Interview: Alethea Kontis on “The Goblin and the Treasure”

“The Goblin and the Treasure” is in the Once Upon a Quest anthology, a collection of fifteen tales of adventure, all brand new fairy tale twists from bestselling and award-winning authors. With inspirations ranging from The Ugly Duckling to Snow White, and everything in between (including trips to Camelot and Oz), these fabulous tales are full of adventure, magic, and a touch of romance.

Meet Alethea!

Alethea weaves fairy tale fantasy in the realm of Arilland, and dabbles in other fantasy worlds as well. She’s been a guest speaker about fairy tales at the Library of Congress, and gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“The Goblin and the Treasure”

Out-of-work soldier Kira Kobold is handpicked by the High Wizard Zelwynn to go on a quest. Her companions? A growly ogress, a surly dwarf, a dimwitted troll, and an overly optimistic goblin. This wasn’t exactly the quest she was looking for…

Kira fumed. It was supposed to be her up there. According to the dreams, it should have been her.

“Company,” announced the High Wizard, “I present your champions!”

There was a smattering of applause at the declaration, but far more groans and grumbles.

Kira tried to contain her anger…and failed. “They don’t even know what they’re looking for!”

Zelwynn’s bushy brows furrowed. “Didn’t I say?”

“No!” Kira yelled. A few others echoed her answer.

“Goodness, that’s very unlike me,” Zelwynn muttered. “Thank you for setting me straight, clever young woman. Tell me, would you like to join this questing party as well?”

“What is the quest for?” Kira asked pointedly.

Zelwynn spread his arms wide and proudly announced: “The Lost Treasure of Zelwynn!”

Laughs were hidden under coughs, along with a few expressions of confusion. What on earth had the High Wizard misplaced in the mountains that he couldn’t just go find himself?

Kira narrowed her eyes. “Animal, vegetable, or mineral?”

“It is an instrument of both perfect peace and ultimate destruction,” Zelwynn answered. “Its value is beyond price.”

Trench and Forge exchanged knowing glances. The troll and the goblin didn’t stand half a chance against those two. But with Kira’s help they might. She loosened the grip on the hilt of her sword. “Fine. Count me in.”

“Kira Kobold, everyone!” Zelwynn announced as she approached the dais, and the crowd of soldiers actually cheered. Kira hadn’t expected that. Nor had she expected the High Wizard to know her by name, but she supposed wizards had their ways. At the top of the steps, she faced Zelwynn. Unafraid, she stared deep into those beady little eyes.

“It’s about time,” the High Wizard said. And then he winked at her.

– from “The Goblin and the Treasure” by Alethea Kontis

The Interview

“The Goblin and the Treasure” is based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Goblin and the Grocer.” What is it about the original fairy tale that inspired you to use it as the inspiration for your story?

The message at the heart of “The Goblin and the Grocer” is about the magic of books, and how vital they are to an optimistic life. Plus, I also love the whole crazy “cut out the Grocer’s wife’s tongue and put it on a whole bunch of inanimate objects so they can have their say” plot device. I’ve always been a big fan of personifying inanimate objects. Comes from being a young girl with a big imagination, I guess…

Why are fairy tales so important to you?

I began reading at three years old. By five I was eating up poetry and novels like there was no tomorrow, but the fairy stories were always my favorite. So on my eighth birthday, my French grandmother gave me a HUGE volume of collected tales by Grimm and Andersen. They were the unexpurgated tales, full of magic and monsters and darkness and blood and hope. These were the adventures of my childhood, and the well from which all my other stories since have sprung.

How do fairy tales manifest in your Trix Adventures series? Can you give us a sneak peek at what will be in book three, Trix and the Fire Witch?

Fairy tales leave most sensible people with a lot of questions. I like answering those questions with other fairy tales. Trix’s character comes from the Grimms’ tale “The Foundling.” Right before I decided to spin his adventures off into a series of novellas, I had just re-read Andrew Lang’s Crimson Fairy Book. Trixter is very much an homage to that book. Trix is the “Beggar Boy” who knows “The Language of Beasts” and “How to find out a True Friend.” Lizinia and Papa Gatto’s characters are straight out of “The Colony of Cats.”

I always wondered what would realistically happen to that girl dipped in gold, and her sister with the donkey’s tail on her forehead. Why was the Colony of Cats formed, and what would happen to all those cats after they died? Writing Papa Gatto as both The Godfather and the Cheshire Cat was just so easy…it made far too much sense!

