Happy Monday and welcome to my stop on The Wise and The Wicked blog tour! I’m so excited because today I have an interview with Rebecca Podos! Read on to find out what inspired her to write this book, how she feels about LGBTQIA+ representation in her work, follow the rest of the tour, and enter a giveaway for a print copy of The Wise and The Wicked!!The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos
Published on May 28, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Genres: Fantasy, YA, Queer
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Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them.
Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women.
Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable.
Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.
Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible.
But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.
Interview with Rebecca
What inspired you to write this book?
This sounds super vague and sort of pretentious, but I wanted to tell a story about stories. There are many different forms of storytelling found in The Wise and The Wicked—fairy tales and folktales, family legends, song lyrics and podcasts. All are devices we use to sort out and engage with the world, and our place inside of it. I wanted to write a character who’s been told stories about herself and the person she’s destined to become, and who’s grown up believing them. And then, suddenly, she has to parse out the places where story and truth tangle together, vine-like, in order to make a path forward for herself.
That and, you know, I really wanted a book with Baba Yaga in it.
What was your favorite bit of research you ended up not using?
I’ve always been really intimidated by research, but this book showed me that I, too, could tumble down research holes for hours on end. I did a lot of studying up on the forests of Karelia, the part of Russia where Ruby’s family originates, and on Vlach magic and Slavic histories of witchcraft. But I think my favorite was listening to hours of Carl Sagan’s recorded speeches, learning all about the potential and possibilities for life on other planets, and then using none of it.
How did you choose the names for your characters?
A lot of research into period-appropriate Russian and Jewish names, which, as a Russian Jewish person, was pretty fun. I did need a spreadsheet for the many Chernyavsky women, most of whose names ended in “-ina.” But for the main character, Ruby, I wanted a name that wasn’t traditionally Russian, as if given by a mother who hadn’t bought completely into the family lore and loyalty (plot point!) Cece, Ruby’s beloved cousin, is a nickname for Vasilisa, which anybody familiar with the folktales will recognize…
What’s your current favorite book?
My current favorite is whatever wonderful book I’m reading at any given moment, and right now, that’s Casey McQuiston’s Red, White and Royal Blue. And holy guacamole, this book is the cutest.
How do you feel about LGBTQIA+ rep in your work and how important is it to you to write diverse characters and storylines?
Like Water, my previous book, was centred around a queer romance, and sexuality and gender identity were a large part of the book’s theme of self-discovery. The same can be found in The Wise and The Wicked, but it was really exciting to add magic to the mix. I wanted to write a book where the queer and fantasy elements were inseparable, and to address how problematic straight and cisgendered systems of magic can be. Ruby’s love interest, Dov, is a trans boy, and it was especially important to me that his gender identity wasn’t a source of angst for him, but of power. There’s so much power in knowing yourself, and in being able to look in a mirror and recognize and love the person looking back. So the importance of representation can’t be understated, because sometimes, it’s recognizing yourself in a story that allows you to see and love yourself in life.
What books would you recommend to Ruby?
Unlike me, Ruby reads a lot of nonfiction, but her “guilty” pleasure is a podcast about a time-traveling college student who’s been catapulted back through time after an unfortunate Bunsen burner explosion in her chemistry lab. By engineering explosions to blow herself up in each era, she hops around throughout the centuries, using her present-day knowledge and the scientific method to solve mysteries and right wrongs, pausing occasionally to kiss sexy land barons and peasants alike. So if you have a book comp for that—preferably something with a happy ending—I’d love to hear it!
What would you do if you spent the day with Ruby? Where would you go to eat, hang out, relax, etc.?
Oh gosh, Ruby could probably use a chill day. She has a lot on her mind. Perhaps we’d go to the Cone Zone, the town’s eccentric ice cream parlor, for a garlic mint waffle cone, before binge-watching Chasing Bigfoot for the rest of the afternoon.
What would Ruby’s favorite book be and why?
This is easy; any of Carl Sagan’s books qualify, but let’s go with The Demon-Haunted World. Sagan, by the way, was one of the greatest storytellers of all time.
Thank you so much for answering my questions, Rebecca!
About the Author
Rebecca Podos’ debut novel, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a B&N Best YA Book of 2016. Her second book, LIKE WATER, won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children’s and Young Adult. THE WISE AND THE WICKED, her third novel, is forthcoming in May 2019.
A graduate of the Writing, Literature and Publishing Program at Emerson College and the Creative Writing Program at College of Santa Fe, Rebecca’s fiction has been published in journals like Glimmer Train, Paper Darts, and Smokelong Quarterly. By day, she works as a YA and MG agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston.