Show # 46 - [ profile] lillianleitzel - In Depth

May. 18th, 2009 12:24 pm
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penpusher: hi!
lillianleitzel: hi
penpusher: Hope I didn't keep you waiting; I was squaring off some other stuff that needed to get done

penpusher: Where are you, btw?

lillianleitzel: I'm in Cornwall now

lillianleitzel: New York Staying here till late July to write

penpusher: Is that near anything?

lillianleitzel: NYC, an hour outside and the Hudson River

penpusher: Hm. I've never heard of it... as far as I know.

lillianleitzel: Just one of 50000 towns along the Hudson River

penpusher: So it's near Albany?

lillianleitzel: I dont think so, closer to NYC

penpusher: What county is it?

lillianleitzel: I dont know

penpusher: Haha. ok.

penpusher: Well, let's get back into this. We were about to talk about your first novel, Rain Village.

lillianleitzel: ok

penpusher: What was the impetus for writing the story of an aerialist from some small town who worked in a library rather than on her parent's farm?

lillianleitzel: it started as a short story i was writing in college about a strange place called Rain Village

penpusher: What was the original assignment?

lillianleitzel: just to write a short story, it was a workshop

lillianleitzel: So I wrote about this place, and there was just one line about how every year a carnival came through and how they all went to see the girl on the trapeze, to see if she would fall eventually i plucked out that line and had that girl narrate part of the novel

lillianleitzel: and later, i changed it so that the whole novel was about her.. and her life... and how she became that girl on the trapeze

penpusher: Now, were you generally knowledgeable about circus life, particularly fascinated by it or did your interest evolve from this story?

lillianleitzel: Well I put in that one line about the girl on the trapeze because it was such a vivid, beautiful image to me from the film Wings of Desire

penpusher: Wenders has a way of cutting to the heart of things

lillianleitzel: and so I guess my interest came from that, and the Nick Cave song "The Carny"
which is in the film

lillianleitzel: Once it became such a huge part of the book, I had to research

penpusher: Were you something of a circus buff or was this all brand new territory for you at the time?

lillianleitzel: I was not at all a circus buff, I really just loved that image from Wings of Desire, stuck it in the book as one line, and that line evolved into a novel So it was new when I went to research it

penpusher: But you did name your LJ after this famous performer of the day, so does that mean you became a fan of these artists?

lillianleitzel: Well once I began to read about the circus I hooked on Lillian Leitzel as inspiration for my character... So I was always thinking about my character and the book

penpusher: This was your way of motivating the writing?

lillianleitzel: I don't know about motivating.. I just think when you're writing a novel you are always thinking about your characters... and in the case of Tessa, her character was entwined with this historical figure I'd read about

lillianleitzel: There isnt a ton to learn about Leitzel, it was more a handful of cool facts I used when writing about Tessa (to some extent) I went to a lot of circus performances as well

penpusher: Besides the particulars, what do you feel you came away from the research with, regarding circus life?

lillianleitzel: I just read enough to be able to imagine it, and create it on the page... The old time sideshow, the old time travelling circus... I wanted to have enough information to imagine the smells and sounds and feel of it

penpusher: Were you particularly inspired or moved in any way by any of it?

lillianleitzel: By any of what I read about or saw at the circus?

penpusher: Yes, did any of that sort of stick with you?

lillianleitzel: I don't know.. I have a general appreciation of dazzle and fantasy and beauty that in some ways the circus embodies.. But I think when I'm researching a novel, it's just finding details to fit a certain vision Much less about me being personally inspired.. or a fan, etc

penpusher: Really, there was a texture to this novel, and the other part of it was the place, Rain Village.

lillianleitzel: Yes, that place, it was what I imagined in the original story.. this very magical strange place where it rains all the time

penpusher: I think most people would find a place where it constantly rains a bit less than magic, but you managed to make it seem attractive in its way!

lillianleitzel: It's like now, I'm writing about a mermaid, for my third book, and so I'm imagining the ocean, and all these wonderful things... and I'm reading things about it, mermaid lore and books about the ocean... but I wouldn't say I'm personally all that into the ocean

lillianleitzel: There is a wide divide, for me, between what I write about and me personally

lillianleitzel: I have never for example been on the trapeze and when the president of the trapeze school of NY invited me to take a lesson (I interviewed him for the book) I said no

penpusher: It's good to know. But there seems to be a water theme happening, doesn't there?

lillianleitzel: I like writing about water, yes, very sensual and lush images associated with it Oh and I was just addressing your circus questions since I know you were looking for some bigger personal connection!

penpusher: What have most people come away from Rain Village with; what sorts of comments have you gotten from readers?

lillianleitzel: I don't know, people mostly just say it's beautiful or inspirational, something along those lines... A few have talked about the abuse in the book, and told me their own stories, or told me how hard it was for them to read

penpusher: Yes, there is a bittersweet element to the story, and I think that's already starting to show, both in your second novel which we will get to in a moment and the themes of your third.

lillianleitzel: Are you asking me something

penpusher: Well, I thought you would just comment about that.

lillianleitzel: about what?

