I'm hugely excited today to welcome young adult author Rosamund Hodge to the blog to answer a few questions about her debut novel, Cruel Beauty. I absolutely adored this book (read my full review), particularly the dark complexity of both Nyx and The Gentle Lord, and I simply can't recommend it enough to those who are looking for a very different take on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. I was so thrilled when Rosamund agreed to stop by the blog (be sure and check back next week as I was lucky enough to ask her editor a few questions as well), so I hope you all enjoy the interview!
The castle the Gentle Lord calls home is a labyrinth of stairs, hallways, and locked rooms that require completely unique keys for entry. If you were a guest in the castle (for an extended stay), what would the key to your room look like?
Funny you should ask. I happen to know the precise answer to that question. My key would look like the silver one in this picture:
(They’re pendants made by Keyper’s Cove on Etsy. Sadly, by the time I tracked down the origin of the picture, those particular keys had sold.)
You’re seated at the Gentle Lord’s very special dinner table waiting for the evening’s meal to magically appear as it does every night. What foods do you most wish will be on the menu?
Crème brûlée. I feel weird about that, since I am a chocolate girl and always will be—just like I will always pick cats over dogs and Luke Skywalker over Han Solo (shut up, he is the best!)—but crème brûlée is my very favorite dessert of all time, and I will even order it when there is flourless chocolate cake on the menu. Because it is custardy vanilla goodness forged in fire, so what’s not to love?
The castle boasts a rather impressive library even though the books are nearly unreadable for a variety of reasons. What’s one book Nyx would love to have on the shelves in order to make herself feel more at home?
Unquestionably she would want Cosmatos & Burnham’s Handbook of Modern Hermetic Techniques, the first Hermetic textbook that she ever studied. Nyx may be bitter and conflicted about her mission, but she is an enormous geek who loves the Hermetic arts—which are her world’s magic-meets-technology—and in another world she would be happily programming computers or soldering electronics.
(The Handbook is actually named after Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, a 2,138-page catalogue of all the constellations in the sky, which was compiled by one man: the amateur astronomer Robert Burnham. I am no astronomer myself, but it was a favorite of one of my brothers when we were growing up.)
Nyx is not the first young woman to call herself wife to the Gentle Lord. If she could ask any one of his past wives a question, what would she most like to know?
“How can I avenge you?”
The world of Arcadia is both dark and utterly fascinating. What’s one aspect of our world Nyx and the Gentle Lord might find equally intriguing?
The Internet. Nyx, because of the endless research. The Gentle Lord, because of the endless schadenfreude.
You’re alone in the castle with nothing but your thoughts and a single key. The key is to a door that will either free both you and all of Arcadia from the demons that terrorize the city, or it will free those very demons with no way to imprison them once again. Do you take the risk and use your key?
Probably not, unless the situation in Arcadia was really bad and there was really no hope of turning up an alternate/safer solution. I mean, you’re talking 50/50 odds that every single person alive will be instantly killed or driven horribly, agonizingly insane. It’s hard to justify that kind of risk unless you really have no other options.
I realize that’s a fairly stick-in-the-mud answer. But it’s one thing to risk all for freedom when only your own life is at stake. When you’ve got the fate of millions of people riding on your choices, I really think you have to run the numbers, even if ultimately the numbers aren’t the only thing you pay attention to. And that problem—when everyone alive could be killed or saved by your choices, how do you weight one life against millions?—is a problem Nyx has to face as well.
If someone were using your life as inspiration for a new fairy tale or myth that would be passed from one generation to the next in Arcadia, how would the very first or the very last line read?
“And then she died.”
(Spoiler: it’s how your story is going to end too.)
• • • • • • • • • • •
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
• • • • • • • • • • •
(photograph by Janelle Bighinatti)
When my older brother was thirteen, he started a writing club with his friends and wouldn’t let me join because I was only eight. I promptly swore that I would become a writer and make him sorry.
He still isn’t sorry. (I checked.) But in 2014 I will publish my first novel with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, so I guess everything worked out okay.
Some other facts about me:
• I practice Shorinji Kempo, a Japanese martial art based on Shaolin Kung Fu.
• Cruel Beauty is my debut novel, but it is somewhere between the third and sixth that I ever completed, depending on how you count things. (There was the 40,000-word mess I called a novel when I was sixteen, and the 220,000-word mess I briefly pretended was a single novel in 2009.)
• NaNoWriMo changed my life and got me finishing novels again after a long hiatus. But Cruel Beauty is not a NaNoWriMo novel. (The NaNoWriMo project that changed everything was the 220,000-word mess. Someday I may even revise it.)
• I grew up as a homeschooler in Los Angeles, and I spent my childhood marinating in Greek mythology, which is where all the Greek elements in Cruel Beauty come from.
• Then I got a B.A. in English at the University of Dallas, and an M.St. in Medieval English at Oxford. Naturally, I moved to Seattle and got a job with computers.
• I have studied five languages (Spanish, French, Latin, Old Norse, and Japanese), though sadly I am still not able to speak any of them.
• I love some things more than T. S. Eliot’s poetry. But not many things.
• I am represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates.