Midnight in Everwood is the epitome of a yuletide fairytale complete with whimsical sugar palaces, frozen landscapes and a beautifully theatrical atmosphere that whisks you away from reality.
Eager to find out more about this fantastical novel, we asked author M. A. Kuzniar some questions about her historical adult debut.
Natalie Xenos: For anyone who hasn’t already read Midnight In Everwood, can you tell us a little bit about the story?
M. A. Kuzniar: Midnight in Everwood is a retelling of The Nutcracker. It’s set between Edwardian Nottingham, in 1906, and a fantasy world inspired by The Nutcracker with frozen sugar palaces and gingerbread balls! We follow Marietta Stelle, a young woman who is about to be forced to give up her beloved ballet dancing to take up her place in society when Dr Drosselmeier, a mysterious new neighbour moves in across the street. With his arrival, things soon take a magical turn…
NX: Your love of ballet shines through the story from beginning to end. Is The Nutcracker your favourite ballet? And are there any other famous ballets you’d like to weave into a future book?
MK: I have always loved ballet and I actually attend ballet classes every week although I’m not very good at it! The Nutcracker will always hold a very special place in my heart as it combines my love of ballet with my love of Christmas! And I definitely plan to explore more famous ballets. In fact, my next book with HQ is like Swan Lake meets The Great Gatsby.
NX: What was your favourite part of the story to write?
MK: I loved bringing the magical world of Everwood to life. With moose-drawn sleighs, gingerbread markets, sugar mice that squeak when nibbled, and delicious enchantments everywhere you turn, it was immensely fun to write.
NX: The book features some wonderful, vibrant characters and Captain Legat completely stole my heart! Do you have a favourite character, other than the book’s protagonist Marietta of course?
MK: Ooh that’s a difficult question! I think my favourite characters after Marietta would have to either be Dellara – my rather fierce rendition of the Sugar Plum Fairy – or Captain Legat – inspired by the Nutcracker Prince, of course! I’m also very fond of Marietta’s older brother, Frederick.
NX: There’s a heart-warming and empowering element of sisterhood running through Midnight In Everwood – why was that such an important element for this particular story?
MK: Marietta is a character that goes through a period of intense personal change in a short time frame and as her character was evolving, I wanted to show the people that had an influence on her development. I think it’s important to show how a great friendship can be just as important as a romantic relationship. I also wanted to make clear that these people surrounding Marietta were helping her to evolve into who she truly was – she’s not changing because she’s in love, she’s changing because she believes in herself.
NX: How much research did you do into the historical time period that parts of Midnight in Everwood are set in?
MK: I did a fair bit of research into the Edwardian era but not as much as a purely historical fiction novel as most of the book’s events do transpire in the magical world of Everwood, which gave me more freedom to let my imagination roam free! I found black and white photos of Nottingham in the early 20th century to be the most useful as they conjured the streets of Marietta’s city to life.
NX: What do you hope readers will take away from the story?
MK: I hope that they take whatever they need away from the story, whether that’s inspiration to follow their own path in life or just a few hours of escapism in the magic sugar palace in Everwood.
NX: By the end of the book, it really feels as if there could be more to the story. Is there going to be a sequel or another book exploring one of the many other worlds that are hinted at?
MK: Now that would be telling! I can say that in my next book for adults, there is a pretty big clue hidden in its pages as to what befell Marietta after the end of Midnight in Everwood…
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NX: The book is full of delicious sweets and drinks – what are your go-to snacks when writing and reading?
MK: Coffee! My coffee consumption tends to increase as I’m nearing a deadline. I also accidentally entrapped myself in a vicious cycle of eating chocolate and then writing about chocolate which led me to eat more chocolate during the drafting of Midnight in Everwood.
NX: You’ve written children’s stories before but this is your debut adult novel. Which do you find easier to write, children’s or adult?
MK: Writing a book is never easy and I discovered very early on that when it comes to writing for children and adults, each age has its own set of challenges. For example, adult books are usually longer, which can take longer, but children’s books need to be so zippy and fast paced on every single page!
NX: Midnight In Everwood is such a festive read – what are your favourite Christmas books and movies?
MK: I love every Christmas book by Sarah Morgan and always save her latest for my Christmas holiday every year! I also watch Elf every 1st December to get me into the festive spirit. And lately, I’ve been loving all the fluffy, feel-good Christmassy movies that Netflix have been making!
NX: If you could give your younger writing self a piece of advice, what would it be?
MK: I would love to be able to go back and tell myself that all the things I was doing to try and become an author – reading voraciously and writing as much as I could – were working. That my progress wasn’t defined by having or not having an agent, a book deal. That the years I struggled to stay patient when battling rejections were eventually the years that would make the most difference in my writing career. Because I didn’t realise it at the time but those were the years where I laid the foundation to becoming an author, where my writing improved and improved again, where I found my writing style, how to maximise my strengths and face my weaknesses.
NX: Finally, what books are currently on your TBR pile?
MK: I’m currently halfway through Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead and I am just loving it! Her prose is glorious and I’m compelled by the unfolding story.
Midnight In Everwood was published by HQ on 28 October 2021