Friday, May 30, 2008

Through the Wardrobe: A Chat with Zu Vincent

A couple weeks ago, I was interviewed on Diana Peterfreund's blog about my essay in the Teen Libris anthology, Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, and now it's my turn to be the interviewer! Hee-hee!

I am very pleased to welcome Zu Vincent, one of my fellow contributors to Through the Wardrobe and author of The Lucky Place. Welcome, Zu! Thanks for coming! (Okay, fine, she's not literally here. Burst my bubble, why don't you. But she did agree to answer my questions about her fabulous essay, co-written with Kiara Koenig...)

Tell us about your essay in Through the Wardrobe. What drew you to the topic?

"Minding the Gap: Are You a Susan or a Lucy?" explores how Susan and Lucy develop very different takes on life in the Chronicles of Narnia. Susan is the practical one, but she also cares about outward appearances and acting very grown up. Lucy sees through the surface, down into the core truths of life, and even to the magic. So the essay asks, which one are you? How do you really see yourself mov
ing through life. Do you face who you are deep down, do you stand up for the hard choices against all odds, or do you tend to let your outward appearance, what others think of you, rule who you are. That's what the essay is about. And writing it seemed important because Lucy is really the central figure in the Chronicles, yet "the boys" tend to get more attention, more swag, more titles. Lucy needs some press!

Are you a Susan or a Lucy?

Don't we all have to be a little bit of both inside? Sometimes we need a Susan exterior but we should fight to keep Lucy in our hearts. The real world is sometimes easier to deal with as a Susan, after all. She meets people's expectations and knows how to handle social situations. But away from the job or the social scene, our souls need to get lost in the woods and listen to the secrets whispered in the trees. There's a lot to be said for believing the stones will speak again.

Would you prefer tea with Tumnus or lunch with the Beavers?

Tea with Tumnus, because he dances and sings, tells stories and is a bit of a gossip. He's that friend with whom you can dish for hours.

Have you ever eaten Turkish Delight? How far would you go for your favorite dessert?

Never had Turkish Delight, but what a powerful symbol. Think of all the tales in which kids are tempted by sweets. And back in the garden Eve's downfall was the sweet apple (or the pomegranate, depending). And chocolate! -- the role it played in the Mayan religion, as both doorway to visions and aphrodisiac. Who wouldn't travel the world for chocolate? In fact, there's this hot chocolate/ espresso in a cafe tucked away down an alley in the town center of Cork, Ireland....

Do you think Susan will ever be a friend of Narnia again?

Maybe, when she has children and tells them stories about Narnia.

What's your earliest Narnia memory?

It involves a crackling fire, a brick hearth, a comfy old couch and a snowy pine forest out the window. Being read to in this safe space while sinking into that other cold winter and the delight of animals speaking.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Father Christmas gives the Pevensies various magical presents. If you'd been there, what gift would he have given you and what would you have done with it?

The gift
of story, which is magical, and can always be re-gifted.

How have the Narnia books influenced your writing?

The Narnia books are a great influence because they tell a plain good story, with lovable characters and a landscape that becomes a character itself. And good story sweeps you up and makes you never want to leave its embrace. Look what C.S. Lewis got away with. He knew how to take Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar and help the medicine go down. We're still digging into his tales and uncovering their themes through Susan, Lucy and the other Pevensies. It's pure sorcery.


Zu Vincent's young adult novel The Lucky Place is just out from Front Street Press. School Library Journal calls The Lucky Place "A stunning fiction debut by an author to watch." Author Jacqueline Woodson describes it as "A quietly powerful and important story. Zu's vignettes weave a novel that, from moment to moment, takes your breath -- then gently hands it back to you again. Lovely."

Kiara Koenig (co-author of the "Minding the Gap" essay) is a poet and adjunct English faculty. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds an MFA in Creative Writing as well as an MA in Literature.

You can visit Zu online at

Thanks for the interview, Zu!

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At 5:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi again... I love it how the conversation goes on! I would totally agree that we've all got a bit of both Susan and Lucy in us (does that go for boys, too?). It's interesting that the dual nature can either be at war with itself ("WHY DO I HAVE TO GO CLEAN UP YOUR SPILLED DRINK NOW WHEN I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF WRITING DOWN A SENTENCE OF DEATHLESS PROSE") or working together in perfect harmony (like when you're under a tree putting together a magic garden with a bunch of little kids). Maybe actually being a mother pricks out these things with extra clarity--which also suggests that yes, Susan may return to being a friend of Narnia when she has children of her own (the accompanying Responsibility will change her if nothing else does).

hmm, does Susan have children? An interesting plot path to pursue.

thanks for this morning's thought-provoking entertainment!

xx, e

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Erin said...

this was a really great interview. I enjoyed it muchly. lots of new things to think about...ah, how I love narnia!

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Elizabeth: I like the idea of Susan's children showing her the way back to Narnia... That really would be an interesting story, especially if she didn't believe them at first...

Erin: Glad you enjoyed it! Zu's essay is really great too.

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