We spoke to Sophie Masson about the fairy tales weaving through her books.
* Many fairy tales weave through your books including The Crystal Heart (Rapunzel), Scarlet in the Snow (Beauty and the Beast), Moonlight and Ashes (Cinderella), and Hunter’s Moon (Snow White). What is it about fairy tales that attracts you?
As a reader: Their extraordinary mix of lightness and depth, magic and earthiness, freshness and warmth, ruthlessness and hope; the timeless atmosphere, the unexpected encounters, archetypal characters–and of course, as a writer, the wonderful riches I can use to create magical worlds of my own. And so I’ve used fairy tales in lots of my books–not only those you mention(incidentally, Hunter’s Moon isn’t out till 2015), but also in much earlier novels such as Carabas (Puss in Boots) Clementine(Sleeping Beauty) and Cold Iron(Tattercoats, the English version of Cinderella)
* Were you told fairy tales as a child? If so, by whom? Or did you read them yourself?
Both! Fairy tales are actually the first thing I remember being told–I was brought up by my grandmother for the first 5 years of my life, as I was a sickly child and my expatriate French parents, who were then working in Indonesia, felt it was safer for me to be with my grandmother in France. Anyway, Mamizou(as I called her) told me lots of fairy tales–and later, so did my dad(her son). As well, when we came to Australia, a book of fairy tales was the first book I read for myself, in English: it was a Little Golden Book called ‘The Blue Book of Fairy tales’ (not to be confused with Andrew Lang’s!) and featured Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Toads and Diamonds. I still vividly remember reading those stories and loving the pictures too. I found a copy of it in a garage sale a few years ago, and was so thrilled, it transported me right back to my childhood!
* Do you have a favourite fairy tale? If so, why that one?
I love lots of fairy tales but I think Beauty and the Beast is my top favourite. I love Beauty as a heroine, her courage and her compassion; I love the romantic atmosphere of it, the beauty of the telling, the mystery behind the Beast’s fate. In my 2013 novel, Scarlet in the Snow, I used the Russian version of Beauty and the Beast(which is known as ‘The Scarlet Flower’) as well as another Russian fairy tale, Fenist the Falcon, which has some Beauty and the Beast elements.
* Do you think fairy tales are for adults as well as children?
Absolutely! I think they are for all ages and all times. They are inexhaustible in their freshness, and contain so many deep truths. As well as being highly entertaining! I think you read them in different ways, at different ages.
* Do you tell fairy tales to your own children?
Absolutely! My kids are grown up now but they all got told(and read) fairy tales. Knowing fairy tales is a human right, it seems to me 🙂 And now I’ve got a little grandchild–my daughter’s beautiful little son–I am planning to tell him lots!
* Do Australian fairy tales exist?
Yes–and I believe that Patricia Wrightson used some of these fairy tale motifs to great effect in her fabulous books such as The Nargun and the Stars, A Little Fear, the Wirrun trilogy–she has used Aboriginal stories of (non-sacred) fairy-like beings, goblin-style things, indigenous mermaid-type beings, and woven extraordinary novels out of them.
Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the author of more than 50 novels for children, young adults and adults, published in Australia and many other countries. Her historical novel, The Hunt for Ned Kelly(Scholastic Australia), won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, while she has won the YA category of the Aurealis Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy twice: for The Green Prince(Hodder, 2000) and The Hand of Glory(Hodder 2002). Many of her titles have also been shortlisted for major awards, including for the Davitt Awards with her 2012 novel, Moonlight and Ashes(Random House Australia, 2012). Other recent novels include Ned Kelly’s Secret(Scholastic 2012) and Scarlet in the Snow(Random House Australia, May 2013). Titles coming out in 2014 are: The Crystal Heart(RHA), Emilio(Allen and Unwin) and 1914(Scholastic Australia), as well as the non-fiction title, The Adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age(Keesing Press). Forthcoming in 2015 is Hunter’s Moon(RHA).
She has also written four popular YA romantic thrillers, with fairy tale and mythical elements, under the name of Isabelle Merlin. Under the name of Jenna Austen, she has also published two romantic comedies for tweens and early teens, The Romance Diaries: Ruby (ABC Books/Harper Collins, 2013) and The Romance Diaries: Stella(ABC Books/Harper Collins, 2013) .
Her first picture book, Two Trickster Tales from Russia, illustrated by David Allan, was published by Christmas Press in 2013. Sophie has also written several novels for adults: The House in the Rainforest(UQP 1990); psychological thriller The Hoax (Random House 1997); and historical fantasy saga, Forest of Dreams (Random House 2001). Her historical novels for adults, My Brother Will, (2012) based on Shakespeare’s adolescence as seen by his brother Gilbert, and Black Wings: A novel of the French Revolution (2013), were published as e-books by AchukaBooks (UK), while she released her collection of short stories for adults, The Great Deep and Other Tales of the Uncanny, as an e-book with Sixteen Press in 2012, and a non-fiction book on authorship, By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers, also as an e-book, with Sixteen Press in 2013.
Sophie’s essays, articles and reviews have appeared frequently in print and online, in many different outlets. She has served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council, the Book Industry Collaborative Council, the Board of Directors of the Australian Society of Authors (as Chair and Deputy Chair), the Board of the New England Writers’ Centre (as Chair)and the committee of the New England and North West sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of NSW (as President).
Her website is at www.sophiemasson.org