Author Interview with Peternelle van Arsdale

POSTED ON January 19, 2019 BY Austine IN Interview

Hello everyone! I am SO excited to welcome Peternelle van Arsdale to NovelKnight today! She’s the author of The Beast is an Animal as well as the upcoming release The Cold is in Her Bones which is out THIS TUESDAY (January 22nd)!

I had the opportunity to ask Peternelle about her new book (as well as a few questions just for fun!), as well as read The Cold is in Her Bones early. Let me tell y’all. . . you need to pre-order this book!

Book info and buy links at the end of the post! So without further ado, allow me to introduce Peternelle van Arsdale!

About Peternelle van Arsdale

Peternelle van Arsdale is a young adult novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Her first novel, THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL, is being developed for a feature film by Amazon Studios, produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and directed by Bert & Bertie. Her second novel, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES has been described as a "dark, magic-infused story lit by bravery and hope." (Booklist) She lives in Brooklyn, where she is at work on her third novel. Visit her at

All About Peternelle

You wrote a book! That’s pretty awesome. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what inspired The Cold Is In Her Bones?

I’ve always been fascinated by monsters, or what we call the monster or the villain in any given story. In my favorites, the monster had a tragic back story—there was a reason they turned their venom on others, often because they had been victimized themselves. That was certainly a feature in my first novel, The Beast Is an Animal. Of all the monsters of literature, perhaps the most unfairly treated was Medusa, who was doomed to turn men to stone because she had caught the eye of the sea god Poseidon, who raped her. The rape occurred in Athena’s temple, and instead of punishing Poseidon, Athena turned beautiful young Medusa into a snake-headed demon. I began to play around with two notions: 1) that we often punish the wrong person, and 2) that cruelty begets vengeance begets more cruelty. The novel The Cold Is in her Bones is the result of a lot of that pondering…

Introduce us to your main character!
Milla is a sixteen year old girl who very much wants to do right but often feels wrong on the inside. This tends to be a feature of my protagonists—the way there’s tension between what we so often feel that we should do and be and what we suspect we really are. I think (hope) this is relatable for all of us, especially teens. In Milla’s case, she’s been raised in a very controlling way and she finds it really difficult to follow the rules. She has this suspicion that there’s more out there in the world than she’s been brought up to believe—and she finds that there is, and it’s terrifying. But also really beautiful. And that’s life—we can stay safe and protected, but that means we’ll also miss so much. Life is risk and terror as well as beauty and joy. Milla experiences all of that.

Walk us through a day in the life of Peternelle van Arsdale.
Well I’ve been lucky enough that last few years to be able to write full-time. But “writing” doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at my computer from 9-5 every day (though I kind of wish it did mean that). I’m not a fast writer, and my novels tend to take time to develop. So I go through periods when those ideas are germinating and I’m doing a lot of reading. Which is ridiculously luxurious. I’ll have a notion of what I want the novel to be, and then I’ll read a lot of myth and fairy tale and history and esoteric stuff that I think well help flesh out that notion. And I take a lot of notes. I’ll also make a point of visiting museums, seeing theater, walking in nature. Anything to get the brain seeing things in interesting ways. It always surprises me that I’ll be walking along, not thinking about the novel at all, and some twist or plot point or character will spark in my mind. Each time I think where did that come from? Once I get into the outlining and writing stay of things, then I try to spend more time at my computer, but I’ll still need to take those germination breaks, because I find that my novels develop in fits and starts. Meanwhile, so as not to atrophy, I exercise regularly. I just recently started indoor climbing, which has been so much fun. I’m definitely a believer that taking care of your body is a way of also taking care of your brain. That said, when I’m up against a deadline, everything else goes by the wayside and I might write upwards of twelve hours a day and try not to look in a mirror lest I scare myself.

Lots of aspiring authors out there. Any advice for them?
I hesitate to give one blanket piece of advice because as a longtime book editor, I know that what works for one writer, or even one book, doesn’t work for another. I do believe that words are powerful, and not just the words we write down but the words we say to ourselves and to others. So when you think of yourself, and when you describe yourself, don’t hesitate to call yourself a writer. You might be an aspiring author, but you are a writer as long as you’re writing. Now, that said, don’t call yourself a writer if really you’re just thinking “someday I’ll write that novel,” but every day something else takes precedence. The other thing I would say is that for me, it was very important to write the novel that I wanted to read. The moment I really started writing for myself and not for some idea that I had of what others might want to read, everything clicked. It still took many drafts to make my first novel right, but I was on my way.

