When Tinker Met Bell – An Interview with Alethea Kontis

I wrote a blurb for one of Alethea Kontis‘ books a while back. As I recall, it said simply, “Alethea Kontis is fairy tales.” Having met her, I’m 99% sure she’s a genuine fairy princess slumming in the human world. I mean, just look at this video of her reading from When Tinker Met Bell.

Cover: When Tinker Met BellWhich brings us to the point of this post: she has a new book out this week called When Tinker Met Bell [Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks]. A book that brings together fairies and goblins. Unlike my own attempt at bringing these two species together, Alethea’s goblins don’t end up eating the fairies. Here’s the official summary:

Bellamy Merriweather Larousse isn’t like the other fairies at Harmswood Academy, with her giant wings and their magical dust. “Southern Bell” works as a barista at The Hallowed Bean to help pay her tuition and remains active on the cheering squad, despite her insistence on associating with the unpopular crowd. Every day is sunny in Bellamy’s world and every cloud has a silver lining. The only way to upset Bell’s stalwart optimism is to threaten one of her misfit friends…or try to take one of them from her.

Unbeknownst to everyone–including him–outcast Ranulf “Tinker” Tinkerton is about to be named heir to the throne of the Goblin King, making him ruler of his fellow Lost Boys and the labyrinthine city they inhabit. Now that the time has come for Tinker to leave Harmswood behind, will he be brave enough to share his feelings for Bellamy? It’s no secret that he’s held a torch for her since the fourth grade, but no matter how long they’ve been friends, goblins will always be allergic to fairies.

Or will they?

I invited Alethea to answer a few questions about the story…

When I was writing my goblin books, I considered trying to write a romantic plot thread. It…didn’t work. At all. How did you manage to make goblin romance work?

You and I are so very similarly minded…and yet backwards! You wrote goblins before princesses—I wrote fairy tales and ended up falling in love with goblins. I suspect the way I managed to make a goblin romance work is also because I came at it from the opposite end.

I knew two things when I started writing this book: That it would be a humorous romance (like all the Nocturne Falls books), and that the title would be When Tinker Met Bell. “Bell” was Bellamy Larousse, my optimistic cheerleader fairy barista. Tinker needed to be her opposite, of course…to me that meant goblins. And yet, despite their many differences, Tinker and Bell still manage to be the best of friends.

When Tinker Met Bell ended up being a little When Harry Met Sally, a little Romeo and Juliet, and a little Labyrinth, with a lot of my high school experience thrown in. Because of that, it may very well be my favorite book I’ve ever written (just don’t tell the Woodcutters!).

Why do you think goblins get such a bad rap?

In my goblin mythology, it is orphaned boys (mostly humans) that become goblins. Incorporating Peter Pan’s Lost Boys threw me down a fascinating rabbit hole of research that led to the Lost Boys of the Sudan and Spain. But I also did traditional “fairy tale” goblin research. Hans Christian Andersen has two goblin tales of note, “The Goblin and the Grocer” and “The Goblin and the Woman.” I have a complete HCA in my library, translated from the Danish by a man from Denmark (Erik C. Haugaard). I was surprised to find that, in this translation, the stories were “The Pixy and the Grocer” and “The Pixy and the Gardner’s Wife.”

This variation on the word made me consider the very question you’re asking. I think “goblin” or “hobgoblin” was particularly used to refer to a pixie/sprite who was mischievous/bad/greedy in nature. There are fine lines when trying to define the fae—most are impish and tricksy and will cause trouble if they don’t get their bowl of milk at the end of the day. But “goblin” does seem to always be used as a pejorative term. That bothered me quite a bit, on behalf of goblinkind.

I’d like to explore this more in the Goblin City novel I plan on writing soon… It’s up to authors like you and me to set the record straight!

How much of Bellamy’s personality and background are based on your own experience as a fairy princess?

I’m very glad that you asked this question, for it gives me the opportunity to confess: I am not the original Princess! My Obi-Wan Kenobi is Dr. Casey Cothran, Associate Professor of English at Winthrop University…and my editor.

Casey and I met when we were eleven, in the summer right before seventh grade. She was a tiny blonde cheerleader, a bright ball of sunshine beloved by everyone. I was a washed up former child actress with no friends—a poetry-loving closet-Goth. And yet, Casey and I were kindred spirits from that first moment. We were both avid readers of fantasy, loved the same books and movies, and we both dreamed of one day being writers. One of my very first novels was an epic fantasy starring a young girl named Princess Casey (I was Llogan, the Queen of Thieves). Without Casey’s optimistic influence, I might have succumbed to the darkness. I had some particularly difficult teenage years. I honestly don’t know if I would have survived without her.

