It’s a Blog Takeover by my favorite teen writer, Victoria Krol, who has questions for another fav of mine, Elana K. Arnold. Win-win! Are you excited as I am? Check out these starred reviews for RED HOOD:
“In the wake of her Printz Honor–winning Damsel, Arnold blazes a new and equally powerful trail through toxic masculinity. Read, shed your pelt, and be transformed—for blades are being sharpened.” ~Booklist /starred review
“It’s unsettling how seamlessly Arnold incorporates dark fantasy elements of beastly wolves and cunning hunters into her all-too-realistic tale. A fantastic novel in the #MeToo era, empowering women to share their stories by reaching out, speaking up, and demanding a change.”
~School Library Journal starred review
Victoria: I am honored to interview Elana K. Arnold following the publication of Red Hood, her newest novel. Read on for some insights about her older works, and a discussion about this much-awaited #YA. For starters, here’s the flap copy for RED HOOD: (no spoilers here).
Elana K. Arnold, author of the Printz Honor book Damsel, returns with a dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power—and one girl’s journey to regain it.
You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked. And the wolf is angry.
Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good.
But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her.
A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions.
About the blood in Bisou’s past, and on her hands as she stumbles home.
About broken boys and vicious wolves.
About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.
Let the Q & A begin!
Q1: I have recently read DAMSEL–A National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor winner, released last month in paperback–, and with the release of your new, and highly-anticipated novel, RED HOOD, I noticed that the idea of traditional fairy tales are “fairy-ly” apparent in both. What more can you tell us about RED HOOD and its themes?
Elana K. Arnold: I like to think of RED HOOD less as a retelling of a fairy tale and more as a reincarnation—some of the same plot points as Little Red Riding Hood, but also an infusion of the things that interest, fascinate, engage, and anger me: menstruation, sisterhood, poetry, moon cycles, werewolfism, “incels,” or “involuntary celibates,” rape culture, and power.
★ “This incisively written allegory [DAMSEL] rips into a familiar story and sets it aflame.”
~School Library Journal starred review.
★ “Arnold’s pitch-black fairy tale [DAMSEL] isn’t subtle, but this isn’t a tale that requires subtlety. For teens learning to transform sadness and fear into active, productive fury, it’s an essential allegory. Eat your heart out, Sleeping Beauty: this brutal, devastating, powerful novel won’t soon be forgotten.” ~Booklist starred review.
Q2: DAMSEL, is also relatively dark. What prompted you to twist the idea of seemingly happy-go-lucky fairy tales to your own will, and put DAMSEL on such a dark path?
Elana K. Arnold: I think we make art with that which has filled us up. I am fortunate that many wonderful, healthy experiences have contributed to the person I have become, but many less happy experiences are part of who I am as well, and I tap into all my experiences when I write. Compounding my personal experiences with the reading I’ve done all my life and my observations of larger American culture, the stories I create rise up almost like organic things. I don’t choose to write dark books; those stories insist on being told. I also write soft, gentle books.
Elana K. Arnold: We contain multitudes, and no writer should feel compelled to produce one sort of art over and over again.
Q3: Speaking of dark themes, I am a huge fan of WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF. From what I can see, there is next to nothing cloaking the blatant reality of the themes in that book. Everything you meant to say seems to be clearly spelled out, whether spoken or thought, by the main character Nina. Did you encounter resistance because of your themes when you went to find an editor/publisher?
Elana K. Arnold: I don’t think it’s strictly true that everything I say in WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF is clearly spelled out, as my protagonist Nina does not have a complete, clear understanding of herself, the elements of her history, her parents’ history, or the history of women in religion and the world, to clearly speak about all the things she feels. Nina is an unreliable narrator; she’s not trying to lie to the reader, but she (like all of us) has incomplete information. Her perspective is limited by her age and experience, as well as by a number of other factors, including her privilege.
All this being said, I did not encounter resistance from the Lerner Publishing Group or their imprint Carolrhoda Lab who ultimately published the book. They honored my authorial decisions and stood behind them, which was ultimately rewarded when this book was named a National Book Award Finalist.
“Each of us has the right to take up space, and I believe that each of us has the responsibility to help others take up space as well.”
Q4: I think that women of all ages can tend to forget how powerful they are. If you hear something enough, you will start to believe it. What would you tell someone to do if you see someone forgetting how special they are, each in their own way?
Elana K. Arnold: I agree that it’s very common for women to lose sight of their power. There are many ways that people are discounted and undervalued, especially those who are young and female presenting. I think it’s important for each of us to find a community of people who honor and respect us, and to consume art that centers the vision we wish to see in the world. Each of us has the right to take up space, and I believe that each of us has the responsibility to help others take up space as well. I have found that when I make room to recognize the achievements of others, I feel emboldened to give space to my own work. Remember that there is room for all of our brilliance, all of our art.
“Life is not a zero-sum game.”
Q5: What made you discover that writing is your passion? Correct me if I’m wrong, but based off of your blog post “What About the Girls” (a must-read), you use literature as a way to tell the world the stories of the real, the scary, and the messed up. What inspired you to even begin writing in the first place?
Elana K. Arnold: As a kid, I was myopic, anxious, and socially untalented. Books were a place where I felt safe. It seemed to me, from a very young age, that the only thing better than reading stories would be writing stories of my own. Even when I’m writing the most fantastical story, I’m writing from my own lived experience in some essential way. I write to entertain myself, to challenge myself, to explore the things that fascinate and repel me. Life is beautiful and terrible, and writing is my way of engaging with it.
Q6: Do you have a Recommended Reading List you might share?
Elana K. Arnold:
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All, Laura Ruby
Out of Salem, Hal Schrieve
Calling My Name, Liara Tamani
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
The Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King
Serpentine, Cindy Pon
Dark and Deepest Red, Anna-Marie McLemore
Thanks to Elana for answering my questions,and to Erin for letting me take over her blog! To everyone out there, keep believing, creating, and inspiring! ~ Victoria
Victoria Krol is 15 year-old Freshman in high school with an absolute passion for reading, writing, the arts, and horseback riding. She is currently working on a novel with her co-partner Charley Ramos, which is in the midst of its second revision and currently has a plot that resembles lasagna. She met Erin dressed in full 70’s gear at the 2019 SCBWI LA Summer Conference, where their instant friendship resulted in her as a guest blogger.
You can find her at www.victoriaakrol.weebly.com.