When fantasy stories tell important truths
Nino Delia’s new novel, Caged Bird Rising. A Grim Tale of Women, Wolves and Other Beasts takes the timeless figure of Little Red Riding Hood and gives the familiar story a feminist context you never knew. Caged Bird Rising’s ingénue lead character Robyn has a lot of questions about the way things are done in her village after she gets bitten by a wolf in the woods. She has learned to think for herself, which means she will never see life quite the same way again.
In our latest Spotlight Interview, Nino talked with us about her take on a classic fairy tale character and about writing in a second language. Enjoy!
1) How would you describe Caged Bird Rising? What is it about?
It’s about men getting their asses kicked 🙂
The story is a tale of Robyn, a young woman imprisoned by misogynistic values in a world, where the law is made by men. Women have no say in society; they obey their men happily because they have never known anything else. Only, when Robyn is bitten by a wolf, she is “infected” with independent thoughts and thus starts to think for herself and questions her life and her loyalties. Because the dangerous beast the menfolk have warned would kill her is the only being who really sees her as a valuable person and not only a trophy to claim to oneself.
All in all it’s about women finding their place in life.
2) What inspired you to write a story that is a modern, feminist spin on an old fairy tale?
Actually I was inspired by a cover draft for Ylva’s Halloween anthology, that didn’t make it as the final cover. There was a girl in a red hood running through the woods. As a short story for that anthology I started on the subject of Little Red Riding Hood getting lost in the woods and meeting a werewolf. I am so engrossed in fairy tales and I like it when stories merge together, when characters from different stories meet and create a whole new tale. So you might recognize some of Robyn’s friends and foes.
3) How is Robyn, your main character, different from Little Red Riding Hood?
Robyn isn’t ‘little’ anymore; she’s a grown young woman about to marry the glorious Captain Wolfmounter, who will have her, even though she’s an orphan who lives with her grandmother. She isn’t led into the deep dark forest by the beastly wolf who wants to kill her; instead her friend deliberately sends her into the woods to be bitten by that wolf. That’s when she starts to change. She sees things clearer, starts to question her values, and experiences true fairy tale love. She might be consumed by the wolf, but not eaten 😉
4) How did you come up with the title for the book?
Finding the title wasn’t easy. We experimented with variations of the original [Little Red Riding Hood] title, but didn’t come up with anything useful. So when we started to think beyond the usual associations and had a look at the gender aspect and the satirical undertone, we thought Robyn is breaking free of her chains and fighting for an autonomous life – the bird rises and breaks free from her cage. The subtitle was chosen to make sure that the book wasn’t mistaken for a completely serious all dark and gritty fairy tale.
5) Do you write to music? If yes, do you have a song that you associate with Caged Bird Rising?
Mostly I write to these hour long “medieval” or “Celtic” pieces. I need music to write but I can’t quite concentrate when there are vocals. Towards the end of the book I mostly listened to the Outlander seriessoundtrack. Especially “The Marriage Contract” and “Clean Pease Strae”. They are fun and fast and you can write great fighting scenes with them.
6) English isn’t your native language. Was it hard to write a novel in a language that isn’t your native tongue?
Oh, it was. At first it was designed to be a short story and I figured, okay, 8,000 words can’t be that hard. But as it became more and more I got a little scared. In the end it became a pretty good piece of work, but all that I owe to my line editor, Gill, who put up with a few horrible mistakes. Some comments from her side only contained a few question marks where she couldn’t understand a sentence at all. It was hard work, but I learned so much and could polish my English during those months.
7) What was your favorite part about writing Caged Bird Rising?
That was definitely creating the characters, finding new names for them and giving them a new role – especially the girls.
If I could add another one, that would be the dialogues between Robyn and Gwen at the beginning of their friendship. Gwen has a dry humor and doesn’t hold back with anything, and Robyn’s nativity is driving her crazy. Oh, and writing Rose was also very fun, because she is just as badass as Gwen and can’t keep her mouth shut.
8) I know you read from Caged Bird Rising at an event for lesbian readers a few months ago. How did it go, and how did the audience react to the scenes you read?
For my first reading of the book it went very well. The audience had fun and a good laugh. I think Gwen made quite an appearance, and Robyn’s naïve thoughts of male superiority were commonly met with shaking heads and hearty laughs. I was surprised but very happy when people came to me afterwards saying they hoped to hear more of it soon.
9) Are you working on a new novel? What can your readers expect next from you?
There are some ideas for a second novel set in the land of fairy tales. They include, for instance, a young female booted thief looking for gems and gold who finds a golden-haired maiden banned in a tower instead.
10) How can your readers get in touch with you?
The easiest way is Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ninodelia1
I also have a homepage that isn’t updated as often as it should be, but you can find my recently published works there and occasionally some free stuff. It’s at https://ninodelia.wordpress.com/
If you want to write to me, there is always a mailbox at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for talking with us, Nino. Congratulations on your new book.