By Evangeline Jennings
Following on from yesterday’s conversation with Paige-slash-Tina, today we’re featuring another writer whose heroines understand technology.
Published by Disney-Hyperion late last year, Stitching Snow is Rachel “RC” Lewis’ debut novel, and a very fine one at that. A gritty hi-tech upgrade of the Snow White perennial, it casts Princess Snow as a geek girl with a knack for cage-fighting living off the grid on a frozen mining planet with only seven autonomous drones for company. You get the idea.
So, Rachel Lewis, how the hell are you?
Not bad, and getting better as the days get longer.
And who the hell are you?
A math teacher who got the crazy idea to try writing novels, too.
And Stitching Snow, what’s that all about?
Some say it’s Snow White meets Star Wars. Others say it’s Snow White meets Firefly. Let the battle begin!
Because we have a little history I was aware of your day job when I sat down to read Stitching Snow. I didn’t notice that it had bled into the story. Was I wrong, did I miss something?
I … don’t know. My love of sci-fi and love of math and science are definitely related. My nitpickiness with numbers manifests in a couple ways, but they’re probably only obvious to me.
Obviously, Stitching Snow is a reboot or reimagining of Snow White, or maybe just inspired by the fairy tale. If Snow White had ever been a cage fighter. But you could have told the same story without the Snow White motif without weakening the story or the characters. So how did it come about?
During a commute home in Fall 2011, a song by Florence + The Machine came up. There’s a line in the bridge: “Snow White stitching up your circuit board.” (Or something like that.) Boom, image of Snow White and techy stuff colliding. It grew from there.
So that’s where the idea came from, but did you think it was then necessary to follow through with the parallels and references? Do you think they added to the story? Or do you think in some ways they actually weakened it because people won’t say Hey, what a great story, they’ll say Hey, what a neat take on Snow White?
Well, that’s simply what the idea WAS—a sci-fi retelling of Snow White. Whether it adds to the story or not is probably in the eye of the reader. It’s the story I wanted to tell, the kind of “princess” story I’d like to read.
Do you think it helped commercially because it gave you a strong hook to hang the idea off?
Definitely. I had a one-liner in my query that I still use when people ask what the book’s about: Snow White in space, if Snow were a cage-fighting tech-head with daddy issues. It snagged some agent attention instantly … thank goodness the story itself managed to hold it. And hopefully the high-concept hook gets some readers’ attention, too.
Another of the things I particularly like about Essie/Princess Snow is that she’s not just the by-now proverbial kick-ass heroine, she also has skills. The men of the mining settlement where she lives rely on her abilities with technology. We need more of that kind of role model in fiction. Can you please pretend that was a question?
Yes, I can.
Cool. And then can you answer it?
Okay, I’ll answer the pretend-question. I definitely wanted Essie to have some dimensions. Not just a fighter, not just a geek. She found her niche in the mining settlement and figured out how to take care of herself, beyond physical protection. A little brawn doesn’t hurt, but combined with brains? That’s the ticket … until unexpected variables enter the equation. Then, plot happens.
Another of many things I admire about Stitching Snow is the deft way you feed in what I’m going to call an adult theme which, although it’s actually central to the plot, is never over-played or sensationalized. Can you talk about that without spoiling the story?
It was tricky. I hope I struck the right balance. (Some will say I did, others will never agree.) It was important to me that this be an aspect of the main character, something that influences her choices and personality, yet the story isn’t ABOUT that. Survivors have stories beyond what they survived, y’know?
Yes, I do. What’s next for R.C. Lewis? Cinderella in Space? Rumpledforeskin?
Actually, another YA sci-fi fairy tale retelling is on its way this fall. This time based on “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Andersen, and an even looser, more metaphorical approach than I took with Stitching Snow in many ways.
Who inspires/influences you?
I have a hard time pinning down people who inspire/influence, because it all becomes kind of amorphous. Inspiration comes from random places like the aforementioned songs in the car, or reading science articles. Influences range from comic book movies to Star Trek to the works of Tolkien. (Oh, hey, he’s a person! But I don’t aim to write like him, exactly.)
Three authors you’d love to sit down to tea with?
First three off the top of my head, no particular order: Neal Shusterman, Ilsa J. Bick, and let’s go ahead and resurrect Tolkien.
He’s spinning in his grave at the idea. What three words best describes your writing?
I tried to make Mindy McGinnis answer this for me, and she said 1) Well 2) Thought 3) Out. I can only hope. For myself, I’ll cut it down to two words: Accessibly Geeky
I like that. Recently we’ve seen Kristen Stewart and Lily Collins play very different Snow Whites. Yours is different again. Who would you choose to play Essie?
I hope you don’t mean between those two actresses, because, well … neither of them. I’ve had a hard time coming up with anyone, especially anyone even close to age-accurate, so I’ll say not necessarily her, but someone *like* Adrianne Palicki…?
And talking of which, Snow White and the Huntsman or Mirror, Mirror?
How bad is it if I admit I’ve never seen Mirror, Mirror? So SWatH by default … and by Hemsworth.
Quite bad. Mirror Mirror is fun. But we’ll let it go if you help us out with our English homework. Seven dwarfs or seven dwarves? Elfs or elves?
I think it’s elves no matter what, but dwarfs in general, unless you’re talking about Tolkien’s, then dwarves. He had linguistic reasons for it, but I don’t remember exactly. Seems to me there was something similar in his choice of using “elvish/elven” as opposed to “elfish/elfin.”
And finally, you inherit five million dollars the same day aliens land on the earth and say they’re going to blow it up in two days. What do you do?
Pretty sure the resulting worldwide chaos would make money useless, so I’d spend the two days finding a way to get in with the aliens.