I have gone by many other names in my life. I was a sprite named Crescent. I was the Queen of Thieves. I was the Goddess of Most Things. I was a Fairy-Godmother-In-Training who earned her wings and grew into a Fairy Godmother For Real. “Princess Alethea” originated almost a decade ago as a joke on a name tag at a childhood friend’s rehearsal dinner, and then a handle on Livejournal. But the nickname spread like wildfire across the genres, and even into my own family. It seemed that the world needed a true Princess, and I knew exactly how to fill that role. Because I had been raised by one.

Everything I know about being optimistic, inspirational, loving, selfless, and kind, I learned from Casey. She is 100% Bellamy Larousse, complete with Southern accent and everything. I am…everyone else in the misfit D&D party: Natalie, Hubble, and Tinker. Even Sam. But definitely Tinker. In so many ways, When Tinker Met Bell is our story.

What’s your favorite thing you had to cut from this book?

Right around Chapter Nine, I could feel that something was wrong, so I sent the book to Casey. She read it and emailed me back to say, “Can you really quick write an entirely new book about two characters named Tinker and Bell? Because this book is too good and you need to keep it for yourself.”

On the one hand, that’s a fantastic comment to hear. On the other, I am not a fast writer, and deadlines were looming. The revision of those nine chapters was incredibly difficult for me to do. I had to cut a lot of worldbuilding, and one of my favorite characters. The only reason it didn’t break my heart completely was that I promised myself that after I finished my third Nocturne Falls book (Besphinxed, January), I would go back and write a Goblin City book that included all the storylines I had to omit.

I hesitate to tell you anything because I hate spoilers, but I will tell you a little about Crook, because he was my favorite character that I had to cut. Crook is a young goblin, one of the Lost Boys. He has two club feet, an affliction that might have been corrected had he not been given up on as a baby. He also has an affinity for slight-of-hand tricks, and imagination the size of the moon. Crook somehow figures out how to manipulate the massive store of magic that lies beneath the Goblin City—a talent that, until then, only ever belonged to the Goblin King. And…that’s all I can tell you right now!

Finally, and most importantly: are there any fire-spiders?

I am happy to report that there are NO fire spiders in this adventure. But it does contain a Midwinter Masquerade, a magic mirror, and a wayward troll named Crunch. You are going to LOVE Crunch!

This Week in Nazi-Punching

A video of a Nazi in Seattle getting punched and knocked out has been making the rounds. Responses range from satisfaction and celebration to the predictable cries of “So much for the tolerant left” and the related “Violence makes us as bad as them and plays right into their hands.”

A few things to consider…

1. According to one witness, the punch happened after the Nazi called a man an “ape” and threw a banana at him. With the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, that sounds like assault to me. I’m guessing Assault in the Fourth Degree. In other words, the punching was a response to an assault by the Nazi.

The witness who talks about the banana-throwing also says he was high on THC. I haven’t seen anyone disputing his account, but I haven’t seen corroboration, either.

2.Remember when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and people like Geraldo Rivera said it was because Martin was wearing a hoodie, and that made Martin a potentially dangerous “suspicious character”? Utter bullshit, I know. But if our legal system let Zimmerman plead self-defense, saying he was afraid because Martin was wearing a hoodie, doesn’t that same argument apply against someone wearing a fucking swastika?

We’re talking about a symbol that announces, “I support genocide of those who aren’t white, aren’t straight, aren’t able-bodied…”

3. Buzzfeed presents this as anti-fascists tracking a Neo-Nazi to beat him up. While antifa Twitter appears to have been talking about this guy, there’s no evidence that the punch was thrown by someone who’s part of that movement. And even if he was, the guy didn’t throw a punch until after the Nazi committed assault (see point #1).

Those Tweets quoted on Buzzfeed also suggest the Nazi was armed, which could add to the self-defense argument in point #2.

Is Nazi-punching right? Is it legal? As any role-player will tell you, there’s a difference between whether something is lawful and whether it’s good.

The “victim” has every right to press charges. But for some reason, he didn’t want to talk to police about the incident.

Was punching this guy a good thing? I mean, there’s a difference between comic books and real life. The Nazi was standing in front of some sort of tile wall. He could have struck his head on the corner after being punched, or when he fell to the ground. In other words, there’s a chance–albeit probably a slim one–that this could have killed him.

