Ask me Anything: Persephone Research

Noor sent: I am a master student from Belgium, studying classical languages. For the moment I am writing my master thesis which has as subject the reception of the myth about the rape of Persephone in YA literature. Your book ‘Persephone’ will be one of my case studies to do this research. So I would like to take this opportunity to ask you some questions, and if you could get back at me it would really be wonderful. 

Questions, and my answers embedded below.

-Which ancient versions of the myth did you study?

I looked at everything I could find on and off line. Theoi.com was a valuable resource. I had a decent background with mythology before I began and had read Homer, Hesiod, and Ovid translations through school, but for specific book research, I also  read a great book called Life’s Daughter, Death’s Bride that was very helpful as well as Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths

-Did you look at some commentaries or scientific articles about these ancient texts?

   Absolutely. I can’t recall any further specific sources, but I tracked down everything I could find back in 2009/2010 when I was writing Persephone. 

-Did you draw inspiration from other retellings of the Persephone myth (both older and more recent)? Yes. In my childhood, I’d read an interesting version of a retelling called The Forbidden Games by LJ Smith that absolutely influenced how I saw Hades. I never much cared for any other versions of Persephone I found in popular culture*, because it always felt like her side of the story was missing. I was also a huge fan of the Princesses of Myth series by Esther Freisner, and while she doesn’t have a Persephone myth retelling, her retelling of young Hellen of Troy was absolutely an inspiration. I also read a book called Radiant Darkness closer to writing Persephone that I enjoyed. 

I do have to note that Persephone retellings exploded around the time my story was published, so there are now several wonderful retellings. You can find them on this list here.

-Did you follow any studies in ancient Greek or Roman literature or do you sometimes read these texts of antiquity in their origin languages?

I had to do a translation of an Ovid myth for a Latin class I took once, but it was so long ago, I can’t even remember which myth I was assigned. Otherwise, no.  

-What was your main goal in this rewrite: empowering Persephone, giving her more voice, picturing another image of Hades,…? So in other words, is there a sort of feminist background playing?

In every version of the myth I encountered, Persephone’s perspective was left out. We see her mother’s reaction, Zeus’s reaction, Hades’ motivation. We even get some turmoil from Hermes. But Persephone herself is largely left out of her own origin story. She’s not even given a proper name until she’s abducted. I wanted to know her side of the story. So I rewrote it. But at the same time, I had no interest in writing a Stockholm Romance, so I took some liberties. 

-What is your view on rewrites of classical mythology in general? Should people still read the original stories? Absolutely. Whenever and wherever possible. These stories have resonated with people for centuries. You can’t fully appreciate all the ways the myths echo in all of our stories without having read them. 

I would really be grateful if you could help me with these questions. Thank you in advance.

You’re welcome!

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