Those who know “The Colony of Cats,” and have read “Hero Worship” from Tales of Arilland, will have a very good idea who’s going to appear in Book Three…including the identity of the Fire Witch!

Do your novels and stories connect with each other? If so, how? And why?

That, my friend, is an answer that will take more time than we have here. Arilland has become my Middle Earth. A Thousand Years of Faerie live in my head at all times now. I have begun including essays at the end of my novels (where I can) that discuss the origin of certain elements in that novel, and how they connect to the other stories. For instance, beta readers of “The Goblin and the Treasure” recognized my goblin mythology from When Tinker Met Bell, but they completely missed the MASSIVE reference to Hero until I mentioned it in the essay!

One day, there will be a map. But that is not this day.

You’ve been a part of the Once Upon anthology series from the beginning. How did the series begin, and what do you enjoy about participating in it?

“The Unicorn Hunter” in Once Upon a Curse might be my favorite story of all time. And then I started my tale for Once Upon a Kiss: “Once upon a time, long after the Wizard War, in the Third Age of Faerie the kingdom of Upper Reaches was separated from the rest of the world by a glass mountain.” At that moment, a Thousand Years of Faerie sprang into my head fully formed. I suddenly saw how everything I’d ever written and everything I’m ever going to write all fit together, and my life changed forever.

The thing I love best about my stories in the three Once anthologies is that right now they relate to each other more than they relate to any other storyline I have out in the world. I’m so excited for all my future projects from here on out!

What’s the status of Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants?

I made 55 episodes of the original Fairy Tale Rants. They are still available to binge watch on YouTube.

I miss making them SO MUCH! But as fun as they were to do, the filming, editing and promotion of each took a solid day out of my week and brought zero income, so I had to stop. I made a few more bonus episodes at the behest of my Fairy Goddaughters, and we debut a new Fairy Tale Rant Theatre production every Dragon Con at Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow. But Fairy Tale Rants will not be created on a regular basis again unless I can hit those milestone goals on my Patreon.

You incorporate aspects from a number of different fairy tales in your Woodcutter Sisters series, which is about seven sisters who are named after the days of the week. Three books in this series are out so far – what’s the plan for the other four?

That answer is best explained here:

What’s important to you about the patchwork skirts that Friday Woodcutter, the protagonist in Dearest, makes for herself?

“Friday’s child is loving and giving.” Since Friday’s nameday gift was a magic needle and sewing is her forte, it made sense to me that she would fashion skirts from leftover bits after she made clothes for the orphans. I did not realize how much this would become a metaphor for Friday’s heart in Dearest, and in my own life. A fan made me a patchwork skirt that I wear with pride. I look forward to making another one from scraps other fans have donated!

Tell us about Charlie!

Charlemagne Montesquieu, the Marquis of Albec, is my teddy bear. We have been together for almost 30 years now. He’s witnessed me at my best and stuck with me through the worst, with a steadfast determination that no other person in my life has ever had. (I refer you back to Question One, about the girl with the big imagination and her passion for inanimate objects. Did I mention that my first best friend was a tree?)

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I just finished an essay for Clarkesworld’s “Another Word” feature, about how I’ve developed as a podcast narrator over the last seven years. I loved delving into how exactly I use my experiences as a child actress to breathe life into other author’s characters. There’s a magic there—real world magic, and it’s a beautiful thing!

Click here to listen to some of the stories I’ve narrated.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a voice actress, a force of nature, and a mess. She is responsible for creating the epic fairytale fantasy realm of Arilland, and dabbling in a myriad of other worlds beyond. Her award-winning writing has been published for multiple age groups across all genres. Host of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” and Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con, Alethea also narrates for ACX, IGMS, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders.

Alethea’s YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won both the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award and Garden State Teen Book Award. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013 and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award. Tales of Arilland, a short story collection set in the same fairy tale world, won a second Gelett Burgess Award in 2015. The second book in The Trix Adventures, Trix and the Faerie Queen, was a finalist for the Dragon Award in 2016.

Princess Alethea was given the honor of speaking about fairy tales at the Library of Congress in 2013. In 2015, she gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She also enjoys speaking at schools and festivals all over the US. (If forced to choose between all these things, she says middle schools are her favorite!)

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives on the Space Coast of Florida. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.

Find Alethea at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Instagram | Pinterest| Wattpad | YouTube | Goodreads

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