M.A. Kuzniar is joining us today to talk about her novel, Midnight in Everwood. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In the darkness of night, magic awaits…
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.
After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…
What’s M.A. Kuzniar’s favorite bit?
When you first think of The Nutcracker ballet, what comes to mind? For me, it sends my thoughts pirouetting onto images of nutcracker soldiers, of mice brandishing swords, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Land of Sweets.
Most authors tend to visualise characters or their plot first but I am always inevitably drawn to the setting before anything else. I love an atmospheric sense of place, a world conjured straight from the author’s imagination that I can lose myself in. The setting is always the part I dream up first, using it to springboard myself into scheming up the rest of the novel. And I could not wait to start worldbuilding my very own Land of Sweets.
But with an already beloved ballet and the two original books that the story was based on, not to mention countless reinterpretations like Barbie and the Nutcracker and Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, where do you begin?
I wanted to retell the story in a way that would be familiar and recognisable for the people that attend the ballet every Christmas. For the people that associate the story with childhood nostalgia. But I also wanted to put my own stamp on it.
I started with a frozen sugar palace. With a town built on marzipan cobblestones and market stalls made out of gingerbread. Everything in Everwood is constructed from sweets and biscuits and chocolate and cake. There are buttercream balls and magical gowns infused with delicious scents, and people travel by miniature reindeer and moose-pulled sleighs.
Little whimsical touches added that sense of nostalgia. With working gingerbread trains chugging along candy cane tracks, pale pink sugar mice that squeaked when nibbled and a river of drinkable chocolate running through the palace.
For the ballet enthusiasts, I sneaked in plenty of easter eggs – in the first performance of The Nutcracker in St Petersburg, Antoinetta Dell-Era danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Sergei Legat was the Nutcracker Prince – so if you fancy a whirl through the pages of Midnight in Everwood, keep an eye out for those names, among others. . .
And finally, I added a seam of darkness running through this fantasy world. I believed that bite of darkness would undercut all of the sugar-sweetness and prevent Everwood from becoming too saccharine. E.T.A. Hoffman’s first, original story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, delved into the darker side of humanity’s nature and was not suitable for children. Though subsequent versions of it lightened the subject matter, evolving it into a beloved Christmas classic, it did not begin in that way.
So in Everwood, as my main character Marietta soon discovers, you must keep your wits about you. For Everwood may be delicious and tempting as a box of chocolates but in the tradition of those older, darker fairy tales, unspeakable dangers poison its candied palace.
Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as can and bookstagrams @cosyreads.