Friday, 14 May 2010

Mythic Interview Friday: Number 7 - The Bookwitch

I was lost in admiration of the Bookwitch's blog long before I ever found out what she was actually called (it's Ann Giles, if you really want to know). It is, quite simply, the place you go first if you want to find incisive, thoughtful reviews about the latest and best children's books--and also read her wonderful and slightly quirky interviews with top children's authors.  I finally met the Bookwitch at the Campaign for the Book conference--and I think (hope!) we hit it off over tea and cake (there's something very bonding about cake, I find, especially, in my case, if it's chocolate cake).  There's also something about her blog which makes me want to comment at length (possibly too much length)--it's like having a really good literary conversation via the aether. I'm very pleased to have lured her to Scribble City Central--it took a lot of doing, I can tell you, since I have an inkling she likes to be the one doing the interviewing!  Thanks for putting up with my questions, Ann, and over to you for some mythic answers.

1. Do you think that the retelling of mythical tales is important or relevant for the children of today? Why should they care about some “dry old stories” which come from ancient or forgotten cultures they might never even have heard of?
The retelling any traditional tales is extremely important. It’s part of what we are, and I found it amusing to see how young readers believed J K Rowling made everything up herself, when in actual fact she simply borrowed from classical stories. This has always been done, and most stories are richer for having some sort of older background. It’s what you do with it that’s interesting.

2. What age were you when you came across your first mythical tales? Did you read them as a child, or when you were older? Were they in the form of legends or disguised as fairytales? Tell us how you felt about the ones you first discovered. Did you love them or hate them? Did they scare you, excite you—or were you indifferent? Were they stories in a book you read? Or did you hear them as oral storytelling from someone else?
Looking back I find it almost impossible to remember when or how. Fairytales will have come first, and I read a lot of the Brothers Grimm and Asbjørnsen & Moe, as well as H C Andersen. They were far ‘bigger’ in Sweden than any Greek or Norse myths. Thor doing his stuff, being angry up in the sky was a fun idea, but totally implausible to me. Icarus flying too close to the sun was probably read to us in primary school, but again, I felt it was a tall story, if you’ll excuse the pun.

3. Right now, what is your favourite mythic tale of all time, from any culture? And why would you choose it?
I’ll have to cheat and go back to H C Andersen, and his Svinedrengen (Danish title), which I believe is The Swineherd in English. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to switch languages here? You do something in one, and have to talk about it in another.) With a bit of luck this early Mills & Boon can be traced back to something ancient and Greek. Why? The picture in my book was of a very handsome ‘svinedreng’.

4. Who is the legendary hero or heroine you most dislike, and what made you feel that way about them?
I can’t really dislike heroes or heroines. That’s not their purpose. However, I always feel very strange thinking about Achilles. It’s his heel, and it makes me go all funny.

5. Is there a mythical or legendary beast you are particularly fond of? If so, which one?
No, rather the opposite. Cerberus always struck me as a rather dreadful way of ‘designing’ a dog, as he’s got three ways of biting you. Any other beasts always seemed to be snake creatures of some kind or other, and equally off-putting.

6. Have any sort of mythical stories had an influence on your writing and cultural life? How?
It helps to understand where plots in books or films or plays are coming from, and I can sort of nod in recognition, but that’s all. It’s a bit late to blog about the Greek Gods, about what they’ve been up to and all that. If it happened at all, it happened a very long time ago.

7. If you could choose to be the demigod child of any one mythical deity, which one would it be? Which power would you like to inherit from them—and what would you do with it?
Daughter of Aphrodite might be interesting, and if you don’t know what power I’d want or what I would do with it, I’m not going to tell you.

More about Ann:
Ann Giles grew up in Sweden, quite a long time ago, and for want of something better to do she somehow managed to get a degree in English and Swedish at the university of Göteborg. Then, seeking a more interesting life she came to Britain, got married and had two children, enjoying the British weather and the food and last but not least, the people. Having only ever been any good at writing weird comments about what people get up to, she found that blogging is quite a good way to do it. And getting compliments from real writers is so nice that she may not stop just yet. But she is definitely not well versed in old Greek anythings. Sorry about that.

She blogs at:


Anonymous said...

Underworld, please!

You're so right, Lucy. I do NOT want to be asked questions. Other than whether I'd like cream with my scone.

Caroline Lawrence said...

I loved it! Reading this, it occurred to me that Achilles is invulnerable except for his heel. It would be interesting to have a character who's completely vulnerable except for just one power or gift. An anti-Achilles heel.

adele said...

Bookwitch, you are guilty of hiding your light under a bushel! This is a smashing interview and it's good to see Lucy coaxed you out of your fastness to answer some questions most interestingly! You should give interviews more often and that's also a good photo of you!

Lucy Coats said...

See, Bookwitch! Told you. Now that idea of Caroline's is ace (wish I'd thought of it), and all sparked by your squeam about Achilles. I too think you should give interviews more often. I wonder who can be persuaded to coax you next.... *evil grin*.

bookwitch said...

You can all fight it out about that story idea, then.

Lucy, I think the fast trip to the underworld isn't working...

Lucy Coats said...

Gorgon stares at dawn then!

Underworld trip is over-rated--just as well you didn't go there, Ann. Charon is not a great conversationalist, and you really don't want to take a dip in the Styx. Not to mention all the weeping and wailing stuff--gets on your nerves after a while!

Nicola Morgan said...

How odd - I thought I'd left a comment. I'm sure I remember saying what a great interview this was. I also have a bit of a thing about Achilles... though I think he'd have been more interested in Patroclus than me.

And Lucy - well done for pinning Bookwitch down and making her answer questions for a change.

Stroppy Author said...

Lovely - but annoying. You've taken the comparatively-ignorant-about-Greek-stuff slot I was hoping to jump into with my mythic interview! :-) Now I'll have to find a new angle and might actually have to do some thinking.

And I like that word 'squeam'.

Anonymous said...

thanks for managing to mention Tall Story while talking about icarus (joke! joke!). excellent interview ms Witch, i was thinking the other day that your collection of interviews ought to be published ... in a book.

Lucy Coats said...

Nicola--you did leave a comment. On the Bookwitch's blog!

Anne--it was all a deep laid plot. You'll just have to be intellectual and highbrow as befits a RLF lector...

Candy--now there's a fine idea. A book of Witch interviews.

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