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Aug 5, 2010

Three Questions for Michelle Davidson Argyle about Cinders



Michelle Davidson Argyle's beautiful novella debuted recently, and I invited her to answer three questions about it.

1. This story works on two levels -- as a fantasy, it has magic, sprites, elves (O Kale, you sparkly elf hunk!) and fairies. In a lot of ways, it follows a fantasy story structure. Cinderella has to find three objects to make a spell work, for instance. However, it is really a literary story in the guise of fantasy tropes. Were you conscious of writing a story with a theme? There are several, ahem, men in Cinderella's life. Do the different forms of love she feels for each of them relate to the theme? Do you see the men as representing different choices not just Cinderella, but any person, could make?

You're right about Cinders parading around as a fantasy when it's really a literary story. It's almost entirely character driven, although there is also some fun outside action and tension. Yes, I was conscious of doing this, and I was conscious of writing a story with a theme, as well. My main idea for creating Cinders was to create a "fairy-tale-feeling" story that addresses certain issues I have with most fairy tales. First and foremost - love. I get bristles on the back of my neck whenever I read a truly happy ending where nobody seems to sacrifice anything important in order to get the love of their life. Many chick flicks fall into this category, and that's kind of what Disney Princess movies fall under...and that's an issue for me. Why? I like to keep things real, and I hate sending the message that love comes without sacrifices on both ends.

Cinderella finds love...three different versions of it. For me, true love never happens spontaneously. Cinderella learns this, I think. Or at least I tried to show that. I tried to use the three different men in Cinderella's life to represent three different types of love, or choices, I guess you could say. There's the fairy-tale love governed by magic, lust inspired by mystery and kindness, and learned love in two cases. Although the second case isn't shown in the novella, merely hinted at possibly happening in the future.

2. Your writing is extremely well-crafted at the word level. In addition, though, you have a number of motifs that run through the novel -- the white flowers, for instance. Or the way Cinderella thinks of her mother, vines and her nickname. The motifs are subtle but evocative. Did the motifs emerge accidentally during the writing, or did you consciously weave them throughout the story? How do you see the motifs playing to the theme?

It's interesting how I bring motifs into my writing. As I'm sure anyone who has read my writing knows, I focus a lot on details, but I've always believed in making sure each and every detail I provide is important to the story. I never once describe Cinderella's hair color or what her eyes look like. It doesn't matter for this story unless it's important to someone in the story, if that makes sense. Rowland's nose, for instance, I describe many times as long and straight because it's one of his features Cinderella notices and admires. As for the flowers, I believe those came up early on and I liked what they could represent, so I ran with it. Same with the vines and the shells. This is why I knew I couldn't design my cover until the book was fully developed. Things happen during the writing that shape everything else!

So to answer your question, my motifs happen on both a subconscious and conscious level. My motifs often go hand-in-hand with the themes, as well. For instance, the flowers are white and pure, like Cinderella's feelings for Rowland, although she doesn't see this until later. I love to play with motifs and symbolism and themes. I think that's one of my strengths in writing.

3. How do you see the Cinders working with or against the original Cinderella? (Or, since there are many versions, the theme of the Disney version.) Specifically, I would like to ask about the issue of power in Cinders. In the Disney version, Cinderella does not have much power, but what she does have she uses to protect those even more helpless than herself, for instance, tiny animals. In Cinders, she has much more power, but power is wielded more ambiguously all around. The prince, the fairy godmother, the queen, Cinderella, all have power, and in many cases, the reader is not sure that power is being used for good rather than for selfish purposes. Was this deliberate? Is it part of writing a Cinderella AFTER the happily-ever-after? Do you think the original fairytale of Cinderella sends a message? Do you think Cinders sends a different message?

As mentioned earlier, I have issues with Disney fairy tales. I think they're fine for children. They're watered down and simplified. That's fine, I guess, but not for any type of fairy tale I want to tell. I wanted something real and down-to-earth.I wanted something that showed Cinderella as a selfish person like most of us are, but are too afraid to admit. I wanted her to make mistakes and learn from them, and I wanted to show that magic can be messy and complicated.

I love the idea of power in my story, and I love showing how much it is a burden to Cinderella and how much she longs for the simplicity of her earlier life - even though it meant pain and suffering. There are different types of pain and suffering in our lives, and I love that my story shows those layers and different types.


Thanks for stopping by, Michelle!

15 comments:

Stephanie McGee said...

Great interview!

February Grace said...

Fascinating reading! Thank you ladies!!!

~bru

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Tara, thank you for this! I felt like I was being quizzed on my book for a college exam. It was FANTASTIC!

Patti said...

Very insightful answers to great questions.

Taryn Tyler said...

Blast. Now I want to read Cinders even more. This sounds like exactly the kind of book I would adore. If only I could get down to the bookstore and order it . . .
But thank you both for the interview.

Davin Malasarn said...

Tara Maya, This is such an excellent interview! I'd be honored to be interviewed by you some day.

Ban said...

I was on the fence but now I'm sold. Great answers Michelle, thank you.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Thank you for reading, everyone!

Candice said...

Great interview. You really get Michelle's writing style in my opinion.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I love when fairy tales are turned inside out and over and under! Love how Cinderella is allowed to have flaws, and risks being "unlikeable" at times - just as we all are!

Interesting and insightful and fun "Q&A"

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great interview, Tara! Michelle is a fantastic writer and I loved reading her thoughts on her amazing novella. Thanks!

Anita said...

Thank you both for this interview. I always love hearing what went on behind the scenes of a book...such variety, with some authors flying by the seats of their pants and others really, really thinking as they're writing.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Thank you for reading, you guys! Tara did a brilliant job with these questions. :)

Tara Maya said...

Thanks for doing the interview, Michelle! I never considered doing reviews on my blog before, but I had so much fun, maybe I will do more. I knew I could throw some hard questions at you because I knew you think deeply and would have great answers -- which you did. Thanks!

Donna Hole said...

Excellent interview questions and answers. Very helpful.

thanks Tara and Michelle.

......dhole