In conversation with Angela Sunde, Australian children’s author …
“I love fairytales. There’s something timeless and classic about their stories. Pond Magic is proof of this – a thoroughly modern setting and cast with a familiar ring of magic and message.” Angela Sunde
My guest today is children’s author, Angela Sunde. Angela is a fellow Queenslander and good friend who lives in a beautiful part of the country, the Gold Coast hinterland.
With her first novel, Pond Magic firmly under her belt, Angela is living her own personal fairytale – to become a children’s author. Her book for 8-12 year-olds is one of this year’s Aussie Chomps, Penguin Australia’s successful and highly-sought after imprint.
Rather than interview Angela or get her to write an article for my blog, I’ve decided we should have an online conversation. So she has no idea what direction I might take, and neither do I! Who knows where this will end up?
SG: Hi Angela! Welcome to my blog. I’m just pouring out our cups of tea. Help yourself to a biscuit and get comfortable.
AS: Hi Sheryl. I’m so excited to be here today to talk about one of my favourite topics – fairytales! And it’s always great to chat with you.
SG: Likewise! Congratulations on the release of Pond Magic, Angela. I loved it – clever, witty, funny and a story kids of that tween age will love. I also love its link to fairytales – that’s why I’ve titled this blog conversation Once upon a time in a far away place… I suspect you (like me) thrill at the sound of those words and the wonders they may hold.
AS: Absolutely true, Sheryl. It takes me back to my childhood and the beautiful illustrations which accompanied the fairytales. They were my only picture books. I remember loving the Little Golden Books version of Little Red Riding Hood too. I can still see her face under the red cape.
SG: When I was a girl, I treasured two lovely thick books of tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but they were lost in one of our many house moves. I remember how so many of the stories were filled with tales of horror, cruelty and sadness. But we still lapped them up? I wonder why?
AS: I guess we knew they weren’t true, just as kids today know the difference between reality and fantasy.
SG: Like the Brothers Grimm stories – some of them are absolutely terrifying!
AS: The Grimms’ fairytales were intended for both adults and children – that’s why they’re sometimes horrifying. Did you know they were originally called Kinder und Hausmaerchen? That means ‘Children’s and Household tales’ – the whole family would gather around the hearth to hear the re-telling of these stories. Then, like Chinese Whispers, the fairytales would change with each re-telling and so often villages ended up with a different version of the same tale.
SG: So with Pond Magic, you’ve carried on that Kinder und Hausmaerchen tradition?
AS: I can’t help putting fairytale elements into my writing! Fairytales have always been a part of my life. I had a running joke with a friend when we were in our 20s about The Frog Prince … that you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the handsome prince. Eventually I did find Rob, but her’s turned out to be a toad!
In Pond Magic, when I gave my character Lily Padd the problem of being unable to stop burping, the logical reason behind this had to be what I call ‘fairytale logic’ – she must be turning into a frog! In fairytales, anything can happen: people do magic, animals talk, fairies marry princes, small children enter the world of giants and frogs can turn into princes.
SG: I just discovered (research can be very useful!) that the Grimm Brothers’ version of The Frog Prince was quite different to the English version I knew as a child. The original German fairytale had the princess (a bit of a nasty girl, to be sure), after putting up with the frog knocking on her door and then sitting on her pillow for three nights, throws that poor creature to the floor in a temper. That’s when he changes into the gorgeous prince.
The English translator of The Frog King, Edgar Taylor altered the title and revised the ending, replacing the Grimms’ violent resolution with one of passivity. Apparently, ‘the English readers of the 1820s could not accept a heroine who throws her frisky bed companion against the wall’.
Angela, your Croatian ancestry goes back 400 years, and you speak five languages. Have you noticed similar cross-cultural differences between other well-known fairytales?
AS: Croatia used to be a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire up to WWI, so the European folktales of the Brothers Grimm are well-loved there too.
The Grimm fairytales were stories they collected on their travels around Germany. Jacob Grimm said this about the origin of the fairytale: All these are neither devised nor invented; they are a distillation of the oldest popular beliefs.
The brothers were interested in the historical roots of the stories as much as the stories themselves. And some are much older than many myths of gods and heroes. It’s not unusual then to have violent resolutions in the original tales.
In the original Cinderella, for example, the first step-sister cuts off her toes in order to fit into the slipper (which is gold not glass) and the second sister cuts off her heel. The French translator Perrault also added mice and pumpkins to Cinderella, which did not exist in the original.
The sensibilities of the time (1800s) caused these changes as the stories grew to be just for children and not adults as well.
The children of the Middle Ages used to watch hangings at executions the way our kids go to the movies – violence was a part of life.
SG: Oh no! We’ve run out of space…looks like we’ll be chatting again tomorrow?
AS: Sounds good to me, Sheryl See you bright and early on Sunday morning. 🙂
CATCH UP WITH US AGAIN TOMORROW for Part 2!
We’ll bring you more about fascinating fairytales and writing stories in the next episode.
Angela will also share her fairytale-writing formula for writing your own modern day fairytale.
And as an extra bonus: Angela and I will face-off in THE FAIRYTALE PLAYOFF competition! Who will win?
Illustration of The Frog Prince, courtesy of childhoodreading.com
Angela also appears on other blogs during her blog tour for Pond Magic. Check them out:
21st October – Stories Are Light – Sandy Fussell
22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character
23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time
24th October – Cat Up Over – Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read
24th October – Kids Book Review
Review of Pond Magic
26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length
27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From
28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format
29th October – Tales I Tell – Mabel Kaplan
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch
30th/31st October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 1 and PART 2