Interview: Carolyn Hennesy
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: One Sweet Love by Sara Bareilles
Carolyn Hennesy's books for kids reimagine Pandora as a young teenager who's really super sorry about what happened with the box. The gods on Mount Olympus order her to retrieve the evils she accidentally unleashed, causing Pandy and her best friends to go on a memorable trip around the world. There are three books in the series so far: Pandora Gets Jealous, Pandora Gets Vain, and Pandora Gets Lazy. They are light and fun picks for the elementary school crowd. For similar titles, check out my It's All Greek to Me booklist.
Now, onto the interview - with thanks to Anna at Bloomsbury for making it possible.
Have you always been fascinated by Greek myths? I enjoy them a great deal, perhaps second in the line, as Ancient Egypt has always been my favorite Ancient civilization. What drew you to Pandora's story?
I have been entranced by Greek mythology since I was about 11 years old. I started studying it in a summer school program taught by a big, blowsy, blonde goddess of a teacher who read straight out of Edith Hamilton . . . nothing sugar-coated. I was blown away not only by the heroics, magic and grandeur but also the pettiness and triviality of their personalities and of what the gods considered a punishable slight or offence. I also loved the fact that the ancient Greeks used mythology to explain their world; one of those stories being the release of all evil and setting that hideous gaffe squarely on the shoulders of one woman . . . Pandora. Ridiculous and unfair.
How much liberty do you allow yourself to take with the original myths?
In my books, one of things I endeavor to do is, in my own way, set the record straight i.e. just as it could have happened that way, it could have happened this way. As far as liberties go, I tend to stick pretty closely to the "acknowledged" traits and trappings of the gods, heroes, and other known characters, but I have as much freedom as I want to place them in any situation. I'm not writing historical fiction, but fantasy.
Though the story takes place in ancient times, the main characters (Homer especially) sometimes have, like, totally contemporary speech. How do you tap into tween talk?
I roam the aisles of H&M with a tape recorder. And I think back to the way my brother's girlfriend used to talk back in 1985 (my ears used to bleed) . . . then I realize that it hasn't changed that much at all.
When irritated, Pandy's friend Alcie shouts out names of fruits instead of curse words. I found this amusing because I don't swear either. What's your favorite non-curse word? What's your favorite fruit?
Alcie, gods love her, usually just says whatever is on her mind. I couldn't pick just one word that is a favorite. There are so many words that are a joy to form and push out of your mouth. I love the word "tingle." A current favorite is "groovy." And the word "rasher" is fab. My fave fruits are blood oranges, a really cold Gala apple, and anything found in a pie.
What do you think Pandora would listen to if she had access to Pandora Radio?
Fab question. Being semi-immortal, let's set Pandy in today's world having accumulated a wealth of musical knowledge. Her faves would be: Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," John Lee Hooker's "Think Twice Before You Go," Keb' Mo's "I Was Wrong," Ella Fitzgerald's "Oh, Lady, Be Good," Christoph Gluck's opera "Orfeo ed Euridice," The Allman Brothers' "Trouble No More," Eric Clapton's "Running On Faith," the original Orpheus' early recording of "Gimme Goat," Apollo's lyre renditions of "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" and "Here Comes The Sun," and anything by Pan and the Pan-Tones (they make an appearance in book 4!)
You've been acting on General Hospital since 2007. On a typical day, how many hours are spent on set, and how many are spent writing? Would you ever write novels about a soap opera - or something auto-biographical about your acting experiences?
I couldn't do it without naming names and I value my life too much. I don't know . . . I might. Lord knows have been doing this since Moses was in diapers (Okay . . . I exaggerate, but it feels like that sometimes) so I have enough fodder. I might. And there are no typical days. Sometimes I am only a few hours at the studio and can come home and write (or veg out). Sometimes it's a long day on set and I arrive home and fall over. And some days I don't work at the studio at all and can devote morning and afternoon to writing.
Have you always wanted to write for children?
Alcie would read this and say, "Oh, puh-leeze!" The thought didn't enter my head until five years ago. I never thought I would have much to say to kids . . . never thought I could find an avenue which would allow a connection. A clear illustration that shows that you simply never know what the Universe . . . the gods . . . have in store for you. What's the saying? "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Now I find I have more to say to kids - to future adults - than to their parents.
How many books will be in the series? Will you detail each and every evil?
Seven in the series. And while each "big" evil will be detailed, some of the lesser evils that I alluded to in book one will simply be assumed to have been re-captured.
Have you outlined the entire line, or do you do it on a book-by-book basis?
There is a general outline for each book i.e. where she's going, what she's trying to find and a few fleshed out details for each. But Pandy tells me where she wants to go and while I may have a rock-solid thought for what I want to accomplish when I sit down to write, very often I find myself going off in a different and, instinctively, much better direction.
Hope remained in Pandora's box. Last month, I asked many people what I'm going to ask you now: What's your definition of "hope?"
Hope is the intangible thing without which we, as a society, culture, race and people would destroy ourselves. Wow . . . heavy. It's the reason we get out of bed.
What makes you hopeful?
What makes me hopeful is . . . getting out of bed. And the rapt, slightly open mouthed faces of kids when I talk to them about Pandy. Seeing Christmas lights on houses and thinking that, for a short time of the year at least, there is a spirit of love, forgiveness and gratitude in the air. Having a béarnaise sauce turn out just right. And seeing the jasmine in my garden that I have fretted about and wooed and coaxed into life finally bloom.
What are your ten favorite books?
The Winter's Tale - Helprin
100 Years of Solitude
A Confederacy of Dunces
Edith Hamilton's Mythology
Tales From The Arabian Nights (no author)
The Little House
James and The Giant Peach
Visit Carolyn's website.
Today's SBBT Schedule
Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Bildungsroman
Jo Knowles at Hip Writer Mama
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland
Learn more about the GuysLitWire Book Fair for Boys.