Hello friends and Happy New Year!
And welcome the first ever COLOR THE SHELVES post! I’m so excited to have you all reading this post, and to be sharing the works of so many wonderful Authors of Color who have books coming out in 2020 with you. And for this first post, I’m ecstatic and honored to be hosting one of my favorite authors ever, Anna-Marie McLemore, who’s here to talk about their upcoming January 2020, release DARK AND DEEPEST RED, the inspiration behind it as well as other fun things! I will be keeping this introduction short, because I’m sure you’re way more interested in what they have to say, so I hope you enjoy and stay on board for the rest of my weekly Color the Shelves posts!
Hi Anna-Marie, thank you so much for joining me on the blog today for the first ever Color the Shelves post. I’ve been reading (and loving) your books for years now, and I’m always in awe of the way the stories you write weave so many different elements and so many details, can you tell us more about how the idea for DARK AND DEEPEST RED came to be?
Thank you so much for having me!
I’ve long been fascinated with the medieval Alsatian dancing plagues, but I was drawn to 1518 Strasbourg in particular because it was one of the largest and most well-documented. One day I was distracted in dance class, thinking about how I might write about 1518, when the daughter of a woman in my class called me “the girl in the red shoes” (the pair I practice in is this deep ruby red). That was the moment I knew these stories belonged together, the dancing plague and the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Red Shoes.” It wouldn’t be until later, deep in the research process, that I’d find out “The Red Shoes” and 1518 actually have a secret history together, one that I got to weave into the book.
I must admit I wasn’t familiar with the Red Shoes fairy tale so your retelling was my first encounter with it and I couldn’t help but be curious as to why you chose it for this book? Did you write the book around the retelling or did you work the retelling into pre-existing story?
This beautiful but frightening fairy tale captures so many of my feelings of growing up as a dancer, one whose curvy, Latinx body didn’t fit the ideal. “The Red Shoes” says so much about beauty, what girls are supposed to be, and the way something you love can sweep you away. And I don’t agree with everything it says. So writing DARK AND DEEPEST RED let me both reimagine it and push against it. And it let me place two brown girls, a Romani boy, and a trans boy at its center.
One of my favorite things about your stories is that they all have a fairytale like quality to them that transports the reader. And one of things that adds to it is that they all involve some kind of curse the characters have to overcome or work through, and DARK AND DEEPEST RED is no different. Is that something you purposefully include?
In magical realism, the extraordinary is both beautiful and threatening. To have magic bring both enchantment and a curse, one that must be faced by a community as much as by an individual, that feels true to magical realism, to the stories I heard growing up Latinx, and to the kind of fairy tales I want to tell.
(I love the way this is so simply phrased and yet so beautifully explained so much)
As I was reading, I couldn’t help but see some similarities between Miel and Lala and think that they could be really good friends. Which characters from all your books do you think could be friends with each other? and which ones do you think you could be good friends with?
I love this question! And I think you’re right that Miel from When the Moon Was Ours and Lala from Dark and Deepest Red would be good friends. Alifair from Dark and Deepest Red and Samir from Moon are five hundred years apart, but I would kinda want these two softest trans boys to meet. Cluck from The Weight of Feathers and Emil from Red would bond over being science nerds. Estrella from Wild Beauty and Roja from Blanca y Roja share the language of food, rage, and inconvenient family curses. Lace from Feathers and Rosella from Red would have some big conversations about white beauty standards (and about beading and sequins); Blanca from ByR should probably show up for this too. I’m gonna put Fel from Wild Beauty and Barclay from ByR together, and I have no explanation, because they seem like a really unlikely friendship, but I can see it working. And Page Ashby from ByR…well, let’s just say Page and I have a lot to talk about related to our respective gender identities.
(I actually do see Fel and Barclay being friends, it somehow makes sense)
Before we go, what’s something you’d want to tell your readers about DARK AND DEEPEST RED or what’s something you’d hope they take away from it?
Our identities, and how we claim them, are journeys, not endpoints. Lala, a Romani girl, and Alifair, a medieval trans boy, learn that in 16th century Strasbourg in the shadow of the dancing plague. Emil, a Romani boy in present day, and Rosella, a Latina girl, discover it in the midst of a terrifying fairy tale coming to life. And I learned this same thing coming out as non-binary in the middle of this book’s production process. No matter what your journey, your path is your own.
About the author
Anna-Marie is a Latina/x author represented by Taylor Martindale Kean of Full Circle Literary. They’re the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book; WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist best book of 2017; BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Books Review Editors’ Choice; and the forthcoming DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a reimagining of The Red Shoes based on true medieval events.
Their short stories appear in the anthologies ALL OUT, THE RADICAL ELEMENT: TWELVE STORIES OF DAREDEVILS, DEBUTANTES, & OTHER DAUNTLESS GIRLS , TOIL & TROUBLE, and HUNGRY HEARTS. Their non-fiction essays appear in OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES and the forthcoming BODY TALK. Their shorter work has previously been featured in The Portland Review, CRATE Literary Magazine’s “cratelit,” Camera Obscura’s Bridge the Gap Gallery, and by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.
About the book
Publication date : January 14th, 2020
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Genre : Young Adult | Magical Realism
Page Count: 320
Synopsis : Two girls.
One deadly fairy tale.
Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.
Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.
With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.
That’s it until next time.
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.