My Favorite Bit: Jane Yolen Talks About THE SCARLET CIRCUS

Jane Yolen is joining us today to talk about her novel, The Scarlet Circus. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Scarlet Circus, the fourth volume in Yolen’s award-winning short fiction series brings you passionate treasures and unexpected transformations. This bewitching assemblage, with an original introduction from Brandon Sanderson, is an ideal read for anyone who appreciates witty, compelling, and classic romantic fantasy.

A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men.

From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity—beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.

What’s Jane’s favorite bit?

The cover of the book saying The Scarlet Circus by Jane Yolen with an introduction by Brandon Sanderson

Jane Yolen

When the book in case is a book of short stories and poems, it is hard to find just a single thing that is a favorite. So forgive me for citing three things. 

First: My favorite short story in the collection has to be “Ghost of An Affair.” Three things you need to know: I wrote and published this story in 2000, when I had been widowed for six years. So there was that amongst the things that made the story. A woman who falls in love with a ghost. I was to mourn my husband for another ten years before an old friend—acquaintance really, as we had dated for two months in college, mostly talking about poetry, as we were both writers and both adored Emily Dickinson. But we drifted apart, and he met his wife-to-be and I met my husband-to come. 

But in the beginning of COVID, both of us widowed from those great marriages, met again, we fell in love this time. He had been a teacher/poet/writer who published little and I was a poet/storyteller who had published a lot. Our first date was at the Emily Dickinson Museum. 

So, when I re-read that story, it has all these resonances and clanging bells for me. Especially the line “But love, though it may take many a circuitous route, somehow manages to get from one end of the map to another. Always.” 

Oh, and why does the young man come from a fisher family in Scotland? Because I have a house in St Andrews within walking distance of the river that empties into the sea. I have been in those houses, walked those lanes. And as my new husband loves the house, as much as the late husband did….well there’s that resonance for you as well!

Second: there are also poems in the book, each one paired with a particular story, and my favorite one (though not the best poem in the collection) is “Meeting in Time” which is paired with the “Ghost of an Affair” because it speaks directly to and of me now. 

Third: I had already published several volumes of stories with Tachyon and wanted to gather together one more. The publisher and I spoke about it, and we wondered what kind of underlying idea or motif would hold the book  together. I do not remember if the publisher had the love story idea or I did, but I certainly never considered myself a writer of romantic fiction. 

Except for War and Peace and Jane Austin, I did not read romances. And I certainly did not consider those books romances. Though at the heart they are. And I honestly didn’t think I had enough short stories that might wiggle and wriggle their way into such a book. And yet when I began re-reading my published stories, love jumped out at me over and over again.. Who knew!!! So I learned something about myself as I put this book together, and is that at the level of the heart, I AM a romantic, though I call myself someone who just loves a certain part of the imaginary world.


The Scarlet Circus Book Link



Instagram: @jyolen

Jane Yolen’s four hundred and eighteenth book is about to come out, with almost forty other books sold and waiting to be put on the next, or next, or next, or next editorial lists. At eighty four, she is hoping to stay alive long enough to see them all come out. Yolen has won three Nebulas, a number of World Fantasy Awards, and the Boskone Skylark Award (which set her good coat on fire—just ask her!). She also has won three Christopher Medals and the Caldecott Award. Yolen  was president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for two years. She as six honorary doctorates for her work, has taught at Smith College, had her own sf/fantasy imprint for Harcourt for nine years, and was the first woman to give the Andrew Lang lecture at St Andrews University though the series had begun in the 1920s. And Yolen is still writing six-to-eight  hours a day.

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