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Friday, March 29, 2013

Interview: Nancy Ohlin, author of Beauty

I have a feeling that the two upcoming books from Nancy Ohlin - Beauty and Thorn Abbey - are probably pretty high on your wishlists (even if you don't realize it yet. ;P )
At least, I know there are mine, and I can't wait to get my hands on them and let you guys know what I thought!
But until then, Nancy dropped by to chat with us about two very different retellings, the perils of instalove (YES), and the heady experience of having two books coming out on the same day!

What made you decide to write Beauty? Had you always wanted to tackle a fairy tale-based story, or was this sort of unplanned?
Snow White had been in my thoughts for a long time when I wrote Beauty. Its themes of female envy and the mother-daughter bond were very powerful for me growing up because of my own relationship with my mother. In high school, I was also aware that some girls could be super-competitive about looks, and that in order to fit in, I had to try to be pretty but not TOO pretty.

And then one night, I had this dream about an evil queen. I felt that queen in my soul - her greed, her  insecurity, her fears - and it all came together for me. I decided to write a retelling of Snow White with a twist, in which the Snow White character (Ana) decides to make herself ugly in order to gain her mother's love.

In addition to Beauty, you have a retelling of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, called Thorn Abbey, coming out in May as well - tell us a bit about the heady/nerve-racking/panic-inducing, etc., experience of having two books debut at once.

I'm incredibly excited and also a little bit crazed. When I write a book, I give it everything I have, and I love it so much and get a bit obsessed with the process and with the characters. Even though I finished writing Beauty and Thorn Abbey long ago, I continue to be emotionally tangled up in them as I talk about them with readers. And now, I'm working on yet another novel. So basically, I feel like I'm in labor with triplets.

Any plans to write future retellings, whether fairy tales, like Beauty, or literature retellings, like Thorn Abbey?

Yes! I'm writing my next retelling as we speak, and it's pubbing next year from Simon Pulse. More to come on that very soon!

As much as we may love any particular tale, each has its own "problematic" aspects (for me, I can't get over the fact that Prince Charming has to find Cinderella, the glorious love of his life, by matching up her feet. I mean, really?). Which problematic aspect of a tale really gets under your skin?

So many fairy tales have to do with the heroine being "saved by true love" or "saved by a kiss." I was reminded of that just recently when I told the stories of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty to my five year old daughter Clara, and found myself totally changing the endings so the heroines weren't quite so passive. I mean, they were just lying there in a comatose state, waiting to be revived by a stranger's kiss!

And that's the other thing: instalove in fairy tales. What kind of message are we sending with these stories where a prince falls in love with the heroine because of her golden tresses or dewy skin or whatever, and vice versa? Shouldn't they at least go out for coffee and have a conversation first?

Which fairy tale would you most like to spend 24 hours inside of, and which the least?

The Most: Hansel and Gretel. There's a lot of dark, fascinating, psychotherapy-worthy stuff going on there.

The Least: Cinderella, only because other people have revisited and retold it so well already.

Someone gives you a key ring and says you can open any door you want, save one. Then they leave you alone with all those keys and doors. What do you do?

I would really, really want to open the forbidden door. But I've read Bluebeard. And I've also read all those Japanese fairy tales about mortals who are granted these happy, perfect lives AS LONG AS THEY DON'T DO THIS ONE THING, but then they do that one thing, and all hell breaks loose. So I know better.

Your favorite obscure (or less well-known) fairy tale?

A Japanese fairy tale called "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter," a.k.a. "Princess Kaguya." It's about a bamboo cutter who finds a tiny magical baby inside a glowing bamboo stalk, and she grows up to be a celestial princess who breaks a lot of hearts.

An aside ... this and other Japanese (and non-Japanese) fairy tales are often referred to as folk tales. I know there can be some overlap between the two genres, although fairy tales tend to involve some element of magic, right? "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" definitely involves magic. And also a little bit of instalove. But it's a deeper sort of instalove that evolves into true love, plus it doesn't have a cliche happy ending, so it's okay. :)

Most overrated fairy tale?
I think all fairy tales are awesome in their own way.


This or That:
- Tower or Dungeon?
- Evil Queen or Wicked Witch?
Evil Queen.
- Seven League Boots or Glass Slippers?
Glass Slippers. (I have a weakness for pretty shoes.)
- Talking Birds or Talking Mice?
Talking Mice.
- Prince or pauper?
- Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm?
Hans Christian Andersen.

Would You Rather:
- face 3 Billy Goats Gruff or 3 Bears from Goldilocks?
The three bears, please.
- drink an Alice-ish "Drink Me" potion or eat part of a witch's gingerbread house?
The "Drink Me" potion.
- be able to spin straw into gold or have precious gems drop from your lips when you speak?
The bling!
- be cursed with blindness (Rapunzel) or knife-like pain when you walk (Little Mermaid)?
Yikes. Blindness, I guess? (And as an aside, I really love the Disney movie "Tangled," which is a Rapunzel retelling.)

Thanks so much for stopping by, Nancy! 

Beauty and Thorn Abbey will both hit stores May 7th, both from Simon Pulse. You can find Nancy online at nancyohlin.com, or follow her on Twitter!
And don't forget, you could win this - or any other book featured during Fairy Tale Fortnight, in my FTF blog hop giveaway!

Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!

1 comment:

  1. I desperately want to read Thorn Abbey. I love the idea of a Rebecca retelling!


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