Issue 051 Author Interview: Rebecca Harrison and “Anwen’s Song, Efa’s Shoes, and the Halls in the Hills”

Happy Tuesday! Today we have Issue 051 author Rebecca Harrison with us to talk about her original fairy tale “Anwen’s Song, Efa’s Shoes, and the Halls in the Hills.”

LSQ: What a gorgeous porquoi tale! I love how the sisters’ plight and song remind us to sing at Midwinter. Tell us about the inspiration for this ending.  

Rebecca: Thank you! I wanted to write an origin story for carols, cos after food, they’re the best bit about Christmas. Or maybe they tie with presents, but they’re definitely in the top three. (I’m a tad obsessed with ranking everything – I spent way too much time the other day ranking owls, and I still couldn’t decide which bird got the number one spot.) *insert ‘what a sad little life’ meme here*

You can imagine how much time I spend every year deciding the top ten Christmas Carols. In The Bleak Midwinter has been number one for the past few years, but Good King Wenceslas was always my favorite as a child, and whenever I was trudging frozen paths, I used to imagine I was treading in his steps, in the hope it would warm me.

I tend to write a lot of stories involving music, despite my main passion being chocolate.  I have a novella coming out in January which is a gothic folk horror, sort of Jane Eyre meets The Wicker Man, and my heroine is a composer. It’s called The White Horse and is being published by Spooky House Press.

I also wanted the last line of “Anwen’s Song, Efa’s Shoes, and the Halls in the Hills” to be the same as its first line. Just cos that’s really cool. The Mortal Engines tetralogy, which I love, ends with its opening line.

LSQ: I recognize the dancing-to-death shoes of Snow White’s witch (I so love that you included them!). In the same vein as the above question, how much is real folklore or fairy tale and how much is your own story? 

Rebecca: To be honest, I didn’t remember those shoes! I had to look them up! Though I’m certain, at some point, I must’ve read the proper Snow White. I do remember The Red Shoes, but the stone shoes in my story are kinda the opposite of frenzy and heat, they’re more about being worn down. It might’ve been inspired by my own experiences attempting to dance. I’m a total clodhopper. I’m so heavy-footed, friends nicknamed me Hannibal. After the fella who crossed the Alps with elephants, not Lecter. I don’t like wine.

“Anwen’s Song” is my own story, but it was def inspired by The Ice Palace by Robert Swindles which is an origin story for Father Christmas. It’s an amazing book that doesn’t have the love it deserves. Before he was the cuddly fella scoffing mince pies and steering reindeer past the moon, Father Christmas was Starjik, a child snatcher whose sled was pulled by yellow-eyed wolves. The Ice Palace also has one of the best opening lines ever: Turn your face into the East wind, and if you could see forever you would see Ivan’s land.

LSQ: Tell us about your choice for letting the sisters lose their voices. Is it an acceptable price for them?  

Rebecca: I didn’t want Anwen to get her sister back by magic, I wanted her to work out how to do it without any supernatural help, and that meant losing her voice. I was a bit inspired by The Three Ravens, or rather Jim Henson’s The Storyteller version which ends with one of the brothers failing to transform completely and being left with one wing – the narrator concludes ‘but he didn’t mind, and nor do I and nor, my dear, should you.

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, you must watch Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Hello, Jim Henson, fairy tales, and John Hurt and his talking dog – what could be better? In case you need any more persuasion, every episode starts with these words ‘When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for the storyteller.’ I always read my folk tales in his voice in my head.

LSQ: When the family was singing together and the Barrow men were creeping up behind them, it was terrifying! What are your tips for writing tension? 

Rebecca: Thank you loads! I’m not sure writing tension has ever been one of my strong points. My strong points are eating cake, and having the bedtime of a nonagenarian. A medieval nonagenarian at that, the sun’s gone to bed so I’m going to bed. And on that note, it’s getting dark here.

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