My country and culture glorify violence. I’d much rather avoid violence when possible. I think most rational people would. But there are times it’s necessary to fight, to choose to defend yourself and others. I think it’s important to understand the potential consequences of that choice.

Multiple accounts agree this man was harassing people on the bus, and later on the street. He was a self-proclaimed Nazi. Police say they received calls that he was instigating fights, and it sounds like he escalated from verbal harassment to physical assault … at which point another man put him down, halting any further escalation.

I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that situation, but I see nothing to make me condemn or second-guess this man’s choice in the face of a dangerous Nazi.

Links, Reminders, and Misc

The Tick, Season One

My introduction to The Tick came in the late 90s, with the animated series. A few of my grad school friends and I would get together each week, eat Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, and watch The Tick (and a few other shows.)

I loved it. I loved the humor, the silliness, the undermining of superhero tropes, and the overall sense of fun.

This was my background as I logged onto Amazon Prime to watch their live-action take on The Tick.

It felt like the entire show was filmed using the same Gritty Angst Filter they used on Batman v Superman. They managed to make The Tick almost entirely joyless.

Spoilers follow…

More

Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway

ETA: Congratulations to Mel, chosen by the Random Number Generator to win the ARC of Terminal Alliance. And thank you to everyone who donated.

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Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Sophie with Terminal Alliance ARCs

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

I don’t need receipts or anything like that. I trust you. And there’s no minimum donation, either. I know money is tight for a lot of people. If you can afford to give $100, great. If you can only afford $1, that’s great too. It adds up, and it all helps.

Here are some organizations to consider, though this is in no way a complete list.

I’ll draw one winner at random toward the end of next week.

Thank you.

Why People are Pissed (or Thrilled) About the Pardon of Joe Arpaio

Surprising nobody, Trump issued a presidential pardon for ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week. Arpaio had been jailed for convicted of criminal contempt and faced up to six months in jail, after he refused to obey a court order “to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.”

Trump described Arpaio as a “patriot,” someone who “kept Arizona safe,” and cited his “years of admirable service to our nation.” Arpaio tweeted out his thanks:

(Note: Arpaio’s contempt conviction came from U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton, a registered independent nominated to the court in 2000 by President Clinton, following a recommendation from Republican senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.)

Trump and Arpaio: Stoking the Birtherism Flames

The Trump/Arpaio relationship goes back years. Arpaio was a strong supporter of Trump’s Birtherism movement. Arpaio assigned a five-man “cold case posse” to investigate Obama’s birth certificate, eventually announcing it was a “computer-generated forgery.” I’m curious how much taxpayer money Arpaio spent on that particular conspiracy theory.

Trump sent him a personally written thank-you note, and praised him on Twitter as well:

Trump had Arpaio as a speaker at a campaign rally in 2015, where Arpaio again brought up Obama’s birth certificate.

Arpaio’s “Years of Admirable Service”

Here are some highlights from Arpaio’s “patriotic” career in law enforcement.

Racial Profiling and Anti-Immigration Efforts

Some of Arpaio’s tactics included:

“America’s Toughest Sheriff”

Trump and many of his base love Arpaio for his so-called toughness. But Arpaio isn’t “tough.” He’s a bully and a bigot. He commented recently:

The idea that the law could apply to him — that he could face consequences for knowingly and deliberately defying a court order — seems an alien concept. He thinks himself above the law.

I can see why he and Trump get along so well.

His attitude’s mirror Trump’s own comments about Mexicans as criminals and rapists. And a lot of folks support Arpaio’s anti-immigration crusade, and his determination to make jail so horrible it will deter people from committing crimes.

I’d ask those folks if they believe in the Constitution, and that law enforcement officials should follow it. Specifically, the Eighth Amendment, which states:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”

Cruel and unusual punishment. Things like…

Or maybe we should look at the Fourth Amendment:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

In other words, if you support pulling people over, raiding their homes, raiding their workplaces, just because they’re Hispanic? Congratulations! You’re not just an asshole, you’re also anti-American and anti-Constitution.

I haven’t even touched on instances of Arpaio using the power of his office to attack and punish his enemies, or his neglect of hundreds of sexual assault cases, or the lack of prenatal care and infant deaths that resulted, or destroying evidence in a civil rights lawsuit, or so much more.

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know what the future holds for Arpaio in terms of civil lawsuits or state charges or the rest.

But I know what I think of Trump and his base holding Arpaio up as a “patriot.” I know what I think of describing Arpaio’s crimes against his constituents as “admirable service to our nation.”

You can be an American who believes in equality and the Constitution. Or you can support Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio.

I don’t see any way you can be both.

Jim C. Hines