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Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Christina Soontornvat

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a first book. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Christina Soontornvat’s The Changelings follows eleven-year-old Izzy, whose family has just moved — again — when her little sister Hen is taken by the fairies. It’s up to Izzy to get her back.

Photo: Cathlin McCullough Photography

Photo: Cathlin McCullough Photography

1. Are you a fan of Sendak’s changeling story Outside Over There?

CS: I looked it up after I started writing because I had read somewhere that it inspired Jim Henson’s movie Labyrinth, another classic tale of a stolen sibling. It doesn’t disappoint: it is frightening and dreamy, with a brave child hero who saves the day all on her own. In other words, the perfect story.

2. Please explain once and for all the difference between fairy and faerie.

CS: Don’t forget faery and faeirie! This made copyedits fun, let me tell you. There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules, except that the magical world is usually spelled “Faerie.” I decided that since Izzy and Hen are American kids, they’d probably call an inhabitant of that world a “fairy” as opposed to something with three additional vowels.

adpreview_soontornvat3. Which sister were you?

CS: Definitely Izzy, the eldest sister. I grew up in a small town, always feeling like an outsider. And like Izzy, I was lucky to find some amazing friends. Even now, the people closest to me are my friends from those turbulent middle-grade years.

4. What are the three main clues that one might be talking to a changeling?

CS: Are they fidgety, restless, a bit of a daydreamer? Do they have an aversion to rules and baths? Are they a mischief-maker? Of course, those are also tipoffs you might be talking to a human child, so it’s best not to assume one way or the other.

5. What do you wish someone had told you about writing a novel?

CS: When I was growing up, I thought authors were a special class of people brimming with natural talent. In reality, writing a novel is mostly about being willing to work really hard. If I’d known that earlier, I think I wouldn’t have been so timid about getting started.

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