Jane Nickerson on Writing the Macabre + giveaway

March 4, 2013 2013, fairy tales, giveaway, Gothic, guest post, mystery, Wendy 84

Today we’re pleased to welcome Jane Nickerson to the blog, author of the YA Bluebeard retelling Strands of Bronze and Gold!  

 This story begins as a fairy tale: 17-year-old Sophia Petherem is taken under the wing of the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, and begins a new life with her guardian at Wyndriven Abbey. However, she gradually begins to realize that things are not quite as idyllic as they seem, and finds herself drawn into a sinister mystery and forbidden romance. Set in 19th century Mississippi, this book has a very southern gothic feel to it, and the ending chapters are quite dark. 

As part of the official blog tour, Jane is here to talk about the macabre–and why a nice lady like her likes to read and write about such dastardly things.

 ~ Wendy 

Jane Nickerson Guest Post

How can such a nice person…

A few years ago, my book club met to discuss the novel I had assigned them to read, A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin. It’s one of my favorite books, and I thought they would all love it, because I liked them and so surely they would like what I liked. This was when I first realized that even book-loving people you’re compatible with won’t always have the same taste in books. I should have been warned by the fact that I didn’t much care for most of the books they’d chosen. 

Anyway, after I did my little blurb about the book, there was silence for a moment. Then someone said, “I didn’t like it. It was a downer.” There were more comments like this. I thought for sure that out of twelve people, one other besides me would like it. Or at the very least, be neutral. But they all hated it. One person said, “Jane, I’m surprised that you would pick such a dark book.” Because I seem so sweet. And to me, Wizard isn’t even that dark. I hope that if any of my friends from that book club read Strands of Bronze and Gold and the books in that series that are yet to come, they won’t be too disturbed, but at least they had a warning at that meeting. What can I say? I like dark-ish stuff. Not the grimmest, not the goriest, but a touch of the macabre is such shivery fun. Even though I’m a nice person. I go to church. I love kids and animals. Why, just today I made Valentine’s cookies and left them on people’s doorsteps, ringing the bell and running. Wasn’t that nice of me? 

Still, since I was a little kid reading Ghost and More Ghosts, I’ve enjoyed that edge of the ghoulish and gruesome. Walter de la Mare’s “The Listeners” is probably my favorite poem. And obviously I’m not alone, in spite of being so outnumbered at that particular book club. That’s why zombies and vampires are so en vogue, and why there’s been tales of monsters and evil from the earliest times. In literature the ghost story genre dates from at least the 1700’s, with the publication of The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole. What makes good, decent people enjoy that sort of thing? Obviously, unless we’re deeply disturbed, we wouldn’t like the scary stuff to happen to us in real life. None of the vampire victims I’ve met have anything good to say about the experience. Part of the charm of stories of murder and mayhem is that, as you read them, you yourself are cozily curled up in your chair or bed or bathtub. You are absolutely safe, so there’s sort of the hot fudge sundae appeal—opposites brought together, making them extra pleasing. The fear makes your heart race and your adrenaline flow, but it’s in a controlled environment and it will end. 

Now, the ending of scary stories is something I firmly believe should always be happy. At least in anything I write or read. Good must always win over evil or I’ll have no part of it. Courage and kindness and a pure heart must always triumph, because that is what makes the macabre fun, instead of just a nightmare.


About the AuthorFor many years Jane Nickerson and her family lived in a big old house in Aberdeen, Mississippi, where she was also the children’s librarian. She has always loved the South, “the olden days,” gothic tales, houses, kids, writing, and interesting villains. She and her husband now make their home in Ontario, Canada. 

Connect with her online on her website, blog, Twitter, GoodReads, and Facebook.Strands of Bronze and Gold will be out in stores and available online March 12, 2013.   

Our thanks to Jane for visiting us today, as well as to Mod Podge Bookshelf and Random House Children’s Books! Photos appear courtesy of the author.


