Looking for an adventure? Out in bookstores August 25th, Keepers of the Labyrinth is the story of one spirited girl’s quest to discover the truths behind her mother’s death, and that journey takes her all the way to Greece, Crete to be exact, where she follows in her mother’s footsteps on adventures of “mythological proportions” which land her smack-dab in the middle of an actual minotaur’s labyrinth. It’s author Erin E. Moulton’s first foray into fantasy/adventure, and YE got the chance to chat with her about the experience and her journey as a writer, about Keepers, and about what’s keeping her entertained these days.
On her “origin story” as a writer of children’s fiction:
“I grew up in Vermont, and I wrote a ton. I think I started my first journal in the 2nd grade. In all of my journals, looking back, I always said I was going to be a writer…but somehow, I neglected to realize this was something I could do in the form of a degree or career. So I went to undergraduate school, at Emerson College, for theater design. It wasn’t until my senior year that I had to fill up an extra credit, so I picked up a fiction class. It was in that class that I realized I was supposed to be a writer. It was as though a lightbulb suddenly flipped on, so instead of just jumping into a theater career, I applied to the Vermont College of Fine Arts and started there the summer I graduated. I think I chose to do children’s writing because that is where I was at the time. Twenty two…barely an adult.…how would I write an adult story? I’m so glad I ended up in the MFA program I did. It was life changing in the best possible way.”
On her writing ending up in Greece and taking on ancient mythology:
Keepers of the Labyrinth popped into my head through a single phrase: the Daughters of Ariadne. I couldn’t remember who Ariadne was [She is known in Greek mythology as “The Mistress of the Labyrinth” and is generally associated with mazes and puzzles, etc.], and I wasn’t sure where the phrase came from, so I hopped on Google to make sure it wasn’t a title of something I had recently seen. I started to learn about Ariadne, started to center in on Crete, discovered the myths that came directly from that island. Discovered the Minoans and their history. I wondered if the characters of ancient myth could have been living Minoans whose stories got swept away with their civilization. I like puzzles, and running down the story that became Keepers of the Labyrinth was a major puzzle that just wouldn’t rest.
“I wish I could meet [human and gender rights activist/all around great human being] Malala Yousafzai, don’t you? She’s amazing and strong, and I know I would be completely tongue-tied around her, but I’d like to meet her anyway.”
“Orphan Black, Firefly, Parks and Rec, Anne of Green Gables for a calmer afternoon (The whole series. Anne is so self assured. It comforts me).”
“So, these are throwbacks now, I guess, but still worth your time: Goonies, Empire Records, Dead Poets Society, 10 Things I Hate About You, Ghostbusters. Labyrinth, the David Bowie one (the ONLY one). Also, Princess Bride. Trust me on this.” YE editor note: Definitely trust Ms. Moulton on this.
On her iPod right now:
“I and Love and You,” The Avett Brothers.
“Stubborn Love,” The Lumineers.
The Darius Rucker cover of “Wagon Wheel”
Anna Kendrick’s “Cup Song”
“Take Me to Church,” Hozier.
“Raise Your Glass,” Pink
On her Kindle:
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
But her ultimate Must is Shakespeare:
“Get some Shakespeare under your belt. You DON’T have to interpret every line. That’s the beauty of Shakespeare, you get a sense of the mood just from the rhythm of the sentence. Macbeth is my favorite. ‘Is this a dagger which I see before me. The handle toward my hand’…and so on.”
On what she loves as a reader:
“I LOVE quirky characters. I love reading in perspectives that are not my own. I love stories and characters that I can’t conceive of. I also absolutely love reading nonfiction. Truth is, truly, stranger.”
On the future of her writing and the possibility of more adventures/fantasies like Keepers:
I think I have a couple of [adventre/fantasy] stories stirring. But also some fun picture books. And something quite serious in the nonfiction category. A sad love story. Maybe, even a story about boring adults might not be too out of the realm of imagination before I quit/die! The key might be balance. I think Keepers was great to write after Chasing the Milky Way, since Chasing was quite heavy and emotionally exhausting while Keepers was more adrenalin and high adventure. If I could do a bit of each, I think I’d be able to stay sane.”
On what she hopes readers of all ages take away from Keepers and her other works:
“One thing that runs through all of my stories, I think, is taking care of the people you love. I don’t care if you’re related or not. I like to explore the bond, the sacrifice people make for one another. Also, the compulsion to pursue a dream or goal regardless of the obstacles thrown in your path. I hope that when people spend a little time in my books that they come away with a sense that anything is possible. That you go through the woods, the dark, the underworld, the labyrinth, and you get banged up, but you come out the other side. And sometimes, in life, that’s not how it works, so sometimes, you have to pick up story after story after story, until you can look up again and things are a little brighter. You know what I mean? Stories are so good for that.”
Yes, Ms. Moulton, that’s exactly what stories are good for; we couldn’t agree more!
If you enjoyed getting to know Erin here, in addition to Keepers of the Labyrinth out this week, you can check out her earlier works which include Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey, Tracing Stars, and Chasing the Milky Way.