Make sure to stick around till the end of the interview for a chance to win your own copy of StarCrossed!
Without further ado, I give you: Elizabeth C. Bunce!
~What inspired you to set the tale of Rumplestiltskin in the Industrial Revolution?
A couple of things, actually. First, I wanted to set the novel in the time and place of fairy tales—that imaginary Fairy Tale Country—and thanks to classic artwork by Dulac, Dore, and others, for me that's the 18th century. Second, it was a natural extension of the decision to set the story in an ailing textile mill, because the social and economic changes of the Industrial Revolution presented an existing set of realistic obstacles and conflict for the plot. And, to be perfectly honest, I was in love with the clothes of the era, and just couldn't imagine Uncle Wheeler dressed any other way!
~What was the research process like for the story, both on the fairy tale front and the historical front?
On the fairy tale front, I read as many traditional versions of Name of the Helper tales as I could—not just early "Rumpelstiltskins," but also pieces like England's "Tom Tit Tot" and Scotland's "Whuppity Stoorie." But my goal was always to focus on the story of the girl who bargains away her infant son, so I did stick pretty close to the "Rumpelstiltskin" framework. The rest of the research—oh, mercy! I dug into everything from everyday life in the 18th century, to traditional folk magic and ghost stories, and, of course, a huge amount of research (both book learnin' and the hands-on kind) into the woolen textile industry. I have monographs on wigmaking, esoteric economic histories of individual mill towns, even the journals of period woolworkers. For me, research uncovers not just the things you know you're looking for—but almost more importantly, the things you had no idea you needed.
~Will we ever see more stories set in Charlotte’s world?
Yes! I have one published now, a ghost story called "In for a Penny" in the Scholastic anthology Bones, edited by Lois Metzger (July 2011). And I have a few more ideas—including more retellings—up my sleeve, as well.
~Why fairy tales? What is it that calls to you, personally,as a writer, and why do you think readers connect to them the way they do?
As a reader, I'm even a bigger fan of retellings than I am of the original tales. I am fascinated by the ways authors expand and adapt the source material while keeping the stories fresh and accessible to today's readers. There's so much potential in the fairy tales, and I find it really comes to life in a brilliant retelling. I'm particularly drawn to the fairy tale landscape—the dark woods, the impenetrable briar hedge, the castles. But as a writer, I like the challenge of re-imagining those classic settings; expanding the borders of Fairy Tale Country, as it were!
~StarCrossed seems pretty different from Curse; did you feel it was a departure for you? How does StarCrossed’s Digger compare to Curse’s Charlotte?
I like to say that Curse was written for my adult literary and fairy-tale scholar self, while StarCrossed and Liar's Moon were written for my inner 16-year-old fantasy fan. So in that way, I can't say the series is a departure, although it did feel very different to write Digger's story than Charlotte's. As characters, Digger is a complete 180 from Charlotte. Charlotte thinks over everything before she makes any move, and Digger is very much more a Shoot First, Ask Questions Later kind of girl. Oddly enough, their goals end up being the same (saving the people they care about), but their methods are a little different. I have a feeling Digger would have taken one look at Shearing and Stirwaters, said, "To hells with this," grabbed everyone, and lit out of there.
~StarCrossed is a series, so I know you’re in the middle of that, but are there any plans to tell more straightforward fairy tale retellings in the future?
Definitely! The first novel I ever wrote was a retelling, I have a collection of short retellings that's been in the works for a while, and I've just started collecting research materials for a Victorian-era fairy tale project I'm excited about.
~What’s your favorite scene you’ve ever written?
I don't know! What a great question. Since we're talking about Curse, let's narrow it down some. I still think that book has some great scenes (I especially love the conjuring of Jack Spinner, the introduction of Biddy Tom, the crossroads, and the denouement) ... but today I'm feeling romantic, so I'm going to say Randall's gift of the watch. There's something magical about those rare moments where you can capture everything about a story in just a few lines, and I think this scene between Randall and Charlotte tells us so much about both characters.
~Rapunzel is named after lettuce; what odd thing would you be named after if you were in a fairy tale?
Hopefully I'd get a name! But it would probably be something like Donkeyskin or Aschenputtel. Maybe Doghair. Hundehaare. That sounds about right.
~ Using that name, give us 1 line from your life as a fairy tale:
Hard by a great prairie, in a cottage surrounded by mud in all seasons, guarded by a pack of hounds, lived a woman known as Hundehaare, whose back was permanently bent from bending over her books, her fingers gnarled and pricked from the needle. But from her muddy cottage, Hundehaare crafted things of great wonder, and her work was sought by folk from distant lands.
(Ok, that's two lines!)
[The judges confer...Two lines is acceptable, since they are such good lines. :) ]
~Best fairy tale villain and why?
Well, see, I tend to take a longer, more sympathetic view of my fairy tale villains, so it's difficult to come up with a list of inexcusable baddies. The thirteenth fairy in "Sleeping Beauty" is awfully petty, but, then, who hasn't felt wounded at being excluded from a party? And for mismatched dishes? But after giving this some deep thought, I'm going to have to go with The Pea.
~Favorite tale from childhood? Favorite tale as an adult? Least favorites?
My favorite always was and will probably always be "Beauty and the Beast." The least favorite one is hard to answer; it used to be "Rumpelstiltskin," hands down—but I feel kind of bad about saying that now, since the story has actually been very good to me!
~If you could be any fairy tale character, or live through any fairy tale "happening," who/what would it be?
Although it directly contradicts another answer below, I'm going to say I'd like to accompany the soldier as he follows the dancing princesses to Faerie.
~Would you rather:
-- eat magic beans or golden eggs?
-- live under a bridge with a troll, or all alone in a high tower?
-- be forced to spin straw into gold for hours on end, or dance every night until your shoes are worn through?
Spin. Was there ever any doubt?
Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us, Elizabeth! For those of you who haven't read A Curse Dark as Gold (was there ever a better title?), Misty and Ashley both highly recommend it! And if you haven't read StarCrossed, here's your chance!
Thanks to the awesome people at Scholastic, we have a beautiful finished hardcover copy of StarCrossed to give away to 1 winner!
To enter, answer this question: If you were to retell a fairy tale, what would it be and where/when would you set it?
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