Tuesday, 26 February 2019

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Once Upon a Retelling: Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury

Once Upon a Retelling

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Welcome to Once Upon a Retelling! I'm a huge fan of retellings, and I'm really interested in hearing about authors' own love of the original stories, and what inspired them to retell those stories. And so Once Upon a Retelling was born, a feature in which I interview authors about their versions of well-loved tales.

Today, I'm stoked to have Jessica Khoury stopping by the blog to discuss her Anastasia retelling, Last of Her Name.

Last of Her Name by Jessica Khoury
Can you tell us a little about Last of Her Name? What kind of a retelling of the legend of Anastasia is it?

Last of Her Name is inspired by the Anastasia legend (the historical one, not the cartoon--which I’ve actually never even seen!). It’s set in a far, far future in which humanity has settled on a bunch of new planets, and follows the lost heiress to the imperial line which once ruled the whole galaxy. It differs from the historical Anastasia pretty much right away--while we now know that Anastasia did not survive the tragic assassination of her family, in this story, she survives and grows up ignorant of her ancestry on a small, rural planet. That is, until her identity is exposed to everyone, including herself, and she must go on the run with her childhood friend/secret resistance fighter Pol.

Why Anastasia? What drew you to this legend of this historical person? And what inspired you to retell it?

The tragedy of the Anastasia story has always been heartbreaking and intriguing to me. I remember reading a fictionalized account of her life when I was about 11, and for weeks I couldn’t stop thinking about her and her family. Years later, that story still stuck with me. One of the things that always stood out to me about the Anastasia legend was the importance of DNA in bringing it to a close--DNA testing done in 2007 on the remains, proving Anastasia did die with her family that day in July 1918. So in Last of Her Name, I decided to ask the question: what if instead of ending the Anastasia story [mild spoiler alert!!] a DNA test was the beginning of her tale? With the story being sci-fi, I got to run with that idea in a pretty twisty, unique way.

What do you bring to the story of Anastasia with Last of Her Name?

I tried to balance the familiar elements of Anastasia--the slaughtered family, the Bolshevik-like government which seized control, etc--with new twists, secrets, and characters that readers will not expect. So while I hope you’ll see echoes of Anastasia in the book, you will definitely be reading a story you’ve never seen before. That’s why I like to say it’s more Anastasia-inspired rather than Anastasia-retold. And that’s also why if you’re unfamiliar with the Anastasia legend, you’ll have no problem following this story. It stands on its own apart from its historical source material.

How does Last of Her Name differ from other retellings of legend of Anastasia out there?

Many Anastasia retellings end with the reveal of the true princess, but in Last of Her Name, the story begins with this revelation. From there, it becomes a story of a girl grappling with this enormous heritage and responsibility that’s suddenly been placed on her shoulders. Stacia must grow into this new role if she’s to save the people she loves. The twists in this story aren’t so much related to who the princess is as to how Stacia must become that princess and set right her broken, war torn galaxy.

Last of Her Name by Jessica KhouryWere there any difficulties in tackling a retelling of a story already known, over writing an original story? Anything that was easier?

There are some difficulties in deciding what to keep, what to adapt, and what to throw out altogether. I never want to be too tied to the source material, because I want the story to feel fresh and surprising. So the first and biggest challenge is sifting through the existing material and paring it down to its essentials, then rebuilding these in a way that gives them new life.

What do you hope readers get from Last of Her Name?

Honestly--fun! This goes for all my books, because it’s what I want to get out of the books I read. So while important lessons are learned in the story--such as themes of friendship and identity--above all else, I simply want readers to have fun. Enjoy the ride. Come out on the other side feeling as if you’ve made new friends in these characters, and experience new worlds through their eyes.

What do you think makes a good retelling?

Good retellings have to surprise you. If the story follows the same emotional beats and reveals as the original, why tell it at all? When I pick up a retelling, I want to see how the writer will change some key elements in a way that makes me look at this story in a whole new light.

Are there any retellings you would recommend, either of the legend of Anastasia, or in general?

Recently I’ve read and loved The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Anything you would like to add?

Thank you so much for featuring Last of Her Name, and for this lovely interview! Happy reading! :)

Thank you, Jessica, for your fantastic answers! Last of Her Name sounds so good! I love how it's about Stacia becoming the princess her people need, taking up this position she never knew she was meant to having, and using it to save those she cares about. It sounds amazing!

Be sure to visit Jessica's website, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and check out Last of Her Name, which is published today!

Last of Her Name by Jessica KhouryLast of Her Name by Jessica Khoury

Sixteen years ago, rebellion swept the galaxy known as the Belt of Jewels. Every member of the royal family was murdered--down to their youngest child, Princess Anya--and the Union government rose in its place. But Stacia doesn't think much about politics. She spends her days half-wild, rambling her father's vineyard with her closest friends, Clio and Pol.

That all changes the day a Union ship appears in town, carrying the leader of the Belt himself, the Direktor Eminent. The Direktor claims that Princess Anya is alive, and that Stacia's sleepy village is a den of empire loyalists, intent on hiding her. When Stacia is identified as the lost princess, her provincial home explodes into a nightmare.

Pol smuggles her away to a hidden escape ship in the chaos, leaving Clio in the hands of the Union. With everything she knows threading away into stars, Stacia sets her heart on a single mission. She will find and rescue Clio, even with the whole galaxy on her trail.
From Goodreads.

Book Depository | Wordery | Goodreads

If you enjoyed this post, check out the other interviews in the Once Upon a Retelling series.

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1 comment:

  1. I really want to try this one! I've always been really interested in Russian history (and totally admit to loving the animated Anastasia film as a kid!) And I've yet to read a Khoury book, so I need to get onto that!

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