[R]evolving Incarnations: A Questionnaire For Passionate Readers is an interview series done in classic Q&A format. Each entry features one intrepid writer/blogger/artist/creative mastermind as they take on the same 40 reading-themed questions and scenarios. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section!
Elyssa is the writer behind the fantastic blog, Only Fragments. Please stop by and say hello!
- What book have you always wanted to read, but haven’t? Why? House of Leaves. I’ve heard good things about it, but was intimidated by its complexity. Now my carpal tunnel makes it hard for me to read physical books, especially large ones, so this one is definitely on the back burner.
- What is your favourite line or passage from a book? I have to give you the whole passage or none at all: “The boys raced down the linen path in Egyptian darkness.
“Watch for murder, boys, murder!”
The pillars on both sides of the rushing boys flashed to life. Pictures shivered and moved.
The golden Sun was on every pillar.
But it was a Sun with arms and legs, bound tight with mummy wrappings.
A dark creature struck the Sun one dreadful blow.
The Sun died. Its fires went out.
The boys ran blind in darkness.
Yeah, thought Tom, running, sure, I mean, I think, every night, the Sun dies. Going to sleep, I wonder, will it come back? Tomorrow, will it still be dead?
The boys ran. On new pillars dead-ahead, the Sun appeared again, burning out of eclipse.
Swell! thought Tom. That’s it! Sunrise!
But just as quickly, the Sun was murdered again. On each pillar they raced by, the Sun died in Autumn and was buried in cold Winter.
Middle of December, thought Tom, I often think: the Sun’ll never come back! Winter will go on forever! This time the Sun is really dead!
But as the boys slowed at the end of the long corridor, the Sun was reborn. Spring arrived with golden horns. Light filled the corridor with pure fire.
The strange God stood burning on every wall, his face a grand fire of triumph, wrapped in golden ribbons.
“Why, heck, I know who that is!” panted Henry-Hank. “Saw him in a movie once with terrible Egyptian mummies!”
“Osiris!” said Tom.
“Yesssssssss…” hissed Moundshroud’s voice from the deep tombs. “Lesson Number One on Halloween. Osiris, Son of the Earth and Sky, killed each night by his brother Darkness. Osiris slain by Autumn, murdered by his own night blood.
So it goes in every country, boys. Each has its own death festival, having to do with seasons. Skulls and bones, boys, skeletons and ghosts. In Egypt, lads, see the Death of Osiris, King of the Dead. Gaze long.”
The boys gazed.”
–The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury
- Who do you think is the most underrated author? Kathe Koja. I know she has a very loyal following, but I think her work should be on best seller lists around the world. She has an extremely complex, poetic style not only to her prose itself but to the genres and themes to which she writes. Her work is dark, eerie, touching, heartbreaking, profound, lyrical… I could go on. Forever. (Plus, she is SUPER COOL and interacts with fans all the time online.)
- What is your pick for the most underrated book? This is a tough one. I think there are books in every genre that are under-appreciated by fans of the genre. But if I had to pick one overall… Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. The book is often overshadowed by its film adaptation, but the book itself is very well researched, fast paced, entertaining and thrilling, and touches on a lot of issues still relevant (or even more relevant) today. It’s a book I think most people would enjoy, but might not even check out in the first place.
- If you could make everyone in the world read one book, what would it be? A Ray Bradbury short story collection. Probably Long After Midnight or The October Country. Those collections contain some of his best short stories, in my opinion, and I think his short stories are overall more powerful than his novels. For example, the actual story Long After Midnight, which features the death of a transgender teenager, is so heartbreaking and poignant that I still feel like I’m haunted by the character – years after I first read the tale.
- Is there a book you wish you had written? Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. The characters in those books are so striking and complex, I’m sincerely jealous they aren’t mine. If I didn’t love these two authors so much, I’d hate them.
- What are you currently reading? Nothing at the moment, as I’m in between books. But my girlfriend has been reading The Princess Bride out loud to me in the evenings, and oh my gosh I forgot how incredibly wonderful that book is.
- How many books do you have in rotation at any one time? Usually only one. I like to devote my full attention to a book.
- What is the funniest book you’ve read? Probably Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology by Cory O’Brien. It’s not necessarily the cleverest book, but there is some seriously silly, weird shit in world mythology and O’Brien presents it in a very entertaining way.
- What is the saddest book you’ve read? The Man with the Knives by Ellen Kushner. Or maybe By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear. Or The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Or… well, I read a lot of depressing books. Fantastic books, but depressing.
- What is the last book you couldn’t put down? The Mercury Waltz by Kathe Koja, sequel to Under the Poppy. If Under the Poppy made me a total nervous wreck over whether my favorite characters would live or die, The Mercury Waltz increased that feeling tenfold. And when the third book in the trilogy comes out? I will have a heart attack.
- When you are reading a great book, do you read it all of the way through as fast as possible or hoard it for as long as you can? Depends – if I think my favorite character is relatively safe, then I read it in one fell swoop. But if I think my favorite character is going to die… well, let’s just say I put off finishing the last book in Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great trilogy for like six months.
- What book have you re-read the most? Possibly Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. I first read it when I was in sixth grade and it has stuck with me ever since.
- Who is your pick for sexiest character in fiction? Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park. No contest. At all.
- Approximately how many books do you read in a year? The last two years I averaged around eighty. I won’t make it that high this year, but it’s about quality, not quantity. …right?
- Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? I’m a fiction girl all the way. I like the freedom fiction offers the author to play with our own perceptions of normality and reality. Plus then there’s always the chance of talking cats. Or flying cats. Or magic cats. Or just cats in general.
