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Thursday, April 28, 2011

CLOSED Interview & Giveaway with Carolyn Turgeon, author of Mermaid, Godmother, et al!

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, fill out the entry form. 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! ----->


  1. Great interview.

    If I was a mermaid for a day I would just swim and swim and swim until i tire out. I would just like to experience the weightlessness that one feels while underwater. I would probably cut a lock of my hair as a sacrifice. Gross i know but hey i have beautiful hair and we do NOT part often! LOL

    Thanks for the giveaway. :D


  2. I would explore under the sea different treasures to find. rlrlaney@yahoo.com

  3. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

    Lol that's what I'd do, explore along the way. :)

  4. What would you do if you could be a mermaid for a day?

    Explore. See the Ocean, as much as I could.

    Also, what would you be willing to sacrifice in order to become a mermaid?

    I'd give up the ability to go back to human. I could give up my voice too, a la the Disney version.

  5. I really enjoyed this interview!!!

    If I could be a mermaid for a day, I would swim, sit on a rock and sing, brush my hair with fork--all that good stuff.

    I would be willing to sacrifice my sense of smell. I mean, my sinuses stink anyway and how can you really smell underwater? :)

    Amy // amyismyfriend at aol dot com

  6. Can't really think of much, other than swimming around way faster than I normally would. I don't think I'd sacrifice anything to be able to do this either.

  7. If I was a mermaid fora day, I would explore as much of the ocean as possible. I'd swim as deep as I could and see things I would never be able to see as human.

    I would not sacrifice anything to become a mermaid. I would love to be one fora day, but not permanently. Sharks scare the you know what out of me and there is no way I would willingly live in the sea with them :)


  8. HHmmm !

    As a mermaid I suppose I would go exploring as much as possible. Examine old shipwrecks and swim through them. Visit fantastic sights like the Great Barrier Reef. Dive as deep down as I could to the deepest parts of the oceans where all those fascinating luminous creatures are.

    Would I like to be one permanently ? No thanks.

    Carol T

    buddytho{at} gmail DOT com

  9. I'd tease some fish and divers for a day! I'd leave my laptop behind, since it wouldn't like getting wet anyways.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I love these interviews of yours! And this was just so much fun :)

    And the mermaid tail picture? WIN.

    I would willingly sacrifice my hydrophobia to become a mermaid. And that's saying a lot about HOW much I really want to be one.
    Also, if I really do get to be a mermaid, I'd make sure there's a lovely fairytale written after me!


  12. If i can be a mermaid for one day, I would swim and explore around, checking out the underworld, the fishes, avoiding the sharks, the whales.. Haha. Cause I don't know how to swim. Did try to learn for 2 months but my fear of "drowning" prevent me from letting go of the swimming board =( Opps, got out of topic!

    Hmm, I don't think I would sacrifice anything to be a mermaid. I love the Disney's Little Mermaid but I don't think I want to be a mermaid forever. I prefer to be on-land =D

    my email addy is serenekua AT gmail DOT com

    Thanks for the giveaway~

  13. I honestly don't want to be a mermaid! If I was forced into it, I would give the evil sea witch no more than a toothpick as payment. Then I'd probably just swim around seeing all the fish and whatever else may lie under the ocean. I'd also bring a waterproof camera so I'd have proof to show my friends.


  14. If I were a mermaid for a day I would travel through as much of the sea that I could to see all the wonderful underwater creatures. I don't think I would give up too much to be a mermaid. I love my life!

    lizzi0915 at aol dot com

  15. That would be hard, because I am very afraid of the water. I guess I would give up that to become a mermaid for a day, at least I could enjoy it then. I would explore ship wrecks if I was a mermaid.

  16. Hmm, I would probably explore the depths, find the titanic (who wouldn't?!), play with dolphins, learn to speak Whale languages, and swim *a lot*.

    And, to sacrifice? Probably my Ipod, although there'd be interesting enough underwater songs to be heard from the whales.

    Thanks again!

    Nara x

  17. I am not willing to sacrifice something to become a mermaid but If I could be a mermaid for a day I would like to explore the ocean and I go on many places on earth.

