Longtime WU contributor Sophie Masson recently released not just one but two books–Moonlight and Ashes, and Scarlet in the Snow! We’re so pleased she’s with us today to tell us more about them in a brief Take Five interview.
Q: Tell us a little about these two new books. How are they similar—and different?
SM: Both of these books are what I’ve dubbed ‘fairytale thrillers’–that is, they are each based on classic fairytales: Moonlight and Ashes on the Grimm version of Cinderella (Aschenputtel) and Scarlet in the Snow on The Scarlet Flower, the Russian version of Beauty and the Beast, plus another Russian fairytale, Fenist the Falcon–but around that classic fairytale core I have created a romantic thriller with many twists and turns, set in a world that is like an alternative-world version of the latter part of the 19th century, only with magic as well as technology. Each book is set in a different country within that world, inspired by real places but very much its own thing too: in Moonlight and Ashes, it’s Ashberg and the Faustine Empire, inspired by Prague and the Austro-Hungarian Empire; in Scarlet in the Snow, it’s Ruvenya and Champaine, which are respectively inspired by Russia and France. They’re not sequels of each other and have very different characters and stories; but they’re linked by the fact that they are set in the same world (and there is a minor character who appears in both). They won’t be the last, either; the third one, The Crystal Heart, comes out next year, and I’m just working up an outline for the fourth!
Q: What is the flavor of these books? Is this a fairytale world we’d want to visit?
SM: The flavor is very much a mix of traditional fairytale magic and themes, blended with steampunk-style elements, romance, mystery and adventure. It’s a pretty exciting and enthralling mix, if I say so myself–I was very much caught up in it myself and thoroughly enjoyed visiting it and so far it seems readers do too!
Q: What sort of challenges do you place before the characters in these stories, and why did you choose those challenges?
SM: As these are very much inspired by classic fairytales, at the core you have these classic, deep fairytale challenges: the quest for truth, for love, for understanding. Selena in Moonlight and Ashes and Natasha in Scarlet in the Snow, who are the main characters in these books and tell the story in the first person, are each facing very difficult challenges indeed. For Selena, an abused, neglected child who has grown into a trapped and combative teenager, the challenge is to not only discover the truth about herself and her mother, but also allow herself to hope,and to trust enough to love; for Natasha, who’s grown up in a loving family but who feels very much the difficult situation of her impoverished widowed mother, and who gets trapped by an obligation to stay in the house of the terrifying Beast, it’s about overcoming her fear and understandable anger to see beyond surface appearances and understand the dreadful curse that the ‘monster’ she comes to like very much–and then love–so that she can try to free him.
Q: Speaking of challenges… What unique challenges did these books pose for you, if any?
SM: Using classic fairytales can be a challenge because so many people know and love them–you want to do your own thing, yet stay true to the core of the story. Judging by what readers have said, I’ve done that with both–each offers a surprisingly different take on the stories, and creates its own world, yet is deeply inspired by the original.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written these books?
SM: It is such a wonderful genre to work in–makes for a truly magical writer’s journey. In every way! I have loved fairytales since I was very small and I just so enjoy working with that rich and amazing material to create my own stories.
Look for Sophie’s novels at your favorite bookstores or online.