Thursday, April 4, 2013

“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Liesl Shurtliff

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Liesl Shurtliff is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Liesl’s debut middle grade novel RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN, Alfred A. Knopf, releases in just a few days, on 4/09/2013! Congratulations, Liesl!

Middle Grade Author Liesl Shurtliff
Here is Liesl’s official biography: 
Liesl Shurtliff was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the mountains for her playground. Just like Rump, Liesl was shy about her name, growing up. Not only did it rhyme with weasel, she could never find it on any of those personalized key chains in gift shops. But over the years she’s grown to love having an unusual name—and today she wouldn’t change it for the world!

Before she became a writer, Liesl graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, dance, and theater. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and three young children, where she still dreams of the mountains. Rump is her first novel.
This is the description for RUMP: 

In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke.

Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he's been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.

His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she's right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.

There's only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.

Here are places where you can connect with Liesl online: Website, Twitter, Facebook RUMP will be available wherever books are sold, including preorders here: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound

Now it’s time to hear from our guest.

Smack Dab Middleview with RUMP author Liesl Shurtliff:

1. What does your main character, Rump, want?

To find his full name, and with it, his destiny. Hopefully they’re both good.

2. What is in his way?

A family curse, a greedy miller, the greedy miller’s foolish daughter, mad pixies, and trolls.

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

Since I was rewriting an established fairy-tale, I had a framework for my story. There were certain things I knew would happen, but how things happened in the story definitely evolved as I wrote. Certain plot points I had to change and rewrite several times before I felt like I had the right story. Some things I discovered very late in the process, and I had to go back and change lots of other things to work around that. It can be scary, frustrating, and a lot of work, but that’s how I roll. My saving grace is that my characters, Rump’s character in particular, came to me nearly wholly formed.

4. Was Rump: The True Story of Rumpeltstiltskin always for middle grade readers or not?

Yes, it was always for middle-grade readers, but not because that’s what I was reaching for. It’s simply where the voice and story naturally fell. I think my inner ten-year-old is still alive and giggling.

 5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

The wonder of the age! They’re just coming into reading chapter books and novels and they have time for it. They can read about difficult and complex issues, but they still have an energy for life and such a sense of magic about them. I love that!

 6. Is there any downside?

I can only think of one, and it’s that I feel obligated to consider parent and librarian reactions to my books, since they are considered the “gatekeepers” of my readership. I’m a parent and definitely keep tabs on my kids’ reading, so I understand why this is, but philosophies about what is and is not appropriate for the age group can be so wide-ranging that it’s a little daunting to even consider. I have been told that certain things in my book might not fly with some adults, and I even cut a few things out in an effort to walk a safer line, but I try to remain true to my own creativity, with the assurance that if you try to please everyone you’re more likely to please no one. 

7. What’s something you cut out of your book in order to please adults and librarians?

Okay, nobody judge me please, but the donkey named Nothing? His name was originally Ass, which remember is a technical name for a donkey. It’s in the Bible. I thought it was hilarious and fit so perfectly with the book. Seriously I giggled every time I wrote it and had some of the best puns like “Hauling Ass up the mountain,” or “I kicked Ass.” Hahahahahaha! I can’t even help laughing now! But after careful consideration and conversation with both my agent and editor, I decided that, as funny as it was, it would be a thing that would inhibit parents from allowing their kids to read, and given the mental maturity of the age, I also knew it would be something kids would take out of context and use as an excuse to spout the word in inappropriate ways. I could just imagine such a scenario popping up in a school visit, and I’d be mortified and wonder why on earth I thought that was a good idea. So yes, I thought it was funny, but this was a scenario where an author can’t selfishly think of his or her own humorous sensibilities. We do have to consider the repercussions of our artistic choices.

 8. Are any of your characters based on real people?

Most of my characters I made up without any conscious connection to real people, though I think they probably all resemble myself or people I know in one way or another. But the gnomes in my book were inspired by my then two-year-old son, who was and still is a chubby, bow-legged little guy with this adorable grunty, raspy voice. He cracks everyone up, and that’s how I see the gnomes in Rump.

Thank you for joining us for a Middleview at Smack Dab Blog, Liesl. Again, congratulations on the release of RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN! We’ll look for it on bookshelves next week!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting Smack Dab, Liesl! I love the idea of this book. And believe it or not, in the '80s, I could never find key chains with my name, either. I have an easier time now...