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(excerpted from Locus Magazine, August 1997)
Photo by Charles N. Brown
other interview excerpts
Jane Yolen has written many children's books and received many awards, from the Society of Children's Book Writers' Golden Kite Award in 1974 to a Mythopoeic Society Award in 1984 and a World Fantasy Spacial Award - Professional in 1986 for her work as an editor. Among her adult novels, one of the most powerful is Briar Rose, which retells "Sleeping Beauty" as a Holocaust story. Yolen's "Great Alta" fantasy sequence began in 1988 with Sister Light, Sister Dark, continued with White Jenna (1989), and goes on with the forthcoming The One-Armed Queen.
"I didn't expect to commit trilogy when I wrote Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. They're really one book...in fact, the current in-print version is a one-volume trade paperback, The Books of Great Alta, from Tor. The books are set in a kind of mythical England called the Dales. But also, the books are really about that point where folklore, history, storytelling, balladry, all come together. I'm never sure, but I believe that not any single of these tells the entire truth -- not even what seems to be the actual narrative, which I call the story..."
"The new book is called The One-Armed Queen. It's really concerned with what happens in a kingdom when the heroes are gone. White Jenna from the earlier book is not the hero, but she's in the first couple of sections. It's really her daughter who is the 'one-armed queen.' At this point, I still have to see how it plays out. There are people who write books who know exactly how they're going to end. I write books to find out how it's going to end."
"I've learned I like to write short books! I like a story that can fit into the palm of my hand. I like compression, I like form. I don't like sprawl, urban or novel. I did the 'Young Merlin' trilogy as children's books, and each one is very short. Actually, in page length, I think the first little novel was 40 pages, the second 50, and third 58 pages, but they are complete. They are not novellas, not novelettes, but complete novels for children. I think novels do different things from short stories, novellas, and novelettes. It has to do somewhat with time frames, but it also has to do with a kind of tight emotional core..."
"I write a longer adult book about once every five years. I mostly do children's books: a lot of picture books, a lot of poetry. Of the books I have planned, one is a pre-Raphaelite novel, one a historical fantasy set back a century, in Brazil, and I have several others that may end up being young-adult novels -- I haven't decided yet. One is about Louisa May Alcott, and that may fold back into being a children's novel."
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