  18. I would swim with dolphins for a day and enjoy it. Then I would swim and find burried treasury. I would give up the day on land.

    sassysasha817 at gmail dot com

  19. If I could be mermaid for a day I would be swim. I love swimming so I would be really happy just with that. But I would go swim with dolphins, because they are really cute! :)) And what I would be willing to sacrifice? I really don't know...maybe one of my books :D:D:D

  20. If I were a mermaid for a day I'd look for treasure. I don't think I'd sacrifice much to be a mermaid. I love my life on the land :)

    swaggirl01 at gmail dot com

  21. If I would be a mermaid for the day, I would explore the sea as much as possible and enjoy swimming. I can't swim so it would be a treat. I would give up strand of my hair. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book. Tore923@aol.com

  22. So... honestly, I'm not a big fan of the water. I would love to be a mermaid for a day so I could see the star fish & seahorses & maybe find Atlantis (HA!)... but I wouldn't want to be a permanent mermaid. I'd be the mermaid that wants to become a land-dweller if the tale was flipped. : )
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  23. What would you do if you could be a mermaid for a day? I would explore sunken pirate shops for treasure.

    What would you be willing to sacrifice in order to become a mermaid? This morning I would quite happily sacrifice my first born.


  24. If I was a mermaid for a day, I'd just enjoy being underwater and not having to breath. I'd swim and twist and flip and (if being a mermaid gave me a good voice) I'd sing my heart out.

    I wouldn't give up anything to be a mermaid. I might do something, but I love all I have in everything.


  25. If I could be a mermaid for a day, I would swim around the bottom of the ocean and explore. If I had to give up one thing, I think I would give up my tan (which is really nice).

  26. If I got to be a mermaid for a day I would revel in it. Seeing as much as possible! Maybe race a dolphin! I would give up my legs! Literally!

  27. If I could be a mermaid for a day, I would look for other mermaids. I would love to hear their stories!
    I love to read about mermaids, but I wouldn't like to be one. >_<

  28. If I was a mermaid, I'd have a discussion with some fish about the location of Atlantis. Hmmm what would I give up.... my sense of smell, I mean why would you need it underwater. I filled out the form under Krysta Banco


  29. As a mermaid I would be exploring the bottom of the ocean... and I would swim fast all over because I am thinking a mermaid swimming really whittles the waist... take full advantage of that workout :) Maybe I could make a workout DVD..... call it "The Mermaid"


  30. Thanks for the nice interview!

    If I could be a mermaid for a day, I would explore the wonders of the sea. I would go sightseeing, discovering the corals and sea creatures I haven't seen before. Hmm, about what I would trade, I'm not really sure. Actually I don't know how to swim so the thought of being a mermaid is appealing to me (so that maybe I'll learn fast!). Probably some shoes I really like?

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    aloveforbooks at gmail dot com

  31. Wow! Glass dresses!
    If I were a mermaid for a day, I'd sing with whales. I've alway wanted to hear them, and to be able to join them would be so, so cool.
    I'm not sure I would sacrifice anything to be a mermaid, however. I mean, I have it pretty good up here on dry land, and I wouldn't want to blow that. But I guess if I had to, I would sacrifice the ability to whistle.
    zombiegirrrl21 at aol

  32. I would swim with the dolphins if I could be a mermaid for a day. If I were to sacrifice something to be a mermaid, it is obvious that I will be sacrificing my legs.

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

  33. If I could be a mermaid for a day, I would be finding Nemo!
    I don't know if I would want to be a mermaid though (if it was a *real* possibility- I can't swim sadly.


  34. I would tease sharks! Hopefully, I could swim faster than them. =O)

    What would I give up? That's a tough one! Since I've heard mermaids have impeccable vision (LOL), I would give up my glasses.


  35. Hmmmm, if I could be a mermaid for a day I'd love to go to the VERY depth of the ocean. See things that no one else has seen before, things that it's not possible for regular people to reach. I guess the mystery and knowledge that I've experienced something no other had would be brilliant!

    oh my, what would sacrifice? That's a tough one. I guess it depended on what was required, although in all honesty there are some things I admit I wouldn't be able to sacrifice--my friends, my family, things that I truly loved.....

    Love the interview--so sweet!


  36. If I could be a mermaid, I would go exploring all over the sea.
    Not really sure what I would give up....


  37. What a wonderful thing it would be... to be able to REALLY explore the sea, every nook and cranny of it! I would go after those far, dark places even the newest instruments couldn't explore! *-*

    What I'd give for it? Well, if there's a hot Triton involved... LOL, maybe I'd give up a lot. ;)

    Great interview, thank you for INT opening.

    kah_cherub at hotmail dot com

  38. If I were a mermaid for a day, I'd swim to some coral reefs, because I always wanted to do that, but I live too far away.

    I might be willing to cut my hair to become a mermaid for a day, because I know I can grow my hair back. Still, it would be a difficult choice.

    spamscape [at] gmail [dot] com

  39. If I were a mermaid for a day, Iwould swim all day and explore the ocean. I know it would be beautiful
    I'm not sure I would sacrifice anything to be a mermaid because I don't really think I want to be a mermaid.



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