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Fairytale beginnings

Russia was the motherland of invention for Katherine Arden’s magic realism, she tells Tina Jackson

When it was published early last year, The Bear and the Nightingale was the perfect book for the frosty season: a magical historical fantasy set in medieval Russia with the Winter King as a central character and a fierce young heroine, Vasya. The bestselling debut’s follow-up, The Girl in the Tower, is just as enchanted, and enchanting, following Vasya through more perilous snow-bound adventures in the wonderfully wrought magic realist world author Katherine Arden has created.

Katherine, though, comes from a much more temperate climate: Texas. So how did a young woman from America’s Southern States create this fairytale wintry world so convincingly based in Russian folklore?

‘I had a book of Russian fairytales as a little girl and I read them over and over,’ says Katherine. Fittingly, she’s standing outside in the freezing cold of Vermont to have this conversation, because that’s the only place she can get a signal.

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About Writing Magazine

Bumper issue! Your guide to 2018's writing events and festivals Inside the new issue, discover what you can learn about writing by studying Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle, and get up to speed on what's happening in the grip lit genre. Learn how to conquer rejection and move your writing on, and see how our star interviewee, Katherine Arden, took inspiration from folklore and history for her magic realist historical fantasies. • Keep up to date with the latest writing competitions and opportunities in Writers' News.
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