Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with Kersten Hamilton, author of Tyger, Tyger

Tyger, Tyger was one of my favorite Young Adult reads of this year. Please help me welcome Kersten Hamilton as she answers a few of my questions! My review of Tyger, Tyger is here.

1. What is something we'd be surprised to learn about you?
I married the first and only man I have ever kissed. :)

2. Can you tell us a bit about Tyger, Tyger?
Tyger Tyger is fast paced adventure with a backbone of myth and heart of romance.

3. What made you decide on Goblins?
Good question! In this age of handsome, yearning, vampires and hunky, shirtless werewolves, I wrote a YA book about…goblins. Are there sexy beasts in Tyger Tyger? Oh, yes. And love, and danger, and courage, and deep literary themes…but I wasn’t searching for the next Big Thing, or casting about for a creature group which had gone un–exploited in the current paranormal pandemonium when I chose to write this book. I wasn’t even thinking about the YA market.
I was remembering a goblin that crept out of the dark and slipped her paw into my hand. It happened when I was just a child. The creature’s name was Lina, and she came to life in a book by George MacDonald.
Lina was a dog–like creature with green eyes lit by amber fire, and a huge mouth with icicle–like teeth. Curdie, the hero of the story, could feel the real hand of any creature inside its flesh glove, and when Lina put her paw in his hand: “a shudder, as of terrified delight, ran through him…instead of the paw of a dog, such as it seemed to his eyes, he clasped in his great mining fist the soft, neat little hand of a child! The green eyes stared at him with their yellow light, and the mouth was turned up toward him with its constant half grin; but here was the child’s hand!”
When I read those lines I felt it. I felt the child’s hand, and I knew I wanted to pull a child out of a goblin one day. That was the moment Tyger Tyger started growing inside me. Through the years, many stories, poems, myths and legends lent elements to the growing story: Tam Lin, the story of girl who musters all her courage to save her love who has been taken by the Sídhe; The Lords of the Grey and White Castles, a fairy tale by Francis Brown, Ireland’s blind storyteller; and even a hint of the goblin from Harold Monro’s poem Overheard on a Salt Marsh. Many reviewers have commented that Tyger Tyger is different from anything they have read in the YA market lately. It is.
But…different can be good.

4. What makes Tyger, Tyger stand out from other YA fantasy books?
I think it is the “backbone of Celtic myth” which gives Tyger Tyger such a distinct voice. At one point in the Lord of the Rings Galadriel, describing the journey of the ring through time, says: “History became legend. Legend became myth…
That’s what I wanted to do in Tyger Tyger—start with myth and end in the modern day, using existing stories and historical characters, fiction and fact.
I searched Celtic myth for the stories with enough power to reach through time, then worked my way forward through legend, then history, and finally into our present day where science and technology come into play, each time seeking out the most logical story path, the clearest connections. It was like tracing the path of a lightning bolt!

5. On your website it says that you hunt for dinosaurs in the badlands of New Mexico. How did that get started?
I have always been a Finder. It might be just because I notice things…or it might be an awesome superpower that I should be using for the good of all mankind. J As a child, I found lots of money in denominations large and small, star sapphire rings, lost dogs, lockets, a saber toothed tiger’s fang, mammoth graveyards full of ivory, and occasionally various items of gold. It all came of wandering in lonely places. After all, where else would you look for something that was lost? Wandering and finding became a habit. The whole world is a treasure hunt for me—and dinosaur bones are treasures that have been hidden for millions of years.

6.What inspired you switch from writing middle grade books to YA? Was it a hard transition?
It wasn’t hard at all. I hadn’t been working on MG, I had just finished a picture book. Believe it or not, writing YA it is much easier than writing picture books. In a picture book you must have all of the same elements of story and character, but you only have a few hundred words (at most!) to work with. It is glorious to be able to stretch out and write a series of novels!

7. What's the one thing that you want people to come away with after reading Tyger, Tyger?
At one point in Tyger Tyger Teagan’s father quotes Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That’s true, and deep inside we know it. There is more to us and to the world around us than meets the eye.
Tyger Tyger is a fantasy—but it is about things which are true. That’s what I’d like people to come away with.

8. Where can we find you on the internet?
I’m not really a social media person. I’m a sitting all alone thinking kind of person. But people can find me on blogs where I’ve stopped by to talk to my friends. 

9. Do you have any favorite YA books/authors? If so what/who?
I am a very eclectic reader, and I have so many favorites that I can’t count them. I think I’ll go with Neil Gaiman, Shakespeare, Georgette Heyer, Scott Westerfeld and George MacDonald today because they’re who I am reading. It will change tomorrow!

Thank you for interviewing me, Colette!