Becoming Persephone: An Interview w/ Author Cait Reynolds

B1ykz75OD+S._UX250_As promised, here is an interview with the talented Cait Reynolds, author of Downcast (my review here) and Angel Hands. I so enjoyed the book, I tracked her down—which wasn’t too hard since we have the same publisher—and got her to tell me all about her take on Persephone and Hades, what myth she would be if she could choose, what she’s working on now, and more!

How were you inspired to write this particular twist on the Persephone and Hades story? 

I had wanted to write a story about high school for a long time, but I wanted to bring in some of the imagination and fantasy that I enjoyed so much as a teenager—and also wished would happen in my life. I didn’t want to do vampires or shifters or witches, and I was stumped for a while about how to approach my story. Then, while I was walking my dog, I was thinking randomly about some of my old college courses in ancient history, and suddenly, I remembered the myth of Hades and Persephone. In a flash, everything fell into place. The dynamics of the relationships in the story are timeless, but the myth provided the ideal element of fantasy and magic that I was looking for.

What inspired Stephanie? She’s outside the box as main characters go, and I just love to hate the dynamic between her and her mother.

Stephanie’s character comes from a lot of different places. Her sly, snarky observations of and nicknames for the high school social cliques are definitely part of me. As the daughter of a psychologist and a social worker, I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. I was the eight-year-old who could tell you the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. In school, as an outsider, I amused myself by analyzing everyone and everything around me. My senior year, I wrote a Jonathan Swift/Volatire-esque satire about the senior class (check it out here: http://caitreynolds.com/2015/11/the-roots-of-downcast-part-2-high-school/). I even wrote a paper for an anthropology class in college about the social structures of my high school (you can find it on my blog – http://caitreynolds.com/2015/10/the-roots-of-downcast-part-1-college/).

The initial meekness of Stephanie reflects the fact that in reality, you don’t always have feisty geeks who are unafraid to speak up against bullying. I developed a philosophy about bullying that basically says bullying will always exist as long as humans are hard-wired to compete for resources. You can’t really fix bullying—it’s like ebola and resurfaces when you least expect it. The best you can do is to grit your teeth, survive, and graduate. Then, you’re free. If you really want to help kids who are being bullied, don’t try fixing the bullies. Provide the acceptance, love, strength, and lessons in courage and endurance that they will need to survive in adulthood.

The dynamic between Stephanie and her mother is clearly an exaggeration. But, we can all think of a story of someone we knew with an oppressive parent. What was so much fun was taking your basic overbearing and strict mother, and winding her up with all these quirky restrictions on Stephanie’s behavior because she didn’t want Stephanie to discover her true nature or be found by Hades. Frankly, there’s very little that’s redeeming about Demeter in the original myth, and her tantrums are apocalyptic—literally. So, it was easy to translate this into a woman who is obsessed with getting what she wants, at any price.
 
If you were a myth, which one would you be? Why?

I used to be Atalanta, but then I read she got turned into a lion, and while that sounds cool, I feel it might get boring after a while. Hecate would be cool, as well. She’s got all that power, and she has fingers in every pie—not just in Downcast, but in all of Greek mythology. Psyche would be fun because, hey, who doesn’t want some devoted Eros? But, at the end of the day, I come back to Persephone. Her power over life and her dominion over the kingdom of the dead makes her one of the most beautiful, mysterious, and feared goddesses. Plus, Hades.
 
If you could be best friends with a character from a book you’ve read, who would it be? Why?

It would be really trite to say Elizabeth Bennet, wouldn’t it? Yeah. Okay. Um….
 
What books or authors have served as inspirations to your own writing?

There are a couple of books and authors that have been pivotal in shaping my writing and helping me hone my craft. For pure lyricism, I look at Tana French and Elizabeth Kostova. Sarah Waters’ “The Little Stranger” should be a manual for how to write elegant, absolutely terrifying horror. I also owe Junichiro Tanizaki’s works for showing me the beauty and evocative power of having a light touch and precise word choices. Just a few months ago, my world was rocked by Akhil Sharma’s “Family Life.” His spare prose is like a punch to the gut, and he conveys every emotion and nuance with just a few words. After reading him, I feel like my writing took off to a new level. It was an exhilarating feeling! I love when I come across an author that challenges me like that.
 
What are you working on next? 

I have a bit of a squirrel mentality when it comes to what I’m writing next! I am definitely still in process with Thunderstruck, the sequel to Downcast, but I am on my third draft. I’m waiting for my brain to click and tell me what the story REALLY needs. I am also working on a new thing called Twisted Fiction, where I mashup characters and stories from 19th century literary favorites. I have one other big project that I’m going to be announcing at BEA in Chicago in May. And then, there are the plot bunnies. All the plot bunnies.
 
Where can we find your books? And what are your links?

I’m everywhere!


THE GIRL BEHIND THE BOOK

Cait Reynolds hails from the Boston area where she lives with her husband and four-legged fur child. Downcast is her first foray into the world of paranormal young adult. When she isn’t cooking delicious meals, running around the city, rock climbing like a boss, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Downcast is book one in a three-book series coming from Booktrope Editions. Please visit her at: http://www.caitreynolds.com

CONNECT WITH CAIT 

 

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This entry was posted by cellardoorbooks.

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