I was supposed to interview Charlotte Kandel (the author of the Scarlet Stockings: The Enchanted Riddle) on Monday, but because of technical difficulties the interview was ruined. Charlotte was nice enough to do a second interview with me the next day, which I am happy to say, was difficulty free. Be warned - the questions were roughly asked the second time around, because Charlotte gave such a wonderful interview the first time, that I wanted to make sure she got all the same information into the second interview.
Me - Why don't you start by telling us a little about your background and history and the type of book you wanted to write.
Charlotte - I left this job about 4 years ago, when I started writing. But before that, for fifteen years I was head of publicity for Warner Brothers Film Studio Worldwide. I had that job for fifteen years, and I loved it. But I sort of burnt out on it with the egos and the stress and everything else. I just decided that I was going to leave and that I was going to do something that I had dreamt of doing all my life, which is to write a book for girls. But I have never done it before. I guess I was scared to do it, and I didn't know if I could do it. But it just seemed like it was the time in my life about 5 years ago after I did leave Warner Brothers that I wanted to try to do it.
So, I think the reason I wanted to write was since I was five years old, my wonderful mother, who is no longer with us, would read to us. I have a twin sister and since the time I was bout five or six, I was growing up in England and my mother used to read to my sister and I. She would read grown up books that she loved; Jane Austen, Dickens, or whatever. She would kind of edit them so we could understand them and she would explain what needed to be explained. We just got so engrossed in these books, and we loved it so much. So I have grown up reading and I have always, always loved reading. It's taken me through some pretty shaky patches of life. I was a very shy little girl, not very much self confidence. And reading just let me know that there were many, many other girls like me growing up also with the same kind of insecurities and the same kind of issues.
So when I was thinking about what kind of a book that I would like to write if I could write a book for girls, I started thinking about the kind of book that I loved myself when I was the age of what this book The Scarlet Stockings, which is the first book in the trilogy. The first book is called The Enchanted Riddle. And I started thinking, well I love magic, so right genre. I would love to write in magical realism. I love the idea that magic can come into the real world, and interact, react, with people in the real world. So I loved magic, I loved history, I loved adventure. I wanted my book to be glamorous and take me to places I'd never been, and to be funny, and for me to really get involved with the characters. So that was the goal that I set myself when starting to write The Scarlet Stockings.
I then started thinking about the things that I had done with my life. And I had always been behind the scenes in theater, on Broadway, or in the movies in Hollywood, or wherever, but always behind the scenes and loving it. And I grew up in London and Paris. So when you write your first book, I think you do tend to draw from your own experience, draw from places and experiences that you have had. So I decided to set this magical adventure within the backstage world of theater and ballet.
And so my heroine, who is called Daphne, who is an orphan growing up in the orphanages of London in the 1920's, had two passionate, passionate, goals. Of course she wanted to find out where she belonged and find a place in the world where she could be loved. And also her creative dreams and to be somebody in the world, not somebody who has just been abandoned with no past. And she had also danced ever since she could walk, and had made up her own steps, and so her great dream is to be a ballerina.
Through the magic which comes into her life, she gets this opportunity by a pair of magical scarlet silk stockings that could fulfill her dreams, but can also be very dangerous. Because they have been created by magic by a real person who really did live in France, who is the man credited with inventing ballet. His desire was that ballet would live forever, but that it would be danced by people with love and a pure heart. So these magical stockings, where they can teach my heroine Daphne to dance, it is up to her what her future will be because she has to dance with love in her heart. She has to dance with a pure heart. If she doesn't she'll face great great danger that comes with the magic. And that's where the adventure and the mystery come in, as she tries to follow her dreams with the help of the scarlet stockings
Me - Where did you get the idea for the story?
Charlotte - It's so hard to think where you got the idea for a story from. I think many authors would tell you this. That you come up with the idea for a plot, and you sort of know where you are going with the plot. And as I said I wanted to write a magical adventure story for girls eight to thirteen, although I am finding that people younger and also older are loving the book.
I started my research knowing that my heroine wanted to be a ballerina. I started first of all by researching the man who is credited with inventing ballet at the course of King Louis the Fourteenth, the Sun King, in France. France's greatest king who built the Versailles and who actually loved dancing and who had his own dancing master at the court of Versailles. And this is Pierre Beauchamp, who did in fact create ballet, and it was danced by the courtiers and by Louis at the court of the Sun King. So once I started finding out about Pierre Beauchamp, the pieces started to fall into place about why were the stockings enchanted? What was their purpose? What was the dangerous element that could be incorporated out of my imagination into the idea that ballet, which looks so simple.
I mean I even wrote it in the book, it looks so easy that anybody could do it if they try. But as I think you know, and if there's anybody who has ever tried to learn any different thing, whether it's dancing, or athletics, or whatever, it only comes when you work and work and work and practice and practice and practice, and fix your determination on learning, that you will actually become somebody special in your field. So that's what Daphne has to do. She has to earn the right to the magic in the book.
