Damsel is the perfect book for anyone willing to read a dark, feminist, gripping story. It is a such a beautiful book that takes hold of the trope that we know and love so well -the prince saving the princess, they fall in love, they live happily ever after, the end- and twists it so that the princess is the one who has to save herself, and nothing is what you believe at first.
This week, i was fortunate enough to receive a chance to interview the incredible Elana K Arnold, author of Damsel.
1. What inspired you to write this book? Was it the original story of Sleeping Beauty?
This book is the result of many books I ate growing up—original Grimm fairy tales,The Princess Bride
, Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon
, and Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
, to name a few. The book was inspired by my friend Martha Brockenbrough, who asked me, one evening on a rooftop in San Francisco, a question that sent me on the journey of writing this book. I can’t tell you the question, because that might spoil the plot, but I attempt to answer it through writing DAMSEL.
2. This book isn’t a light, easy read. It’s bound to make many people uncomfortable. Why write a book that many would choose not to read? What would you say to those who aren’t sure if they should read it?
I don’t write books with readers in mind. I write to please myself, to better understand my insides and my outsides, and the world around me. I write to scratch an itch. I write to create. As I write, I remind myself that it’s none of my business who reads my book—it’s my business to write the best book I can, and then write a better one, next time. In answer to what I would say to people who are unsure whether they should read my book, I would say this: A book is a wonderful place to practice being uncomfortable, and to practice saying “No.” If, when reading a book, a reader feels dis-ease, she has the power to set the book down and walk away, and either come back to it later, or not. This is a great power.
3. The characters, especially Emory, were so different from the usual stories of princes and princesses. They were nothing like what we grew up believing. Were they inspired by particular figures in history or did you feel the need to write them differently?
I don’t know where the characters came from. They just came. Probably from real, lived experiences in my life, and from an amalgam of characters I’ve seen and read, that I’ve absorbed in any number of ways, from the cultural myths we perpetuate about the way men and women “should” be.
4. Some of the scenes in this book are so graphic, especially towards the end. Was it difficult to write them?
There are definitely scenes in this book that were difficult to write, and that may be difficult to read. As a writer, I tell myself when I get to these passages, “Blinders on.” That means, I pay very close attention to exactly the next sentence that I must write, one after the other, without allowing myself to step further back. I immerse myself in the flesh of the story, and then, when it’s done, I walk away and do something deeply, physically pleasurable, like cuddling with one of my animals or taking a walk outside.
5. Are there any other YA books that you would recommend as a must read?
There are many. I will make you a short list of some:
There are more! Some of the most shocking, exciting work currently being produced is in the YA sphere.
Thank you so much to Elana for agreeing to do this. Damsel should definitely be one of your top reads for this year. It releases October 2nd.
If you are planning on picking this up or currently reading it, let me know!