A favourite winter tradition for many is to take the family to a rendition of The Nutcracker ballet. If they can't go to the ballet, there are countless movies to stream instead. While we love both of these options for our Nutcracker fix; books are where it is at. Therefore it was a no brainer that we'd be picking up Midnight In Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar. It is a beautiful retelling of the classic tale. We will warn you all that this is a typical British written novel. The pacing is a little bit slower but the magic pulls you through until the very end. You still fall deeply in love with all the characters and the story. Just keep in mind that you need to be in the right mindset for a slow paced magical romp in order to enjoy it at its fullest.
With that said, we got to interview M.A. Kuzniar to find out where her choices came from and, of course, find out her tea (or lack of tea) preferences. Here's a quick blurb on what Midnight In Everwood is about and then onto the interview!
In the darkness of night, magic awaits…Nottingham, 1906
Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.
After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.
In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…
BT&W: What was it about The Nutcracker that spurred you to write this retelling?
M.A Kuzniar: I’ve always loved Christmas and I’ve equally always adored ballet so The Nutcracker felt like a very natural choice for me to sit down and retell. Books with a pinch of magic or fantastical elements are always the kind I gravitate towards and I was excited to be able to combine all of my loves in one epic novel!
BT&W: There is debate between the books and the ballet and various other tellings of the story as to if it is Marie or Clara as the main character’s name. Why did you choose to do a variation of Marie? (Ashli’s guess is because it is close to marionette and it’s a play on her feelings towards her family’s wish for her to be a society puppet but that might be too many years of English classes on hidden meanings talking.)
M.A: Although ballet is at the heart of this book, there is more than one version of The Nutcracker story and since I borrowed E.T.A Hoffman’s darker, creepier Drosselmeier, I decided to use the original main character’s name: Marie. (In his book, her doll is named Clara!). Although Marie felt too similar to my own name, Maria, to comfortably write so I decided to use a variation and happily, Ashli’s guess is spot on! I’m a fellow graduate of all those English classes on hidden meanings so there are quite a few buried throughout the pages of Midnight in Everwood. . .
BT&W: Usually Drosselmeier is such a beloved character; what spurred the idea to make him into a villain sort of character? We were so excited to have him as the love interest at first until he started to show his possessive side!
M.A: I was very excited to explore the villainous side of Drosselmeier after I read Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, which I was delighted to discover was like one of the original fairy tales – much creepier with a bite of darkness. I knew at once digging at these roots would perfectly complement the sugary sweetness of the Land of Sweets!
BT&W: Before we get into the magical world of Everwood, can you tell us more about your decisions to create the real world that Marietta lives in? It was so realistic and relatable with her family situation!
M.A: Marietta needed a driving passion that would propel her through both her own character development and the events that transpire. I knew from the start that that would be ballet for her, that dance was both her form of expression and her voice. And for that theme to work, her parents had to be an antagonistic force against her so that she sets out on this quest to find her voice. To be true to herself. I think that can be something we all struggle with sometimes in a world filled with expectations and judgements so it felt good to write about Marietta’s journey against that!
BT&W: As an ex-dancer, Ashli loves the ballet world that you painted with the set being the doorway to Everwood until Marietta’s dancing becomes the thing that traps her in the castle. Can you tell us more about the creation of Everwood and Marietta’s situation? It was so sad to see her dancing become the thing that traps her rather than family/ society expectations!
M.A.: Ah I don’t see it that way! I think dancing is what eventually sets her free. Creating Everwood, the magical land inspired by the Land of Sweets, was one of my favourite parts of writing this book. I had so much fun adding lots of whimsical touches – the frozen sugar palace, the moose-drawn sleighs, the working gingerbread trains on candy cane tracks – that it was hard to move onto working on other books!
BT&W: Can you give us an idea of how Fredrick and his beau end up later on after the events of the book? We adore Fredrick so much!
M.A: That makes me so happy to hear! Although Frederick has just a short part to play in this book, it’s an important one and I just loved his character. And as for him and his beau, I see them spending as much of their lives together as they can for a very long time.
BT&W: If you had to create a tea that would encompass the world of Everwood and one that would showcase Marietta or Drosselmeier; what would the flavours be?
M.A: Ahh I have a confession to make – I don’t drink tea! I’m a total coffee person. But I *do* love a good hot chocolate so I’m going to be sneaky and say that a gorgeous praline hot chocolate with a white chocolate mousse slowly melting on top would be the perfect hot drink to showcase Marietta. As for Drosselmeier, he can be a tea, hah.
BT&W: How did you become an author? Did you always know you wanted to write books and what was that process like to getting published for you?
M.A: I used to feel about about writing how Marietta feels about ballet: it was all I wanted to do and I wanted it so badly that I couldn’t talk about it without crying. I dabbled in writing here and there but struggled carving out enough time to properly dedicate to it between studying and then working full time. When I moved back to the UK after living abroad in Spain for six years, my husband found a great job in Nottingham and between that and our savings, I finally had the opportunity to take some time off to seriously write. I gave myself eighteen months off to write, queried a couple of books and got an offer of representation from my agent on the very last day of those eighteen months, when I had just started looking for work again!
BT&W: What is your regular writing routine like?
M.A: I treat my writing like a job and write and work on bookish things when my husband is at work so that we can spend the evenings and weekends together. Unless I’m on a deadline and then it seeps out until I’ve met my deadline!
BT&W: Do you have any tips for future authors?
M.A: Read as widely as you can in the genre you want to write so that you’re knowledgeable about the current market and what’s already been done. Knowing exactly where your book would sit on a bookshelf is very important to agents and editors. Following lots of authors but also agents and editors and publicists on social media, particularly Twitter, is a great way to learn more about the industry, too!
BT&W: Any recommendations for our readers, and ourselves, as to what to read next?
M.A: If you love Christmas as much as I do then I can’t recommend Sarah Morgan’s books enough! Any of her festive books are wonderful. They’re contemporary, filled with friendship and family, and swoon-worthy romances. They’re also invariably set in cosy locations, with lots of snow and foodie moments. I reread my copies all the time and they’re pure comfort.