Thursday, May 23, 2013

Q&A with Hannah Lesniak

Good e'en, Beardies!

Once upon a time, in kingdom called Commerce, there lived a young and idealistic Lady Knight of Knowledge beset with many trials.  As the young knight sought to rescue a much-loved Young Adult library collection from the jaws of the Dragon of Neglect, she was in desperate need of help, and help arrived in the form of a young Page of Knowledge named Hannah.  Together Knight and Page fought a valiant fight, slew the Dragon of Neglect, and won the respect of their subjects.  In time, the Page went to a far-off country to endure an Ordeal, and returning triumphant from this test, was promoted to the position of Squire of Knowledge, and awarded the accolade of membership into The Fellowship of The Bearded Scribe for her bravery, wisdom, and honor...
...Or something like that.

All fairy tales have a basis in truth, and you may have guessed by now that the aforementioned Lady Knight of Knowledge was me. The Page (now Squire) of Knowledge was my dear friend and colleague, Hannah Lesniak, the newest member of The Fellowship of The Bearded Scribe.  Hannah and I see each other at work nearly every day, but getting this interview was harder than it should have been, because, as always when we're together, hijinks and tea ensued.  Because I am a good Lady Knight of Knowledge, though, and Hannah is my faithful Squire, we did at some point manage to have a good conversation.  Read on, Beardies—an adventure awaits!

Elizabeth: You’re a prolific reader of all kinds of books, but especially fairy tale retellings. What draws you to those stories?

Hannah: Fairy tales are familiar. They have basic plot lines and the endings are usually happy (not that they should be happy, but generally they are). It amazes me how an author can remake a story, shape it to their own imaginings. I've read many with plot twists and different outcomes. Fairy tales can exist in a fantasy land or the modern world. Every country has unique versions of such classic tales. I'm draw to them over and over again because I enjoy the familiar being remade.

Elizabeth: Please list a few (and stop at a few, if possible) of your favorite classic fairy tales.

Hannah: To be brief (Read: to spare you pain): Beauty and the BeastCinderella, and The Little Mermaid.

Elizabeth: What is your current favorite retelling?

Hannah: Favorite is such a heavy and singular word…

Beauty by Robin McKinley will be one of my favorites for as long as the sky remains above my head. This poetic retelling of Beauty and the Beast explores the background of bookish and plain Beauty, her beloved merchant father and her beautiful sisters. The plot basically follows the classic tale, but it's the depth of the mystery of the castle and the invisible servants, the character of the Beast, and the building of the relationship with the Beast that keeps me coming back to the story. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors and Beauty is one of my favorite of her books.


Tiger Lily by Jodi Anderson is one of my current favorites. It is a heart wrenching love story that spills sunsets across the page. The narrator, Tinker Bell, has insight into the characters, which makes for a unique and realistic reading experience. With a special focus on Tiger Lily, the story holds a different perspective on the story of Peter Pan.


East by Edith Pattou is a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I see it as more of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but that's just me. Rose's adventurous nature has been suppressed by her overprotective mother, but when a polar bear promises health to her ailing family in exchange for Rose, she agrees and begins her adventure. I come to this story over and over again.


Elizabeth: What is your current favorite fantasy book(s)?

Hannah:  Again with “favorite”…

The Last Dragonslayer by Japser Fforde. I just want a Quarkbeast. Now.  Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. A fantastical debut and new series, which will actually be my first Spotlight on The Bearded Scribe.  Brigid Kemmerer's Elemental Series. A modern series concerning brothers with powerful elemental gifts. The author touches on some serious topics which were handled realistically. I enjoy the relationships between the brothers and how the author creates a person with each character's mindset she delves into.  And Harry Potter. Always.


Elizabeth: Are you excited or disappointed by the current proliferation of retellings in Hollywood, like Snow White and the HuntsmanEver After, Mirror Mirror, and Once Upon a Time?

Hannah: I am excited with most of the Hollywood renditions. Once Upon a Time is just crazy with their portrayal of characters and events. They can craft two beloved characters into one, rearrange stories, and enable the audience to emphasize with a character they are supposed to abhor. I look forward to what the writers are going to do in Neverland and Wonderland.

Ever After is actually one of my favorite Cinderella retellings. My family speaks in movie lines and most of our lines come from this film (and lots of Disney, speaking of modern fairy tales). I like how Ever After can be a conceivable historic rendition, with the appearance of beloved Leonardo daVinci.

Snow White and the Huntsman. Oh, what can I say? Chris Hemsworth—yes! Kristen Stewart—no. And there was that moment of Princess Mononoke with the white stag. They could do so much more with that and hopefully they will in 2015.


