Sage Blackwood Interview

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Jinx by Sage BlackwoodShe grew up in upstate New York and graduated from Antioch College and the University of Albany. Now, she lives and writes near a large forest in New York where she enjoys carpentry, cooking, and walking with her elderly dog, Soxie.

Here she takes the time to talk to FanboyNation’s Jessica Greenlee about writing, woods, and fairy tales.

Jessica Greenlee How did you create the Urwald? Were there any tales in particular that you drew from?

Sage Blackwood Well, I tried to evoke the Urwald that already exists in the reader’s mind. It’s the fairy tale forest. I like it that readers know immediately that that’s where they are– The Forest– even though the word “forest” doesn’t appear till around page 8 or so

There’s a bit of Hansel and Gretel in Jinx’s abandonment, of course. And then there are bits from lots of different fairy tales… things borrowed. Plus the rampaging trolls, hungry werewolves, and creepy witches and wizards
JG Have you got a favorite fairy tale?
SB I do like Rumplestiltskin. It seems to me to have originally been a tale of a pagan god, which got twisted over the centuries… or possibly over the millennia. But that’s a fairy tale that doesn’t figure in Jinx. Although there is a bit of the underworld in book 3, which is where I gather Rumplestiltskin ended up

As a kid I read Leonora Lang’s Fairy Books– The Violet Fairy Book, etc– which draw on a lot of different traditions besides Grimm. (The books are usually credited to her husband Andrew, who edited them.)

JG How much is the Urwald modeled after the forest near you?

SB Quite a bit. But the forest near me, which belongs to the state, isn’t Old Growth. And sadly, it doesn’t have monsters to defend it, or witches thumping about in butter churns. It is in fact still being logged, allegedly sustainably. There was a logging operation underway while I was writing the second book, Jinx’s Magic

I walked in the forest most days while I was writing Jinx, and many of the descriptions are of that forest, as are the details about the forest’s lifeforce

Other forests and trees that show up in the Urwald include the giant cedars of the Canadian Rockies, the Zoar Valley in western New York State, a patch of Old Growth forest in the southeastern Adirondacks, an ancient poplar in North Carolina and an enormous old oak tree in New York’s Letchworth State Park

JG You mention on your online map that the Russians have had stoves like Simon’s for years. How much research did you do before starting Jinx?

SB Well, I read fairy tales, of course, and I read Marie Tatar’s The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I tried to read Bettelheim’s Uses of Enchantment, but, you know. A little Freudism goes a long way

Beyond that, it’s just life experience, really. I wanted a masonry stove, but couldn’t afford one, so I gave one to Simon instead. It warmed up his kitchen

JG Where do you usually work on your books? Have you got one specific place or do you wander?

SB I think things out while walking in the forest. It’s the best way to hear the voices of my characters. They rant while I walk. I plan and outline while sitting on the front porch, in nice weather. I write at a desk in the living room in the winter. These are my preferences. The exigencies of real life mean making adjustments sometimes, though

JG Jinx is not a cat person. Simon clearly is. Are you?

SB I’m somewhere in between Jinx and Simon. I wouldn’t want Simon’s 27 cats, but I wouldn’t mind one or two. Unfortunately my dog won’t let me have a cat. But there’s a grey one that comes around the back porch and meows. He won’t go away no matter how many saucers of cream I give him. I call him Fog, because of course he moves on little cat feet

JG How much will we see Jinx age over the course of the trilogy?

SB He’ll be about sixteen at the end of the last book. I say “about” because, due to some inconvenient magic in the last book, he will have lost track of his exact age

JG Will we learn what Simon is hiding?

SB Some, but not all. Simon’s is a separate story, and a rather more harrowing one. So I can’t really see writing it for the same audience as Jinx. I’d like to write it someday, though

JG Sounds like Jinx has his work cut out for him in Jinx’s Magic. There’s a whole new list of fascinating-sounding people involved. Can you tell us a little about one of the characters he’ll meet?

SB I have two favorites, Witch Seymour and Wendell. But they’re such nice surprises IMHO that I’ll talk instead about Elfwyn’s mother

Imagine if you had a curse like Elfwyn’s, and you had a mother who asked you questions all the time… That’s what Elfwyn’s mother does!

JG Will Elfwyn and Reven still be involved in Jinx’s Magic?

SB They’ll still figure largely in the story. As you’ve probably noticed, Reven’s goals are a bit at odds with Jinx’s. And that’s going to become more of an issue in book 2, and yet more in book 3

Elfwyn has her own path to find, and it’s not always the same as Jinx’s. (If the books had been written with either Elfwyn or Reven as the hero, the story would have been very different.)

JG You say you live with “thousands of books.” What are some of them? Any favorites?

SB The almost-complete works of Diana Wynne Jones. Ditto Terry Pratchett. Those are annual rereads. Other frequent rereads are Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and Down The Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman by Ann Baer

I have a lot of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and scads of history. Probably most of the books are history, especially social history. My favorite periods are the Middle Ages, and Colonial America

And then for relief in times of mental stress, I have Marion Chesney’s Regency romances

JG Do you stay on the path when you go into the woods?

SB Heh! No. But the further off it I go the more likely I am to get lost

JG Is there anything you haven’t been asked that you wish you had? And what is the answer?

SB Let’s see… How about “Is it true that President Obama and his daughters recently purchased Jinx at a bookshop in DC?”

Why yes! Yes it is! http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2013/11/peek-at-the-list-of-books-president-obama-bought-on-small-business-saturday

JG Thanks so much for taking the time for this!

SB It was my pleasure! Thanks so much for having me!

Anytime Costumes

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