Thursday, August 16, 2018

Peternelle van Arsdale Author Interview

Photo Content from Elena Seibert

Peternelle van Arsdale grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where she attended public school through the eighth grade. After that she attended three high schools in three different towns in four years, was deeply unpopular, and counted the seconds until graduation. She majored in English literature at Bryn Mawr College, and then landed in book publishing, thinking it was a good way to be paid to do what she liked to do anyway (she was only partly wrong). She worked her way up from editorial assistant to executive editor of adult fiction and nonfiction, and eventually struck out on her own as an independent editor.

Her first young adult novel, The Beast Is an Animal, is being developed by Amazon Studios for a feature film produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and directed by Bert & Bertie. Her essays have been published by LitHub,, and Culturefly, and her short fiction has been published by The Whitefish Review.

Her second novel, The Cold is in Her Bones , will be published in January 2019. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she continues to edit and is at work on her third novel.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I was inspired by the classic fairy tales, especially my favorites recorded by the Brothers Grimm. I’ve always been fascinated by the especially dark and morally ambiguous ones such as “Rumpelstiltskin.” When I wrote my first novel it felt really natural to me to go back to that rich trove and create my own morally ambiguous fairy tale.

Tell us your latest news.

My second novel, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES, which is very loosely inspired by the Medusa myth, is coming out in January of 2019. I’m very excited about it.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
In addition to fairy tales and myths, I’m certainly influenced by everything I read and see—from books to artwork to forests. I try to create the transportive feeling in my writing that I seek in other experiences. I would love to write a novel as thoroughly engrossing and satisfying and artistically gorgeous as THE GOLDEN COMPASS (Philip Pullman) or THE HANDMAID’S TALE (Margaret Atwood). I’d also love to write a novel that makes the reader feel the way I do when I walk through a mossy forest. I hope I do a little of both in THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d love it if readers could really settle into the novel’s gray areas. I love it when I hear that a reader was surprised by a particular character and how their feelings toward that character changed over the course of the novel.

Did you learn anything from writing THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL and what was it?
I learned how to write a novel! It truly was a massive learning experience. While I was a book editor for decades prior to writing THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL, no amount of editing can really prepare you for what it’s like to construct a novel. I refer to BEAST as my amoeba. I didn’t so much construct it as it…grew. And it ended up being an organism that I love very much but I couldn’t possibly have imagined at the start.

What part of Alys did you enjoy writing the most?
Alys is a character very close to my heart and what draws me to her and to all my protagonists is their willingness to engage with their weaknesses and not just their strengths. Her determination to seek out her dark places and figure them out. I think she’s very brave.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Oh! What an interesting question. I would love to introduce Mother from THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL to Mary, the scientist who befriends Lyra and Will in the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Philp Pullman. I think those two curious-minded women would have a lot to talk about.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I would have to say Margaret Atwood, for sheer imaginative and artistic brilliance. I’ve never met her and never expect to, but I love that she exists in the world.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about what or who you truly love.

Last thing you made with your own hands?
I’m knitting a blanket—not finished yet. Last thing I finished was a painting for my son. He does gorgeous nature photography and I like turning his pictures into paintings.

What are you most passionate about today?
I’m in the early stages of working on my third novel and I’m really excited to see where it takes me.

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why?
Hm. I’m not a big restaurant goer. I eat at home mostly. If I could slightly bend the rules I’d say my favorite thing to do to feed myself is to go to the Prospect Park Greenmarket, which is right near my home, and then make whatever I find there. Especially in the summer, really all I need to be happy is a pile of lovely lettuce. I know, I sound like a rabbit. But there’s nothing like fresh-picked lettuce with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. And an avocado. And toast. I love toast.

Can you define love in your own way?
Love is vulnerability. And vulnerability is scary and honest and risky and beautiful.

What was your favorite childhood television program?
Ha! The first thing that comes to mind is this old scary black & white B-movie series called “Chiller Theater.” This was back when there was no cable and you just watched whatever was on TV. From a very, very tender age I loved those dusty old horror movies, and I really loved the opening credits prior to the movie coming on—it was this Claymation corpse-hand coming out of a grave. This reminds me, I have to do a YouTube search and see if I can find it.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?

Oof. My mind is always working, for better and worse. It’s hard for me to quiet it. That’s why it’s good for me to read fiction right before bed, and ideally I’m thinking about the last thing I read.

Where can readers find you?
Subscribe to my newsletter via my website (! I’m active on Instagram (@peternellevanarsdale), and I’m also reachable on Twitter (@peternelleva) and Facebook ( 


  • You love to be immersed. 
  • You love to be a little creeped out. 
  • You love to be surprised. 
  • You love a strong female protagonist. 
  • You love dark fairy tales. 
  • You love deep, thick forests and are curious about what lurks in them. 
  • You don’t want a retold fairy tale, you want something you’ve never read before. 
  • You like timeless stories that will still feel relevant ten years from now. 
  • You like a little romance. 
  • You’re a feminist and want to read novels that reflect those values.

A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.


"A dark atmospheric fantasy debut...achingly poetic." Kirkus Reviews

"A swift and compelling read that will be popular with fantasy and retold–fairy tale readers." 

Rock-solid setting and a Salem witch trial–like culture ground readers in this slow-moving but psychologically intense fantasy.... Van Arsdale sets up her dominoes so that when the first is finally knocked over, subsequent events cascade the story forward in a rush of energy through to the final showdown. 
Horn Book

The opening chapter, detailing the origin of the sister soul eaters, sets the disturbingly eerie tone of the book, and the atmosphere becomes oppressive in its darkness as the years move on and Alys’ inevitable meeting with the soul eaters come closer.... The detached narration and prolonged timeline makes this a slow burn story with a slightly folklike feel, and the few pages from the sisters’ perspective ratchet up the suspense to an almost unbearable level. The unsettling actions of the Puritan-like Defaiders and the chilling legend around the Beast combine to create a truly horrifying tale of revenge, murder, and evil. 

Atmospheric and immersive, van Arsdale’s eerie fantasy keeps its focus on Alys’s struggle to reconcile who she is with what she wants to be as it builds toward a poignant and satisfying conclusion. 
Publishers Weekly

"The book reads like a historical fairy tale set in Puritan America. The mix of magic, folklore, and human struggle will appeal to a variety of readers. It explores the nuance of humanity, while also being about the things that go bump in the night." 
School Library Connection

You can purchase The Beast Is an Animal at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you PETERNELLE VAN ARSDALE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale. 


  1. My favorite thing to do on Saturday night is read.

  2. Date night! Dinner with my man. Thank you

  3. "What's your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?" Making chocolate malts! They are so good!

  4. I go to the casino on saturdays

  5. watch comedies with my daughter!