allthingschristine: Hi Elana, I am so happy to have you here on my blog this month! How are you?
Elana K. Arnold: Hi, Christine! I’m fine, and glad to be visiting your blog. Thank you for the invitation.
AC: I’m going to start you off with a question that I ask all of the authors I talk to. When you read or write do you see pictures in your head? (I cannot and it is called aphantasia). Do you think this helps or hinders your writing process?
EKA: I love this question. When I write, I wouldn’t say that I see pictures in my head so much as I feel the fabric of the story I am weaving. It’s as if my eyes are closed and I’m touching a tapestry, but not with my fingers—more with the back of my brain, the backs of my eyeballs, the back of my tongue and my throat. All my life I’ve had synesthetic experiences, and I think they very much help my writing. When I read, I do see pictures in my head.
AC: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Damsel! Why don’t you explain what it is about.
EK: I am so excited for this book to be released. Damsel is set in a world in which, in order to become king, the prince must, without aid or advice from others, conquer a dragon and rescue a damsel. That is the way it has always been. The story begins with Prince Emory of Harding on his way to do this thing… and the novel’s second section begins when the damsel wakes, naked in his arms and with no memory.
Damsel is an original fairy tale, borne out of the tropes and archetypes we all know as well as our own voices. And it is more closely akin to the ancient versions—like the Cinderella story in which her stepmother advises her daughters to cut off parts of their feet to fit them into the slipper, like the Sleeping Beauty tale in which the girl is not woken by a kiss but instead sleeps through being raped, her pregnancy, and the birth of her twins, only to awake, at last, when one of the infants, searching for a nipple, sucks the splinter of flax from her fingertip. All of this to say, my Damsel is no Disney story. It is ugly and beautiful and raw and real, though steeped in magic.
AC: Most of the old fairytales end when the princess wakes up/is saved/ is protected by the prince. Very few focus of what comes after that final epic scene. What made you want to write a story about what could happen after the Happily Ever After?
EKA: Isn’t what happens after the “happily ever after” more interesting? I think it is. I think too that the shape we are used to reading and seeing—conqueror conquers, wins his prize, takes her home—is a masculine-shaped story, with rising action and climax the main focus, and resolution and dénouement less important. But perhaps looking at the full cycle—the beginning, the middle, the end, and then the beginning that comes after that ending—is a more feminine structure for storytelling. I’ve thought a lot about structure and have worked with cyclically-structured stories in my previous novels, Infandous and What Girls Are Made Of, and I’m sure I will continue to work in this vein.
AC: Are you working on your next project or are you going to take a break after Damsel? Are there any genres you haven’t tried that you would like to?
EKA: I am working on a revision of my next novel. Like Damsel, it explores questions of misogyny, patriarchy, and female agency. There are lots of things I haven’t yet done—I’d very much like to write a graphic novel for younger readers, and I’d love to work in TV and film.
AC: Thank you Elana for talking with me today! If you haven’t read any of Elana’s books yet then I definitely recommend checking them out. You can find the links and synopsis for each of the books in the next section down below.
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince who will be king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon or what horrors she faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny of sitting on a throne beside him. It’s all like a dream, like something from a fairy tale.
As Ama follows Emory to the kingdom of Harding, however, she discovers that not all is as it seems. There is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows—and the greatest threats are not behind her, but around her, and closing in.
When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now Nina is sixteen. And she’ll do anything for the boy she loves, just to prove she’s worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of?
Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are. She’s been volunteering at a high-kill animal shelter where she realizes that for dogs waiting to be adopted, love comes only to those with youth, symmetry, and quietness. She also ruminates on the strange, dark time her mother took her to Italy to see statues of saints who endured unspeakable torture because of their unquestioning devotion to the divine. Is this what love is?
From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum.
For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.
But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.
Odette has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the Coach with her parents and exasperating brother. And there’s definitely nothing fair about Grandma Sissy’s failing health, and the painful realities and difficult decisions that come with it. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair… but does it have to be?
I would like to say a giant thank you to Elana for agreeing to become my featured author this month! She writes such varied books that there is something for everybody. Preorder Damsel if you haven’t already, this sounds like an amazing book and is one that I am going to read as soon as I can!
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