Exclusive Interview: Theodora Goss Author of ‘The Thorn and the Blossom’
Theodora Goss is the author of a special and original book The Thorn and the Blossom (read my review here), published by Quirk Books. Instead of a spine, the book is an accordion which opens at both ends with one side telling one character’s side of the story and the other telling the other character’s side.
Daemon’s Books had the chance to ask Theodora Goss a few questions about creating the book, the possibility of her writing another accordion book, some of her book recommendations and more.
What inspired you to write “The Thorn & The Blossom”?
Theodora Goss: The editor, Stephen Segal, actually called me with the idea of creating an accordion book, and asked if I could write a story for it. I was so intrigued! I immediately knew that it had to be a love story told from the points of view of the two main characters. Right away, I started working on a proposal. And once I had my main characters, Brendan and Evelyn, it was as though they started telling me their stories.
Can you talk about the challenges of writing a story from two separate points of view?
Theodora Goss: It was quite a challenge! I wrote Evelyn’s story first, and then I wrote Brendan’s story, but then I had to go back to Evelyn’s story because some things had happened in Brendan’s story that had to be reflected in Evelyn’s. For example, I only realized toward the end of Brendan’s story that he finds a letter — I won’t tell you more than that, because I don’t want to give anything away. But then I had to go back to Evelyn’s story to make sure the letter was sent.
Readers can pick which story to start reading first, however I have to ask, which side would you recommend they read first?
Theodora Goss: You know, I’ve been reading some early reactions to the story, and people who read Evelyn’s side first are convinced that’s the way to do it, and people who read Brendan’s side first are convinced that’s the way. So I can’t give you a recommendation — I think readers have to choose for themselves. But that’s part of the fun of a story like this — you get to interact with it in a way you wouldn’t get to with a regular book.
What were the challenges in keeping surprises for readers when reading each story?
Theodora Goss: The real challenge was hinting at something and knowing that readers would only understand what was being hinted at when they read the other side! And wondering if readers would get the various clues — whether they would be too obvious or obscure. (Believe it or not, I didn’t realize until after I had finished writing the story that the town in Cornwall where Brendan and Evelyn meet is called Clews! I didn’t think about that when I wrote the book, but it must have been in the back of my mind somewhere. It actually is the name of a Cornish town, by the way.)
If you could go back to the past and talk to yourself at the beginning of the writing process for “The Thorn & The Blossom”, what advice would you give yourself?
Theodora Goss: I would tell myself to get more sleep! Believe it or not, I wrote the book while finishing my PhD in English literature. It was wonderful to get away from doing literary scholarship by writing this mythical love story. I think so much of my own love for books and scholarship comes through in The Thorn and the Blossom. I put that part of myself into both Brendan and Evelyn — as well as some of my own anxieties about the academic life!
Is there a possibility of you writing another book like “The Thorn & The Blossom”?
Theodora Goss: Sure, if anyone asks me! So much work went into this book — you can probably tell from looking at the art and overall design. That sort of effort has to come not only from the writer but also from a really innovative publisher like Quirk. But if anyone asks me to do a project this fun and interesting and challenging, I’m up for it!
What book have you read recently, you would recommend people read?
Theodora Goss: If readers like The Thorn and the Blossom, which I would call literary fantasy, I think they would like books such as Elizabeth Hand’s Mortal Love, Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen. Those are all completely different works: Hand’s is a novel for adults or older teens, Valente’s is a book for children although it’s enchanting for adults as well, and Link’s is a collection of short stories. But they all mix the everyday with the magic in a way this book does, and they are all on my favorites list!
(Author Photo from Theodora Goss)