Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [interview]

Interview with Tia Nevitt

This marks the last of our interviews conducted by Bonnie from A Backwards Story (for this year, at least). Today she is chatting with author Tia Nevitt, whose novella, The Sevefold Spell, is catching many eyes with it's pretty cover.
Check it out:

Tia Nevitt is the author of The Sevenfold Spell, an e-book novella centered in the world of Sleeping Beauty. The novel features a girl and her mother whose lives are destroyed when their spinning wheel is taken away from them and shows what they must do in order to survive. For a review of Tia’s book, please visit A Backwards Story.

~ What were your favorite fairy tales growing up? What drew you to them?
My favorite was Cinderella, mostly because of Leslie Ann Warren in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. They played it every spring while I was growing up for a number of consecutive years. The Disney version also hit the theaters when I was a girl, but I didn’t like it as much. Nowadays, I understand why—too much focus on the cute animals, and not enough focus on Cinderella. But really—there’s only so much plot to work with. I’m having the same difficulty now with my Cinderella retelling!
Later, when I was about ten or so, I discovered Beauty and the Beast, and that became my favorite. This was mostly because we had a beautifully illustrated version of it, and also because the story was more complex with a more admirable heroine.

~ What made you decide to write The Sevenfold Spell from a villager's POV?
I didn’t really. The Sevenfold Spell is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and I wanted to write from the point of view of the woman who owned the spinning wheel. Many readers have thought of her as a villager, but I actually envisioned her as living in a tiny neighborhood in the capital city—right where all the action takes place. But the reader is always right!
I wanted to explore the spinster’s point-of-view because I wondered what became of all the spinsters after the spinning wheels were banned. I was watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty with my daughter and the plight of the spinsters seemed like such a good seed for a story. I wanted to show how everything in Talia’s life changed with the loss of her spinning wheel—her whole future was bound up in it. It happens incrementally, first the loss of an income, which results in the loss of her dowry, which results in the loss of her betrothed, at which time she begins to despair. I tried to put myself in the mindset of a fatherless young lady who is very unattractive, faced with a long life ahead of her with only a cranky mother for company. The only man who ever looked at her must leave… What would she do in search of happiness?
One of the ideas I had from the start is that Sleeping Beauty would actually be Sleeping Ugly. Therefore, I made Talia to be Aurora’s opposite. Where Aurora is beautiful, privileged, dreamy and pure, Talia is unattractive, poor, pragmatic—and sensual. I realize that’s a bit unusual, but a mousy and shy spinster would have been too much of a cliché, and besides, sometimes the character’s choices lead the author, which is very much what happened in this case.

~ Will future books in the Accidental Enchantments series be from alternate POVs as well? Can you tell us about what you're working on now?
Yes, they will all be from the point-of-view of people who are caught up in the magic. Right now, I’m working on Cinderella. It’s from the point-of-view of a dressmaker’s niece, whose leg is lame, and who is hounded by an unscrupulous moneylender. She makes a bargain with a certain fairy godmother, but trouble starts when one of the crystal slippers turn up missing. For my Snow White story, the prince is the one who is accidentally enchanted, so he is one of the point-of-view characters. But most of the story takes place from the point of view of one of the dwarves—who happens to be a woman. I also have some ideas for Beauty and the Beast, but they are too unformed to go into detail.

~ Was it hard coming up with your own lore when you began world-building for The Sevenfold Spell? How did you bring everything together, especially the way you created the Sevenfold Spell itself?
The Sevenfold Spell itself came straight from the fairy tale, except I believe there were originally twelve blessings, and they weren’t bound up together. Perrault only details a few of the blessings in his version of Sleeping Beauty. I settled on seven because I wanted a prime number. Five was too few, and eleven was too many. Why a prime number? It just seemed to me that if you were going to have some magical numbers, then there ought not be very many of them. Technically, there are an infinite number of prime numbers, but that infinite number is going to be much fewer than the number of ordinary numbers out there, even though they are both infinite. And since that dichotomy makes no sense at all, but nevertheless is, it seemed perfect for magic.
The rest of the lore came from the many plot holes in Sleeping Beauty. Why could each fairy only cast one spell upon Aurora? Why could the evil fairy’s spell not be undone? Why a hundred year sleep? And why would Aurora touch the spinning wheel?

~ What are some of your favorite fairy tale inspired novels and/or authors?
When I sat down to write The Sevenfold Spell, I didn’t go out and buy up a bunch of fairy tale retellings, like I probably should have done. I just sat down and wrote it. I wanted to write the retelling that I wanted to read. What I did do was read all the Sleeping Beauty versions that I could find, which is where I got Talia’s name. (I didn’t keep anything else from that version because it’s very strange.)
I did read Patricia Wrede’s Snow White and Rose Red years ago, which I kept for all this time so my daughter could read it one day.

~ If you could live out any fairy tale, what would it be and why?
Probably Beauty and the Beast, because nothing awful actually happens to Beauty! Cinderella would have had to live through either her father’s death or neglect (depending on the version you read), Snow White would have had to put up with the evil queen’s jealousy and abuse, and Sleeping Beauty was just so passive. Beauty gets to be heroic (in sacrificing herself for her father), but her punishment is to live in luxury in a castle while falling in love. I’ll take that one!
I certainly didn’t follow the fairy-tale formula in my own life. I didn’t really make an attempt to find a Prince Charming, which is probably why I found one. I left home when I was eighteen to join the military, where I ended up launching and recovering jets with my future husband. From that experience, you’d think I’d be writing military sci-fi or something. And although I had a few ideas along those lines, none were strong enough to engage me long enough to write a novel—or even a novella. Maybe I haven’t thought of the right plot yet.

~ What's your favorite Disney rendition of a fairy tale? What makes it so special?
Beauty and the Beast. It had all the right ingredients. The original story had plenty of plot, a self-sacrificing heroine, and a tragic hero; Disney added terrific animation, a great cast, and marvelous music. But the best part about it was Gaston. The original plot lacked a true villain, and the addition of an arrogant, handsome villain who had everything that Beast didn’t have was inspired. The guy who sang Gaston (Richard White, according to IMDB) was perfect.
The only flaw in the movie is that Belle actually called Beast “Beast”. Bleh.

~ What was your biggest surprise in your publishing journey?
That this story was accepted at all. This was my first attempt to submit this version of the story to a publisher. I had recently expanded it from a short story—which I had been unable sell anywhere—to a novella, and I sent it to my first choice publisher. I expected the same thing that had happened before—a rejection within a few weeks or months. I was really surprised to get a phone call, instead!

Thanks so much for chatting with us for Fairy Tale Fornight, Tia! And thank you so, so much Bonnie, for your enthusiastic participation in Fairy Tale Fortnight, and for all of the great interviews you shared with the FTFers!