Win a copy of Strands of Bronze and Gold!  

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Please note that this contest is monitored by Mod Podge Bookshelf, so please see their rules for entry.

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84 Responses to “Jane Nickerson on Writing the Macabre + giveaway”

  1. Jes Hindley

    The most recent and best retelling that I have read so far has been Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn. I liked how the plot revolves around multiple fairy tales and breaking a curse.

  2. Emily

    I definitely like the more surreal retellings (Robin McKinley comes to mind), but I can’t resist a gothic twist.

  3. Beth Morey

    It’s hard to sell me on fairy tale retellings – they have to e done REALLY well. I’m surprised tat I’m really loving the tv series Once Upon a Time.

  4. Alicia Batista

    I know this is chessey but Snow White! Theor os SO MANY re-tellind of that book and I love all most all of them…LOL!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Angelica @ Paperback Princess

    My favorite fairytale retelling is probably Jessica Day-George’s books if you can kind of call those retellings, otherwise it’d definitely be Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce and Cinder by Marissa Meyer :D

  6. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    I’m never good at picking favorites — how do you choose between a lot of wonderful books? But these are the fairy tale retellings I love and reread: Beauty and Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley; by Jessica Day George (I like the sequels, too, but the first one is just perfect); The Serpent’s Shadow and The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey (again, I like some of the sequels also); and Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis McKiernan. Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing is on its way to joining that list, and Cinder and Ella Enchanted were pretty awesome, too.

    I really enjoyed this guest post. I’ve been wanting to read Strands of Bronze and Gold since I first heard about it!

  7. Beth

    I love fairy tale retellings! A few favorites of mine are Ella Enchanted (Cinderella) Beauty (Beauty & the Beast), Daughter of the Forest (The Seven Swans myth) and Entwined (Twelve Dancing Princesses).


  8. Livvy

    I loved the Guest post, particularly the reference to the macabre and the Gothic. I think you can be a good person and still enjoy something dark and exciting.

    After all, we all like to have a little thrill in our life. Awesome post! :)

  9. Melissa

    I love fairy tale retellings…well, some of them. But I’ve heard some really great things about this one. Can’t wait to read it.

  10. Tiffany Weaver

    I hope this comment doesn’t show up multiple times. But I’m very excited for this book I love fairytale type of stories.

  11. Jess

    Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is my favorite hands down. There’s definitely something to be said for the subtlety of her work :)

  12. Kevin Burns

    My favorite fairytale retelling is probably Beauty by Robin McKinley. Although, I’m a huge fan of anything by Shannon Hale! :)

  13. Kevin Burns

    My favorite fairytale retelling is probably Beauty by Robin McKinley. Although, I’m huge fan of anything by Shannon Hale! :)

  14. The Night Bookmobile

    Cinder and Scarlet came to mind as fairytale retellings in which I familiar with the original tales. Oh, also the Fables graphic novels! Some are meh but I love the concept and several of the re-imagined characters. I also really love what Laini Taylor does with fairytale stories in Lips Touch Three Times.

    • Wendy Darling

      I really like CINDER too, although I have yet to read SCARLET–Tonya loved it, though! I will have to look into those graphic novels, too; this is the first time I’ve heard of them.

    • bebecald

      Forgot to add- but my favorite retelling would probably have to be Ella Enchanted. I first read it years ago and it has always stick with me.

  15. Tammy Sparks

    I really love all fairy tale retellings, but since reading Cinder I have to say Cinderella is my favorite at the moment. Thank you for the giveaway:)

  16. starryeyedjen

    Strands was a bit of a miss with me. I have to disagree with the author that scary stories should end with a happy ending. Maybe they don’t have to end with carnage and the villain being the victor, but I don’t read creepy stories for the HEA. :P Great post regardless…it’s great to get a feel for how the author views the subject. And I’m still very interested in reading the other retellings from this series when they’re released. Thanks for sharing!

