1. What inspired you to write The Marsh King’s Daughter?
I actually woke up in the night with the first sentences of The Marsh King’s Daughter fully formed in my head: "If I told you my mother's name, you'd recognize it right away. My mother was famous, though she never wanted to be. Hers wasn't the kind of fame anyone would wish for--Jaycee Dugard, Amanda Berry, Elizabeth Smart--that kind of thing, though my mother was none of them."
I wasn’t dreaming about this character, she was just there, talking to me. In the morning, I wrote up a few paragraphs in which she told me more about herself, and these sentences and paragraphs are now the first page of the novel.
I’ve always been fascinated by stories of people who rise above a less-than-perfect childhood to make something of themselves, and I think this is one of the reasons this character spoke to me so strongly. Helena is the daughter of a kidnap victim and the man who took her, who grows up in complete isolation for twelve years in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness, so in creating a new life for herself as an adult, she certainly has a great deal to overcome.
2. Was The Marsh King’s Daughter the original title or were there other titles?
The Marsh King’s Daughter is the book’s original title, and I’m very happy to see that it is also going to be the title of the movie. The title comes from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name, which I used to structure the book.
“The Marsh King’s Daughter” is one of Anderson’s longer fairy tales, in which the main character is the daughter of an Egyptian princess and the evil Marsh King. By day, the girl is beautiful like her mother, but has her father’s wicked, wild temperament, while at night, she takes on her mother’s gentle nature in the guise of a hideous frog.
In my novel, Helena is also the product of an innocent and a monster. Genetically, she is half her mother, half her father, and like the Marsh King’s daughter in the fairy tale, she struggles with her dual nature.
3. What do you want readers to get out of reading The Marsh King’s Daughter?
While The Marsh King’s Daughter is dark psychological suspense, it’s also a father-daughter story, and I’d love readers to reflect on their own parent-child relationships when they finish reading.
Helena loves her father unconditionally for her first twelve years, even though he is a very bad man who doesn’t deserve her love. As an adult, when her father escapes from prison and she is forced to use the hunting and tracking skills he taught her as a child against him, she’s still torn. She knows he belongs in prison for the things he’s done; yet in remembering what she considers to have been a happy childhood, she still has feelings for him.
So, while the novel can be read as a straight-up thriller, Helena’s relationship with her father is very complicated, allowing lots of room for reflection after the book is done.
4. Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a beautiful, secluded writing room in an outbuilding on the back of our property where I do most of my writing. That said, some of my most best ideas have come to me while sitting on a log in a forest. There’s something about being in the natural world that is very inspiring!
5. What was your favorite book when you were a kid? Do you have a favorite book now?
My reading has always been very eclectic. I loved The Boxcar children when I was growing up, though I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, including books from my parents’ bookshelves which were definitely not suitable for a child, such as James Michener’s epic Hawaii.
As for what I like to read now, I enjoy any well-written story that takes me to another world. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Paulette Giles’ News Of The World are recent standouts.
6. What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
David Morrell, author of First Blood and creator of the character “Rambo,” once told me: “Make it real.” I think this is the key to writing good fiction. Many readers have said that as they were reading The Marsh King’s Daughter, they thought the book was a memoir, and actually had to go back and check to see if the story was true, or if it was fiction. I take that as the highest compliment!
7. What do you think makes a good novel?
Good fiction happens when great characters and storytelling evoke in the reader an emotional response. The reader has to feel what the characters are experiencing in order to get swept up in the story. In my opinion, the best novels are the ones that make you care as much about what happens to the characters as if they were family members, or dear friends.
8. What would you do if you ever stopped writing?
I’d travel the world exploring the various natural environments: the mountains, the deserts, the oceans – the more remote, the better!
9. Congrats on your book The Marsh King’s Daughter being made into a feature film, what are your thoughts about Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as the lead character?
I’m thrilled that Alicia Vikander is going to star as Helena in The Marsh King’s Daughter movie and think she will be fantastic in that role. She’s so incredibly talented, as is everyone associated with this project. I can’t wait to see how she brings Helena to life on the screen.
10. Would you like to make a cameo in the film?
I know a lot of writers have made very brief appearances in their films, but I’m definitely more comfortable behind a camera than in front of one. For me, visiting the set while the movie is filming would be a highlight.
11. What scene from the novel are you looking forward to seeing on the big screen?
While I definitely have my favorite scenes in the book, I’m trying not to think too much about seeing them on the screen, because I know the movie won’t be a recreation of my novel, but rather will be based on the book. No doubt there will be many scenes that won’t make it into the movie for various reasons, so I’ll just have to wait and see!
12. Have you ever considered writing a novella or even writing a screenplay?
I was happy to hand off the screen adaptation of my novel to the people who know what they’re doing because I’m a novelist through and through. I love the way the novel’s long form allows room for extensive character development, as well as getting inside the characters’ heads to really dig deep into what they’re thinking and feeling.
13. Last question, which novel/novella/short story have you read that you would like to see a film adaptation (besides yours, of course)?
I recently read The Hunger, by Alma Katsu, a reimagining of the Donner party tragedy with a supernatural twist, which was FANTASTIC. I’d love to see this tense and gripping story on the big screen!
All the best to Ms. Karen Dionne for The Marsh King's Daughter and the movie adaptation of the novel as well. All of you should definitely give this book a try. I also like to take this moment to thank Ms. Karen Dionne for stopping by to answer my questions. I really hope you all got an insight of her and her novel as well. Take care and I hope you are having a great day so far. Thanks again and stay blessed.