Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview with Alethea Kontis, author of ENCHANTED

I’m thrilled to welcome to the Inkpot Alethea Kontis, author of Enchanted, which apparently is the monster of all fairy tale retellings. I mean, why retell just one when you can retell them all, right? Read on and find out….

Enchanted isn't a retelling of any particular fairy tale -- rather, it's a mosaic of many of them. Was there any particular fairy tale that got you started? Or did you intend from the beginning to borrow from as many fairy tales as possible?
The original story that Enchanted is based on was an entry in a fairy tale contest the Codex Writers had in the summer of 2005. The stories had to be inspired by at least one of four "seeds": "Fundevogel," "The Princess and the Pea," the Irish legend of Cú Chulainn, and the nursery rhyme "There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe." I couldn't choose between them, so I chose them well as all every other fairy tale and nursery rhyme that was suggested. They just all fit together so well, you see...

I hate the "where did you get the idea" question as much as anyone. And yet: Where did you get the awesome idea for seven sisters named after seven days of the week?
That particular tidbit came from the "Monday's Child is Fair of Face" nursery rhyme. As a Sabbath Day child myself, I've always been slightly disappointed in my generically optimistic lot in life as prophesied by that poem, so I instantly had a great deal of empathy for Sunday. The reason anyone would have so many children in the first place would surely be the goal of a "seventh child of a seventh child" legend, and this dovetailed perfectly into the old rhyme of counting magpies ("One for sorrow, two for joy"). Sevens and threes are very powerful numbers in fairy tales.

I happen to know (looks mysterious) that the original title of the book was Sunday, the name of the main character. And having gone through title changes myself, I know there were probably a bunch of titles you considered before you hit on Enchanted. Care to share any of them?
Yes, the original title of the novel was Sunday, which was the name of the novelette of this tale as it appeared in Realms of Fantasy in 2006. The publisher was afraid that this title would not immediately convey a fairy tale sensibility, so they suggested something "more like...Enchanted." I had about two days to come up with new title ideas, which included: Blithe, Fanciful, Dreamer, Glister, and Perchance. But by then, Enchanted had already settled in everyone's brains, and there you have it!

You are also the author of the bestselling picture book, Alpha Oops: The Day Z Went First (side note: my kids LOVE that book). Obviously the writing process is different, but how similar or different the process of getting a picture book published vs. getting a young adult novel published?
*hugs* I love you and your kids! Thank you! Oh, yes, I learned an incredible lot during the production of the first AlphaOops, not the least of which was that writing a picture book was far more like writing a script than a short story or novel. There is so much one doesn't need to say in prose when given illustrations, and there needs to be room left for the illustrator/collaborator to step in and shine on his/her own. Almost like in acting, where the words in the script are a guideline by which the actor bases his or her motivation and fills in the blank with talent, imagination, and personality. Thankfully, I've had some little experience acting on stage and television, so when I sat down to write AlphaOops: H is for Halloween, I wrote it as a script rather than in story format. I think the editing process for that book went a lot more smoothly.

All that said, the award for strangest format in which I've ever written a story goes to "Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome," a month-long twitter serial illustrated by Eisner Award winner J.K. Lee. Because of the 140 character limit on each daily mini-story, it was easier to construct the project on an Excel spreadsheet so that I could see the stories one on top of the other and keep track of the characters all at the same time. It was an odd endeavor, but the unorthodox approach ultimately worked out to everyone's advantage. My advice to writers: Always keep an open mind. We live in an ever-changing world, and you'll never know what hoop you might be asked to jump through next!

So true! As long as they’re all fun hoops, right?
You can read more about Enchanted at You can also go out and get it if you want – it went on sale yesterday!

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