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
As good as gold.
-- Kirkus, starred review
Spring 2013 Kids' Indie Next List title (ages 9-12)
What inspired you to write this story?
My strong affinity for potty humor. Okay, not entirely. I’ve always been fascinated by fairy-tales and their ability to span generations and cultures. Also, they’re so quirky and bizarre! The tale of Rumpelstiltskin particularly fascinates me because although he is the title character, we know next to nothing about him. Where does he come from? How did he get his name? Why’s it so important? How did he learn to spin straw to gold and why on earth does he want a baby? So I set out to write a story from his point of view and answer these questions. I went the extra mile and decided I wanted Rumpelstiltskin to be not only understood, but also loveable. I found the center and voice of his story when I shortened his name to the bare minimum. How can you not love a runty fellow called Rump?
What was your publication process like, from initial idea to sale?
It took about 9 months to write and revise RUMP before I queried agents. I secured an agent within a month. We revised together for about a month and we had an offer about a month after submission. So from idea to sale was about a year.
I realize this all seems very smooth and quick. Part of this was simply luck, but I feel it necessary to add that I worked for several years prior to this, studying the craft, writing other books and stories, and learning about the publishing industry in general. This was all part of my process and I feel it has helped me immensely in my publication journey. That said, I also realize that I was lucky to find the right people for my work at the right time. There is and element of luck, magic, karma, forces-beyond-this-world. I love magic! (So long as I have some.)
What books have shaped you as a reader and writer, from childhood to the present?
As a child I loved The Boxcar Children, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wait Till Helen Comes, and anything by Shel Silverstein or Roald Dahl, particularly Matilda. Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale have also influenced my writing, and I wish they had been writing when I was growing up.
Today I read all over the place. I never stick to one genre, and I think it’s important for writers to read widely, but I always love a mixture of serious and silly and I think that’s evident in my own writing style.
What is one thing people misunderstand about fairy tales?
That fairy-tales are somehow irrelevant because they are not realistic reflections of our life experience. Fantasy and the fairy-tale are purely escapism, a way to ignore reality and it’s inconvenient laws of nature. “Life is not a fairy-tale,” people often say, but I couldn’t disagree more. I think what they mean to say is, “Life is not a Disney animation film.” Despite my love for Disney and the joy they bring to my life, they have butchered the integrity of fairy-tales for generations.
The real fairy tales, the ones collected by the Brothers Grimm, Perrault, Andersen and others, are generally brutal and often tragic. Take a look at the original tales of The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, or various origins of Little Red Riding Hood. They are not pretty, friends. Tragic love, cannibalism, and pecked out eyes. Some of them don’t even end well, and a few of them do not live happily ever after. They don’t even live. Why then do we say that life is not a fairy-tale as though we have somehow been duped? Consider the following statement made by a man who actually collected and penned some of the most famous fairy-tales.
“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale.”Was this man delusional? I don’t think so. He didn’t mean that life is all butterflies and fairy dust and happily ever afters. There’s a sprinkling of that in real life. Of course there is great joy in this life, but many will suffer betrayal, heartache, and tragedy, and children are no exception. Fairy-tales, I believe, are great metaphors for real life. It’s beautiful, but it’s also ugly. It’s happy, but it’s also sad. It’s sweet, but it’s also bitter.
-Hans Christian Andersen
It is all wonderful.
So I implore you, whenever someone says “Life is not a Fairytale,” you should yell “YES, IT IS YOU, IDIOT!”
Are you working on anything new?
Yes! I’m currently working on another MG fairy tale retelling, a picture book, and a YA novel. I’m all over the place, mostly because I never know what’s going to really sing once I get into it. I go where the energy guides me!