Monday, November 30, 2009

Double Interview: Jessica Day George

Got a special treat for you today: Author Jessica Day George!

Jessica and I have a cool bond. (No pun intended.) We both wrote novels inspired by the Norwegian folktale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" -- Jessica's SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW and my ICE. Together with Edith Pattou's EAST, another wonderful retelling of this folktale, it seems that we're building up a lovely little sub-genre around East of the Sun. To date, our numbers still pale in comparison to the legions of Cinderella retellers out there, but I hope that our contributions will help spread the word about this beautiful, icy tale.

A few weeks ago, Jessica and I exchanged signed copies of our books. I was extremely excited about this, as it meant that I would finally get to read her book! (I'd been resisting the urge to read other East of the Sun retellings until ICE was released.) We were both fascinated by how tremendously different our books are. Despite the same inspiration, we focused on very different aspects of the original tale and took the story in very different directions. In the end, we wound up with two novels that are nearly (must resist another pun, m
ust resist... cannot resist...) polar opposites.

To explore this further, we decided to interview each other on our blogs. If we've gotten our timing right, my interview of Jessica (below) and Jessica's interview of me should appear on the same day. So check out her blog to read the other half of our double interview.

Before I start her interview, though, I want to say that I loved, loved, loved Jessica's book. SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW is a beautiful novel. It's beautifully written, and it has such a perfect fairy-tale-magical feel.

Jessica deepened and expanded all the elements of the original tale, keeping the original Norwegian setting and all the characters but infusing the tale with back story and emotions. She also added wonderful minor characters, such as Erasmus and Mrs. Grey (castle servants who provide both clues and suspense) and the fabulous wolf Rollo (a new sidekick), and she created a magnificant backstory with Hans Peter (the "lassie's" brother) and his love Tova. She further enriched her tale with great details like the troll language and the pervasive stench of the trolls. The end result is simply wonderful.

Now, without further ado, here is the fantastic Jessica Day George talking about her experience with bringing this tale to life:

1) Why did you choose to retell East of the Sun, West of the Moon? What drew you to this tale?

Having loved this story for years, I decided in high school that I would do a retelling of it. It needed so much more! I wanted to travel east o' the sun and west o' the moon with the young lassie, and see what she saw! I loved Norway, and polar bears, and there just weren't enough books out there to suit me.

2) How did you first discover this tale?

I found the P.J. Lynch illustrated picture book at a bookstore when it first came out, and since he draws the lass as a redhead, I had to have it. I recognized the story, I don't know when I heard it first or where. But the Lynch version is what made me think, I want to turn this into a novel.

3) What was the writing process like for Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow?

After years of making little notes here and there when inspiration struck, and studying Norwegian, and fairy tales, and even Old Norse, one day after I had finished Dragon Slippers I just thought, "Am I ready? Will I ever be ready? I'm going to take the plunge. . . " My heart was racing and I felt a little queasy that I would screw up after all these years of planning the book . . . and then the rest was just a big blur, frankly.

4) How did you choose what to keep of the original tale and what to change?

I tried to keep it all! I wanted a completely faithful retelling of the story, beginning with Long ago, and far away, and moving on through the polar bear, the strange man in her bed at night, the candle wax, the trolls, all of it! I wanted the reader to think that they had been dropped right into the original, just now in Surround Sound!

5) I loved the addition of the Hans Peter storyline. What was the inspiration for that backstory?

I wanted her to have this hero, this older brother who was kind to her when some of her family wasn't, and I loved the idea that he had seen strange and horrible things that changed him . . . and then I smacked myself on the head and thought: He's been through it, too!

6) You also added multiple wonderful minor characters in the castle, as well as the wolf Rollo. Can you tell me about the decision to add them?

Having secretly always wanted a pet wolf, and one that could talk, Rollo just leaped onto the page. The servants in the palace of ice, and the palace of gold, were a little different. In versions of the fairy tale there are invisible servants -- but that always freaked me out! Are they watching her in the bath? Creeeeeepy! But I didn't want them to just be polar bears, because polar bears . . . well, they're not known for their cooking, now are they? So I decided to have other mythological creatures manning the kitchens. My favorite was Mrs. Grey, the gargoyle housekeeper.

7) What inspired the personalities of your lassie and bear? How much of yourself appears in your characters?

I usually feel like my main character is a little piece of me, but not so with the Lass. To me, she really was part of a fairy tale come to life. She's much meeker than I am, and much more uncertain. She was resigned to her lot in life as an unloved youngest child, doomed to toil on the family farm indefinitely. When something fine was given to her: riches, love, she hardly dared to reach for it. The bear was fun to write because I tried to give him a good sense of humor. I figured that he'd have to have one in order to survive being turned into a bear without going crazy. He's a pampered prince suddenly cursed, and dealing with it the best that he can.

8) If a polar bear asked you to marry him, what would you say?

That depends: does he have a palace? Because I am not living in a snow cave!

Thanks so much, Jessica!

Double interview continued on Jessica's blog..... Click here to read her interview of me!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Polar Bears and Penguins

I developed a somewhat odd pet peeve while writing Ice: I can't handle cute illustrations of polar bears frolicking with penguins. It causes me to start ranting.

Polar bears = Arctic = top of the world. Penguins = Antarctica = bottom of the world. Even if those cute little flightless birds wander up to South America, we're still talking opposite hemispheres. Seriously, these creatures could not live farther apart without leaving the planet. Seeing a polar bear with
a penguin would be like walking into your backyard and seeing a chipmunk frolicking with an elephant. It doesn't happen. They don't live together!

*deep breath*

I adore this cartoon, by David Farley, poking fun at all this.

Also, polar bears don't catch fish. Oh, they'll happily eat a fish if they find one laying around, but they don't sit by a hole in the ice and scoop fish out of the ocean with their fuzzy paws. That's grizzlies, and they're scooping out of streams where the fish don't have a whole lot of room to escape. Polar bears live on the sea ice, above the Arctic Ocean, which as the name suggests, is an OCEAN, where the fish have plenty of room to swim and little reason to
hang out at the surface next to holes in the ice. Scooping one out with a fuzzy paw would be much like catching a fly with chopsticks a la Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid -- a fun trick for parties but by no means a viable way to feed a species. No, polar bears eat seals. Cute, adorable, fuzzy-whiskered seals. Unlike fish, seals are mammals and have to swim up to holes in the ice to breathe. And when they do..... Dinnertime.

This one, by ARG! Cartoon Animation Studio, is rather awesome too.

I will forgive an illustration of a polar bear holding a fish though, because a bear holding a bloody seal is not nearly as cute and charming.

But polar bears and penguins frolicking together..... No. Just no.

Okay, I'm done with my rant now. Off to drink a Coke.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Revue and The Voracious Reader

Last week, I did a wonderful book event at Book Revue in Huntington, NY. Thanks so much to the fabulous booksellers and everyone who came by to listen to me babble. I read from and talked about ICE, and then we ate Cassie and Bear:

How cool is that?

Yummy too.

I love edible photos. I love that someone sat down and said,
"You know what this world needs? The ability to eat a photograph."

And you know what? I think he or she was right. The world does need things like edible photos -- things that exist purely to make someone smile. I think that is a noble purpose. Honestly, it's one of the reasons that I write. I love the idea of creating a story that can touch someone, make someone smile, take someone out of their worries and problems for at least a couple hours...

My next book event doesn't involve edible bears, but it does involve two other fabulous authors. This Friday, I will be at The Voracious Reader with Carolyn MacCullough (Once a Witch) and Delia Sherman (The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen). Here are the details:

The Voracious Reader
Friday, November 13th at 7pm
1997 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont, NY

Hope to see you there!

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