When we invite an author to do a guest post for The Midnight Garden, the truth is that we never know what we’re going to get. I was thrilled when Marie Rutkoski’s piece came through for the official blog tour, however–I asked if she would talk to us about forbidden love, since Kestrel and Arin have to overcome a great many obstacles in The Winner’s Curse. This turned into something of an impromptu Q & A from the prompts I sent, and the thoughtfulness of her answers reaffirmed absolutely everything I loved about the book. It doesn’t hurt that she also mentions several of my favorite books in this post, too!
If you’re a romantic, I daresay you’ll want a copy of this book straight away after reading this post.
Why do we find forbidden love appealing?
Marie Rutkoski: You must choose:
1. Your very favorite meal, offered when you are almost starving, when you can practically taste the salt or sweet or savory even before you lift the fork, OR
2. Your very favorite meal, after you’ve been snacking all day.
Setting aside the fact that writing this just made me grab a bag of chips, I think we know what choice we want to have happen in books.
For me, the appeal of a forbidden love story lies in a certain amount of self-denial. I’ve never been particularly interested in Romeo and Juliet as lovers (honestly, I don’t think we love them so much as we love the absolutely gorgeous things that they say. It’s Shakespeare’s words that we’re after) because they deny themselves so little. Their forbidden love is about the pressure of the world outside their relationship, not their internal struggle, and while yes, it can be compelling to see a love rendered impossible by society or its authority figures (and yes, there’s some of that in The Winner’s Curse), if this doesn’t come along with some internal resistance in the characters, I’m not going to be very interested. We know what it’s like to want what we can’t have, but we also know what it’s like to deny ourselves what we think we shouldn’t be allowed to have. As a reader, I want my wants as rich and beautiful and painful and complex as they come.
I just stacked several of my favorite forbidden romances on my desk. In alphabetical order:
1. Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
2. Franny Billingsley, Chime
3. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
4. Kristin Cashore, Fire
5. Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
6. Gayle Forman, Where She Went
7. Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road
8. Robin McKinley, Sunshine
9. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia
10. Sarah Waters, Fingersmith
My heart just sang in about a million ways to see this list. I’ve read all of these books many times, and the thing that forbids love (though we know love will eventually rule) is very different from book to book—suspicion, guilt, amputation, obligations of honor, immorality, betrayal, fear of being spurned, fear of doing damage…yet as different as these things may be, they all expose our characters’ great vulnerabilities and internal struggle.
We readers are very reasonable. We want nothing less than to have a character’s heart cut open for all to see.
What complications/considerations did you have to think about in order to write about the complex slave/owner romance?
Marie Rutkoski: I was nervous when I began writing this book. Other people were nervous for me (one person, when she heard the idea for it, said, “Does he have to be a slave? Couldn’t Arin be, you know, an indentured servant?”). Slavery is one of the most grievous violations of humanity. When representing such a great crime, there should be great care. I have tried to be careful.
For me, one of the most important dialogues in the book, and one that relates to your question, is when Arin is furious at Kestrel for mourning the death of a former slave. Although Kestrel and Arin don’t realize it, they are also talking about the possibility of any kind of emotional connection between them.
He tugged Kestrel to her feet, and the shock of it forced her gaze to his. The blacks of his eyes were blown wide with feeling.
With anger. “Stop it,” he said. “Stop pretending to mourn someone who wasn’t your blood.”
His hand was iron around her wrist. She tugged free, the cruelty of what he had said bringing fresh tears to her eyes. “I loved her,” Kestrel whispered.
“You loved her because she did anything you wanted.”
“That’s not true.”
“She didn’t love you. She could never love you. Where is her real family, Kestrel?”
She didn’t know. She had been afraid to ask.
“Where is her daughter? Her grandchildren? If she loved you, it was because she had no choice, and there was no one else left.”
What are some of your favorite reactions to Kestrel and Arin’s relationship?
Marie Rutkoski: I like that people have been describing it as a “slow burn.” It totally is.
Could you give us some hints about what will happen in future books?
Marie Rutkoski: I created an inspiration board for the book. If you’d like to get a visual idea of what it’s about, you can check out the The Winner’s Curse Pinterest board, which I’m revealing exclusively here for the first time.
…and if you’ve already read the book and are curious about what happens in Book 2, you will find that there are hints and teasers about it mixed in with The Winner’s Curse images.
Our thanks to Marie Rutkoski for both her beautiful book and for the lovely guest post. The Winner’s Curse will be available online and in stores on March 4, 2014. Visit her online on her website, Twitter, GoodReads, and Facebook to keep up to date on her latest news.
Read the Free Short Story and Our Review
If you read my effusive review of The Winner’s Curse last week, you know that we’re recommending that you pre-order your copy NOW! The Grisha trilogy is ending this June, and this might just be the thing that takes your mind off that pain.
Be sure to also read the free short story Bridge of Snow on Tor.com, a beautiful fairy tale-like story. If you haven’t read the book yet, it’ll allow you to press your nose against the windowpane of The Winner’s Curse world, and if you have read it, it illuminates a dark corner you didn’t know existed.
Win a Winner’s Curse Prize Package!
Thanks to our wonderful friends at Macmillan Teen, we have an amazing prize package for one of our lucky readers. The goodies include:
- 1 finished copy of The Winner’s Curse
I NEED ONE OF THOSE BOOKMARKS, people! They’re so lovely, and the the other prizes are just amazing, too.
To enter, all you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form with your details and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you NEED a copy of this book as soon as possible. Open to our U.S. and Canadian readers aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!