On Fantasy: Karen Cushman

Karen CushmanFor a few weeks, in celebration of my new fantasy novel, Grayling’s Song, this blog is featuring a few of my favorite fantasy authors answering four questions about their own writing. Today, it’s my turn. Grayling’s Song is available at your favorite library and bookseller today. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.

Q: What was (is) the hardest aspect of building a fantasy world for you?

A: Ahh, the magic. What in this imaginary place was normal and what magical and how did it work?

Q: What do you feel is different for you, particularly, as a writer about creating a fantasy novel rather than writing a realistic or historical novel?

bk_grayling_180pxA: I discovered that a fantasy world has as much history, as many rules and boundaries and limitations, as historical fiction, but I had to invent them. I seem to like boundaries that are given to me, and so I found the fantasy harder going.

Q: Did you read fantasy novels before you wrote your book? If so, what’s your favorite fantasy novel and why?

I read several fantasy novels in preparation for writing Grayling’s Song. Two of my favorites are the beautifully written Seraphina for the world building, the way complex elements came together, and the striking visuals —I love the image of the dragon scales on her arm–and the fantasy/horror novel, Something Red, for its marvelously evocative, creepy, oppressive, menacing atmosphere.

Q: Is there a character in one of your fantasy novels that you wish you could invite over for dinner? What would you talk about?

A: I’m tempted to say Pook the shape-shifting mouse, for obvious reasons, but I would so like to see Desdemona Cork the enchantress with her cloud of hair and the blue tattoos on her face. I look forward to being enchanted.


The McCarthy Era

Moderator: How did the McCarthy Era affect you? When you were living through it, did you think of it as “an era”? Is that something we only create in hindsight?

Cushman: I am enough younger than Francine so that the only McCarthy I knew was Charlie McCarthy, Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummy. Joseph McCarthy and his era really were not a topic of conversation in my high school and even most of my college years. I would say that eras are pretty much identified and described long after they have passed. Otherwise we go day to day, step by step, the best we can.

McCarthy Era

About Karen Cushman’s The Loud Silence of Francine GreenSchool Library Journal wrote, “This novel follows Francine’s eighth-grade year, from August 1949 to June 1950, at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles, a year of changes largely inspired by a new transfer student, Sophie Bowman. While Francine is quiet and committed to staying out of trouble, happy to daydream of Hollywood movie stars and to follow her father’s advice not to get involved in controversy, Sophie questions authority and wants to make a difference. Her questioning of the nuns’ disparaging comments about the Godless communists frequently leads to her being punished and eventually to her expulsion from school. Francine begins to examine her own values, particularly when an actor friend of Sophie’s father is blacklisted and Mr. Bowman loses his scriptwriting job. At the novel’s end, Francine is poised to stand up to Sister Basil, the bullying principal, and exercise her freedom of speech.”