Tuesday 23 April 2019

, , , , ,

Once Upon a Retelling: Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow

Once Upon a Retelling

This post contains affiliate links.

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, YA author Kathryn Gossow is stopping by to discuss her Greek myth retelling, Cassandra.

Kathryn GossowCan you tell us a little about Cassandra? What kind of a retelling of Greek myth of Cassandra is it?

Cassandra is inspired by the Greek myth of Cassandra, the princess of Troy who is given the gift of prophecy but is cursed to never be believed. She had a reputation for being quite mad but she saw every calamity that would fall on the Trojans, and her own violent death. It would be difficult to maintain your mental health under these circumstances.

I think you would call my Cassandra novel a reimagining. While some of the events of the Greek myth are in the book, I wanted the story to be a different story, one that people who did not know the myth could still enjoy. It is as though the characters have been reincarnated into 1980's Australia. Apollo is the arrogant boy everyone wants to kiss, Zeus is the exotic worldly womaniser, Athena the smart confident feminist, and unfortunate Cassandra is a girl with a gift for prophecy she doesn't know how to use, trying to save her family and their farm from future perils.

Why Cassandra? What drew you to her Greek myth? And what inspired you to retell it?

It was Apollo's kiss that kicked me off on this story. Apollo said he would teach Cassandra how to predict the future in return for a kiss. Cassandra goes back on her word and Apollo curses that no one will believe her prophecies. I thought if Cassandra is so good at predicting the future, she would know Apollo was going to betray her and of course she would refuse to give herself to him. But in refusing him, she caused his betrayal. I became obsessed with fate and free will and whether we can change the future and if we are really in charge of our destinies.

What do you bring to the story of Cassandra with your novel?

I wanted people to read my novel and enjoy it even if they did not know the Greek myth. Anyone who is a fan of the original myths will see the myth woven throughout, with a light touch. Cassandra is a coming of age story about a girl learning about the whims of friendships and the betrayal of boys, and the importance of family. It just so happens she has the added pressure of dreams and visions.

How does your novel differ from other retellings of Greek myth of Cassandra out there?

I had to stop reading Cassandra retellings to keep my head clear of them! The Australian setting and the era set it apart but ultimately Cassandra's journey of self-awareness takes the agony of foreknowledge and inability to do anything about it to a different conclusion. Many of us are stuck in our minds either thinking about the future or obsessing over the past. So often we forget to live in and be astounded by our present moment.

Cassandra by Kathryn GossowWere there any difficulties in tackling a retelling of a story already known, over writing an original story? Anything that was easier?

On one hand it is easier, the characters and the conflicts are there to play with. I am a lover of magical realism and my challenge was how retell the story in the real world with a touch of believable magic. I remember being challenged by how Cassandra would receive her prophetic gifts. I needed to infuse the magic into a Cassandra while she was a girl living on a mundane farm in the middle of nowhere. In one version of the myth, Cassandra and her brother receive their gifts when she sleeps in Apollo's temples and his snakes lick their ears. I live in a country of venomous snakes. There is probably one roaming around my garden at this minute.

What do you hope readers get from Cassandra?

I hope they are entertained. I hope they enjoy being taken to a different place with what may be familiar characters. I hope they cry in the sad parts.

What do you think makes a good retelling?

I am fascinated by how humans keep retelling the same stories. We have been doing this since the beginning of time. For me, a retelling needs to be more than what has become before. I like it when they dig deep and change the setting or point of view or era so that a different aspect of the story is accentuated. I love how a retelling can bring something fresh to the theme of a story or it can change the theme so that is reflects the concerns of the time in which it is told.

Are there any retellings you would recommend, either of the Greek myth of Cassandra, or in general?

I adore everything Margaret Atwood writes. I was lucky enough to hear her speak in Sydney recently. Her book, The Penelopiad tells the story of Penelope waiting the return of Odysseus who, incidentally, was late home because Poseidon sent a storm at the behest of Athena who was annoyed by an attack on Cassandra in her temple.

Anything you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Cassandra and her book. I enjoy your blog and reading about the many retellings out in the world.

Thank you, Kathryn, for your kind words, and for your awesome answers! I don't know too much about the Greek myth of Cassandra, but it does sound like it would make quite an interesting story, being able to see the future, but not being able to do anything about it, because no-one will believe you! And I love books that question fate and free will, and all the complexities!

Be sure to visit Kathryn's website, follow her on Twitter, and check out Cassandra, which is out now!

Cassandra by Kathryn GossowCassandra by Kathryn Gossow

Is the future set like concrete or a piece of clay we can mould and change?

On a remote farm in Queensland, Cassie Shultz feels useless. Her perfect brother Alex has an uncanny ability to predict the weather, and the fortunes of the entire family hinge upon his forecasts. However, her own gift for prophecy remains frustratingly obscure. Attempts to help her family usually result in failure.

After meeting with her new genius neighbor Athena, Cassie thinks she has unlocked the secret of her powers. But as her visions grow more vivid, she learns that the cost of honing her gift may be her sanity.

With her family breaking apart, the future hurtles towards Cassie faster than she can comprehend it.

Shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in the Australian Aurealis Awards.
From Goodreads.

Book Depository | Wordery | Goodreads

Be sure to check out the other interviews in the Once Upon a Retelling series.

If you enjoyed this post,
please consider buying the book using my affiliate links, and following / supporting me:
Bloglovin' | Twitter | Goodreads | Ko-Fi

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great interview questions and your interest in Cassandra.