RENA ROSSNER

Meet the lit­er­ary agent be­hind dark fairy­tale SiS­terS Of the Win­ter WOOd

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Tell us about your pro­tag­o­nists.

Liba is con­nected to her home, re­li­gion and fam­ily. She dis­cov­ers she can turn into a bear like her fa­ther. Laya is flighty and un­sure what she be­lieves – she turns into a swan, like their mother. When strange men come to town, the girls need to save them­selves.

What folk­lore does the book draw on?

It’s a retelling of Christina Ros­setti’s “goblin Mar­ket” poem. I drew upon Jewish/Has­sidic and Rus­sian/Ukrainian folk­lore about bear-men and swan maidens, and looked to the Jewish tale of the Sh­poler Zay­die, who danced in a bear skin to save other Jews.

What did you find out dur­ing your re­search?

I dis­cov­ered the town of Du­bossary on the bor­der of Moldova and Ukraine, where my great-grand­fa­ther came from. In 1903 the Jews fought back and a pogrom never hap­pened there – that was when I knew where I would set my tale.

You’re a foodie – did that feed into the book in any way?

yes! My first pub­lished book was a cook­book! I wanted to in­cor­po­rate food from my own cul­ture – chal­lah, babka, rugelach, gefilte fish, borscht, brisket, cholent – not the foods you find in most fan­tasy nov­els!

Sis­ters Of The Win­ter Wood is pub­lished on 27 Septem­ber.

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