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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Author Interview—Liesl Shurtliff

Today we have author Liesl Shurtliff with us to talk about her middle-grade novel, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. But first, let's learn a little bit more about Liesl and the premise of her award-winning novel.

About the Author:

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.

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 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 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 aren’t great for a small boy in a land full of fairytale bullies, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.


My boys loved Rump. What was your inspiration for the book?

Yay! I’m so glad they loved it.

Fairytales and names were my primary inspirations for Rump. I was actually brainstorming another fairytale idea when I thought it would be cool to create a world where a name determines your destiny. I instantly thought of Rumpelstiltskin, since his name is key to the tale, but it’s also very mysterious. We know almost nothing about Rumpelstiltskin, and even though he ultimately rescues the miller’s daughter, he is the villain because he wanted her baby. So I suppose my biggest inspiration was my desire to do justice to Rumpelstiltskin. Things really took off when I decided to call him Rump.

Do you outline or “fly by the seat of your pants”?

I do a little of both. I do a fair amount of pre-writing, which I think is quite different from outlining. I develop a few main characters, sketch their strengths, weaknesses, and their motivations that will influence the forward movement of the story. I spend some time developing the fantasy world, topography, creatures, and the rules of magic. Fleshing out some of these details helps me begin.

As far as plot goes, I usually have a vague idea of beginning, middle, and end, but most of it I can’t plan or even know until I’m there in the moment, so I just have to go off into the wild and discover a lot along the way. It can be a little unnerving, but as E.L. Doctorow said, “You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on the third fairytale in this series, RED: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, which features the same Red in RUMP. I’m nearly done with a first draft and I’m so, so excited about this one. I had a few false starts and failures with her story, but once I found the right thread it came together almost faster than I could write.

What bit of advice can you give to aspiring authors?

Craft is key. There’s simply no substitute for a solid story and great writing and the bulk of your time is best spent on honing your craft. At the same time, there’s a business side to all this that can’t be ignored, and sometimes the difference between failure and success isn’t about talent, but simply industry knowledge. If publishing and selling your work to an audience is your goal, spend some time researching the industry. It’s a very quirky business with lots of different paths, none of them necessarily better than any other. Do your homework. Learn the pros and cons of all your options. Decide what’s best for you and then go for it! There’s a place for your story in the world.

In Rump, we see an underlying theme regarding the name we’ve been given and how it can define us. If you could have picked your own name, what would it be?

I actually really like my name (though I didn’t always) but if I could have any other name, I think I’d choose Red. It’s short, simple, and bold and I wouldn’t have to spell it for anyone. (Oh, the luxury!)

What is something you have that is of sentimental value?

Wow, this almost stumped me. I am not very sentimental and I’m the opposite of a hoarder. I throw stuff out that I should probably keep, but I do have a set of china and a full tea set that belonged to my great-grandmother. My mother used it on special occasions and I only use it on Thanksgiving and Christmas. If a single dish broke, I’d be very upset.

Finish the sentence. On Saturdays, I like to…

…run along Lake Michigan, then jump in it.

What is your motto in life?

Take what you need. Give more than you take.

Love that motto! A BIG thank you to Liesl for taking the time to do this interview!


Huntress said...

Okay. I am absolutely blown away by the premise of Rump. And that cover...!

Liz A. said...

Love fairy tales. And reimaginings of fairy tales. Will have to check this one out.

Leandra Wallace said...

Great interview, ladies! And I wish I could do that on a Saturday, lol!

Gina Gao said...

That is such an amazing interview! And that sounds like a great book.