As for the rest of Hollywood, I'm a Disney girl through and through. Talk all you want about how Disney is slowly destroying our children, painting unrealistic pictures of society, blah, blah, blah. They are fun stories and I appreciate good animation.


Elizabeth: Is there a particular fantasy movie or TV show that you’re really looking forward to seeing?

Hannah: I'm really on the Marvel high right now. I recently saw Iron Man 3. No words can contain my feels. The Wolverine is coming out in July. The second Thor movie comes out in November (insert ridiculous fangirling). Other than Ender's Game (November), Catching Fire (November) and the Desolation of Smaug (December), I have nothing else movie-wise to look forward to. And yet, I can fangirl all of these for years.

Elizabeth: Not only are you a passionate reader, but you’re also a writer. Are you working on any projects currently?

Hannah: I am not currently working on any projects. However, people seem to think that I will write a book in the future and I am starting to believe them. The only material that I have is from a fantasy story (using the term loosely) that I wrote in middle school. If I was ever to write a book, I would probably rewrite that. As it is, I have no writing projects other than those concerning school. Can anyone give me ideas for my thesis in the fall?

Elizabeth: I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few of your stories, and they remind me of Angela Carter’s dark fairy tales. Is there anything in particular that draws you to write dark fantasy?

Hannah: Nothing in particular. I don't fancy myself as someone with dark taste, but it can be fun to put characters in dark situations. Especially if these situations come in dreams. "For in this sleep of death what dreams may come." Alright...perhaps I have a leaning towards the poetically morbid. Granted I do not care for dark, disturbing fantasy, like that of Stephen King, but if I wrote it I could see myself being okay with it. If I wrote it, I would know what was going to happen and therefore would not freak myself out (as much).

Elizabeth: You’ve recently studied in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Was that something you had always wanted to do?

Hannah: I have always wanted to travel. I'm a homebody and will more than likely reside in my hometown for the rest of my life. The only place I've ever moved was to the house next door. Therefore, travel needs to be accomplished. Belfast just came first, I suppose. It was perfect for me. Cities aren't my party and Belfast is one of the smallest cities. You can see the hills and surrounding countryside whilst walking down some of the main roads. Now that I have visited, I want to go back.

Elizabeth: Was the college experience different in Belfast as opposed to the States? If so, how?

Hannah: The college experience was different. Only three classes compared to my State's four or five. Lectures were large affairs, but then later in the week we were broken into small groups for tutorials. We were never in class long and they just told us to read and think. We had one or two big papers at the end. No tests. No quizzes. No quests. It was quite independent and they held students to higher standards in writing. Granted, those standards were different from those of the States, but I passed.

Elizabeth: With flying colors, no doubt!  What was the absolute best thing about studying abroad?

Hannah: The abroad part. I got to go out of the US and see stuff! Since I wasn't working, and my professors at home had told me to not focus too much on academics, I was able to have the best vacation ever, meet new people, and try new things.

Elizabeth: Now that you’re back stateside, is there anything you miss about Belfast?

Hannah: I became addicted to tea and I miss Cadbury chocolate and soda bread. I miss walking to the amazing building that was the University of Belfast Lanyon Building (think that school from Dead Poet's Society). My friend Rebekah and I would visit comforting used book stores (especially No Alibis, where David would offer us tea or coffee). It would be raining, drizzling really, and we would walk past the Botanical Gardens to the library, or walk to Tesco to stock up on pasta and chocolate. Most of all, I miss the accents and just meeting different people. Ah, travel. (heavy sigh)

Elizabeth: What makes you want to study Library Science?

Hannah: The books. Apparently I have few other interests and can't think of any other way to spend a career. Good thing I love books and organizing (insert thumbs up and broad, winning grin).

Elizabeth: There’s also a rumor that you want to be a young adult librarian…why?

Hannah: I think that the genre and the target audience are worthwhile and fun. Hopefully I will be able to help youth connect with reading and maybe do some crafting and other fun activities with teens. Honestly, the future is unpredictable. I don't even know what I'll be doing next week. Actually I know the probability of what I will be doing, but who says the future is predictable?

Elizabeth: Anything else you’d like to share with the readers, or anything I didn’t ask you that you wish I had?

Hannah: Your questions are fair and true. Hmmm, let's see. What would I like to share with the readers? A spot of tea and scones would be wonderful to share, but I suppose this will be more of a virtual relationship. Hopefully I will be able to share some awesome books and maybe even some that are not as awesome (and perhaps win friends through good humored writing). We shall see.

I'm sure you will win friends, Hannah!  I'm glad to have you as a member of The Fellowship, and in future we will have tea and scones and pretend that all of the Beardies are with us.  I can't wait to see where our adventures take us next!

Until next time, Beardies, may we all scribe happily ever after!



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