Emily Whitman, Radiant Darkness, Fab Interview

Posted in Interviews, Mythology at 11:24 am by Bridget

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Tarts’ Wardrobe is excited to bring you an interview with Portland author Emily Whitman on her super fab new book Radiant Darkness. I wish I had a nice long interesting intro like Janet had for the last interview, but I think Emily does a better job introducing her book and also I am a week or two behind on posting it as is. I will say that I loved the book and that it will knock your socks off, possibly literally if you are the sock-knocking type.  I’ll leave you with Emily’s own brilliance which needs no introduction.

What is Radiant Darkness about?

It’s based on the Greek myth of Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess. In the myth she’s kidnapped by Hades, lord of the underworld, and has to be rescued by her all-powerful mother. Once she’s back, earth bursts into bloom, and we have spring. Radiant Darkness asks, what if Persephone isn’t the ultimate victim, but a girl who makes her own decisions? That includes running away with Hades, the man, er, god she loves, and finding her own way out of the problems that ensue.


What inspired you to use a Greek myth for your story?

Persephone is the original girl on the cusp of her life as a woman. That’s the time I wanted to write about, when you’re defining yourself in so many ways, heading into the world, not as somebody’s child, but as yourself. You’re stretching more than you thought possible to find the strength for that journey. And then, I’ve always loved myths and fairy tales. They’re true in a way facts can’t be. Like Yeats says, “I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”


If you could be a figure from classical Greek myths, who would it be?

Well, I wouldn’t be a mortal. Things tend not to go so great for them in myths. They get turned into things like spiders; or gods (disguised as swans, bulls, showers of gold) take all sorts of advantage of them. No, thank you! I’ll go with grey-eyed Athena, goddess of wisdom, and no slouch when it comes to battles. The owl is her symbol, and raptors rock. (There are lots of them in my next book.) Athena is good with textiles, too. I like textiles. Plus, when she’s near Athens, she gets to hangs out in her temple, the Parthenon, one of the most beautiful buildings ever created. Not too shabby!


More importantly, who would you want to date?

Oh, no question! Hades, as he appears in Radiant Darkness. Zeus is too much of a philanderer for me, and Hermes, for all his boyish charm, is a prankster and playboy. But Hades, with those smoldering eyes, that raven hair, the purple-banded tunic draped over one bare, brown shoulder . . . .


Why do you think books with Greek myth roots are so appealing to teen readers?

Well, myths have no holds barred. It’s a wild, dangerous, passionate world. I mean, have you read Ovid’s Metamorphoses? (Try the Ted Hughes translation!) There’s a primal energy that sweeps you away. Greek gods are larger than life, but they have so many quirks and foibles, they’re so conniving, they end up reminding us of people we know. It’s the ultimate soap opera! And yet there’s a profound truth at the heart of myth that makes us think about what it really means to be human. Truth—fantasy—amazing characters—passion—the greatest possible danger—need I say more?


Now that you have a couple of author events under your belt, do you have any book signing tips for new authors? Fashion tips?

Take this opportunity for what it is: a chance to go shopping. Start early enough so you have plenty of time to enjoy it. Believe me, I milked this for months. For my May 1st reading I found a wonderful loose jacket, in blues and greens, like bright flowers in an impressionist close-up. And that was just right for a reading on May Day, a time for celebrating spring—and Persephone’s arrival. On the practical side, when it’s time for your reading, bring along a bottle of water, a pack of tissues, your special copy of the book where you know how to find everything, any relevant plastic figurines (I had my three-headed Cerberus in my pocket), a good pen, and comfy shoes. You heard me. Comfy.


What’s your favorite thing to do with a pomegranate?

Experience it with all five senses! When I was writing the scene in Radiant Darkness where Persephone is peeling back the rind, I had a gigantic pomegranate on the table in front of me. I went metaphor-bungee-jumping with it. Feeling the texture of the rind, and writing. Looking at all the bumps and scratches and that sharp little crown of a calyx, and writing. Trying to open it with my fingernails, getting to the pith, sniffing the acrid scent, and writing. Licking juice off my fingers, feeling the crunch of seeds in my teeth . . . The poems from that day turned into one of my favorite scenes in the book.

     p.s. You can also buy pomegranate syrup and mix it with sparkling water for an awesome celebratory drink.

     p.p.s. One regret: that I didn’t splurge on those 200-year-old pomegranate tiles I saw in Amsterdam.

     p.p.p.s. You know, there are those who say the tree of knowledge was a pomegranate tree.

     p.p.p.p.s. Since this is Tart’s Wardrobe—does anyone know where I can get a great pair of pomegranate earrings?




