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December 6, 2013

Interview with Bianca Turetsky

The Time-Travelling Fashionista
Bianca Turetsky is the author of historical fantasy series The Time-Traveling Fashionista. The third book, The Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, just hit the shelves this week.

Buy TTF and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile at Amazon

In this middle grades series, Louise is your average 21st century 12 year girl who loves vintage clothing, except she time travels on the weekends. At The Traveling Fashionista Sale trying on the right dress means more than having the perfect outfit for the party, it's a gateway to times past. Slip into your favorite toga and join Louise in the dangerous era of Cleopatra, but first check out my interview with Bianca:

With the young adult market being flooded with dystopian and fantasy novels, why did you choose to write historical fiction?

It’s funny but I never thought of them as historical fiction novels until they were published and I started speaking with teachers and librarians who wanted to use them in their classrooms. That genre always seemed so dry and boring to me, if I had gone into it with that mindset I probably never would have started! I set out to write this particular story of what would happen if you could time travel through a magical vintage dress, and the genre and audience just seemed to organically follow from there.

My niece, who is 11 and read the first two books in the series (she's getting Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile for Christmas), really likes the illustrations, how was it decided to include the drawings - were they always part of your plan or something that was thought of later?

Oh good, I’m so happy to hear that! I always saw these as illustrated novels as they were so visual in my head when I was writing them. Through my publisher Little Brown I was paired with a fashion illustrator from Barcelona named Sandra Suy who was able to interpret my text into gorgeous full color sketches that were even better than I imagined. I’ve never even met her and I feel like we’re two halves of the same brain.

Were you like your main character Louise and interested in fashion at a young age? Do you have a favorite vintage piece today?

Like Louise I was very into vintage clothing and shopping at thrift stores, which was not typical in the suburban Connecticut  town I grew up in. I even wore a vintage dress to the prom! So over the years I’ve managed to amass quite a collection. (I still use my childhood closet as extra storage!)  My favorite piece changes all the time. Right now I’d say it’s a pair of brown leather vintage boots my friend Doris just gave me. They’ve already gotten quite a bit of use.

Which drew you more to the series - the fashion aspect or the historical events?

Initially it was definitely the fashion!  I was never a good history student in school, I feel like the way it was taught was all memorization and dates and wars and my brain just doesn’t absorb information like that. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed researching and learning about the history through writing these books. History contains all of the elements of a good novel- drama, strong characters, intrigue!

My niece wants to know how you choose the historical events you write about?

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I think I mostly chose them based on films that I love—James Cameron’s Titanic, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. They all inspired me to go out and learn more about that time period- and hopefully my books will do the same for other girls!

If you could travel to any time period, what period would it be and why?

There are so many, but I think first I’d love to go back to the roaring 20’s. I love the bobbed haircuts, shift dresses and t-strap heels. There is a scene at the beginning of the first book where Louise is imagining that she’s wearing a flapper dress and dancing in a speakeasy. That’s pretty much my fantasy.

What do you think makes a great story?

I think a great story comes from great characters.

You provide historical details that wouldn't just be found in a textbook, how long do you spend researching the events you feature? Any interesting tidbits you discovered, but couldn't fit into your novel?

I take the research aspect of the books very seriously. I want to make sure that the historic information is as accurate as possible for the storyline. For the Marie Antoinette book I traveled to Versailles, and to research Cleopatra I went to the Milwaukee Public Museum and met with an archaeologist who had been on digs in Egypt. I read a lot of biographies and history books. I tried to include as many tidbits as possible without feeling like it was a school lecture. But I think I still managed to get most of them in there!

I think writing middle grade literature would be difficult. Kids that age vary greatly on maturity and reading level. I thought you did a great job of making The Time-Traveling Fashionista accessible to a wide audience. Any tips for other authors on striking a balance?

Thanks! I think that’s part of the reason why it’s so difficult to be 12, or at least it was for me. It’s an age where some kids are super advanced, and some are still trying to hold on to being a kid. I was (maybe not surprisingly) always on the younger side of that spectrum. I feel like in terms of concepts and vocabulary, kids are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. I think in terms of riskier subject matter, there’s so much time to be an adult, why not stay in the fantasy world for as long as possible. And wanting to play dress-up and live a more fabulous life is a dream all ages can relate to!

What future adventures are in store for Louise? Are you planning a spin-off/campanion series featuring Stella?

Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that! That is a fabulous idea, you never know J

~About the Author~

Bianca Turetsky is the author of the stylish Time-Traveling Fashionista series, which has been translated into nine languages. After graduating from Tufts University, Bianca began working for artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel. She managed his studio for the past 11 years and was his assistant on the Academy Award-nominated film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. She lives in a cozy studio apartment in Brooklyn, New York, that houses her very extensive and much-loved vintage collection.

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