    • Wendy Darling

      I actually agree with you, Jen–my taste in scary stories does not require a happy ending at all. But yes, it’s always interesting to see how an author’s philosophies and personal tastes inform her work, as they should! Thanks for stopping by. :)

  17. Ann LoveMay

    I liked Beastly by Alex Flinn(: I haven’t read a lot of fairytale retelling, but I liked that one, especially movie:D I liked movie better than book(:

  18. Heather Roddenberry

    Yes! Bring on the darkness, Jane! I’m with her, I like them dark, gritty, and edgy:) I have felt this way since I was 8 years old and read my all time favorite children’s book: The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John. It’s not that I like being terrified per se, but I am always fascinated by ghost stories, vampires tales and other dark books. Looking forward to reading Strands of Bronze and Gold. And btw, that cover is GORGEOUS!

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s a beautiful cover, isn’t it? This book starts out so light and lovely, but the darkness definitely creeps in later on. Look forward to hearing what you think of it, Heather!

  19. Jasprit

    Hah I love this post Jane, I think that people probably hold the same misconceptions about me too; as I’m short, timid-looking that I would stay away from macabre things too. But sometimes I just need some aspects of grittiness and darkish vibes in my books! Rachel actually had a a lot of fun reading this book, she was really sneaky in her review too about some aspects of this book, so I have a feeling this would definitely be something that I would enjoy! Thanks for sharing this great post with us Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Jasprit! For some reason I pictured you as quite tall, so this comes as a surprise to me! Hmm. *resets thinking*

      I remember seeing Rachel’s 4.5 stars, I definitely have to check out her review after I’ve had a chance to write mine. :)

  20. Emily

    I’m with Jane on this – I love a good creepy book but I also want it all tied up with a happy ending where good defeats evil.
    I really like fairy tale retellings. A few favorites are Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and Beauty by Robin McKinley. This post has given me some more titles that I need to try! Thanks!

  21. Annabelle Marie Veronica

    OH, I’ve been curious about this book for so long! I love creepy stories, and horror is one of my two favorite genres for that reason, so I’m even more excited now! The cover just exceeds gorgeousness, and the guest post was detailed and pleasant to read. Lovely post! xx

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s not really a horror story, Annabelle–but it does have some pretty dark moments later on. I think you might like this one anyway, though! The cover is indeed gorgeous. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I didn’t get that impression either, so…those book club ladies might be clutching their pearls at the later scenes in Jane’s book, hah.

  22. Alise (Readers In Wonderland)

    This sounds fantastic! Forbidden romance AND historical? *Runs to pre-order* I love creepy, mysterious books! The type that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s so hard to provoke that response in literature so I can’t wait for this. Thanks for sharing the guest post!

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, I wouldn’t say it’s creepy as much as…spooky? A little atmospheric? The end definitely is a bit shocking, though, I’m very curious to see what you’ll think of the book!

  23. Kim Trotter

    I’m a huge horror fan. Though, I don’t need the good to win out in the end. A good tragedy can always hit the right spot for me every once and a while. I really like KILL ME SOFTLY by Sara Cross, it’s a retelling of some Grimm tales. It’s unique and the voice is attention grabbing.

    But thank you for the guest post, it was very interesting to read and STRANDS OF BRONZE & GOLD is one of my most anticipated March 2013 books.

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m with you, Kim–I like stories that have some complexity and don’t mind if good doesn’t always win over evil, though it’s certainly reassuring to think so. It’s sort of nice to see a writer of fairy tales who wants her characters to have a happy ending, though.

      THANK YOU for tipping me off about KILL ME SOFTLY! That’s been on my list for awhile, but for some reason I didn’t realize it was a retelling of Grimm tales! I definitely have to go get a copy now. Like…this evening.

  24. Kelly

    I’m a huge fan of Marissa Meyer’s retelling of Cinderella, Cinder. I mean, she made the protagonist a cyborg and set the tale in a futuristic China! How cool is that??

