YA author April Genevieve Tucholke has written two gothic horror romances, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Between the Spark and the Burn, and a mystery, Wink Poppy Midnight. With The Boneless Mercies (FSG, Oct.), a reimagining of the Beowulf legend in which four mercenary girls set out to defeat a marauding monster, she is making her first foray into fantasy.
What led you to base a fantasy on Beowulf?
Beowulf has everything an epic story needs: a hero, a monster, brutal battles, blood, glory, tragedy, poetry. It begins and ends with a death. I tried to weave all these elements into The Boneless Mercies. What interests me most about Beowulf isn’t necessarily the tale itself, but that it is one of the oldest known stories. Any story that has existed this long, and been present in people’s minds this long, has power.
What was your inspiration for crafting a feminist retelling?
I wrote The Boneless Mercies for every unsung person who longs for a chance to be remembered. [I wanted] to depict the closeness of a group of young, stoic, female mercenaries. I’ve read fantasies about female warriors, and these books often feature a lone hero, or some sort of contest between opposing women. This is great, but I was curious to see what would happen if, instead, there was friendship and love between the female characters, and they fought together to accomplish something brave and noble.
Was writing fantasy a different challenge for you? Is it something you want to explore further?
I like writing short books. So, yes, fantasy is more challenging, simply because it’s longer. But I love the genre. Fantasy allows me to sink into a world that is more heroic, more majestic. I’ve read several books that have changed my life, and a good portion of them are fantasy, from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to A Game of Thrones, Sabriel to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Yeah, I could stay in this realm awhile.
Are there any other genres you hope to mine?
I didn’t set out to write in various genres. I initially wrote a YA gothic horror because this is what I liked to read as a teen: Poe, the Brontës. Is Wink Poppy Midnight a mystery? When I think mystery, I think Poirot, Easy Rawlins, Brother Cadfael, and Flavia de Luce—a murder and clues and a detective. But I guess Wink does have a murder, clues, and a detective, in a way. I’ve always admired the way Neil Gaiman moves through genres. I might stay a fictional wanderer, as he has.