Many writers try to create fairy tales anew whether through plot development, narrative, setting, or characterization. With “The Black Fairy’s Curse” you use a unique blend of point-of-view and narrative structure to shatter the preconceived notions of a handful of fairy tales. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired this particular story?
It occurred to me that the one story that might actually be able to pull off the old chestnut “She woke up it was all a dream” ending was the Sleeping Beauty. So this was a retelling that began with the ending and proceeded backwards.
Throughout the narrative, you never name the main character, allowing her identity to flow from story to story while still harkening back to the idea of the feminine. I think it is this concept of identity that intrigued me the most, that of a constant feminine presence with strength and confidence layered beneath the seemingly helpless shell. When writing, how aware are you of your efforts to push the boundaries of the envelope, to re-forge the old into something new?
There is no point and no juice in a retelling that doesn’t cast the original material in a different light. The impulse to retell is simply not there without that sense that something new can be said. So I’m always hoping for a story that surprises, but this desire is central in a retelling.
The story is filled with movement: running, climbing, swimming, sex. Each activity is painted in broad, vivid strokes, allowing the reader to slip into the action if only for a moment. What would you consider the most important elements of the narrative voice when it comes to encouraging reader engagement in a story?
Big question! I imagine there are any number of approaches, all equally successful if done well. I often favor a kind of intimacy in the writer’s voice, a sort of relationship the voice can create with the reader. Austen, of course, is the absolute best at establishing this intimacy. Mystery is also crucial—I try to think of what the reader doesn’t know yet, what she will keep reading in order to find out.
If you could be any fairy tale heroine, which one would you be? How would you rewrite your own story?
I wouldn’t be a fairy tale heroine for anything in this world. I wouldn’t be the heroine in an Austen book. I wouldn’t wish to solve murders or go where no man has gone before or battle cyborgs in order to keep the human race alive or scheme to put myself or my children on the throne. I’m quite happy with my story just as it is. At least so far.
You have an impressive list of publications and awards both in and out of SF/F genre fiction. Do you find yourself writing for a particular audience (“I’ll write this novel for people who like XXXX, and this one for people who like YYYY.”), or do you write stories you would like to read and leave it to others to decide for themselves?
I am always writing for a certain kind of reader, a reader I often identify in my head as the SF reader. This is true even when I’m not writing SF. This reader doesn’t mind grappling with a difficult text, enjoys problem-solving her way out of an initial confusion in a book, likes to be surprised. She is an active reader with eclectic tastes. She is the kind of reader I think that I am.
When you want to get your SF/F on, to whom do you turn? Who sets your reader heart on fire?
I love Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, Molly Gloss, Ursula Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, John Kessel, Sofia Samatar, Kij Johnson, Nalo Hopkinson, Geoff Ryman, and many, many, many others whose names are just not occurring to me at this moment, but will as soon as I send this. I am a great fan of the Game of Thrones books, though if Jon Snow is dead, I’m going to have a problem with that.
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