Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Susann Cokal

Susann Cokal is a historical novelist, a pop-culture essayist, book critic, magazine editor, and professor of creative writing and modern literature. Her new magnum opus is The Kingdom of Little Wounds, set in the Scandinavian Renaissance; it received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and an ALAN citation from the National Council of Teachers of English.

From her Q & A at Books with Tien:

How did you come up with the title?

I'm usually very bad at titles; my other books went through at least twenty titles each before I found the right one. But as soon as this story of ailing children in an island kingdom sprang into mind (and that was the first idea I had for it), I thought, "It's the Kingdom of Little Wounds." And that was always the title afterward. I'm so glad it worked out, because calling it anything else would have been strange after eight years of writing.

There are lots of little wounds in this kingdom--from the war (some big wounds, too), from the disease the children have, from the price of a needle, from torture ... There's also a bit of a play on words, as at the time "the little wound" was a euphemism for a female body part. Which says a lot about how people perceived women's bodies back then.

The wounds left on women's bodies and minds really took over the story. I'd first thought this would be a dark fairy tale about the children and their illness, but it turned out to be more about Ava (the seamstress disgraced in love), Midi (the slave brutalized), and Isabel (the queen treated as a babymaking brood mare). And, of course, the villains--principally Count Nicolas Bullen af Bon, who is handsome but up to no good. Especially with the way he manipulates the king, who is in love with him.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I'm hesitant to talk about my own Big Message and impose an idea on someone. There are lots of ways to interpret this story, lots of themes that could emerge--some that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Susann Cokal's website.

Writers Read: Susann Cokal.

--Marshal Zeringue