    • Wendy Darling

      Marissa Meyer is pretty freaking cool. I need to read SCARLET soon too, Tonya loved that one! But yeah, cyborgs and futuristic China–that’s pretty hard to beat.

  25. Savannah Bookswithbite

    Thanks for the nice and honest review. I don’t this a book that I will particular like or enjoy. Still, I loved your review and enjoyed what you had to say.

  26. Marianne Robles

    Well, almost all of the fairy tale retellings have been from the Once Upon a Time series, and my favorite retelling from that series is Winter’s Child by Cameron Dokey. I’m actually really interested in this book, because it sounds so original.

    • Wendy Darling

      I only recently heard about that series, Marianne-I need to look into those. Thanks for sharing your favorite one, and good luck with your contest entry!

  27. ang

    Hmm. My favorite fairytale retelling… Honestly, it’s probably Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. That said, I really can’t wait to find and be wowed by an Alice in Wonderland retelling; it’s one of my all-time favorite stories.

    • Wendy Darling

      Have you read SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard yet Ang? I liked it (with some reservations), and a lot of my friends absolutely loved it!

  28. Keertana

    I love what she said about good trumping evil. I remember reading a few books where everything just ends in desolation, which doesn’t happen in real life and just makes me question the purpose of the novel as a whole. I just ADORE the cover for this novel and although some negative reviews have made me decide I won’t pick this up, I’m looking forward to the sequel. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      PURPOSE?! But real life doesn’t always have happy endings, hah. Not even fairy tales do! But I take your meaning, as well as Jane’s. ;)

      The cover is totally gorgeous, although it’s true I’m not sure this is the book for you either, Keertana.

  29. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    Believe it or not, I haven’t read a lot of fairy tale re-tellings yet. I think it is a genre I really need to step further into though. I used to read a lot of scary stories as a kid and early teen. It was my favorite thing to read and basically all I did during the summer months. I am so looking forward to this one!

  30. Desiree

    I love fairy tale re-tellings! I can’t think of a favorite right now, but I love reading them!

  31. Chenise Jones

    I don’t have a favourite but I love any that can really bring something new and original to a classic fairytale!

    • Wendy Darling

      Authors definitely need to bring their own style and take on classic fairy tales, Chenise–totally agree. But how could you not have a favorite one?! Or at least narrow it down, hah.

  32. Amber S.

    Oh, I should add that I LOVED Entwined by Heather Dixon – I think it’s my favorite fairy tale retelling to date. :)


  33. Amber S.

    Fun guest post! :) Loved reading your thoughts, Jane!

    I’ve been curious about this book, and I appreciate the chance to win! :) Thank you!



    • Wendy Darling

      Isn’t it lovely? I really like the imagery, and the colors are so beautiful, too. It captures the mood of the beginning of the book very well.

  34. Amy

    Great guest post. I have to agree with her, I love scary stories. Dark, gritty, gory, I’m all for it, but they have to end on a good note. If it ends dark and disturbing, it seems wrong to me. This book sounds amazing! Thanks for featuring it and the chance at the giveaway.

  35. JCzaplewski

    Your post is the first I’m reading about this book and I sounds amazing – can’t wait to check it out! Thanks for the post and the giveaway!

  36. JCzaplewski

    Your post is the first I’m hearing of this book – and I can’t wait to read! Thanks for the post and the giveaway opportunity!

  37. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I’m not the biggest scary story fan (yes, I’m a chicken) but when I do read one, I definitely want a happy ending. Get rid of whatever monster there is under the bed and let the one surviving person (’cause there’s usually only one…maybe two, if they’re super-lucky) live out their lives. Until the sequel.

    • Wendy Darling

      For me, it depends on the story–I like the really scary stuff that isn’t so neatly tied up, actually! But if you’re talking bedtime fairy tales, as I think Jane is, it is definitely comforting when there’s a happy ending. ;)