Prizm Books is a line of Young Adult fiction, focused on providing great mainstream or LGBT stories in all genres, from science fiction to historical to contemporary. Our mission is to encourage and publish young adult books that focus on the story. Todays young readers crave stories they can relate to, stories about their lives. Prizm Books is committed to producing great, positive books that young adults will love, and will want more of!
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
A conversation between two new Prizm authors
How did you chose the setting for your novel?
Shira Glassman: I grew up in South Florida; my "normal" is the
Broward/Palm Beach/Miami-Dade tricountry area where native foliage is liberally
mixed with the most outlandish assortment of trees from Australia, Africa, and
Southeast Asia that were brought in either as landscape trees, arboretum
specimens, or as part of the tropical agricultural community down in Homestead.
My family is Jewish on both sides, and I was raised by a single mom. So
feminism/the strength of women, Judaism, and the tropical environment are my
"normal". So is the queer ethos. None of those things are reflected
in any of the great fairy tales with which I was raised--it was all Northern
Europe, in many cases men-centered, only Jewish centered in very special cases,
and the queerest they ever got was straight women who had to dress as men to
get taken seriously--see below. So I decided to create my own.
Cathy Hird: My “normal” growing up was way
too bland for a good setting, and I now live in farm country so when I started
to write fiction I chose a place that had a rich mythology—ancient Greece.
would you say that your background hasn't influenced your writing, then? Or did
it creep in anyway, in other ways besides setting?
Cathy: You are so
right—wenever escape our past,
althoughI did try. I found suburbia
empty and shallow, so as soon as I could I headed for the inner city, and then
when I needed earth and green, growing things, I moved to a farm. I’ve stopped
moving now: I’ve been here for 25 years.
On the other hand, the
idea of leaving is rooted in my childhood: my family spent 3 years in
Argentinaand travelled throughout South
America seeing a wondrously rich culture and landscape.
The other thing childhood
gave me was a large extended family and a strong sense of community. So each
time the characters in my story end up too alone, friends and helpers crop up.
The novel ends up with quite a network of relationships!
It was first of all the
complex mythology of classical Greece that attracted me. Also, I made a trip to
Greece as a teenager with a high school history class. The blue water and the
white marble, the history that peeks out from every corner held my imagination.
So it was great to go back and do research once I started writing stories set
must have been an amazing and inspiring trip (or trips?) Were there any aspects
of your story plan that you wound up changing once you'd actually seen it?
Cathy: The Parthenon in Athens is the image pasted
on postcards and ads, but there is so much more in Greece. The small towns
cradled by mountain slopes, the worn rocks and hollowed-out plane trees fairly
shout about the stories they have seen. And this last trip, I was still trying
to figure out why the princess had been kidnapped. I heard about a place called
the Gates of Hades, and we went there. The place is enchanted: a river comes
out of a mountain into a narrow canyon, with weirdly twisted oak trees growing
along it. On a hill between the river and the ocean, there is an underground
shrine where people still today place coins to seek the blessing of Mary or an
ancient goddess.This shrine and the
valley around it became the central place of conflict and restoration in my
you ever write about where you live? that!
I am working on a modern day story set in the farm country where I live, with
an enslaved elf and an alchemist and his daughter. Enchantment is never very
far away from us.
How did you chose your main character?
secondary protagonist follows in the footsteps of Mulan, Eowyn, and even Yentl,
a straight woman dressing in men's clothing so she'll be accepted in a
"man's job." In many of the stories in which these women appear,
their career-based crossdressing is the queerest aspect of the story. As a real
live queer woman, I always wondered what it would be like to see one of these
women come face to face and interact with a genuine lesbian. That's one thing
that inspired me to create the primary protagonist, my little Queen. She also
shares my grief; like me, she lost her father much younger than she ever
Cathy: Did you find it
helpful to write about her grief?
Shira: Very much so. And new issues came up during
the revising, because his things were being sold off, so I was able to work
through those feelings, too.
When my father died, I was suddenly unable to write
for a full year. I felt cut off from all the genre characters I loved, because
even though they had all experienced loss in some way, it wasn't the same. It
wasn't cancer. It would have been very hard for me to deform my feelings
so that they could fit into an Eowyn shell, for example, mourning the uncle who
had basically been her father--too many things were different; she'd lived with
loss all her life whereas for the most part I had not; they had a few seconds
to say goodbye and we had, well, if you know how cancer works, there's that
"last week". I felt alone in there, all by myself with my cancer-grief,
with all my favorite characters on the other side of a wall.
