As promised, I’m excited to share with you today the rest of my interview with Christian fairy tale writer Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
8. In western culture, dragons often are portrayed as evil creatures, but the figure of the Lady of Dreams Realized is more unusual. What inspired the character of the Lady and her relationship with the Dragon?
Interestingly enough, when I first sold Heartless to Bethany House, I received comments from in-house readers surprised at seeing a wicked dragon! Many (dare I say most?) of the dragons portrayed in YA fiction these days are good, wise, beautiful creatures, no longer the classic symbol of evil as back in the day of Spenser’s Redcrosse Knight. Or if there are bad dragons, they always have good counterparts. Quite unlike the classic evil dragons of old Western literature! But I’ve always loved a thoroughly evil dragon: Smaug, of course, Robin McKinley’s deadly Maur, and a handful of others. However, I digress!
The Lady of Dreams Realized was initially inspired from a chilling moment in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I read it for the first time my senior year of high school and was struck by the image it left in my mind:
Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that Woman’s mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.
I had already worked with the image of Death as a Dragon in my early ideas for the Tales of Goldstone Wood. But after reading the Rime and exploring the various themes of death and life-in-death, I decided to expand the character of the Dragon to include the Lady Life-in-Death as well.
The Dragon himself is called the Death-in-Life or the Death of Dreams. His sister is both his opposite and his completion. While in Heartless the Dragon destroys Una’s dreams and thus sends her on her fiery downward spiral, in Veiled Rose we see his sister, the Lady, giving Lionheart his dream come true, and thereby ruining him. She is the more insidious of the two and, I believe, the more dangerous.
There are hints throughout Veiled Rose as to the Lady’s true form and origin. And there is much more to be revealed about both her and her brother. But I can’t say too much here! Wouldn’t want to give away spoilers.
9. In each of your previous books, a faerie knight in animal guise has played a role. Will we learn more about this sort of faerie in Moonblood?
Absolutely! These are some of my favorite characters, and we will see much more of them in Moonblood and still more in later books. In fact, the Faerie knight Eanrin is one of two protagonists in my fall 2012 release, Starflower. We will also learn that not all the Faeries assume animal guise . . . and not all who assume animal guise are Faerie! The rules of the Far World (if they can be called rules) are far more complicated than that.
10. Can you share any hints of what will take place in Moonblood?
Well, there are quite a few hints to be found in Veiled Rose, so I’d hate to give away too many more! We know that Rose Red has a father who is searching for her. We glimpse a strange monster in Goldstone Wood that asks Prince Lionheart about her. And we know that no roses bloom in the Near World anymore, not since Rose Red herself was a baby. So you can guess that all of these things will be brought up come Moonblood . . .
There will also be several carryover storylines from Heartless, including the old bridge that shouldn’t be crossed and poor dragon-poisoned Prince Felix. We will be plunging into realms beyond Goldstone Wood where we’ll meet several new Faerie kings and queens, each a little more dangerous than the last. And for any of you who might remember ugly Sir Oeric from Heartless, he’ll be making his return in Moonblood as well!
11. How many books can readers expect in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series?
I am currently contracted for six Goldstone Wood stories. So we’ll leave it at that and see where we go from there!
12. Are there projects you hope to tackle after the Goldstone Wood series concludes?
One or two. The Goldstone Wood series is rather large and has taken up a lot of my imagination for the last several years. I’ve drafted a YA comedy fantasy adventure that I really love and would like to play around with more later. I’m toying with a comedic retelling of Beauty and the Beast/Cinderella. I’ve also dabbled with a YA adventure story set in historical Sri Lanka (my husband’s homeland), but haven’t had a chance to pursue that yet. We’ll see! I certainly have plenty of ideas, but Goldstone Wood pretty much swallows up my writing time these days.
13. And a bonus question, just for fun, how did you come to collect so many cats?
Yes, well, I am the quintessential Crazy Cat Lady, so cats sort of just . . . happen to me. I currently have three rescue kitties and one purebred Abyssinian, my glorious Marmaduke. I love my purebred, but I am a sucker for a kitty in need. And when we got married, my husband and I (and our three cats at the time) moved into a house right next to a feral cat colony. Which was like pouring oil on a fire!
I now work with the feral kittens. Last summer, we fostered and found homes for four kittens and had one wild mother cat spayed so that she won’t produce more. This year, we’re going to try to do more. Feral kittens are difficult to work with since they are as wild as squirrels when you first catch them. But with some patience and love, they can become the very best house pets. We kept one of the kittens last year, a fluffy orange male whom we named Monster (after the cat in Heartless). He turned from an explosive ball of hissing terror into an absolute purring joy. It’s amazing to watch the transformation!
In another week or two, I am going to start catching more wild kittens out of the forest behind my house (and getting the parents fixed). So I will have a houseful again very soon. If you know anyone in the Raleigh area who might want a kitten, please let me know! I might just have the kitty of their dreams.
Any like-minded crazy cat people out there who would like to learn more about me and my cats may check out this blog: minervawritesherthoughts.blogspot.com. But please don’t believe everything she writes about me . . .
Thanks Anne for giving us a deeper glimpse into your writing process and your story world! It was a delight to talk with you.
If you would like to learn more about Anne and her books, I encourage you to visit her blog The Tales of Goldstone Wood. And if you’re a lover of fairy tales or Christian fantasy, by all means pick up a copy of her books. You won’t regret it!