“Ash Minette” shows a different side of a story we’re all familiar with. Why did you choose to take an alternate look at this particular tale?
There was a vogue in the early and mid-’90s for rewritten fairy tales. I remember being particularly impressed by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s series of twisted folktale anthologies, starting with Snow White, Blood Red. It was a precursor of mash-up culture and a milestone in the desacralization of childhood. I chose to rewrite “Cinderella” because I was a shy, plain girl who detested and envied the Cinderellas of the world. I wanted to blow their founding myth to smithereens.
Having one of the sisters narrate allowed us to get into the heads of characters that normally spend less time in the spotlight. What effect did choosing this perspective have on the way the story took shape?
Character is plot is story. Rashomon, man. Every triumph has cartfuls of defeated Gauls and Visigoths bumping along in its wake. What did Tiberius’s victories look like to your average poor clod from the forests of Mittelnowheria? That’s the perspective I was trying to capture. At the same time, there’s not much point riffing on a classic unless you hit the familiar high notes.
The baron may be the only Prince Charming with hairy hands. How important is differentiating from the same old tropes when dealing with a popular narrative?
As a fantasy author, in one sense I’m always dealing with popular narratives. That’s not to say that other genres don’t, but they do own more of a distance from the “same old tropes.” It’s an aesthetic distinction. Literary fiction gets to ransack the real world to style its musings, while science fiction can draw on a constantly replenished well of new technological concepts. Fantasy relies for its characters and situations on our cultural heritage, an older and less volatile set of tropes. The magical sword, the boy born to change the world, the girl destined to marry a prince, marauding evil, meddlesome fey . . . I have a passion for this stuff and so I don’t try to differentiate from the “same old tropes” so much as to embrace them. I have been known to hug a trope silly and leave it bleeding, dazed, and unrecognizable. But it’s all done in love. I believe in honesty. My hands are feathered, my feet are bare and dung-encrusted, and there’s a pea under my bottom.
If you had to give another fairy tale the same treatment, which one would it be?
I have personally moved away from mash-ups and remakes. Everyone’s doing it now. However, there’s plenty of mileage in the Brothers Grimm yet. The question is not so much which fairy tale I might choose as what I might do with it. Let’s take one of my personal favorites, “Drakestail” from the Red Fairy Book. “Quack! Quack! Quack! I want my money back!” Need we any further proof that all things old are new again? It’s a lot of fun to imagine Drakestail paddling around Lower Manhattan with a Guy Fawkes mask perched skew-whiff on his beak, imbibing the 99% into his gizzard. Look to thy coffers, spendthrift king! This could be a kick-ass story, but it needs a bit of refinement before I’d start writing it. “Plus ça change” is not a moral, it’s just a one-liner, and when rewriting a fairy tale, the moral is the one thing you cannot dispense with.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m working on a fat fantasy trilogy entitled The Godslayer Cycle. Imagine A Song of Ice and Fire . . . with guns, tanks, high finance, and sovereign debt denominated in holy relics. I believe this is going to be the world’s first fantasy trilogy to feature a credit crisis. It also features an eponymous magical sword, the boy who was born to wield it, an undercover magician in a world where magic is a felony, and a female intelligence operator who continues my tradition of strong women protagonists. Actually it may be a quartet at the rate I’m going. The setting is a fantasy world with 1980s-equivalent technology . . . and a few major differences.
For the past twelve years I have lived in Tokyo and one major influence Japan has had on my writing is to open my eyes to the treasures of the past. The Japanese know that tradition is a thing to be cherished and developed accretively by successive generations, and that is what I hope to do with The Godslayer Cycle. So this trilogy (quartet? eeek) is both inspired by and an homage to the fantasy tradition that runs from Tolkien down through Brooks, Eddings, and Martin, with a few kisses blown to Joe Abercrombie. Watch the blood splatter, boys!
In addition to The Godslayer Cycle, which is scheduled for completion in 2013, I’ve been making a lot of short fiction available in e-book format under the names of Felicity Savage and Felix R. Savage. And in non-fiction, I am blogging weekly at Amazing Stories. Drop by, have a read, leave a comment!
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