I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of RUMP. It is one of those special stories that drew me in from the start and held my attention throughout. I simultaneously wanted to read through as fast as I was able to see how it ended, yet I didn't want to rush because I'd rather savor it for a bit longer. It's inventive, charming, funny, and totally captivating. My very own copy just arrived and I plan to read it again. After that it will remain with me as a sample text of the best way to rewrite a fairytale, holding a permanent spot on my shelf and in my heart.
Here's what reviewers are saying:
"As good as gold." Kirkus, starred review
"Liesl Shurtliff does more than spin words into gold—
she gets us rooting for Rumpelstiltskin, a most magical feat."
– Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky
"Lighthearted and inventive, Rump amusingly expands a classic tale."
– Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fablehaven
1. Rump is such an upbeat, fun story with an innovative premise – that your name is your destiny. In your author’s note you mention your interest in how a person’s name can affect them. Would you talk more about that concept and how that dovetailed into you writing RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN?
The power and psychology of names isn’t a new idea. Just do a search “name psychology” and you’ll find lots of studies and articles that talk about the effect names have on our development and self-perception. It’s mostly theory, but the idea is still there. For Rump I simply embellished on this theory and made it more magical in his world. Everyone believes that a name is your destiny. Rump is particularly troubled by this truth because 1) He doesn’t know all his name, and 2) What he does know is kind of crappy.
Maybe we don’t believe that a name will determine your destiny quite in the same way that it does in Rump, but we do believe names hold power. If we didn’t we’d just call each other A, B, C or 1, 2, 3. Names hold meaning, and history, and culture, and belief. We name our children after great people, hoping they’ll follow their footsteps. We name them after flowers or trees, hoping they’ll be just as beautiful, spiritually, if not physically. Or we name them something completely unique, hoping they’ll be totally individual and make their own path in the world. Does it work? I can’t say that names always have the effect we hope they will, but they certainly mean something to ourselves and to the people we meet. We wouldn’t put so much effort into them if they didn’t.
This was a very natural aspect for Rump, and one of the few concepts for the story that was born solid in my mind. Rumpelstiltskin’s name is so key in the original story. What, exactly, is its power and significance? I knew from the beginning that the name would be central to my story.
2. There might have been several ways to tell such a story. What was it about the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale that was so intriguing to you that you chose it as your source story?
Hmmm. I never considered how I might tell such a story in any other way. The original tale of Rumpelstiltskin, along with the idea that a name could determine your destiny, was the starting point for me. The Rumpelstiltskin tale itself has always been intriguing to me because the events are so inexplicable, so I suppose I was drawn to it by its very bizarre nature.
3. If other authors wanted to explore writing a story from a fairy tale, what advice or tips could you give for them to be successful?
1.Make sure that your story stands on its own. It can be too easy to rely on concept and ignore craft. You have to keep yourself in check, step back from what’s familiar and ask, “If no one knew the original story that I’m working with, would my story still be interesting?”
2. Know your fairy tales. Make sure you know and understand all the depths and meanings of the original tale and its various versions. You can turn it on its head (I certainly did with Rump) but know all that has gone before you and pay homage to the old tales.
4. Are there any downsides to using well-known or beloved fairy tales?
Yes. Depending on what fairytale you’re working with, the fact that there are so many of them can be a downside. The princess tales in particular have been told again and again, both in story and film. I’m not saying there isn’t room for more, but you have to come up with a pretty fresh twist for it to stand out, with a very fresh and engaging voice. I never thought another Cinderella story could be done, but Marissa Meyer struck gold with her Lunar Chronicles series, so it can be done!
5. Why do you think that after so many centuries have passed – and with the introduction of so many modern stories and alternative entertainment venues – fairy tales continue to capture our attention?
I believe the reason these tales have such staying power is both because of their unique details, as well as their ambiguity and flexibility. The word “fairytale” itself holds meaning to us. We usually associate it with happy endings and a lack of reality. (The former is sometimes true, the latter I disagree with completely.) I think fairytales stay with us because they are actually wonderful reflections of real life, but with a lens that is less painful to look through. Brutal things happen in real life, things we can’t always explain, try though we might. Good things happen too that we can’t always explain. So I think fairytales stick with us because we live them, whether we get a happy ending or not, and the tales are a kind of timeless comfort and validation.
6. Since it is April, and April is National Poetry Month, I’d like to ask you about the poetry that appears in RUMP. I just love the fact that your story is sprinkled with rhyme, rhythm, and word play. From very early in the story, the reader learns that Rump is a poet! Who knew? Can you talk about how the poetry appeared in your story?
Rump’s love of rhyme and word play began when I considered the little poem he chants at the end, before the queen guesses his name:
Tomorrow I’ll brew, today I bake
And then the child away I’ll take
For little deems my royal dame
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name
(There are several variations on this little ditty.)
Obviously I was going to need to change that poem for the purposes of my story, but I thought it would be work so perfectly if Rump had a love of rhymes and liked to make them up from time to time. Here’s a little snippet of Rump’s feelings on rhymes:
“Rhymes make me feel better when I’m down. The midwife, Gertrude, told me that rhymes were a waste of brain space, but I like the way they sound. When you say the words and the sounds match, if feels like everything in the world is in its place and whatever you say is powerful and true.”
I feel that way about rhymes, and poetry in general.
7. In honor of National Poetry Month and Poetry Friday, would you share one of the poems from RUMP with us?
Absolutely! I’ll share the very first one Rump shares with us:
Home is a place to get out of the rain
It cradles the hurt and mends the pain
And no one cares about your name
Or the height of your head
Or the size of your brain
8. Can you talk about what you're working on now? Are there any more fairy tale stories in your future that you can discuss?
I am working on another fairytale, but I’m pretty shy about talking about my projects until they’re well on their way. (Not everything I start pans out.) I’ve got good feelings about this one, so I hope to share more about it soon.
Thank you, Liesl!
Liesl Shurtliff grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah the fifth of eight children. Her seven siblings tortured her but she really likes them now. She loved dancing, singing, playing the piano and reading books by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Roald Dahl. She also read Grimm’s Fairy Tales so often she wore through the binding. www.lieslshurtliff.com
As a special bonus, enter here between now and April 21 to win a signed copy of RUMP and a bookmark!