Darkstars Fantasy News

5. Oktober 2013

The Fairest of them All
Interview with Carolyn Turgeon

Category: Interviews – Darkstar – 17:29

The Fairest of them All (Cover)American Author Carolyn Turgeon is famous for her magical fairy tale adaptions: In “Godmother” she takes an unconventional look on the Cinderella fairy tale, her middle age novel “The Next Full Moon” dives into the realm of swan maidens. “Mermaid” is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersens famous tale, in her version told both from the mermaid and from the princess’ point of view.

A few weeks ago “The Fairest of them All” came out – the authors fairy tale mash up of Rapunzel becoming Snow Whites stepmother. In the following interview Carolyn Turgeons talks about her new novel as well as her work as an author:

Interview with Carolyn Turgeon

If you had to describe your new novel in three words, which ones would it be?

Dark, delicious, witchy

What inspired you to write THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL and why did you decide to combine exactly these two fairy tales?

Rain VillageI was inspired to write it when I sat down and looked at all the young damaged girls in fairy tales who are saved by princes and live happily ever after… and then at all the older women in fairy tales who are evil queens and witches and stepmothers, and I realized that they are pretty much those girls grown up.

What happens happily ever after, exactly? Looking at it this way, it made sense to me that Rapunzel might grow up to become the evil queen from Snow White.

Which tale to retell came first: Did you intend to retell Rapunzel and afterwards decided to combine the story with Snow White or did you plan to retell Snow White and therefore searched for an ideal stepmother-candidate?

I decided at the same time, as I looked at all my options and saw how all the stories—all the women’s stories, anyway—run into each other. But my agent had long thought I could do something with Rapunzel, and my own favorite fairy tale has always been Snow White.

And when I looked at them, it made sense: Rapunzel lives with a witch, the witch who takes her from her parents and puts her in the tower, and so is likely a witch herself. The prince falls in love with her because of her spectacular beauty. She isn‘t going to take it well when that beauty begins to fade—not when that is the thing that made people love her. One day her heart will twist, and here she has all this magic at her disposal, not to mention a magic mirror (which, in Fairest, the witch gives to Rapunzel as a wedding gift). Nothing good is going to come of that!

What makes Rapunzel a great evil queen? And can you tell us a little bit about your main characters?

GodmotherThat she starts out innocent and excited and full of dreams, and that we can follow along as hat innocent fades and those dreams begin to shatter. I think that when people’s hearts twist, there’s usually a reason…

And she’s had to repress her magic for so long. I wanted her to get truly enraged and then unleash that rage on everything.

A similar story plays out with the witch Mathena, though to much different ends. But they‘re both women who’ve been marginilized after experiencing great power—through their beauty, their magic, and their rising positions—and get pissed off about it.

What gave you the most headache story- or workingwise while writing THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL?

Actually, I knew how I would set up the book, how I’d get Rapuznel to the palace with her husband the king and his daughter Snow White, and I knew more or less how the whole last part of the book would play out… Writing the middle was the big headache! In my first draft, not nearly enough happened, and so I had to take the book and revise and add in more twists and surprises.

Two Snow White movies last year; “Once Upon A Time” and “Grimm” as tv shows; “Fables” and “Fairest” in Comics – What is your guess: Why are fairy tale adaptions so popular recently?

 The Next Full MoonI don’t know, really… I think there’s something exciting about taking these characters we know and love from childhood—and in many cases have complicated relationships with—and seeing them from surprising, new angles. They’re known quantities, and people have been telling and retelling these stories for hundreds of years, all over the world.

I know with mermaids… that a lot of people writing about mermaids right now grew up with Splash and The Little Mermaid, two huge movies that helped shaped the sensibilities of whole generations of women. So I don’t know if people writing right now had a particular relationship to fairy tales that make them go back and back to them…

At the same time, I think that the popularity of fairy tales expresses a cultural longing for magic and dark woods we can get lost in but them come back out of again.

How did you realize that you’ve a talent for writing and can you share with us what your first story ever was about?

Ha, well I always wanted to be a writer, from when I was a little kid, and I wrote my first book when I was eight about a group of kid detectives investigating the mystery of the stolen tapir at the Dallas Zoo. They solve the case when they find a note from one zookeeper to another plotting the next crime… Not very intricate sleuthing!

I illustrated the book, too, and gave the male criminal a small moustache and a middle part in his feathery hair.. the perfect 70’s villain.

Do you have any weird working habits?

I guess just that I write anywhere and everywhere, usually on a laptop. I travel a lot and so am always writing in hotels rooms or on buses or planes or in coffee shops or a friend’s guest bedroom. I finished Mermaid on a train from Berlin to Prague, on a tiny netbook.

When I was younger I thought I had to have very specific conditions to write but I learned after a while that that was just an excuse… to not write!

MermaidAny news on the movie front for MERMAID?

Well, Mermaid was optioned in 2011 by Sony Pictures, and they re-optioned it last fall, and I know there’s a finished script by Shana Feste, who is supposed to direct (she also wrote and directed the film Country Strong).

Other than that, I don’t know, it could happen any day or it could never happen… I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

I assume you are a fairy tale fan yourself. What is your favorite fairy tale and which fairy tale creature / personality would you love to meet?

Snow White is my favorite because it’s so creepy and dark and beautiful.

Another favorite is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid because I love that he wrote it out of despair and heartbreak, that when his own heart was broken he imagined this beautiful sad mermaid who loves but is never loved back and so turns to foam. If you’re going to be heartbroken, that’s the way to do it!

Are there any other fairy tales you plan to reimagine (and if so, which) and what are you currently working on?

I really think I’m done with fairy tales for now, though I have a couple of short stories I have to write that may dip into them…

But as for novels, right now I’m working on a crime novel that‘s been on hold forever. I actually love crime novels, especially classics by writers like Raymond Chandler or Patricia Highsmith, more than any other kind of writing.

It’s not too far afield, though. When it comes down to it, the story of Snow White is pretty much all about a great villainess and a most spectacular crime.

Thank you!

Carolyn Turgeons Website can be found here.

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