- If you could swap places with your favourite fictional character, would you? Explain your choice. Probably not… All the fictional characters I like tend to lead tragic lives and then die even more tragically. At the very least none of them are happy for an extended period of time. Personally, I like being happy and alive.
- What is your favourite literary food or meal? Oh gosh, this is a hard one. I actually tend to skip over food descriptions in books because they make me so hungry. However, I think my favorite literary use of food is at the end of The Halloween Tree when the main characters eat pieces of a sugar candy skull with their friend’s name on it to symbolize they will each sacrifice a year of their life to save his own. I love the idea that by ingesting death, we take away its power over us. Plus, in the Hanna-Barbera movie adaptation that sugar candy skull looks so tasty.
- Where is your favourite place to read? The couch, I suppose. Somewhere comfy and quiet. With a cat.
- What is your favourite bookstore? There’s a used bookstore in Port Townsend, WA called William James that I adore. They specialize in history books, especially maritime and military, so it was always a place I went with my dad. I have very fond memories of that bookstore.
- Name six writers, living or dead, you would want as companions on a non-stop, cross-country road trip. Ellen Kushner and her partner Delia Sherman, Kathe Koja, Elizabeth Bear, and Sarah and Jessica Diemer. I’m partly going for compatibility here, because I feel like this would be a totally fun group. Also, these are people I wouldn’t be totally intimidated to talk to. (Though I still do a fangirl squeal every time Ellen Kushner or Kathe Koja responds to something I say on their Twitters or Facebook pages.)
- Do you have a favourite and a least favourite genre? I tend more toward non-modern fantasy and soft sci-fi, preferably with queer characters. I avoid anything trying to be romance; I don’t usually mind mild romance IN my books (though really only if it’s queer) but romance novels themselves tend to be too formulaic and too sexual for my tastes. I’m also not a fan of mysteries/thrillers, though I adored The Silence of the Lambs and its prequel Red Dragon.
- What is the longest period you have gone without reading a book? A few months at the most. Sometimes when I get down I lose the desire to read, but I usually try to push myself out of my funk by rereading a book I love. Last time this happened I turned to my favorite author, Ray Bradbury, and read in quick succession The October Country, The Martian Chronicles, and Long After Midnight.
- Name three literary characters you would want as roommates. 1) Marion from J Tulos Hennig’s Greenwode and Shirewode; she’s a particularly strong, spiritual version of Maid Marion and I feel like she’d be the roommate who makes you soup when you’re sick. 2) Katherine from Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword; she’s another strong girl who would let you cry on her shoulder, then go win a duel against whomever hurt you. She’s a bit dramatic, but she grows out of that. 3) Bast from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods; she’s a cat most of the time so you wouldn’t even need an extra room for her, and, well, SHE’S BAST.
- What was your favourite book as a child? • I loved The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. Alanna has always been a role-model of mine; I admired her bravery and strength, and that she challenged gender roles. Plus she had a talking cat. See a pattern here?
- What is your favourite literary city? The city of Amber from Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber. I love the idea that there can be one “true” city from which all other worlds are shadows; it reminds me of the way I write different versions of my characters. I also love that Amber’s reflection in the ocean is a mirror city unto itself (Rebma).
- Name your favourite Brontë. I haven’t read them, to be honest. Not much of a Classics person unless it’s something dark or fantastical.
- What is your favourite e-commerce site for books? I suppose Amazon is the one I frequent since I have a Kindle, but I’m a big proponent of e-books in general. For someone like me who has carpal tunnel syndrome, reading physical books often involves a lot of pain. My Kindle is much lighter and so easier on my hands – plus, I can change the font size so I can read on the bus without getting nauseous!
- What is your favourite pen name? I don’t read many authors who use pen names, but when I was younger I had one for myself that I still like: Angelica Francesca Annabel-Lee Montgomery Walker. …too wordy?
- What is your favourite closing line in a book? “Goodbye and hello, as always.” The main character, Corwin, says this at the end of the fifth book in Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series. We leave Corwin at the end of this book after following his harrowing journey for years and somehow this simple ending, almost a promise that he isn’t gone for good, just seems… perfect to me.
- Do you prefer owls or elephants? Owls. Duh.
- Do you have any reading rituals? Not really. I prefer silence and to be alone or otherwise away from distraction, so I usually read when I’m home alone and have a chunk of time to myself.
- Who is your favourite literary couple? It’s a total tie between Richard St Vier/Alec from Swordspoint and Rupert/Istvan from Under the Poppy. Which tells you a lot about the kind of characters I’m drawn to, since neither of these couples is exactly happy and/or functional. And also super gay.
- Who is your favourite poet? Shel Silverstein. I grew up on his books of poems and they still bring a smile to my face whenever I read them.
- What is your favourite poem? Judson Stoddard from the Spoon River Anthology. Yes, the one you have to read in high school. I had to memorize a poem from the anthology for class and fell in love with this one because it relates concepts like art, writing, and philosophy to mountains rising to Heaven.
- Do you have a favourite film adaptation? Holes. The movie is not only a very faithful adaptation of an already wonderful book, but stands firmly on its own as well. It has a ton of heart and humor, a great soundtrack, and a talented cast. I think it’s vastly underrated.
- What book title would make a great band name? The Guns of Avalon (the second book in the Chronicles of Amber series.) Totally.
- What is your favourite quote? “Make haste to live. Oh god, yes. Live, and write, with great haste.” – Ray Bradbury
- What is your favourite book series? No no. Don’t make me pick. Stop that.
- Finish this sentence. People who read books are…people I should probably be friends with.
THANKS SO MUCH, ELYSSA!
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Go here to check out previous entries in the series.