And I wanted the book to have some very strong underpinnings, and some very strong messages, which aren't there immediately. But as you read the book and start to think about it, you start to realize what is happening in this book. One big theme is that you have choice. The choice to choose your course of action. Then if you choose good or if you choose ill, you must be responsible for what happens as a result of the choices you made. The second theme is that things don't come easily. You have to earn them. You have to deserve them. You have to put your loving soul into them. And the third thing is that you don't have to be born into a family to have a family. Family can be found in all sorts of different places. And then maybe the biggest thing is change. Because I really really believe in second chances. That sometimes it's not so bad to not succeed the first time you try to do something, because that's how you grow. You move on. And that there will always be a second chance for you. So that message is in the book as well. They are not really messages that are there to be verminized or anything. It's part of the adventure and the mystery that Daphne discovers as she goes along.
She is at a very vulnerable age when the book begins. She is thirteen when we first meet her and she is almost fifteen by the end of the first book. In the second book she'll be seventeen, and in the third book she'll be almost eighteen. So we are going to, through these three books, follow Daphne's adventures as she grows in stardom, as she grows as a person, and as she grows in knowing what it means to give with your heart.
So they're lovely, lovely books to write. I had such a good time writing them. I laugh out loud sometimes when I am at the keyboard, because the characters are doing things that they decide to do. It's almost as if I am just transcribing them, and I don't always know what they are going to do. I have a plot in mind, and I have an end in mind. But it's wonderful. One of the joys I think of writing is that you somehow switch off part of your conscious brain, and how it comes is almost serious. The characters come alive and they start talking to you.
Me - I loved how she was real and had feelings and progressed and grew in the book.
Charlotte - And she made mistakes, and everybody does. She's not the only one, all of us do. But all of us are lucky enough, in this blessed universe, if we want it enough, for the right reasons, that we can go back again and make a different choice. And that's very much what Daphne does in the Scarlet Stockings. And it's part of the riddle, which is the theme of the book. There are five lines of the riddle. "First, you must find me. Then, you must follow me. Choosing, you will test me. Knowing, you will challenge me. At last, you must deserve me." The book is written in parts, and each part is another line of the riddle that Daphne must unravel. It truly is a mystery and an adventure.
Me - Know that Daphne has solved the riddle, what can we expect from the next books?
Charlotte - Well the next book, she still has things that she needs to learn and grow and find out. Yes, she has achieved a lot of her ends, but she still has things that she wants to learn. The second book is maybe a little bit more of a straight adventure story. The second book is called Daphne in Danger, and she is. She's very much in danger through all of the different parts of the book. Again I've drawn on places where I've lived in my life or know very well. London, Paris again, in the south of England in a beautiful part called Cornwall, which is down by the sea in England. So I've hopefully made the second real. In the third book she is actually going to go to India in 1928. Which is a very glamorous and exotic time on the Indian subcontinent? Her adventures there are going to be amazing too. But I hope the whole way through, we grow with Daphne and we find out different things. And as in the Harry Potter books, where I sit at the feet of J.K. Rowling, but she was so so brilliant about taking her readers with Harry as he experienced adolescence. Well I hope very much that this is somewhat what readers will feel about Daphne. That she really is like somebody they know, so they are going through their teens with her. So that’s very exciting to do in the next two books. But there is going to be lots of adventure as well in the next two books. There is going to be lots of mystery and glamour, and I hope that readers will want to take the journey with Daphne.
Me - Do you know when the next two books are going to be released?
Charlotte - I don’t. I have written the second book, and I have outlined the third book. I think in general terms, probably the second book would come out after there was a paperback of the first. And then there will be a hardcover of the second book, and so on.
So the timing of that is not set yet because this book has only been out for about five weeks. It is still very very new and people are still discovering it. I think Penguin, who is the publisher, will need to go on just a little bit further before we make a schedule
Me - So the second book is written?
Charlotte - The second book is written, absolutely. And the third book has been outlined; I have about twelve pages of an outline. So I sort of know where I want to do with the third book, but I don‘t know things may change as I go along. I’m keeping an open mind. I’m actually going to India at the end of the year to do some research. I have done a lot of research for the Scarlet Stockings series because I’ve tried to make it very ... what’s the word I want. I’ve researched when telephones were first invented, and how many cars there were to horses at a certain point in the century of London. I want to get the facts as right as possible, and I’m trying to do that all along the line. So when something real happens in the book, which it will in all the books - it’s a mixture of real and imagined - the real bits have been researched and really are real.
Me - Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Charlotte - I just hope that they have a really lovely time reading the book. I hope that they love it and that it is meaningful to them. I hope they got the same pleasure that I got. The excitement and the thrill and the fun of reading, I hope they find it in the Scarlet Stockings. That’s my big hope for the book… The book is very young still so we’ll have to see where it goes, but I send it on its way with love., and I feel very blessed that I was able to write it. As I said, I really hope that it brings pleasure to a lot of people.
Me - Thank you so much, for doing another interview with me. And I look forward to reading the rest of the books.
Summary - Charlotte was a wonderful woman, and she wrote a beautiful book. If you have the chance, read The Enchanted Riddle, and become involved with the magic of the scarlet stockings.
(The interview was transcribed on Friday March 7, 2008)