Yes, it has been a while since we’ve had a 5 Q’s on the blog… and that’s totally on me 🤦♀️ As it turns out, moving country and buying a lot of land takes up A LOT of time. I’ve also been failing at keeping on top of social media too. Apologies!
*BUT* we have a great 5 Q’s to get us back into the swing of things. You know we love a good Arthurian Legend at Breaking the Glass Slipper, so here’s an interview with Alexandra Bracken, whose novel Silver in the Bone, is a YA take on the legend. We asked her about the legend’s enduring popularity, why it connects so well with younger audiences, mixing traditional folklore with urban fantasy tropes, and more!
Books inspired by Arthurian legends seem to be everywhere this year, from Juliet E McKenna to Sophie Keetch… to you! What drew you to exploring the Arthurian legends?
I love that Arthurian legends are having yet another resurgence! It’s fun to go back and look at how the popularity of the tales have risen and fallen over the centuries, and how the central stories have and haven’t changed. Everyone seems to bring a little something different to the ever-growing body of Arthuriana.
I have to confess that I didn’t intentionally set out to write a book that featured Arthurian legend—I always joke that I sort of backed into it unknowingly. I’d been doing some research into my family tree and came across a 17th century ancestor who was considered monstrously evil(!) by his fellow villagers. The legends that sprang up around his death sent me down a rabbit hole of research into the black dog folklore of the British Isles, the Wild Hunt, and the really intriguing way they intersect with some of the earliest Welsh legends about Arthur. That’s the branch of Arthuriana that really stole my heart.
From the BBC’s Merlin to Disney’s classic The Sword in the Stone, Arthur is no stranger to young adult audiences. However, many of the themes in the original stories are arguably very much part of the adult realm. What did you hope to bring to an Arthur-inspired YA tale that others haven’t touched on? Are there any elements of the legends you are most excited to bring to a YA audience?
Even as a kid reading the legends for the first time, I was so disappointed by the lack of stories centered on Avalon and the extraordinary priestesses who inhabited it. It genuinely baffled me that those writers could describe a paradise filled with magic and wonder, but didn’t do much to explore it. I’m not sure if the mystery of it was more appealing to them, or if they didn’t want to write about such a feminine space when they could focus on knights and quests.
In addition to wanting to give my younger self the chance to explore Avalon, my main goal in writing Silver in the Bone was to shift the focus from brotherhood to sisterhood. Crafting the female friendships in this book was so rewarding and took the story to places I never could have imagined.
A strong theme of Arthur’s story is that someone extraordinary can come from truly ordinary beginnings, something that is echoed with your protagonist, Tamsin. Why did you want to have an ‘ordinary’ protagonist against a world full of the extraordinary?
I love writing characters who are fighters, and when you’re someone without magic in a very dangerous magic world, you have to fight for everything: to protect your loved ones, for your survival, for recognition and respect. That can harden you emotionally, which it has for Tamsin, but each test can also strengthen your resolve and courage. When Tamsin makes the choice to do something brave, the stakes are different for her—she doesn’t have the magic the others do to protect themselves. That’s what I find heroic.
Arthurian legends and urban fantasy are not two things you often hear in the same sentence! Why did you want to bring these ancient myths into an urban setting? How did this help shape the narrative?
There’s something endlessly fascinating about bringing centuries-old stories forward into modern day and seeing the ways they clash. The past with the present, magic with reality, gods with mortals—it’s all so dynamic. While I love a retelling (and there are so many wonderful ones out there!), I’ve challenged myself to find new ways of using those familiar tales to tell a brand new one.
For example, with my book LORE, I wanted to try to create something that felt like a modern myth—a story that captured all the very epic stakes, darkness, violence, and heroic journeys of the original stories, but was set in New York City with a young woman at the center of the action. With SILVER IN THE BONE, I was really taken with the idea that you can still visit some of the places referenced in Arthurian legend—for example, Tintagel Castle—and feel as though you’ve stepped through a portal back in time, or into the legends themselves. That was the element I tried to tease out with the Otherlands and the travel between them.
Unlike LORE, I didn’t want to try to capture the noble, grand tone of the more romantic Arthurian legends—instead, I had a blast twisting it through humor and upending story expectations.
Why should we be reading Silver in the Bone? Pitch us the book!
This book is like if Indiana Jones was a sarcastic teenage girl who must compete with sorceresses, treasure hunters, and her infuriatingly handsome rival to find a ring that has the power to save her brother from a terrible curse. But when their search brings them to the mystic Otherland of Avalon, they won’t just be trying to find the ring, they’ll be fighting to survive. It has a dash of The Last of us, rivals-to-lovers romance, found family, lady knights, and some big twists that’ll absolutely knock you sideways.
Alexandra Bracken is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of Lore, Passenger, Wayfarer, The Darkest Minds series and the Prosper Redding series. After selling her debut novel in college, Alex worked in children’s publishing for several years before leaving to write full time. She now lives in Arizona, where she was born and raised. Visit her online at www.alexandrabracken.com and on Twitter and Instagram @alexbracken.