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Interview: December 10, 2013

We've seen plenty of ways to travel through time in books and movies --- you can ride an incredibly fast car like Marty McFly in Back to the Future or climb into an enchanted tree house like Jack and Annie in The Magic Tree House series. But how about time-traveling by visiting a fabulous vintage store, and trying on clothing that whisks you away to the Titanic in 1912, Marie Antoinette's palace or Cleopatra's court? That's what happens in Bianca Turetsky's  The Time-Traveling Fashionista series --- and it sounds thoroughly delightful to us! In this interview, Bianca gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the latest book in the series, THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE. Plus, she shares the most interesting fact she learned while researching Cleopatra, reveals her own fashion tips, and tells us where she'd go if she was lucky enough to be a Time-Traveling Fashionista, herself. Read on! The Time-Traveling Fashionista, Louise, always goes to such fascinating places—the Titanic, Marie Antoinette’s palace, and now Cleopatra’s court in Alexandria, Egypt! How do you decide where to set each Time Traveling Fashionista novel?

Bianca Turetsky: I like to pick eras that I’m curious about and then, through the research process, I get to learn about them as well. I look for strong female protagonists, like Marie Antoinette and Cleopatra, both of whom came to power at such a young age. I’m also a little embarrassed to admit that all three of these books happen to be movies that I love: James Cameron’s Titanic, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra. Not sure if that’s a coincidence...

KRC: What was the most interesting thing you learned while researching for this book?

BT: I was surprised to learn that Cleopatra, the most famous ruler of Egypt, was actually Greek! She was the first in her family to learn Egyptian so she could communicate with the people. I was constantly surprised and impressed with just how smart and savvy she truly was.

KRC: Vintage fashion plays such a pivotal role in The Time-Traveling Fashionista novels. Are you interested in vintage fashion, yourself? What’s your favorite outfit?

BT: YES!  Like my protagonist Louise, I have quite a vintage collection, which I started acquiring when I was her age. My favorite outfits change all the time. I like to pair pieces that you wouldn’t necessarily think to put together, like a white button-down shirt under a fancy brocade vintage dress.  

KRC:  If you could be a Time-Traveling Fashionista, where would you go?

BT: There are so many eras I’d love to visit, but I think first I’d go back to the roaring 20’s. I adore 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.

KRC: What was your biggest challenge when writing THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE?

BT: My biggest challenge was including as much historical information as possible without slowing down the pace of the story. There were so many fascinating facts I learned, that at first I wanted to include everything. Ancient Egypt was an incredibly rich time in history, and I hope the readers who finish the book will want to go learn more about it once they’re done with my novel.

KRC: What is your favorite scene in this book?

BT: My favorite scene in this book was based on a true story of when Cleopatra bet Mark Antony that she could host the most expensive dinner party ever. To win the bet, she ate a ginormous and invaluable pearl, which was dissolved in a goblet of vinegar! I found that tactic genius and hilarious.

KRC: Even though there’s lots of glamour in THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE, you deal with real-life issues too—Louise’s best friend spends all of her time with her boyfriend and Louise’s mom keeps secrets from her. Why did you decide to include these subjects?

BT: I think to write a book about a 12-year old girl and not include some real life issues would feel somehow dishonest to me. That time of your life is so wonderful, but can also be really tough. I remember how important it was for me to read about girls having similar issues to what I was experiencing in middle school, to know I wasn’t alone through the books I was reading.

KRC: We loved getting a behind-the-scenes look at the film set of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra in THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA AND CLEOPATRA, QUEEN OF THE NILE. Are you interested in classic movies? Do you have a favorite one?

BT: I am obsessed with classic movies. There are so many I love, but if I had to pick a favorite I’d say The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland. It’s a classic for a reason! I remember the first time I saw it as a kid it felt so magical. I think I have a similar “there’s no place like home” theme in my book as well.

KRC: The illustrations add so much to The Time-Traveling Fashionista series. How closely do you work with the artist, Sandra Suy, when deciding what they should look like?

BT: Collaborating with Sandra has been such a fun part of this whole experience. She was able to interpret my text into gorgeous full color fashion sketches that were even better than I imagined, with very few additional notes from my end. I’ve never even met her and I feel like we’re two halves of the same brain.

KRC: What’s your favorite middle-grade book?

BT: I’ve always been a fan of series. I like a story that not only wraps up in one novel, but also evolves over time. When I was younger I would devour The Baby Sitters Club and Nancy Drew books. It would be hard to pick just one!

KRC: What’s next for the Time-Traveling Fashionista?

BT: I have endless ideas for where Louise and this series could go! There are so many fashion eras I’d love to explore and so much history I’m excited to research. I’m just as curious as the readers as to what will happen next. Stay tuned!