Ask a Greek Librarian

Posted in Interviews, Mythology at 9:32 pm by Janet

I recently spoke with my good friend Margaret Triandafyllis. I thought she could shed some light on the recent explosion of kids books related to Greek mythology. When I first met Margaret, way back when we started college, I thought she might be some kind of Greek goddess. She came from Greece, after all, and she is very talented. She is not in fact a goddess; she is a mortal librarian. (Same thing, right?) However, as I learned in a recent interview, she may have been looking to date a Greek god. Here’s what she had to say about Greek mythology, Rick Riordan, and fashion.

TW:  My sources tell me you have climbed Mount Olympus. Did you see any evidence of Greek deities there?
MT: Yes, I have climbed Mount Olympus on several occasions.  Usually I am too focussed on my own pain to be looking around for signs of Greek deities.   I have run across (and sometimes over) goat droppings and have encountered a few donkeys carrying up provisions to the refuges.  And although the refuges are a convenient stop over on the way to the summit of the mountain, they are certainly not providing you with ambrosia at dinner.  I won’t even go into the state of the bathrooms.  Although Hades might be pleased with them. 

TW: As a Greek person, what was your reaction to Rick Riordan’s idea that Mount Olympus has moved to the Empire State Building in NYC?
MT: It is scandalous, to say the least.  As well as the fact that the books state that Mount Olympus  at some point moved to Rome.  Everyone knows that the Romans were just bad copies of the Greeks. 

TW: Do you know ancient Greek? How has it helped you in your work as a librarian?
MT: Well technically speaking, I took ancient Greek for several years in high school.  Let’s just say that my modern Greek is much better.  I can pronounce the names of all the ancient Greek gods and it also helped me do very well on my SAT test. 

TW: What fashion and/or food tips can we glean from the ancient Greeks?
MT: The Mediterranean diet leads to eternal life.  Togas will never go out of fashion.  Have you noticed how popular gladiator sandals are this season? 

TW: Which Greek god or goddess would you want to date?
MT: Ah, good question.  Who’s to say I haven’t already dated a few?  Although Ares appears as a rather unsavory character in Rick Riordan’s books, I always thought he would be an interesting character to date.  Dating the God of war would have to be exciting.


Interview With Super Star Librarian and 2009 Newbery Judge

Posted in Interviews at 1:40 pm by Bridget

Today we have a very special interview for you with 2009 Newbery Judge Amanda Moss — one of our favorite librarians of all time! She can play the banjo AND make pickles and is known for her crafty parties. 

1. You experienced some major milestones this year. How did you

balance those things with being on the Newbery committee in terms of

time and scheduling?


Amanda: You’re right– this was a busy year!  I got married in September, and in

November and December I went through the application and interview process

for the new job I started in January 2009.  My strategy was simple if not

very structured:  READ!  I shoved reading into every nook and cranny I could

find in my schedule.  I kept all of my books on shelves in the living room,

and on the coffee table I had an ever-growing pile of “read this next!”

material (much to my husband’s glee, of course).  Sometimes that material

would take up not only the table, but also parts of the floor.  This urgent

visual reminder pushed me to find more time to get through the books.  This

meant that some things I usually like to do (playing the banjo, knitting,

watching trashy reality TV shows, and socializing) stopped happening.


2. Did your banjo playing help you in any way?


Amanda: To be completely honest, I touched my banjo zero times during the entire

year of 2008.  But now I’m back at it, happily plucking and strumming!


3. How does the committee communicate? Do you have meetings over the year?


Amanda: We met once at ALA’s Midwinter meeting in January 2008, to get to know each

other and get some advice from our wonderful committee chair, Rose.  We met

again at the ALA annual conference in June and practiced discussing books

together.  Between conferences, we communicated by email to suggest titles

and verify eligibility of books.  Because we considered everything published

in 2008 (even in December 2008!), we had to wait until the 2009 ALA

Midwinter meeting to hold our evaluative discussions and make our decisions

about the winner and honor books.  Really, the majority of communication

between committee members takes place at the Midwinter conference where the

decisions are made.


4. Are you allowed to/please tell us your personal favorite book of

the year? Was it the winner?


Amanda: I do love The Graveyard Book, but my personal favorite book published in

2008 was What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell.


5. Can you get us into the Newbery banquet? Can we sit at your table?

What are you going to wear? Is the committee going to color



Amanda: Ooh, that would be so fun!  I’m hoping, since the banquet is in Chicago and

I live in Madison, that my husband will be able to come.  I don’t know what

I am going to wear, but definitely something very glamorous in a much

smaller size than I am currently wearing.