penpusher: the bittersweet elements.

lillianleitzel: They all have very sad qualities to them, yes

penpusher: Now, your second novel, Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, is a new look at what is arguably the most told tale in history.

lillianleitzel: Yes

penpusher: What made you go to that story?

lillianleitzel: I just wanted to write the most gorgeous, shimmering thing I could, and that seems the quintessential story for writing about gorgeousness and shimmer... It's beautiful, but then underneath are all these dark elements that the original stories don't really explore.

lillianleitzel: And I like the images: the glass slippers, the castle, the magical transformation

lillianleitzel: the contrast between Cinderella's old life and her new one

penpusher: Obviously, the Cinderella story is one that has a lot of positives: having someone discover you and fix your life so you get what you deserve, that is the element that many people over the centuries respond to... however in your story, that doesn't quite go as planned.

lillianleitzel: Well once you really think about Cinderella, the character, as a real human girl, it doesn't make any sense.

penpusher: What do you mean?

lillianleitzel: I mean, that her life could be so wretched and she could suffer such loss... and then be rescued by marrying a prince

lillianleitzel: But really, my book is the godmother's story, the one who's supposed to do the rescuing

lillianleitzel: the prince doesn't do anything but really like the hot girl who shows up at the ball

lillianleitzel: and the godmother, what she has to do is complicated. and who is she? and how does she do it?

penpusher: Yes. Well, I think the trappings of her new life are the transforming element, which is what people respond to... from being dirt poor to filthy rich all in one night!

lillianleitzel: Well I focus on the godmother as the one who sweeps in to do the transforming, who comes in and takes away all the dirt and grime and makes her brand new, worthy of a prince and what happens there

penpusher: Yes. A godmother you named Lillian, which I guess was a nod again to Ms. Leitzel?

lillianleitzel: Oh, no it wasn't at all, ha, I just liked that name for a fairy

penpusher: Oh! I thought you were building a thread in your work!

lillianleitzel: not a lillian leitzel thread!~

penpusher: Well, just something to connect one novel to the next.

lillianleitzel: Nope! There's plenty to connect them, but nothing like that Very few people would even know about Lillian Leitzel anyway

lillianleitzel: !

lillianleitzel: She's never mentioned in Rain Village or anything

penpusher: So you have retold the Cinderella tale from the Godmother's point of view. It's rather surprising that in all the retelling of the story that I don't recall any versions that did it that way.

lillianleitzel: Well Cinderella is the much more dazzling character, I think, to most people

penpusher: Well, she is the focal point of the story. She is the rags to riches character.

lillianleitzel: and young and beautiful, not old and fat (which is how the godmother is portrayed in the Disney movie) and the godmother wasn't in the original Grimm's tale..

penpusher: But you raise a really interesting point with the novel. What motivates these fairies to perform their duties, and what if they decide they don't want to do them?

lillianleitzel: In Godmother, it's just her, she's the one who is supposed to send Cinderella to the ball.. and I was interested in what a fairy might feel, confronted with a girl like Cinderella and the human world generally with all its longing and grief and passion, in contrast to what I imagined the fairy world to be: perfect, complete

penpusher: It's curious, because I don't think people generally consider the feelings of a fairy... that they just perform their magic and go on their way and they all live happily ever after.

penpusher: What you have done was turn Lillian into a fully formed being.

lillianleitzel: Yes.. I liked that contrast.. the fairy vs human.. A fairy dropping from her perfect world onto the earth.

lillianleitzel: Wings of Desire-ish. That movie is a huge influence.

penpusher: You give a sense of camaraderie to this fairy community, and that opens the whole story up in a new way, and also helps move the story in this different way, where the godmother decides she would like to go to the ball instead of Cinderella!

lillianleitzel: It's when she gets into Cinderella's head and sees her dreams... that she begins to long for the same things Cinderella is longing for... She sort of falls in love with longing, more than anyrhing, something she'd never experienced

penpusher: Lillian has to know her subject so she studies her and in doing so, gets caught up, like a butterfly in a spiderweb, in everything that Cinderella desires.

lillianleitzel: yes

penpusher: The other element, and we touched on this briefly before, is the Disney film of the story, which may be the most famous version of it.

lillianleitzel: Yes It was as powerful a film for me as a little girl as for most women in this country I think

penpusher: The characterization of the godmother there is the one we generally imagine, but in your story, Lillian is as young and beautiful as Cinderella herself!

lillianleitzel: Well she's a fairy!

penpusher: So was the Disney one!

lillianleitzel: She's not young, but she looks wondrous to our human eyes, how could she not

penpusher: Well, she could look like the old lady from the cartoon.

lillianleitzel: Well the Disney version doesn't make sense in more ways than one

penpusher: Yeah. Talking mice.

lillianleitzel: I took the story and told it in a way that made sense to me.... where the magical fairy is a wonderful, perfect creature... where the damaged, abused girl cannot be saved by an amazing dress and a prince and a castle

penpusher: It's a great psychological examination of the story, and it has a lot to say about what we as humans find valuable.

penpusher: Break time. Back with more Carolyn, next.

Continue to Segment Three


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