Interview: Wendy Garfinkle, Author of Serpent on a Cross

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GarfinkleSerpentOnACrossEveryone, please welcome Wendy Garfinkle to the blog today! We chat about Scotland, Game of Thrones, retelling of classics, and much more. Enjoy!

1) Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Sometimes they are throwaways and sometimes they become more. I suppose it depends upon the author, the story being told, and also on the other characters. In Serpent on a Cross, one of my characters, Benjamin, originally had only one scene in the second or third chapter. But somewhere along the way he became more important and has at least two major scenes, as well as several other mentions throughout the book.

In contrast, one of the other “sidekicks” is killed at the end of the book. This was simply because one of the characters had to die, so I chose one who, while he would be missed, wasn’t essential to the sequel.

2) Who are your non-writer influences?

My parents. They instilled within me a great love for reading before I could read. My father has always been a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to proper grammar and sentence structure. From the time I began writing essays in Middle School/Junior High, he gave me consistent, constructive criticism and instruction. Nine times out of ten, my essays would earn an “A,” even into college. And my mother is one of my biggest fans, now that I’m an author. Even though she doesn’t really like the fantasy genre, she loves my book. Maybe that’s because it was written by her daughter. But my mom has good taste in reading material, so it’s probably middle ground.

3) In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I researched the social and economic norms, political occurrences, prejudices and medicine of the time and area. At one point in the SOAC, Althea (Dennah’s mother) contemplates how the shifting political tides (historical fact) have allowed the villain, Lord Tarkan Maksimov, to basically invade Poland. Some Jewish birthing/midwife practices of the time are described in the childbirth scene that takes place early in the book.

These are just two examples of how facts and history made their way into my fictional story.

4) What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

There have been so many wonderful retellings of classic fairy tales that I’ve enjoyed. Here’s a short list:

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Fitcher’s Brides by Gregory Frost

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (aka Anne Rice). Parts of that series worked for me and other parts didn’t.

And a short list of the ones that DIDN’T work for me:

Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

5) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent?

Outlander and Game of Thrones. I’ve read most of the books in both of those series, and the TV adaptations have enhanced the experience for me. I’d love to wield a sword alongside Brienne of Tarth; or BE Claire Beecham. I want to fall through my own Craig na Dun and find my own Jamie Fraser.

6) As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

Travel as much as possible. Especially if you intend to write about people, places, and/or things that you don’t have daily or occasional contact with. If you want to write about Scotland, for example, and you’ve never been, or don’t have regular contact with a native, go to Scotland as soon as possible so you can get a “feel” for the country, her people, and her dialects.

7) What do you do when you are not writing?

Buy books. Read. Travel. Edit and proofread for fellow authors. Watch TV. Hang out with friends or family. Travel. Buy books. Read….

8) Which favorite fantasy worlds would you like to visit?

George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland, and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar.

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