GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Liesl Shurtliff, author of RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Liesl Shurtliff, whose debut MG novel RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN  hits the shelves this week!

Rump by Liesl ShurtliffIn a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.

Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.

His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.

There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.

I’ll be honest with you – I loved pretty much all Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I was little, and Rumpelstiltskin kind of terrified me! (In a good way, I mean.) What was it about the original story that made you think “hmmm….what if he wasn’t the bad guy after all?”

I’m in your boat. Grimm’s Fairy Tales were some of favorite reads growing up. The Rumpelstiltskin tale was always pretty creepy to me, but so mysterious and fascinating. I think it’s the mysteries that drew me to this tale and most of the mysteries surround Rumpelstiltskin. What do we know about him? That he can spin straw to gold, he always asks for payment, and apparently he really wants a baby. Other than that, it’s all kind of up for grabs. We don’t know where he comes from, how he learned to spin straw to gold, why he comes to help the miller’s daughter, or why he asks for a baby. There are speculations on some of these answers, but none of them paint Rumpelstiltskin in a very good light. I thought it would be intersesting if he could somehow be a hero instead of a villain. I really like unlikely and misunderstood heroes.

Wow, that’s true – the original character’s backstory was pretty vague. I love misunderstood heroes too! Especially misunderstood heroes with funny names! Poor Rump lives in a world where “your name is your destiny”….such a cool concept! What inspired this idea that a person’s name could have such a huge impact on who they are?

My inspiration stems from my own philosophy on the power of names. Of course I don’t think a name determines a person’s destiny, but names are full of meaning and history and culture and I do think they affect us in various ways. Just do a quick search of “name psychology” and you’ll pull of lots of articles on the subject. My own name has affected me. It made me feel very different, even excluded when I was young. I took it as a great insult that I could never find my name on any personalized gifts. On the flip side, some people might feel they’re not all that special because they’re just another Katherine or Ashley or Jane. (Maybe that’s making wild assumptions.) In Rump’s world, I just took this idea up a few notches.

For what it’s worth, I love your name! So Rump is your debut novel – can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication?

I’ve been writing for about ten years now. I started small, writing short stories, articles, and book reviews for magazines and newspapers. This was great training ground, both for craft and the publishing process. Eventually I turned to writing novels. I wrote two novels before RUMP (one MG and one YA.) I never queried either. (Wise.) I started writing RUMP in the summer of 2010 and I instinctively knew this was the novel I wanted to debut with. Things just seemed to fall into place. Once I felt ready, I started researching and querying agents. I queried for about a month before signing with Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary. We revised together for about a month before submitting to editors, and a month after that we had an offer from Katherine Harrison at Knopf. (One of the best moments of my left next to “Will you marry me?” and “We’re having a baby!”)

Wise indeed. (Wish I could say the same about my first novel…) Did you do anything special to celebrate The Offer?

I would have, except I was right in the middle of a cross-country move, unpacking the moving truck in 100 degree weather, so basically we all shouted Yay! And kept sweating and unpacking. We went for Mexican later.

Moving is the worst…but I bet getting a book deal made it a lot better! So now that Rump is out in the world and in the hands of readers, are you working on any new projects?

Yes, but I’m kind of shy about talking about works-in-progress until they’re pretty well developed. I’ll just say that I’m working on another MG fairy tale, and a YA novel that’s based on legend. I hope to share more soon!

Very cool! So much happens between selling a book and actually seeing it on the shelves. What have been some of the highlights of the last year for you since landing a deal for Rump?

Seeing my cover for the first time, holding an ARC, sharing my ARCs with the neighborhood kids and talking to them about it, great blurbs from both Kirby Larson and Brandon Mull, and most recently a starred review from Kirkus who called Rump “As good as gold.” All those things just warm my heart like a cup of hot cocoa in sub-zero winter!

Since this community is “All For One and OneFour KidLit,” we’d like to know what books most inspired you as a kid!

Since I am a middle-grade writer I’ll share a few of the books I loved at that age.

The Boxcar Children Gertrude Chandler Warner
Matilda Roald Dahl (Anything by Roald Dahl, really.)
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 Beverly Cleary
Superfudge Judy Blume
Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret Judy Blume
Thanks for stopping by, Liesl, and congrats on your debut!
Liesl ShurtliffABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Liesl Shurtliff was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the mountains for her playground. Just like Rump, Liesl was shy about her name, growing up. Not only did it rhyme with weasel, she could never find it on any of those personalized key chains in gift shops. But over the years she’s grown to love having an unusual name—and today she wouldn’t change it for the world! Before she became a writer, Liesl graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in music, dance, and theater. She now lives in Chicago with her husband and three young children, where she still dreams of the mountains. Rump is her first novel.
You can find Liesl online here:
And you can buy RUMP here:
Michelle Schusterman writes books for kids, screenplays for a tv/film production company, and music for anyone who’d buy a “groove matters” bumper sticker. She lives in New York City with her husband (and band mate) and chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). Her debut MG series, I HEART BAND, will be released by Penguin/Grosset in January 2014.
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