6. What did you do with all those books? Did you get your own copies

or did you check them out from the library?


Amanda: Publishers sent us lots of books, and I also spent time at bookstores and

the CCBC browsing the new material.  One of the committee’s challenges is

making sure we don’t miss anything.  I had great success checking out the

books I wanted to read that I didn’t receive from publishers; I think I only

actually purchased one book.  After returning from Midwinter this year, I

was thrilled to start saying good-bye to most of the 700 or so books I had

acquired.  A perfect opportunity came at my annual Valentine-making party.

Besides making valentine cards and decorating heart-shaped cookies, guests

took home as many books as they could carry!


7. Have you met anyone famous this year?


Amanda: Yes!  I met Bridget and Janet, two very famous authors.  Can I have your



First Ever Author Interview

Posted in Interviews, Twilight at 11:52 pm by Bridget

Welcome to our first ever interview on Tarts’ Wardrobe!

Georgia Beaverson is a Madison, WI author and freelance writer/editor whose first title The Hidden Arrow of Maether (Delacorte 2000), a mid-grade fantasy, was published under her pen name Aiden Beaverson. She’s now moved into young adult fiction and has recently written a paranormal romance featuring werewolves.

Why did you choose werewolves over other paranormal romantic possibilities (like, say, hot vampires)? 

I love how connected to the earth and to their physical selves wolves, and by extension werewolves, are. The idea of being able to increase the intensity of the human senses, well, that’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? And somehow, relating physically to what is essentially an animated corpse, well, that feels kind of creepy to me. I’m not saying that vampires can’t be hot, but I personally prefer something warm to snuggle with.

Can you tell us a little bit about your story?

My protagonist, Fil, is fat, funny, smart and snarky. She’s new to a small-town school in a fictional northern Wisconsin town, and her senses immediately start picking up all kinds of extra-normal information — especially her sense of smell. In particular, she can’t help but notice one hot guy, Nick Varger, who simultaneously takes a big interest in her. His odor is delicious and tantalizing and unnerving. Slowly, Fil starts to realize that whatever is happening to her is somehow tied to Nick. In the words of Glen Hansard of The Frames, they are “in this boat together.” The boat just happens to be turning into a werewolf.

How did you research this book? 

I used a combination of listening to music (The Frames, Snow Patrol, Emmett Tinley to inspire the relationship part of the book) and reading (for the cultural aspects of the werewolf legends). I latched onto some Irish and Scandinavian shape-shifter details, and combined them with other things to create my own werewolf lore. Spent time putting myself in Fil’s shoes, and in Nick’s, wondering how it would feel to have your entire body change, how it would feel to be much more connected to everything around you in a very animal way, how it would feel to start a relationship with someone who had the same gigantic secret. I researched some medieval stuff to come up with some small details to make myself happy, and tried to keep much of the shifter (aka, werewolf) behavior tied to real wolf behavior to ground it in reality.

Janet and I have been discussing the merits of the Twilight books and the Twilight phenomenon — what do you think of this series?

I think Twilight had a lot to live up to. Vampire books have long had a strong romantic/sexy aspect, so there’s nothing new in a romance book with a vampire as the love interest. That said, while I thoroughly enjoyed reading Twilight itself, I did feel disappointed in the protagonist, Bella, and in her relationship with Edward, especially in the subsequent books. Jacob seemed a much more fully developed character than either of them, one who actually changes and grows as opposed to just reacting to outside events. In my mind, he was the hero of the books and he flattened into a less dimensional character in the final novel. That was just a shame.

Do you have any super fab werewolf or paranormal romance titles you’d recommend?

Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, which I wouldn’t necessarily classify as a romance although it does have romantic tension running throughout, has vampires. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, has werewolves. And of course the marvelous Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps and The Last Days have vampires. Wonderfully original and NOT romance novel-y. I hear that Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate (werewolves) is really good, but I just bought it today (I can read it now that my book’s written). But above them all towers Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who it must be said, started her life in a script and is therefore a genuine literary character (in my book, anyway). And she’s just butt-kicking good! I know there are many other excellent vamp/werewolf novels; these are the ones that spring to mind immediately.

I know that you aren’t certain of your title yet and we want people to be able to find your book once it’s out — are you planning to put your new werewolf book out under your given name or your pen name?

I will probably publish under Aiden Beaverson again since I started my fiction career with it. But don’t be surprised if I revert to Georgia; a girl’s allowed to change her mind at a moment’s notice, right? And please let your readers know that this book is the first in a series; I’m seriously working away at book number two (and listening to Emmett Tinley nonstop for inspiration).