a leisurely shopping day with my sisters - sorting through books at a book fair, sniffing and sipping in the tea shop, looking through silk skirts and silver jewellery at the Indian importers.

All of which is fun, but sometimes the most exciting thing is simply getting to move on to the next project!

6. If you could have one iconic item to own from literature, what would it be? (Cinderella's glass slipper, Aragorn's sword, etc.)

Ooh. Oh, let's say Queen Lucy's healing cordial. That's something that would definitely come in handy, plus who else can say they have the juice of the fire-flowers that grow on the Sun?

7. What are your favorite things to do to restore your creativity?

I find all I need is some time away from the writing. It can be as little as a half-hour afternoon walk, or as much as a month juggling toddlers at a friend's place, but stepping away from a deadlock for a while has always been enough to get the creative juices flowing again.

8. Which fictional land would be your favorite place to take a vacation?

I've always wanted to go to Narnia. I still want to go to Narnia, though I suppose it's a bit late for it now; they might not let me in. (Not my fault; I used to sit in my wardrobe waiting to be let through!) In that case, I'll take a holiday in a treehouse in Lorien, definitely.

9. Tell us one little known fact about you.

I am such a tea snob. Loose-leaf, without milk or sugar (unless you've got a good masala chai), is the best way to have it - teabag tea is prone to be bitter, taste faintly of teabag, and not lend itself to reinfusion. Gunpowder green and oolong are particularly good, but Russian Caravan, smoky and smooth, is romance in a mug - one sip and you're making the long trek by camel from China, bearing tea to the aristocrats of St Petersburg. Mmm.

10. Any hints as to your next fairy tale project?

I have a couple of projects in various stages! Nearing completion, there's Death Be Not Proud, a retelling of one of the well-known Grimm tales, set in Jazz Age New Zealand, in the style of a Mary Stewart romantic suspense thriller. Look for that to be published pretty soon! I also have plans to release my other fairytale retellings, The Prince of Fishes and The Bells of Paradise, in paperback at some stage.

I also have a host of little fairytale plot bunnies hopping around in the back of my mind. This week I actually sat down and started to rough out the plot of the next one. I'm keeping this one pretty quiet at the moment, but suffice it to say that it will be a particularly outrageously fun story, and will feature a scene in which a character orders tea in epic detail. *nods*

(Giveaway code)

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27 comments:

  1. I wish to read Snow White rewritten by Suzannah... or Sleeping Beauty maybe!

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    1. Oohh! I think I can grant both those wishes in the not-so-distant future! :D

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  2. I have read The Rakshasa's Bride and it was fantastic! This was a super interview- interesting, informative and entertaining!
    I have no suggestions for further fairytale retellings, as the giveaway wizard inquired, just a request to keep 'em coming! ; )

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    1. So glad you enjoyed The Rakshasa's Bride and the interview, Sarah! And--you're easy to please; DV I'll certainly keep them coming!

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  3. Suzannah, you made me laugh. :D Looking forward to the giveaway!

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  4. I've heard a lot about Suzannah's books, but I haven't read any yet. I've been intrigued with all the books she's written and would love to read them!

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    1. It's very kind of you to say so, Hannah! I hope you do get the chance to read some soon! ;)

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  5. I just finally watched Cinderella, and I walked away shocked and pleased that such a thing came out of Hollywood! It was amazing!

    I'm not typically a huge fan of fairy tales, but something along the lines of a Sleeping Beauty story would be fun to read. :)

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    1. I was pretty astonished too - I'm half convinced we have Shakespeare's influence to thank. Branagh must know that after decades of deconstruction, people are yearning for reconstructed/superversive art. I really enjoyed the first THOR movie, too.

      Sleeping Beauty? *checks to do list* ...Yep. You're definitely covered :D

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  6. Yay! Glad to find someone else who loves King Thrushbeard! My sister and I have adored that one for ages, and we even began to write a retelling of it together...which we've sadly never finished. :(

    Also, I too was wonderfully surprised with the overall message of the newest Cinderella film- one of the many reasons I love that movie :)

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    1. King Thrushbeard is wonderful, and sadly, there's only one retelling out there, and it looks like it takes a definite subversive slant on the story. Maybe you or I can fix that one day :3

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    2. I've only seen one retelling of that story around as well (probably the same one?) but I was fearing that they might have done that. :/ But I'm sure one of us can remedy that eventually :)

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  7. I'd love to see a rewrite of the Little Mermaid - I'd be keen to see what Suzannah could do with it!

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    1. Oh, the Little Mermaid? So far I've stayed away from Hans Christian Anderson, but I can definitely see some interesting possibilities in that story...

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  8. Oooh, this is so exciting!!!
    Lovely interview, Suzannah and Schuyler!

    Ah, maybe a fairy-tale retelling of the Repunzel story (the one with the tears healing the blind prince in the desert is a favourite) :) Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Little Red Riding Hood are other wonderful ones :)

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    1. Oh yes, Rapunzel is so powerful! *mysterious smile* Do you know, Joy, you are uniquely in luck. Of the four fairytales you mention, I have plans to retell two of them, and I know two other very talented people who have plans to retell the other two. So keep your eyes peeled. There's going to be good news pretty soon :)

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  9. Oh, and I totally agree with you, Suzannah about the new Cinderella movie. That film was so beautiful and surprised me by its message so unexpectedly. What a pleasant surprise! I'm holding out hope that the new Beauty and the Beast live-action will be good like that. Fingers crossed!

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    1. Oh, the new Beauty and the Beast... I do so hope it will be good, because I've never yet seen a Beauty and the Beast movie which I really love. But I can't help suspecting they're going to do another feminist retelling. I suspect that if they go for an Emma-Watson-style feminism it won't be completely unbearable, but it won't be sheer beauty like Cinderella.

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  10. I'm very excited about this! And, quite frankly, I will read any fairytale retelling Suzannah writes and publishes. I'm unfamiliar with most fairytales, excepting the princess Disney films, and I have been enjoying Suzannah's retellings tremendously. Though, I will second Joy's suggestion and say I'm very curious to see what she can do with Rapunzel.

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    1. You're very encouraging, Hanne-col! Rapunzel is definitely special to me, so we'll see what I can come up with :)

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  11. Not sure for the question...I haven't had the pleasure of reading her books yet, but plan to! I have two waiting on my Kindle!

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    1. Oh, I do hope you enjoy them, Raechel!

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  12. Ooh, I need to do this! I loved Pendragon's Heir (I think it's on my top ten!). And I am now officially inspired to try loose leaf tea :D

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    1. :D Did you like it so much? I'm so glad!

      My advice to young tea drinkers - Get a good quality gourmet tea - it will be nicer to drink. ;)

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  13. And while I'm not terribly familiar with fairy tales, I would love to see a retelling of The Eleven Wild Swans :)

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    1. Swans have proven to be very popular. I'll have to see what I can do!

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