Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

Interview with Carolyn Turgeon + giveaway! — CLOSED

Bonnie from A Backwards Story is with us again today, bringing us another fantastic interview — this time with Carolyn Turgeon!


Carolyn Turgeon is the author of three novels, Rain Village, Godmother, and Mermaid. Her next novel, The Next Full Moon, is scheduled to come out in August/September 2011. Based on Te Swan Maiden, this will be Turgeon’s debut novel for young readers. Her novels tend to be twisted versions of fairy tales you’ve never seen before, such as The Little Mermaid from the princess’ perspective in addition to the mermaid’s or a version of Cinderella where the godmother is banished from the fairy realm when something goes horribly wrong... For a review of Turgeon’s work, please visit the above links. Reviews of her other titles will come to A Backwards Story later this year. Godmother and Mermaid are also featured in a FTF guest post titled FRACTURED FAIRY TALES.

1) What were your favorite fairy tales growing up? What drew you to them?
I can recall loving all kinds of stories, such as Thumbelina and The Princess and the Pea, with all their strange and wonderful images—the tiny girl floating along in an acorn, the princess with her stack of mattresses. I think my favorite fairy tales were by Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose… but my favorite was The Selfish Giant. It’s very sad and strange and beautiful—the ghostly little boy, the lush garden, the endless snow and frost, the giant who gets struck down, covered in white blossoms… I’ve always tended to like stories that are very sad.

2) What made you decide to write alternative versions of fairytales from unique perspectives?
I didn’t really start out intending to write alternative versions of fairy tales. When I started Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, I just wanted to tell the Cinderella story straight, with lots of wonderful, lush detail and full, fleshed-out characters and all kinds of weirdness and darkness, etc. That’s what I love about fairytales, by the way—that strange combination of beauty and darkness you find in all of them. After my first book, Rain Village, which took forever to write, I wanted to do something that I thought would be a lot of fun, something that I would really love writing. I only decided to tell the story through the perspective of the fairy godmother when I realized how limited Cinderella’s perspective was—back then I only ever wrote in first person—so I figured that if the fairy godmother was narrating she could be pretty omniscient, tell you what was going on with Cinderella and the other characters. Plus, she could tell you her own story, too, which I thought might be interesting. Later, I decided to set the book in contemporary New York City and only have the godmother remembering everything that had happened in the other world. The book is set half in New York and half in the fairy tale world (in flashbacks). I only decided to do that after joining a writing workshop and seeing that the people in the workshop didn’t seem to be responding to the straight-out fairy tale I was writing. I wanted to win them over and I thought maybe I could lure them in with a present-day story set in the city, win them over that way, and then plunge them into the fairy tale.
So the book only slowly evolved into this alternative version. Once I put the fairy tale in via flashbacks, I knew something had to have gone terribly wrong. Why else would the fairy godmother be an old woman in New York?
After writing the book, though, I felt there was something really powerful in taking a story as well known as Cinderella, a story that’s in our blood and bones, and telling the “real” story from a perspective you never think or care about.

3) Can you tell us more about your upcoming book, The Next Full Moon?
The Next Full Moon is my first children’s book, a middle-grade novel about a 12-year-old girl who’s being raised alone by her father in Pennsylvania and who starts growing feathers, which is totally mortifying and confusing for her of course. She then comes to discover that her mother, whom she thought died when she was an infant, was (and is) a swan maiden. The story’s based on the old tales in which a man steals a swan maiden’s feathered robe when she’s in her human form, takes her home, marries her and has children with her. One day she discovers the robe and flies away—there are various reasons for this, depending on the version you read. I wondered: what happens when those kids she leaves behind hit puberty? In my book, the man and woman had only one child, and now here’s the kid ten years later with feathers appearing on her arms and back, having no idea that her mother is still alive and, of course, no idea that she’s a swan maiden.
I like the idea of a 12-year-old girl, full of shame and embarrassment, slowly discovering that she’s magical and amazing.

4) What other ideas are you working on right now?
Well, I’m working on a few things right now. Because of Mermaid, I started this blog, I Am a Mermaid, where I talk to all kinds of people about mermaids. I’ve realized that there’s this whole mermaid culture out there that’s really fascinating and lovely. So I’m writing my first non-fiction (but still quite fantastical!) book. And I’m working on a new novel that has to do with Weeki Wachee and a YA novel about a drowning pool, and I have this half-done thriller that I hope to finish this year…

5) Was it hard coming up with your own lore when you began world-building? How did you bring everything together?
It was challenging for me to write about magical worlds, I think, in that I was afraid of making them too Disney-ish or corny. So with Godmother, at first I was very vague when talking about the fairy world; in fact in the first draft, the flashbacks start with the godmother meeting Cinderella and we don’t really see her in her own world at all. It was only after the book sold that my editors pushed me to make the fairy world more defined and vivid, to explain the rules of that world and the landscape of it and so on. So I added in the first couple of flashback chapters that are in the book now, and they were probably the hardest chapters for me to write, even though they’re probably the lightest ones in the whole book.
With Mermaid, I mainly had to explain the rules we see in the original Hans Christian Andersen story… like why the mermaids can only visit the human world once, on their birthdays, and so on. It was more like putting together a puzzle than anything else, trying to create the worlds in that book and make them adhere to specific points from the original story.

