I love taking fairy tales and myths and playing around with them, re-inventing them to create fresh and lively new stories which whilst staying true to their essential core. The Crystal Heart has two main inspirations of this kind: the classic fairy tale Rapunzel, where a girl is kept imprisoned in a tower by a witch and is rescued by a brave young man who suffers for his bravery, before there’s a happy ending; and the beautiful but sad Irish myth, Deirdre of the Sorrows, in which Deirdre, a young girl kept in a tower by the King of Ulster to whom she’s promised in marriage, falls in love with a handsome young warrior called Naoisi, whom she sees one day from her window, and whose ‘skin is as white as snow, lips red as blood, hair black as a raven’s wing’. He falls in love with her too—and together they escape to Scotland, with the help of his two brothers. It all ends badly but I’ve always loved the story of Deirdre, with its mix of myth, romance and fairytale elements.
But you won’t find in my book the ancient Irish setting of Deirdre or the medieval setting of Rapunzel: the world of The Crystal Heart is part of the world of my earlier fairytale novels, Moonlight and Ashes(2012) and Scarlet in the Snow(2013)—a kind of alternative-world version of late 19th century Central and Eastern Europe, with ‘modern’ technology such as photographs, trains, telegraphs, but with also with magic and supernatural beings.
The Crystal Heart is set in the military state of Krainos, a small country which is on a constant war footing due to its enmity with the underground, magical realm of Night. But it’s also partly set in Night itself, an amazing realm which is much more advanced than Krainos. Some of the elements of the kingdom of Night owe their inspiration to two things: first, a magical, extraordinary place in the real world, the Wieliczka Salt Mines near Krakow in Poland, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wieliczka_Salt_Mine , which I visited in 2012. As soon as I set foot in this amazing underground world, with its huge caves, shining salt walls, fantastical statues carved out of grey and white rock salt, and its fairytale cathedral entirely carved out of salt, with glittering chandeliers made of salt crystals, I knew I had to use it in a book! By the time I had emerged from our extraordinary journey underground, the characters of Izolda and Kasper were already whispering in my ear…
The other inspiration for the underground setting was one of my favourite childhood books, George MacDonald’s classic fantasy novel for children, The Princess and the Goblin. I disliked the goblins but was fascinated by their underground kingdom! And when I saw the Wieliczka Salt Mines, those nasty goblins from George MacDonald’s book morphed into even nastier ones in my world!
The names of characters and places in The Crystal Heart are based and adapted from Polish names, as a homage to that inspiration, but Krainos is no more Poland than Ruvenya is Russia, in Scarlet in the Snow, or the Faustinian Empire is the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Moonlight and Ashes, though those places have been inspirations, and elements of their culture run through my imagined lands.
And I’m certainly not finished with that fantastic world, for Hunter’s Moon, the fourth novel in my fairytale series, comes out in June. It’s based on Snow White—but that’s another story!
Sophie was born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the award-winning and internationally-published author of over 60 books for children, young adults and adults, published in Australia and many other countries. Among these are her bestselling historical novel for children, The Hunt for Ned Kelly(Scholastic Australia), which won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. She has also written four popular YA romantic thrillers under the name of Isabelle Merlin. Under the name of Jenna Austen, she has also published two romantic comedies for tweens and early teens.
Her latest novels for young people are The Crystal Heart(Random House Australia, Notable Book, CBCA Awards 2015), 1914((Scholastic Australia) and Emilio(Allen and Unwin).
As well, her latest adult novel, Trinity: The Koldun Code, first in the Trinity thriller series set in Russia, was published by Momentum Books in 2014, and her non-fiction adult title, The Adaptable Author: Coping with Change in the Digital Age , featuring interviews with over 40 authors, agents and publishers on the state of authorship and the publishing industry today, was published by Keesing Press in the same year.
Forthcoming in 2015 are Hunter’s Moon(Random House Australia, June 2015) and Trinity: The False Prince(Momentum, October 2015).
Sophie is also one of the founding partners and co-director in new children’s publishing house, Christmas Press, www.christmaspresspicturebooks.com.
Sophie is on the Board of the Australian Society of Authors and the Board of the New England Writers’ Centre. She has also served on the Literature Board of the Australia Council and the Book Industry Collaborative Council.
Sophie’s blog: www.firebirdfeathers.com
Sophie’s author page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SophieMassonAuthor
Follow Sophie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sophiemasson1
Sophie’s website: www.sophiemasson.org