Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Susanna Interviews Tia Nevitt

Tia, thank you for visiting the Mojito Literary Society. For those of you just joining us, you may want to read my gushing review of Tia's book Sevenfold Spell.

If you have any questions for Tia, please leave a comment below.

Let's get started...

What about fairytales fascinates you? Why do you want to retell them?

I love all kinds of old legends. When I was a kid, I heard not only fairy tales, but also Irish legends told by my Ireland-born mother, and stories and legends of Catholic saints. When I was in the sixth grade, I learned about mythology for the first time (in Catholic school!), and it was like discovering a whole new treasure trove of fairy tales--except these were much darker and more dramatic.

I've been rediscovering the fairy tales for years as Disney has been re-releasing all the Princess movies and I've been sharing them with my daughter. The idea of a homely spinster came to me when I watched the scene where they burn all the spinning wheels, and I wondered what happened to all those women put out of work. And that naturally led to wondering just where that last spinning wheel came from--and how it survived the spinning wheel ban.

Talia is a wonderful character. She is a pragmatic survivor with a great sense of humor. I adored her. How did you develop that character?

Over time. I knew she was going to be ugly--Aurora's opposite--but I didn't know much else about her until she took me by surprise and asked Willard if he wanted to kiss her. The rest came out bit by bit, through rewriting and through Talia's interactions with the other characters. Talia's mother is every bit the survivor that Talia is, trying to earn her living first by weaving, and then by importing, and finally by the spinning of bootleg thread on an illegal spinning wheel. But she could not have done it without Talia, who was the one who put her plan into action. They have a relationship of mutual dependency.

One of the many things I loved about Sevenfold Spell is how you weaved Talia's story through the actual fairytale. Can you tell us a bit about how you plotted the novella?

I clung to the Sleeping Beauty story for dear life and let it carry me along. I also knew I had many plot holes to fill and I had a lot of fun coming up with reasons for the arbritrary rules in the original story. As I came across each turn in the Sleeping Beauty story--and there aren't many--I tried to think of how it might impact Talia. And when Talia's story needed a turn, I would turn to the Sleeping Beauty story as well, trying to bind up the two stories without impacing the story at the tale's heart.

I thought you made an interesting decision to keep Aurora in an emotionally childlike state which contrasted with Talia's experienced view of the world? Why did you choose to characterize Aurora that way?

That came from one of those plot holes. Why would Aurora go anywhere near a spinning wheel if she knew they posed such a deadly danger? In the stories, Aurora seemed almost simple. I tried to account for it by having Aurora being under a spell, but that didn't work for me. It was too convenient. I tend to really probe character motivation.

I also needed a reason for Talia to intervene, a reason for her to be so protective of Aurora. So I decided to give them a history. But they don't know they have a history until that critical moment.

I think Sleeping Beauty is a tale about innocence and chastity. On her seventeenth birthday, Aurora pricks her finger (starts menstruation) and sleeps until awoken by the kiss of the man she is going to marry. Yet, Talia is, well, the village slut. Both women get a happily-ever-after and true love. Was this a theme that you intended?

That's correct; I did want to contract Aurora's purity with Talia's sullied state, just as Aurora's beauty is contracted by Talia's ugliness. And I did want them both to have a happily ever after. But I didn't want to fall into that trap where I made the beauty into a monster or anything like that. Instead, I gave her a supernatural beauty that gives her unexpected problems.

I didn't really associate the prick of the finger with the start of menstruation. I thought of it as a statement about how pampered the royalty is compared to the common people. For example, in The Princess and the Pea, the princess is exposed by a mattress made uncomfortable by the presence of a pea. It is over-the-top ridiculous. Similarily, a princess is so delicate and pampered that a mere splinter can kill her where a peasant would simply pull it out.

You are also a book reviewer and run the fabulous review site Debuts and Reviews. When you write, how do you balance the writer and the critic?

Thank you! It's difficult and I often have to put my blog on hiatus. Over the years, I have recruited three other people to occasionally review books on my site--Katie reviews a lot of young adult novels and epic fantasy alongside me, Raven handles the darker stuff, such as horror and dark fantasy, and Deborah reviews the urban fantasies.

But I do have to give everything a priority. Commitments come before the writing, and writing comes ahead of the blog. I would read regardless of whether I ran a blog or not, so as I have time, I review the books I read. And I've always loved discovering new authors, so debuts are a natural focus for me.

I do have trouble saying no, and ever since Carina published The Sevenfold Spell, the requests for reviews has easily doubled. Right now, I'm turning almost everyone away unless they give me a lot of lead time, but secretly I am buying the books if they appeal to me. I consider review copies to be a commitment, and I'm taking on very few commitments of any kind right now.

However, if I buy a book on my own, I have the freedom to review it on my own schedule, without any pressure.

What's on the horizon for you?

I wish I knew! I'm actively writing two additional stories for the ACCIDENTAL ENCHANTMENTS series, one where I am almost finished and one that I have just begun. I am under submission with an unrelated novel and a short story, and I'd like to finish another short story that is based on a Cherokee legend. It could almost be another story for Accidental Enchantments, but it's not nearly long enough.

Is there a question I should have asked you, but didn't?

No, you did great--I loved these questions! Thanks for having me.

You can learn more about Sevenfold Spell by visiting Ms. Nevitt's website or read an excerpt at the Carina Press website.

Again, please leave a comment for Tia.

8 comments:

Katydidittoo said...

I loved learning about the motivation to intertwine the new story with Beauty and the Beast, and I like that even in such a purposeful writing, there are things that other people see as significant, like the pricking of the finger, in ways the author never considered.
Well done all around.

Liz Fichera said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Tia's novella! I thought Talia was believably complex and layered. I cried at the end when she got her HEA!

Tina said...

I remember the fairy tales with the dark edges from my childhood. And then they got sanitized. And now as an adult, I'm headed back into the woods as it were.

Could you tell us a little more about the Accidental Enchantments series?

Tia Nevitt said...

Katydidttoo: that is cool, isn't it? I didn't really think much about the pricking of the finger until Susanna mentioned it. I could see her point of view, but then I thought of my own rather sardonic angle!

Thank you, Liz! I didn't know I made you cry!

Tina, I'm ALMOST DONE with a Cinderella retelling that is a bit more lighthearted than this story. Because the timeframe is so short compared to Sleeping Beauty, I decided it needed a different mood. My Snow White story is looking to share more themes with The Sevenfold Spell, an I don't have much of a plot yet in mind for Beauty and the Beast. BUT I know what I'm going to do with the beast, and I know his name. That story will take place in Ireland.

Chicory said...

You're doing Snow White? Awesome. I'm jealous that you got to hear Irish legends firsthand. :) I like that you drew a connection between fairy tales and mythology.

Tia said...

Thanks for coming by, Chicory. The stories of the banshees scared the hell out of me when I was little. And every time I saw a rainbow, I wanted to look for the pot of gold at its end.

Catriona Iams said...

Aurora would wake in a stunted mature state. That's brilliant, even if you didn't intend it. I'm looking forward to reading this story -- Catriona

Tia said...

Aaah, but which sleeping beauty is it who actually goes to sleep, Aurora or Talia? ;)

I hope you enjoy it!