eSpec Books interviews Danielle Ackley-McPhail, co-editor of Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales with Diana Bastine, http://tiny.cc/GandG.
eSB: What was your favorite faerie tale growing up and why?
DAM: When I was young my mother worked for CBS Records (yes…actual vinyl) running one of their injection molds. Each year the employees received an allotment of albums. they could choose from anything CBS produced. When I was about five or six one of my Christmas presents was the album equivalent of an audiobook. One side was…well…some story I can’t remember…maybe “Beauty and the Beast”, I think, but the OTHER side was “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. Can I tell you, I played that record until it warped and the Ali Baba side was my favorite. I don’t know why, really. Maybe it is because it was a different kind of tale, or maybe it’s because the reader used an accent, but in any case the tale stuck with me. You’ll learn just how much later in this interview.
eSB: What is your favorite faerie tale retelling…and why?
DAM: Robin McKinley’s Deerskin. In part it was because her writing has always been magical and beautiful, but never shied away from the darker, grim…or should I say Grimm aspects of life. It was also because I was unfamiliar with the tale before I discovered her version and I love discovering new things.
eSB: What classic tale would you say is required reading for faerie tale fans?
DAM: My response to this is not a specific tale, there are too many out there that are gathering dust to pick just one. Instead I would say the originals should be brushed off and taken up again. So much of what is printed today of the “classics” are watered down versions of tales that were very grim in deed. I think that is a travesty. I had never read the original Cinderella until I went to college and it was required reading for one of my English classes. Let me just say that it was a vastly different experience than reading the clean-scrubbed version I had access to as a child. And, as many of these tales were original told and not written, there are a wealth of variations out there for people to find and enjoy. Got to your library, or a used book store…one big, old places with books everywhere and you need a map to find anything specific, and go digging…look for the oldest faerie tale book you can find, with the tattiest cover, and sit down and read.
eSB: What modern tale would you say is required reading for faerie tale fans?
DAM: Again, I would direct your attention to Robin McKinley. I first discovered her work when I was a young girl. The first books I found were The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. Both are written in the same universe, deal with non-European culture, and weave such a masterful tale very reminiscent of those original, classic faerie tales…on a grander scale. She has also done quite a few actual retellings, but her original tales will always be my favorites.
eSB: What faerie tale did base your story on and what challenges did you face ’punking it up?
DAM: Well, on this book I am the editor, but originally I was intended to be a contributor as well. I sat down to write my version of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” both because it was my favorite and because I saw so much potential for non-eurocentric steampunk…little did I know how right I was! I asked my friend, Day Al-Mohamed to be my cultural consultant because I really wanted to do this right. In the end she became my co-author.
Let me tell you what we discovered. Do you know how hard it is to translate those original tales in short form today? Back when they were written tales were told, not shown. So a story of just a few pages is actually packed with occurrences that really draw out the word count in the modern style of writing where we are told to show, not tell. No matter how much effort we took to condense the action and the description, or story continued to grow until it was over 17,000 words long, and bare bones in spots, at that. The intended publisher at that time looked at us and shook his head, saying…It’s a book now, go finish it. That book became Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, and that is how I became a mere editor on this wonderful project :::grin:::
eSB: What are some of your own works readers can look for?
DAM: as a writer, I have a trilogy of novels based on Irish mythology, The Eternal Cycle series (Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise), I have two novels in the Bad-Ass Faerie Tale series that grew out of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies (The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen), and I’ve already told you about Baba Ali. For my short fiction I have three solo collections: A Legacy of Stars (science fiction), Consigned to the Sea (nautical fantasy), and Transcendence (urban fantasy). As an editor, I’m the senior editor of The Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies (fantasy, mostly), Dragon’s Lure (fantasy), In an Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk (steampunk), The Society for the Preservation of CJ Henderson (mixed genre), and The Side of Good / The Side of Evil (superhero fiction)
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
DAM: On the writing side (grin) I am working on a short story for Zombies Need Brains’ collection Were– and for a shared-world project by Steven H. Wilson, also I am working on a novella, Eternal Wanderings, which is the first in a spin-off series of the same name, in the same world as my Eternal Cycle novels. Sadly, life events have gotten in the way of all of that and I am very behind. From an editor standpoint I’m working on sequel volumes to The Side of Good / The Side of Evil and scheming on a few more that I’m not ready to talk about yet J
eSB: How can readers find out more about you?
DAM: My name is very distinctive so a web search will turn up LOADS of hits…but they can also go to my websites (www.sidhenadaire.com, www.badassfaeries.com) or look me up on social media. There are no books I am aware of…yet. :::grin:::
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