"So, write about your pain!" said
But I didn't want to rehash it all, reliving it
with each rewrite and revision. The solution, then, came when I realized that
if I created a character who was mourning already, I could describe her grief
and how she works through it without having the actual death be part of the
action of the story. We only see what happened to the king in her mind, and in
her dialogue to her new friend. It's never out-and-out narrated, and
that was important to me. We first meet her two months into her reign. What
happened to her father wasn't cancer and definitely reeks of fairy-tale
outlandishness, but the parallels I so sorely needed are there.
I also really wanted to write about a benevolent
dragon, because that was important to me, too.
Cathy: What interests
you about dragons?
Harry Potter were real, my patronus would be a dragon. Because I truly believe
JKR created a genius metaphor for despair and clawing yourself out of it in the
dementor-patronus mythos, and the image that comforts me when I'm at my lowest,
or that springs into mind to describe my mood when I'm at my most joyful, is
that of the dragon. Ever since I was tiny, without any prompting I decided that
the "dragons are bad, always" meme made no sense to me. It's almost
as much a part of me that I didn't choose as being bisexual is; it just came
naturally. I guess I'm inspired by their power, and I love the idea of the benevolent
ones having power that they choose to use for good. I also really dig lizards;
I think they're adorable. So that's related.
Cathy: Dealing with darkness is so much a part of
life’s struggles! At two points in my novel, different characters are trapped
in the dark. How they deal with their fear, how they hold on until there is
light is important to their development. In our lives, showing others the light
that shines in the darkest night is an important gift.
To get back to the question of how I chose the characters
in the story, most of them just appeared on stage for me. The main character, a
kidnapped princess, came with the “Helen of Troy” story-line. Then I needed a
rescuer, and I had a prince I kind of liked, a side character in my first novel
(the novel that is buried in a drawer till I have time to completely rework
it). When a character needed a companion or when the darkness got too heavy,
someone came along to help. I am a
rather “organic” writer: I have a vague sense of direction which comes to life
as the pen scratches the paper or my fingers work the keyboard.
Shira asks: what motivated you to write queer YA in the first
Cathy: My short stories have adult women dealing
with relationship issues, but my novel characters have all been 16-18. I like
exploring that “coming of age” challenge, what happens when we are able to deal
with the challenges of our situation, our personality. This novel is an
adventure rather than a romance, but relationships develop along the way,
mostly heterosexual though queer relationships are taken as given.
What motivated you to writefiction?
Shira: I don't think I ever had a choice--stories
grow in my head until they become too big for me and must come out. I
get pictures in my head, like a female warrior riding a galloping horse toward
a woman waiting to be rescued, which was how The Second Mango started.
Often, I daydream while listening to music in the car, and that's where the
most vivid ideas come from. In many cases, my motivation comes from a burning
need to see stories with certain elements that appeal to me or soothe me, but
were too difficult to find in the genres I like. One of these is a desire to
see the queer experience represented in old-fashioned and elegant genres where
we were previously invisible. Another one is that when I do fancy men, they
tend to not be young, buff Ken dolls, but it's hard to find stories where the
older, larger men are romantic heroes, especially in my preferred genres.
Feminism has also been a big force in my writing, and sometimes I write to make
a point. But mostly I write because ever since I was five years old I get
"into" stories, but there was always something about the fictional
universe I felt like I had to change--wouldn't be great if those two
were married or if someone hadn't died or if there were more female characters
or if two bitter enemies eventually made friends? With my own universe I
finally have the power to tweak all the details right out of the gate to do all
the things I like. Cathy: You seem to have more influence on your
characters than I do. Mine keep doing what they think they should do, sometimes
landing in more trouble, sometimes finding solutions I had not imagined ahead
characters do what will make the story satisfy me, if that
makes sense. Writing is my only chance to get to have "stories" that
do everything I like best.
share your need to tell stories. Mostly in the past, I’ve been in oral story
teller. It is exciting now to publish something which will have people
“hearing” the story even though I cannot see them!
You do seem to love story telling, Shira!
Shira: In a sense it's almost like cooking for my
spouse or my friends with all their numerous food allergies and intolerances
(which are a big part of the book, incidentally)--I've made myself a delicious
meal with all the foods we like best, but with no gluten or dairy or poultry or
apples or shellfish or whatever other thing. And now I'm stuffing my face and
couldn't be happier with it!
Look for Shira Glassman’s novel The Second Mango in August, and Cathy Hird’s Moon of the Goddess later this year. Meanwhile you can follow Shira
and Cathy at http://openonemore.com.