6) Which of the books you've written is your favorite so far? What makes it the most special to you?
Hmmm. I think that would always tend to be the latest one. Right now I’m very excited about The Next Full Moon and writing for this younger age group. I found it surprisingly easy to write as a twelve-year-old, which is possibly a little worrisome, and was able to draw on my own memories and experiences more than I have for any other book. Like the characters all go to the lake in their town, where there’s an old carousel and people sell lemonade and they can all go swimming or lie out on the beach. And I was just directly describing the lake my friends and I used to go to in East Lansing, Michigan, where I lived from when I was twelve to fourteen, and I hadn’t thought about that lake in years. We moved around a lot when I was growing up, and so I’m really distanced from some of those memories and places. It was kind of nostalgic and wonderful, writing that book and slipping into those memories and this old self. Also, I have to say, I think the trauma and awkwardness of being twelve mixes really well with the fairy tale elements in the book, and I like the idea that something magical is happening to you as you hit puberty and you just have to figure that out.

7) What are some of your favorite fairy tale inspired novels and/or authors?
I love Angela Carter and her weird, gorgeous visions. I love Alice Hoffman, Francesca Lia Block, Joanne Harris, Isabel Allende, Jeanette Winterson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino... They’re not all fairy tale writers and I don’t know to what extent they’ve all been inspired by fairy tales, but they all write in that vein I think, lush and magical. I really enjoyed Erzebet Yellowboy’s Sleeping Helena. And I also, by the way, really loved the way the Pied Piper story is used in the movie The Sweet Hereafter. It’s pretty brilliant.

8) If you could live out any fairy tale, what would it be and why?
Oh, I think maybe Thumbelina. I mean, who wouldn’t want to ride around in an acorn? For the most part, I think fairy tales are not the stories I would like to live out. Though I wouldn’t mind being the little mermaid for a day, before she goes and sees the sea witch and ruins her life…

9) What's your favorite Disney rendition of a fairy tale? What makes it so special?
I’m going to have to defer to my childhood self, who loved all those movies quite passionately. As an adult, I could barely even get through The Little Mermaid, which I was totally swept away by as a teenager. Probably my favorite, though, is Snow White. The old versions of that tale are really very shockingly weird and violent, and even the Disney version is incredibly creepy, with our semi-dead heroine lying gorgeously in a glass coffin in the forest and our hot prince having a thing for dead chicks.


~Best fairy tale villain and why?
Oh, the stepmother from Snow White. She’s a gorgeous witch with a magic mirror who has her stepdaughter murdered in the forest and then eats her heart (or lungs or what have you). Even though she’s betrayed by her huntsman and actually eats a stag’s heart, she believes she’s eating Snow White’s. It’s hard to think of a more perverse female villain! And I love the image of her skulking through the forest with her cloak and her basket full of poisoned apples.

~Rapunzel is named after lettuce; what odd thing would you be named after if you were in a fairy tale?
Oh, I love Rapunzel and the lettuce that is so delicious and addictive that Rapunzel’s mother craves it above all else and even makes her husband climb into a witch’s garden to get more for her. I mean, who pines for lettuce? Now I totally want some lettuce, now that I’m thinking about it...
I’d like to be something equally un-chocolate-y, if you know what I mean, some other pedestrian, unsexy vegetable with hidden powers of seduction. Like a rutabaga or a turnip. Turnip is kind of a cute word, not too far off from the delightful “tulip.” I’d like some fairytale character to be sitting in a room wasting away from a mad desire for turnips.

~ Using that name, give us a line from your life as a fairy tale:
She stared out the window at the impossibly lush turnips growing outside just beyond reach, their leaves shooting into the air like hands, their bodies dense and purple, as round as breasts. Her mouth watered as she watched the turnip leaves undulating in the breeze. As if they were bellydancing, she thought.

Meanwhile, Turnip was enjoying a large slice of chocolate cake at Jean Georges.

~Would you rather:

- — eat magic beans or golden eggs? Golden eggs. Don’t those sound delectable? A magic bean is just wrong.

- — style 50ft long hair or polish 100 pairs of glass slippers? I think polishing the glass slippers would be much more manageable. And I love things made out of glass, especially slippers and dresses. Are you aware of Karen LaMonte’s glass dresses? Look:

- — have a fairy godmother or a Prince Charming? Oh, a fairy godmother. Who wouldn’t want an endless supply of dresses and carriages? And let’s face it: Prince Charming isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.
Come to think of it, though… if we’re talking about the fairy godmother from my own book, then I’d really have to go for the hot prince, or even one of the coachman or mice. Anyone but the godmother, please!

Okay, okay, here’s the part you’re all waiting for: The giveaway! Carolyn has generously agreed to give away three—yes, THREE—autographed copies of Mermaid as well as some fun mermaid tattoos! You know you want to win this contest and read this fantastic book.

To enter,. In addition, please leave a comment answering this question: What would you do if you could be a mermaid for a day? Also, what would you be willing to sacrifice in order to become a mermaid?

Entries must be received by MAY 5th. May 8th This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!
Good luck and I can’t wait to see your responses!

PS from Misty: I love this picture! ----->

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Interview with Carolyn Turgeon + giveaway! — CLOSED + TIME