Katharine Beutner Interview
March 24, 2010
the author of Alcestis
It was great to have Katharine Beutner visit the blog on March 24, 2010, to talk about her novel Alcestis, based on the Greek myth of a woman who agreed to die so her husband could stay alive.
With so many Greek myths and legends to choose from, what drew you to write about Alcestis in particular?
I felt inspired to write about Alcestis because of my reaction to reading Euripides' play about her, which ends with Alcestis, silent, having been rescued from death by Heracles. I was struck by her bravery and confused by her silence, which is treated as unimportant in the play. I wanted to give her a voice. She's linked to a lot of well-known myths - her father dies because of Medea, her son fights for the Greeks at Troy - but even many fans of Greek mythology don't know much about her story, remarkable as it is.
Do you identify in any way with the character you've created in Alcestis?
I actually don't identify with her much, except for the fact that she's also a young woman; her personality is so shaped by her experiences, which are obviously very different from mine! I approached writing about her as a challenge; I wanted to construct a first-person narrative in her voice that would feel natural and sympathetic for readers but also give them a sense of what it might be like to grow up in a Mycenaean palace as the granddaughter of a god. That's what I love about historical fiction: the power it has to allow readers to inhabit another world.
Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, is an especially striking character in your novel. Did something in the Persephone myth inspire you to portray her as such an assertive woman?
The gods kidnap human women all the time, but few goddesses seem to be entrapped by other gods the way Persephone is. Because she makes the simple mistake of eating those pomegranate seeds, she is forever in Hades' power. I figured that she might be a bit angry about that, and that she'd also be fascinated by a woman who actually chose to go to the underworld rather than being tricked into it.
Review of Alcestis by Katharine Beutner
See listing for Alcestis at Powell's Books
See listing for Alcestis at Amazon.com
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