Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Interview with Rebecca Podos for The Wise and The Wicked

The Wise and the Wicked

by Rebecca Podos
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 28th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT, Magical Realism
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Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them. Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women. Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable. Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.

Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible. But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.

Can you briefly describe THE WISE AND THE WICKED and their main characters? 

THE WISE AND THE WICKED is a contemporary Russian folktale about choice and destiny, and all that lies between the two. It follows Ruby Chernyavsky, born into a line of women who, according to family lore, were once possessed of powerful magic, including the ability to defy death itself. But, after being forced to flee their homeland by greedy men who sought to destroy them, they gave up their magic to keep themselves safe. Generations later, the only scrap of power that remains to them is this: Once a Chernyavsky comes of age, she has a vision of who she will be when she dies. Ruby has been raised to believe these visions cannot be fought or altered, until great-aunt dies, and her premonition proves untrue. Suddenly, Ruby must decide how far she’s willing to go to change her own fate, who she truly wants to be, and who she cannot stand becoming. 

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why? 

It feels disloyal to pick, but I’d have to say it’s a tie between Dov, Ruby’s love interest with a mysterious origin story of his own, and Cece, her cousin and best friend. I don’t often write sweet, cinnamon roll characters, but they’re the closest I’ve come, and were fun to set against the pricklier Ruby and her nemesis. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere? 

This sounds super vague and sort of pretentious, but I wanted to tell a story about stories. There are many different forms of storytelling found in THE WISE AND THE WICKED—fairy tales and folk tales, family legends, song lyrics and podcasts. All are devices we use to sort out and engage with the world, and our place inside of it. I wanted to write a character who’s been told stories about herself and the person she’s destined to become, and who’s grown up believing them. And then, suddenly, she has to parse out the places where story and truth tangle together, vine-like, in order to make a path forward for herself. 

That and, you know, I really wanted a book with Baba Yaga in it. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be? 

It so happens that I’m obsessed with writing soundtracks, so I know exactly which song! It would be “The Day I Died” by Alex Winston. Yes, it is on the nose. 

If your book was going to be made into a movie, who would play your characters?

Hoo boy, am I bad at fan casting! I will say that Cece, Ruby’s beloved cousin, would be played by the high school-self of one of my best friends, who inspired her style of dress, expansive hair, and general sweetness. 

Summer is coming and we love to go out and enjoy the sun. What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date? 

I’d recommend a strong tea brewed in a traditional samovar (but make it iced; it’s May, I’m not a monster) and a shadowy clearing in the backwoods of Maine, if a trip to the Republic of Karelia in Russia is not in your future. Adult readers may feel free to spike it as they please. Responsibly! 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish THE WISE AND THE WICKED? 

Absolutely! I’ve been on a queer SFF kick, and have loved Never-Contented Things, an epically twisted fairytale with a deeply human core, by Sarah Porter. Also, for the four people who haven’t read Emily Duncan’s Wicked Saints, an epic Russian fantasy, get on that! And for those who finish TWATW and want more Baba Yaga in their lives (who wouldn’t?) I’d recommend Baba Yaga’s Assistant, an amazing MG graphic novel by Marika McCoola, and Ask Baba Yaga, a trippy, hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt “advice book” by Taisia Kitaiskaia. 

What’s next for you? 

I’m working on my next book, another contemporary fantasy tentatively called THE DUST ALPHABET (which, hey, you can already add on Goodreads!) It’s a blend of Jewish mysticism, history and magic about the descendants of the rabbi who created the famous Golem of Prague in America. It means the world to me, because it’s my first time writing a Jewish character, which also means it will be a total bear to draft…

Rebecca Podos' debut novel, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a B&N Best YA Book of 2016. Her second book, LIKE WATER, won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children's and Young Adult. THE WISE AND THE WICKED, her third novel, is forthcoming in May 2019.

A graduate of the Writing, Literature and Publishing Program at Emerson College and the Creative Writing Program at College of Santa Fe, Rebecca's fiction has been published in journals like Glimmer Train, Paper Darts, and Smokelong Quarterly. By day, she works as a YA and MG agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston.

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