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?



1 Comment »

  1. Janet said,

    June 7, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I can’t wait to read your book, Emily! Thanks for the interview, and Bridget, thanks for interviewing Emily!

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