Monday, February 8, 2010

Author Interview - KATHARINE BEUTNER

Today we have Katharine Beutner talking to us about her book ALCESTIS that just came out this month. ALCESTIS is about a Mycenaean princess that was inspired by a Greek mythology. She will also give us advice about using mythology as a diving board and tell us about her first book deal. Katharine's agent is Diana Fox and her book ALCESTIS is coming from Soho Press.

The portrait is of Alcestis! She's in her mid-teens. I love trying to capture a dated feel with art, so this was fun to do.



1) Thank you for joining us, Katharine! What is ALCESTIS about?

ALCESTIS follows a young Mycenaean princess, a granddaughter of the sea-god Poseidon, from her childhood through her marriage and finally to the underworld. She marries her cousin Admetus, a favorite of Apollo, but only a year later Admetus discovers that the Fates have proclaimed it his time to die. Alcestis, who lost her beloved sister Hippothoe when she was young, volunteers to go to the underworld in his place. She thinks she knows what will happen there, but she's
completely wrong -- nothing in the underworld is what she expected, especially not the goddess
Persephone.



2) How did the Greek mythology inspire you?

Well, when I first learned of the myth, I didn't know the end of the story. I thought it ended with Alcestis going to the underworld -- but in fact, in most versions, Heracles shows up to rescue her. I was specifically inspired by the Euripides version. I love Euripides, but the end of the play really irritated me because it skips over Alcestis's time in the underworld and focuses primarily on how her death and rescue affect the men in the play. I wanted to write a story that followed Alcestis into the underworld, which seemed far more interesting to me than her husband's angst.



3) That does sound intriguing! What's your advice for retelling a myth?

I'm not sure I have any universal advice for how to write a retelling or an adaptation of a myth. As with any story, I think you as the writer have to be passionate about your version -- having a clever idea is a good start but might not be enough to carry an adaptation. I am a huge fan of certain retellings that shift the plot of a myth, play, etc., to a different time period -- Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO + JULIET, for example -- but I decided to keep this story in Mycenaean Greece and to treat the gods as real characters rather than as an element of her culture/religion only.



4) What was your journey toward your first book deal like?

The main thing I remember about the journey toward my first book deal is waiting! The publishing business does take a long time, which makes sense when you think about how much reading has to be done at each step in the process. My lovely agent Diana Fox diligently queried a number of publishers, and I collected a few nice rejections before Soho Press made an offer. I finished revising ALCESTIS in spring 2006 and Soho bought it in fall 2008. (And I can't say enough positive
things about Soho -- everyone I've worked with there has been wonderful.) I felt fortunate to be busy during those two years. I've been working on a Ph.D. in English, so I always had plenty of work to do. I've seen other authors and agents talk about the importance of moving on to something new once you've finished a first book, but I think moving on to something new while you work on queries is also good for your mental wellbeing.



5) Very true. Speaking of your PH.D...You have experience teaching an English class and a MA in ficition writing. Can you impart advice on what helped you the most in the writing process?

I'm an unrepentant outliner. When I was writing my first novel -- which was not ALCESTIS -- I didn't really have an outline in advance, mainly because I had no idea it was going to be a novel when I began writing. (This seems to be a common experience among first-time novelists!) For ALCESTIS, I wrote a 14 page single-spaced outline detailing the structure of the story, and a few shorter outlines of smaller sections within the book. Because the basic plot wasn't my own creation, I really needed that structural map to help me shape my own version of Alcestis' story. You can outline first and then merrily deviate from your plan, or you can write the whole book and then outline it afterward in order to see what you've written -- but I really recommend giving outlining a try at some point during your
writing process.



Thanks for telling us about ALCESTIS and imparting your wisdom with us, Katharine!

Readers, if you're interested in ordering ALCESTIS, it can be done so here.

Cheers!


--Realm

_____

If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information!

7 comments:

  1. Hi :)
    Thanks for the indepth interview with Katharine Beutner & thank you to Katharine for sharing here. I liked learning more about Katharine & her writing & getting insight into ALCESTIS.
    All the best,
    RKCharron

    ReplyDelete
  2. Realm, thank you again for the interview, and for this beautiful illustration! I just love it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great interview Realm & Katharine - that illustration is beautiful! ALCESTIS sounds awesome. Definitely something I'll look forward to reading :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fantastic interview and beautiful drawing. Your book sounds really awesome! I love Greek mythology. I'll be adding this one to my TBR shelf =)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Beautiful illustration, Realm! And Katharine, how wonderful, I'm already hooked on this. I have a story revolving around Greek mythology, and Alcestis and Admetus's story was mentioned, so when I saw this, I was like "Oh!" Great interview, ladies!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for visiting! Glad you all liked the interview.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Greek mythology! So going to find this book now! Beautiful illustration and great interview. :D

    ReplyDelete