By willalex

Interviews & John the Fisherman

Two new interviews just hit the interwebs: One at Strange Horizons, in which David Schwartz and I interview each other, and one at Inkygirl, in which I am interviewed by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

BeckettlaughDebbie
Photo by Beckett Gladney

After the Inkygirl interview I asked Debbie about the first bedtime story she can remember, because this is still my favorite question to ask my fellow authors. She sent me this:

Although my Dad read me picture books, my Mom wasn’t as comfortable reading English. Instead, she used to tell me fairy tales that she remembered from her childhood in Japan, but would use Western names.

One of the earliest stories I remember was the tale of John The Fisherman. The story changed from time to time, probably because I kept asking my mother for it over and over again, but the basic story I remember is this: 

— Story begins —

Fisherman John saves the life of a turtle during one fishing trip. As a reward, the turtle takes John to an underwater kingdom, where the fisherman is given a fine meal and a comfortable bed. He is invited to visit for a few nights, and he agrees. When the time is up, the Queen of the underwater kingdom tries to convince him to stay longer, but John misses his home and family too much.

The Queen gives him some gifts to take with him, including a small ornately carved box which she says will protect him but that he is NEVER TO OPEN.

After John thanks the Queen, the turtle takes him back to the surface and John returns home. To his shock, however, his house is barely recognizable: only a few broken-down walls remain, and there is no sign of his wife or children. The rest of the village has changed as well, and John does not recognize a single soul. After asking around the village, John discovers that while he spent few nights in the underwater kingdom, a hundred years have gone by above.

Grief-stricken that he will never see his family again, John opens the box. White smoke emerges and within a few seconds, John ages until he is a very old man.

— Story ends —

As a child, I remember finding this story extraordinarily sad but also fascinating, which is why I asked for it so often.

My mother died from cancer years ago, but the story still brings back strong memories of how I felt back then: deep sadness, horror at John’s predicament…but also the reassuring touch of my mother’s hand while she gently stroked my forehead as I fell asleep. 

If you’re interested, you can read about the original Japanese story (“Urashima Taro”) in Wikipedia.

Oceans

Blog! I have one. I had forgotten.

A couple of weeks ago I emerged blinking from my author cave, having turned in the manuscript of my third novel. The book might be finished. It might not be. Only my editor will know for sure.

Since then I’ve given the commencement speech at my old high school, performed a wedding for a couple of very old friends, and attended my grandfather’s 90th birthday. In my travels I got to see the ocean. I don’t see oceans very often, living right smack in the middle of the continent as I do. My very small daughter seemed to enjoy the taste of salt. She smacked her lips together and grinned at the saltiness. Then she fell asleep in my arms, in the ocean.

Speaking of oceans, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane just came out. It is astonishingly good. I reviewed it here. My review is Neil’s favorite, apparently—though he spelled “favorite” in the odd way that they do across the ocean:

NeilTweet

This makes me extremely happy, but not in a squee-ish sort of way. Well, not only in a squee-ish sort of way. “It says nothing about the plot & everything about what the book is.” That’s important. Book reviews usually read like reluctant book reports. They follow a very specific format: a paragraph or two of inadequate plot summery (and all plot summaries are inadequate), followed by a single sentence of evaluation. That tiny smidgen of opinion at the end will tell you whether or not the reviewer liked the book, but it isn’t likely to tell you what the book is, or what it does, or whether it does so successfully. And it should.

So this a challenge. Read well, everybody! Prove that your reading of any given book is one worth reading about…

Lions, Lambs, & Hats

March is over. They say the month is supposed to come in like a wintery lion and go out like a lamb frolicking in sunshine. This particular month slunk away in a trail of dirty slush like a mutant lion-lamb hybrid. But I got a book published in March, so for me the month was glorious.

Addendum Books organized the launch party. PW covered it here. We drank hot chocolate and listened to live music from Dreamland Faces.

Addendum

DreamHaven and Red Balloon and Wild Rumpus and Uncle Hugo’s and Birchbark Books all hosted splendid events. This town is so very rich in bookstores.

Wild Rumpus made me a great big mask.

bigmask

Louise Erdrich joined me at Birchbark and gave me a hat.

birchbark2

It was a very good month. The frozen resentment of mutant lion-lambs can’t possibly compete with such celebrations and hospitality.

I leave you with links to three articles:

Nancy Holder asked me all sorts of excellent questions at The Enchanted Inkpot.

The Route 19 Writers blogged about favorite passages from Goblin Secrets and offer insights into why those particular bits of the book worked for them.

Amy Goetzman wrote about me and unsettling stories for MinnPost.

And that’s all for now.

 

Places Where My Voice Is

Two entirely different podcasts decided to interview me. One dedicated to the challenges of making art while simultaneously raising small children. The other is hosted by the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Both were very fun conversations to be in; hopefully they’re also fun to listen to.

Pratfalls of Parenting Episode 39

William Alexander on Fantasy & Social Theory

Also! My second audiobook just arrived in the mail. GhoulishVoice

And today I blogged about music and magic at the Enchanted Inkpot. That doesn’t have much of anything to do with my voice, but it happened today so I should probably mention it.

Tomorrow my second novel comes out and we will party.

 

Ghoulish Song Launch Events

LADIES & GENTLEMEN! And anyone and everyone else not represented by either of those categories! My second novel will exist on bookshelves next week. It’s not precisely a sequel to Goblin Secrets; the two happen at the same time, in the same city, and involve several of the same characters, but the books also stand alone. You can see them unfold in the background of each other, if you look…

I’ll be throwing several parties and readings throughout the month of March. Come celebrate with books and masks and music! And also chocolate. Ghoulish Cover

Dr. Chocolate’s Chocolate Chateau, hosted by Addendum Books with live music by Dreamland Faces: Tuesday, March 5th at 7pm

DreamHaven Books (with more live music!): 
Friday, March 8th at 7pm

Red Balloon Bookshop
: Saturday, March 9th at 2pm

Wild Rumpus
: Saturday, March 16th at 1pm

Uncle Hugo’s: Sunday, March 17th at 1pm

Birchbark Books: Saturday, March 30th at 2pm