Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Maurissa Guibord

Every Apocalypse worth its salt has its harbingers, precursors, forerunners, and generally ominous omens -- but WE have the ELEVENSIES! All year the brave Elevensies will be striking out into the wide world with their brand-new, very tasty books, and we, next year's new kids, will be tagging along behind (and beside), learning how it's all done. And did I mention . . . reading a bunch of absolutely wonderful new books?? Anyway, all through 2011, which, let me tell you, is going to be an absolutely amazing year for fiction, we Apocalypsies will be posting interviews with 2011 debut writers.

I couldn't be more tickled to have drawn Maurissa Guibord as my interviewee! In her debut fantasy, WARPED, coming out from Delacorte this very week, Maurissa takes us into the romantic, magical, scary world of unicorns, ancient tapestries, and some very powerful old women (witches and Fates) who can pull a thread here or there and totally mess up a girl's life. This, at long last, is the book that explains just how hard it can be to explain to your Dad that you've just fallen in love with, you know, a boy who's sort of also a unicorn . . . .

[Anne Nesbet, for the Apocalypsies] I have to say, I loved WARPED. I read it while walking in the park over the hill from our house, and now the green trees there seem more tapestry-like to me than they used to!

The central object in this story--the unicorn tapestry--has such amazing appeal! Unicorns are so magical and mysterious in their own right, and then unicorn TAPESTRIES are just full of extra magic.

Was there a particular unicorn tapestry in your past that inspired you to write a story like this?

[Maurissa Guibord] Yes, the story was initially inspired by the unicorn tapestries of the Cloisters Museum. The seven panels represent "The Hunt of the Unicorn" and are filled with fascinating symbols and lore. One day I was browsing in my local library and discovered a wonderful book: "The Oak King, The Holly King and the Unicorn: Myths and Symbolism of the Unicorn Tapestries" by John Williamson. One of the many things the author discusses is the symbolic meaning of the unicorn itself- one of them being religious. The unicorn was a symbol of sacrifice as well as immortality, and to some it represented Jesus Christ. This idea got me thinking about the unicorn and if a unicorn in a tapestry could actually be a man, trapped inside. Then I had to take that "what if" and create a story about how and why that could happen.

[AN] I remember standing in front of those images (for me, the "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris) as a child and hardly being able to tear my eyes away.

Textiles, threads, and weaving are all important to your story. Did WARPED pique your interest in weaving (as you were untangling the plot!), or have you always been interested in warps, woofs, and the thread-spinning Norns?

[Maurissa] I love fabric and fiber arts, especially crocheting, knitting and quilting. My weaving however, has been limited to making pot-holders with my daughters! Someday I'd like to invest in a bigger loom and give it a try. I've always thought the Fates, or the Norns were a fascinating mythic trio. The three sisters who spin and weave and cut the threads of life fit in perfectly with my tapestry story. I had fun embellishing them as characters though and also took a bit of liberty in calling them "the Norn"- I just thought it sounded better than "the Norns" lol.

[AN] How did you plot out the time travel in this book? Did you make long spaghetti-like charts with many-colored markers? :)

[Maurissa] Actually, traveling back in time was not the difficult part for me. I kept getting fouled up on what day of the week it was in the current day for my character, LOL. Finally my editor took pity on me and said "Why don't we have this happen over spring vacation?" Problem solved!

[AN] I want to ask whether Tessa really did travel in time, but maybe that's spoiler territory, so . . . sigh . . . I'll let it go. (But did she? Did she?)

[Maurissa] Yes, in my opinion- she did! Though it was handled in a slightly different way than most time travel stories. Tessa goes into the tapestry and... Well, people will have to read the book and see!

[AN] Will (if I may be so bold!) is a handsome fellow and handles his sudden emergence into 21st-century Portland pretty well, but every now and then he puzzles Tessa by being a little stiffer or even haughty than she expects. I liked the glimpse into the confusion a time traveler would experience. I won't ask you whether you've ever traveled in time(but if you have, please do tell us all about it!), but have you ever found yourself plonked into a Completely Different Place?

[Maurissa] I tried to think about Will being in our current time as though he was in another country. I've had that experience- so I could relate to people speaking in a way that you can't understand, or having customs or food that are strange. Will reacted to all that by being perhaps more aloof and guarded than he normally was. I think we all get a bit defensive when we're out of our element.

[AN] Unicorn tapestries, like the one you describe in WARPED, are simply filled with little creatures and flowers and every kind of detail. If you had to be imprisoned in a tapestry, what would you want to be?

[Maurissa] I think I would like to be a little creature, hidden in the greenery and peeking out from one corner. Maybe a mouse!

[AN] Tessa's father seems like a good man, but he's a little clueless sometimes when it comes to his daughter's inner life. Or the true evilness of Lila Gerome! If one of your children came to you and explained that he or she was trying to help a nice boy who had been trapped in a tapestry for a few hundred years, do you think you would react with greater insight than Mr. Brody? (I ask this because I found myself wondering what I would do--I think this just goes to show that you make both the "magic" and "real-life" sides of your story-world so convincing that we really get a feeling for how hard it would be to straddle those two worlds.)

[Maurissa] Unfortunately, I have a feeling that I would react in a very mundane and parently way- just like her father! I like to think that I would listen with an open mind though.

[AN] I just saw the news about your new two-book deal: paranormal love triangles on islands off the coast of Maine! Sounds very scenic and exciting! Also sounds like you will be very busy in 2011! Any tricks you can pass on about balancing writing and family and Everything Else?

[Maurissa] Alas I have no tricks! I'm still searching for that good balance. One thing I have learned to accept is that I write in my own way (in fits- with periods of drought in between) and also that it is not worth comparing myself to anyone else in terms of productivity, or success or style. My family is very important to me- and they are the one thing that would be here tomorrow if the books all fail and go down the drain. So I try to remember that and be thankful for them.

[AN] Congratulations on WARPED, Maurissa, and Happy New Year, and I can't wait to read REVEL!

[Maurissa, being super nice] Thank you so much Anne- I'm also dying to read THE CABINET OF EARTHS :-)


  1. I ordered Warped a few days ago. I can't wait to read it!

  2. Hi Maurissa & Anne :)
    Thank you for the interview. It was interesting to learn more about Marissa. Thanks to Maurissa for taking the time to share. I'm taking her learning to accept that she writes in her own way to heart & applying it to myself.
    Yay! For WARPED released tomorrow!
    All the best,

  3. Yay Maurissa! The book is on its way to me and I can't wait to read it.

    (I love the tapestries at Cluny -- had to visit twice during my last trip, and plan to see them again next month!)

  4. Wow! Maurissa is a gold thread in my tapestry of life, for sure. Thanks for the interview, Anne!

  5. A great interview to kick off 2011, Anne, and congratulations to Maurissa. I love YA books that deal with art and with history; I can't wait to read WARPED!

  6. I feel like Anne and I share a secret! I got to read early copies of WARPED and now here it is: launching into the world!

    A tapestry is the perfect image for Maurissa's writing, too, because she weaves together gorgeous description, compelling story, hilarious one-liners, winning characters, and some great plot surprises! I loved this book and this interview was wonderful!

  7. Maurissa, so glad to hear another writer that writes in fits and has droughts inbetween.

    Your book is so beautiful! I can't wait to read it!

  8. Great interview. Makes me want to google a bunch of unicorn tapestries and stare at them. Congratulations to Maurissa, and also to Anne and the Apocalypsies.

    Can't wait for Warped to get here...