I know asking someone’s all-time favorite book is a loaded question so what’s your current favorite read?
Right now I’m reading and enjoying N.K. Jemison’s THE FIFTH SEASON. I’d heard raves about her and felt guilty I hadn’t read anything by her yet. It’s so good and incredibly original. Dark and complex.

Alright, the ultimate question: why should we read your book?

Because it’s a rip-roaring page-turner! I answer so many serious questions about the themes, and of course the themes are important to me, but I don’t want that to be the first response of my reader—I want the first response of my reader to be, zowee that shocked me and what comes next? So: Read The Cold Is in Her Bones for its tight pacing, its characters you’ll fall in love with (including a really excellent witch who deserves her own book), and it’s multiple surprises.


Fun Stuff!

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Okay now I have to tell a story because I cannot get this question without thinking of this: During my college interview at Bryn Mawr, the director of admissions asked me for three words to describe myself. I was sixteen, sitting there in an interview suit, probably sweating, and I said, “Intelligent. Creative…” And then my mind went blank. I knew the word that I wanted to say but it was gone, vanished from my head. The head of admissions looked at me quizzically, and I admitted that I’d lost the word. Kindly, she said, “Well maybe if you define it?” I said, “To express oneself well.” She said, “Articulate?” And I said, “THAT’S IT!” Miraculously, I was accepted.

What is your most embarrassing memory?
I have a million and by definition the most embarrassing is the one you will never ever share. I would say it’s pretty embarrassing that once I actually stood underneath the dorm room window of a guy in college on whom I had a big crush. We’d barely even spoken and I have no idea what I thought would happen. I was such a hopeless romantic.

What is your Hogwarts house?
100% Ravenclaw. I really need a diadem.

Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?
My protagonist, Milla, is brave and resourceful, but I suppose I’d have to choose my witch, Hel. She’s ruthless.

A famous movie producer wants to make your books into movies and they want you to cast your characters. Which actors/actresses make the cut?
I know this is meant to be fantasy but I can’t help being practical (I’m a double Virgo): I’m a firm believer that film is a different medium and the visual is so different from the written that these things should be left to the filmmaker. I also really love when the protagonist is an unknown—how great was it that Emma Watson (who I adore) could be Hermione, and we didn’t look at Emma Watson and imagine her in anything else when we first met that character. That said, if Emma Watson could be cast in a part? Dream come true. She’s wonderful as an actress and a human being. Beyond her, all I ask is that they cast Ralph Fiennes in one of the parts. Any part. Please. Pretty please.

You just won America’s Got Talent. What’s your talent?
Bumping into things that no one else would bump into.

Radioactive space rock fell from the sky and turned you into a superhero/villain. Tell us your new name, describe your powers, and what does your costume look like?
My new name is Spark, my superpower is being able to generate endless plot twists, and my costume is obviously pajamas.

This morning you woke up with the ability to time travel to only one time period. Where (or more accurately “when”) would you go?
This is a tough one for me because I’m very attached to antibiotics. So I’d want the option to come back immediately if I got sick. No abscesses or plague for me, thank you very much. I think it would be magical to see Sarah Bernhardt perform in anything. So I’m thinking 1870s Paris, and I would want to be well-costumed and have really excellent seats, and that would be pretty thoroughly fantastic.

Coffee or tea?
Tea. I drink so much tea (green and oolong are my favorites), and tea-making has become a beloved ritual. It’s also a great way of giving myself a moment to breathe. Maybe I get a text or an email or something happens and I’m not yet sure I know how I feel about it. Rather than immediately respond I find myself thinking, let me make a cup of tea. By the time it’s steeped and I’ve sat down again, I’m probably closer to knowing.

Best ice cream flavor ever?
My nearest ice cream parlor has a flavor called Mexican chocolate and it’s super dark and rich with a touch of cinnamon. So good.

Your theme song/personal anthem?
“Wildewoman” by Lucius. I love love love Lucius, and if you could wear out a digital copy, I’d have worn out all their albums. I have a few of their albums on vinyl and it’s like a musical spa for the mind when I take a moment to put one on the turntable and just listen.

Favorite quote?
“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Always and forever.

What is one piece of advice you would tell everyone?
Have compassion for yourself and others.


About the Book

Author Interview with Peternelle van Arsdale
The Cold is in Her Bones
by Peternelle van Arsdale
Published on January 22, 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

Buy It!
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