Five Questions for YA Author Robert Paul Weston
Dust City, the new paranormal YA tale by author Robert Paul Weston, brings a fractured fairytale world to life. Now the author goes behind the scenes of his newest tale in this revealing interview. And don't miss the *Web Exclusive Review* of Dust City at the end of this post!
For inspiration, you use Little Red Riding Hood, which is a pretty horrifying tale of murder. Are you ever surprised that this story and other grizzly fairy tales are used to entertain young children?
It is surprising, but you have to remember where and when the tales originated. Before folklorists like Perrault and the Grimm Brothers put them to paper, the folk tales of medieval Europe were an oral tradition intended for everyone -- children and adults alike. I sometimes wonder that perhaps because there was less of a robust rule of law in the middle ages, only the grisliest form of moralizing could keep people in line. That or folks back then shared a particularly dark sense of humour. In fact, if you read beyond the more commonly known fairy tales, you'll find that Little Red Riding Hood is quite mild by comparison. It's no coincidence that most of us know that tale, but far fewer people have heard of The Juniper Tree. (Check it out, by the way. It's a doozy!)
Other than Riding Hood were there any other fairy tales that made it into Dust City?
Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Frog Prince (also known as "Iron Heinrich"), Rumpelstiltskin. There are also a few of the lesser known tales, like The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids and that doozy I mentioned above, The Juniper Tree. Of course, I'm not explicit with the references and I twist the tales to my own ends. In many ways, each fairy tale was a leaping off point, rather than a clear reproduction of the original.
You may start out with a fairy tale, but you incorporate into your book some hard-hitting issues that teens deal with today including discrimination and drug use. What message would you like readers to go away with after finishing your story?
I deserve that question, don't I? I wrote a book full of fairy tales -- the original moralizing format! I cringe at the idea of using fiction to send an overt message, but there are those who'll tell you any good story is a form of rhetoric. And let's face it, the messages are certainly there: Stand by your family; discrimination is odious; dehumanizing your enemy is the first step toward destroying them; sooner or later, we all face down our destiny; all living things are sacred...which one stands out most will depend on the reader, I suppose.
In Dust City the world has known real magic and lost it. Do you think that the despair the characters feel is even more heartbreaking because they have known better times which are now gone?
I'm sure despair is potentially deeper when you're aware of what you've lost. But then again, given the choice between brief happiness and no happiness at all, who would choose the latter?
Dust City asks the question if the son is destined to pay for the father’s sins. Do you think it is inevitable?
No, it's not inevitable, but I think it recurs in literature because it makes for good story.
Can you tell us a bit about the next project that you are working on?
Sorry, but you'll have to settle for a surprise; I don't talk about the things I’m working on. I’ve learned (the hard way) that explanations deflate my excitement for ongoing projects.
You can read the *Web Exclusive Review* of Dust City and then pick up your own copy in bookstores now!