ECB: Oh, gosh, PJ, that's so sweet! (blush)
PJH: So I have to say, I read A CURSE DARK AS GOLD and loved it. Honestly, it's the most creative way to explain the whole Rumpelstiltskin thing I can imagine. What was the original spark for the idea? Was it a love of Rumpelstiltskin? Of fairytale retellings? Of spinning and wool mills?
ECB: Quite the opposite, actually! "Rumpelstiltskin" is one of the few fairy tales I don't like (although I must admit to a certain affection for it now), and CURSE grew out of my efforts to retell the story in a way I felt was more... honorable, I guess. I was troubled by the bargain the miller's daughter made--selling her baby--and even more troubled by the outcome of the story for Rumpelstiltskin himself. I wanted to address those troubling issues and themes so that they made sense for me, in terms of both story logic and justice for all the characters.
The setting for CURSE, on the other hand, definitely sprang directly from my own passion for the needle arts. I'm not a spinner or weaver, but I've been doing various forms of embroidery and needlework since I was five years old. When I started thinking about "Rumpelstiltskin," and about spinning straw into gold... gold thread seemed the obvious solution, and from there it was a natural extension to turn the mill of the fairy tale into a textile mill, and bring it front and center into the story itself.
PJH: I take it you have an interest in ghost stories, curses, and the paranormal. The only haunted house I've been in is The Haunted Mansion at Disney World.Have you ever been in a real haunted house? Ever want to? Plans to own one someday? Do you seek them out? Run the other way?
ECB: I am way too irresponsible when it comes to home maintenance to ever be the custodian of a historic home, so it would have to be a house haunted since the 1960s or so... and that just doesn't strike me as particularly entertaining! Hypothetically speaking, though, I'd like to think I'd be more curious than alarmed if ever confronted with a ghost. I do like knowing that there are mysteries in the world, and although I'm not totally a believer in all things paranormal, I'm certain science doesn't know everything.
PJH: I can't help but notice you love sewing, needlework, and costumes. I used to love to cross stitch, but the last one I worked on took me about ten years to finish. (Needless to say it will be a while before I start another one.) Your costumes are amazing. How often do you get the opportunity to dress up? Do you find yourself wearing them around the house? And what is your favorite one?
ECB: Well, the cross stitch piece I just finished took me eleven years! As for costuming, I made a historically accurate 18th Century middle class ensemble to go along with CURSE, and I've worn it for a few events. Mostly, though, it's just wearable art, although my husband and are are what's known as "playtrons" (patrons who dress up) at our local Renaissance festival. I have to admit: I pretty much just go for the clothes. As for a favorite? It always seems to be the one I'm going to work on next (strangely enough, I'm exactly the same way about my books!), although I'm really proud of the linen shift I sewed entirely by hand. Right now I'm working on an Italian Renaissance overgown, to coordinate with a gown inspired by a Botticelli portrait that I made a couple of years ago.
(Read the whole story of the Botticelli here!)
PJH: How did you react when you found our you'd won the William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award? And what is the biggest change you've noticed since?
ECB: Well, I screamed. And probably frightened a room full of really lovely librarians. It was actually exactly like the Academy Awards--with all the tears and shaking, only without the evening gown and perfectly coiffed hair. I received the call on a Saturday afternoon. I had been trying to take a nap, and when my phone rang, I mumbled to my husband to let it go to voice mail. He sternly but gently said, "No, I think you should answer your phone this weekend. Particularly for any out-of-town area codes." So I answered, and Bonnie Kunzel, committee head, gave me the news. After we recovered from my shriek of shock and thrilldom, I kept saying, "Please pass my appreciation on to the other committee members." Bonnie said, "Well, I don't have to, because you're on speaker phone, and they can hear you." And then everybody cheered.
The most exciting thing is sort of the extra jolt of attention and enthusiasm for CURSE. By the time of the awards, the book had been out almost a year, and in the last couple of months I've gotten a lot more reviews and speaking engagements, and I just received word that they're tweaking the dust jacket to include not only the Morris Award (they have to make room for the gold seal!), but some of the other honors CURSE has received, as well. That's very exciting! It's wonderful knowing that CURSE will have longevity.
PJH: Publishing is a complicated world. There are rejections, time management worries, deadlines, craft pressures. What is your best piece of advice for writers? Or two pieces if you can't keep it to one. We writers will take all the advice we can get.
ECB: The best advice is advice I've been given--things that really help get me through the angsty bits--and I'm happy to pass it on. The first is from my very wise husband, who counsels me to enjoy the process, because as occasionally maddening a job as this is, it's still just about the coolest gig out there. And you'll go crazy if you don't stop and remember that every once in a while. The second bit is something Tamora Pierce once told me, when I complained that my second book was not living up to my expectations: "You'll always hate your work in progress," she said. "It never seems anywhere near as good as anything you've written before. The good news is, you're usually wrong about that." (and I hope she'll forgive my paraphrasing!)
PJH: Time travel is possibly. Where would you go first and why?
ECB: I've always been intensely curious about the secret meeting between Joan of Arc and the Dauphin in 1429--what exactly did she say to him, that convinced him she was sent by God? But since I don't speak French, the trip would be wasted on me!
PJH: So what's next? Should we expect historical fiction, paranormal, young adult, or fairytale retellings?
ECB: My next books, STARCROSSED and LIAR'S MOON, are high fantasy adventures about a thief who finds herself mixed up in a religious civil war and the machinations of the nobility. But there will definitely be more historical fantasy and retellings in my future--I don't think I could get away from them, not that I want to! I have a collection of Greek pieces I'd like to complete, and I've been toying with the idea of a version of "Cinderella" set in the world of CURSE (meaning, more ghosts!).
OK, now the fun, fast part. Keep your answers as short as possible!
Fantasy Island or Love Boat? -> "Fantasy Island." The new version, with Malcom MacDowell.
Guilty Pleasure? -> Rice cakes (how sad is that?)
Favorite Scooby Doo character? -> Shaggy. Or Velma. Or Scooby Dee. Or Mama Cass. Hard to pick, really.
Computer or hand written? -> Computer.
First Draft: Revise as you go or just get it down? -> Revise.
Favorite natural wonder? -> Irazu Volcano, Costa Rica
Favorite myth? -> I have to pick one? Then I'm going to have to go with Hades & Persephone (incidentally, the subject of my very first novel).
PJH: Thanks so much, Elizabeth!!!!! Can I just say it's truly been a pleasure working with you now and over the last year in The Class of 2k8. You rock!
THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS (MG Fantasy)
Book 1: THE EMERALD TABLET
Book 2: THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD (Oct 2009)
Book 3: THE NECROPOLIS (Fall 2010)