The Cold is in Her Bones
By: Peternelle van Arsdale
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2019
Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.
Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.
Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.
1. Do you have a special story, a discovery you made while doing research, or an innocuous thought that grew into something bigger that is behind your inspiration for THE COLD IS IN HER BONES?
One of the biggest inspirations for THE COLD IS IN HER BONES is the Medusa myth. Most of us think of Medusa as the monster in that story, and of Perseus as the hero who was helped by Athena to destroy her. But in truth Medusa had been transformed into a monster by Athena herself. Medusa was a victim before she ever became the snake headed creature who turned men to stone. That idea—that we very often punish victims and turn those victims into monsters in order to justify our actions—was very much on my mind as I wrote the novel.
2. A book goes through a lot of different versions and rounds of editing before it’s complete. What are some “fun facts” or behind the scenes info you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
There’s a horse in the book, Fulla, and I didn’t grow up with horses or get to ride them very much, but for some reason I just loved this horse and I was determined to make her as much of a character as possible. So whenever I could sneak Fulla into a scene, I did. No matter how much the novel changed, I kept Fulla from draft to draft.
3. Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble? If you could ask a character of your choice from THE COLD IS IN HER BONES one question what would it be?
The character I had the most fun writing is Hel, a witch who appears later in the book. Her dialogue came to me so naturally that I think I must have a little Hel inside of me—or maybe I aspire to be more like her. She cares nothing about what people think of her and is unflinching in exacting vengeance on those who transgress her. Yikes, I guess it’s scary that I want to emulate her. But every once in a while I think we all wonder what it would be like to punish those who (we think) deserve it.
4. What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)? Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book? Or a scene that made you very emotional?
I don’t want to give anything away here but the climax of the novel was an extremely challenging scene to write because in addition to the action—which needed to be compelling and frightening—I had some very complicated and real emotions that each of the characters move through and that I wanted to feel very real and convincing to the reader. Ultimately I accomplished what I wanted to but there were definitely times that I worried I’d lost it entirely.
5. What about the myth of Medusa drew you it? What major things did you change from the original myth? What was really important to you to keep from Medusa’s story?
A running theme in my novels has been the way we create our own monsters, and often we turn the weakest and least powerful among us into something to fear. This is why old women were often accused of being witches. They had no one to defend them and they were a convenient scapegoat. In the Medusa myth, Medusa was a beautiful young girl who was raped by a powerful god (Poseidon). But instead of punishing the god, who was untouchable, Athena doomed poor Medusa to monstrosity. My novel isn’t at all a retelling of the Medusa story, so I changed pretty much…everything! But the core of the story—the way that we often punish the victim instead of going after the true perpetrator—is what remains.
6. Love is a driving theme of THE COLD IS IN HER BONES. Why was it so important to you to explore this theme? What other themes were important to include?
Thank you for noticing that! I wanted to write a novel in which the most powerful relationships were between siblings and friends. I purposely set out to show that those relationships can be every bit as powerful as any romance. I was partly inspired by THE MILL ON THE FLOSS by George Eliot, which is the first novel that ever made me cry. The brother and sister in that novel are so different from each other, yet they love each other despite the fact that they don’t really understand each other. And I think many of us with siblings can relate to that.
Peternelle van Arsdale grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where she attended public school through the eighth grade. After that she attended three high schools in three different towns in four years, was deeply unpopular, and counted the seconds until graduation. She majored in English literature at Bryn Mawr College, and then landed in book publishing, thinking it was a good way to be paid to do what she liked to do anyway (she was only partly wrong). She worked her way up from editorial assistant to executive editor of adult fiction and nonfiction, and eventually struck out on her own as an independent editor.
Her first young adult novel, The Beast Is an Animal, is being developed by Amazon Studios for a feature film produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and directed by Bert & Bertie. Her essays have been published by LitHub, Hypable.com, and Culturefly, and her short fiction has been published by TheWhitefish Review.
Her second novel, The Cold is in Her Bones , will be published in January 2019. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she continues to edit and is at work on her third novel.PHOTO CREDIT: ELENA SEIBERTFind the author:
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