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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At 8:10 AM, Blogger Q said...

I adore her!

I also ran into her in an airport bathroom once. True story (and just as surreal as it sounds).

At 9:06 AM, Blogger storyqueen said...

Great interview! I am planning on reading both books over Winter break...kind of appropriate, I think.

Good luck, girls!


At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Danielle said...

I read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow just last Thursday! I hope to read your book soon.

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous ARodd said...

Hey, nice interview. I want to read your books as well! PS check out and become a peep!

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Sarah Stevenson said...

This is great! Thank you so much for introducing me to Jessica Day George's take on the folk tale--I had no idea she'd written one, too! (I enjoyed her novel Dragon Slippers, though...) Very fun interview idea--off to read the reciprocating one now.

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous Download one piece said...

Really this is very interesting interview. I will also try to reading books.


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