Behind the Fairy Tales: Interview with Author, Becca Price

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Have you ever wondered how authors come up with new ideas when writing about old favourites? Of course you have. Well now you have the opportunity to get the answer to that burning question – hurrah! Becca Price, author of Heart of Rock, a modern fairy tale featuring gargoyles (that you can read more about here) has kindly answered some of my burning questions about her work.

Becca has written a number of books featuring her own modern fairy tales and you can find out more about them at Wyrm Tales Press, but for now, sit back, imbibe your favourite beverage, and find out more about writing new stories in an old, old genre.

It seems that there are lots of retellings of traditional fairy tales around at the moment – how difficult is it to come up with original ideas for your modern fairy tales?

I have always loved fairy stories, but as I grew older and more sophisticated, I saw some of the patterns in the Grimm Brothers and Andrew Lang stories that I hadn’t seen before: brave, bold men, and domesticated women who need to be rescued. Rebellion against those stereotypes also informs my writing.

I’m a science fiction and fantasy fan, and I figure that fairy stories are the gateway drug to JRR Tolkein and other fantasy books written for adults. I have heard that people don’t read stories to their children anymore, and that kids today read less than my generation does (too many other bright shiny forms of entertainment vie for their time and attention). I wanted to write stories that might be more modern, more relevant to young children than Cinderella and Snow White are, but would still have that archaic, fairy-tale feeling about them that I loved so much myself.heart of rock

What was it about gargoyles (apart from our stunning good looks, of course) that made you choose them as major protagonists in Heart of Rock?

Heart of Rock had it’s genesis in a couple of interesting events. The first was when a minor acquaintance from the Society for Creative Anachronism appeared at my door looking for a place to stay for a few days. As a guesting gift, he brought my then-husband a gallon bottle of sake; for me, he brought a plaster-of-paris classical gargoyle (you know, the kind that looks rather lilke a distorted pug dog with wings, and a fierce expression and a half-opened mouth showing teeth.) I’d never given much thought to gargoyles before then, I admit, but I was absolutely charmed by this one, and he stayed with me for years.

The second part of the story is that, after my divorce from my then-husband, I stayed with some friends for awhile while getting back on my feet. Their little girl, Gillian, suffered from severe night terrors – she would (still asleep) sit up in bed and start screaming and giving forth heart-rending cries. If you’ve never experienced someone who had night terrors before, they’re just as scary for the people around the child as they are for the child.

So one night, I took my gargoyle, and put it by the side of her bed, and told her the first part of the story – how nightmares (Night Mares – intentional pun) were brought by magical creatures in the night, that they looked like horses with flaming eyes, mane and tails, but that gargoyles could fly after them and nip at their heels and drive them away. (this part of the story was inspired by a friend who had a chow-chow, which the Chinese had bred to fight invading horsemen a long time ago – that was the origin of the breed, and my gargoyle did look a bit like my friend’s chow only not as hairy. For the record, Dominic was the sweetest dog you could ever hope to find in reality.)

Oddly, that was the end of Gillian’s night terrors, but she wouldn’t give me back the gargoyle, and has it to this day in her room – and she’s in her mid-20s now. I’ve never found anything like it to replace it, which saddens me.

So that was the origin of Heart of Rock.

I got interested in gargoyles, and decided that, in spite of their ugly and sometimes frightening appearance, they should be an old race, much given to a love of beauty and seeking wisdom. I decided that there needed to be a story about why so many places have gargoyles carved up high on roofs where they really can’t be seen, and figured that they were there to guard the city against Night Mares and other evil creatures, and to serve as watchmen for enemies. And that was the genesis of the third part of the story came about.

Then I got to wondering – what if two kingdoms both needed the same magical talisman, and their needs were equally pressing – most fairy stories tell about the hero finding the magical talisman and stealing it away from the monsters who guard it and taking it back – but what if the “monsters” weren’t evil, and needed it for their own reasons? and needed it equally as important as the putative hero needed it?

And there was my story.dragons and dreams

Why did you choose to write for younger readers?

Why do I write fairy stories? well, Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy stories.” I have two children of my own, now in college, but when they were little, I would tell them stories to help them get to sleep . If I read picture books, they’d be involved in looking a the pictures, and wouldn’t go to sleep. That’s why my original books were unillustrated – I wanted the children to be able to see the pictures in their heads. Both my kids tend to be… idiosyncratic, let’s say, and the standard fairy tales and children’s stories bored them (although my daughter liked Paper Bag Princess). My son likes dragons, so there had to be dragons in some of the stories, but not the fierce man-eating kind, because I didn’t want him to have nightmares. My daughter was afraid of the dark for awhile, and that’s the genesis of The Dark, in my firstcollection, Dragons and Dreams.

So I had all these stories written down in my computer, and never did anything with them until a cousin looked into self-publishing her father’s WWII experiences, which he’d written down as a sort of therapy (The book is called Bailout over Normandy, and is itself fascinating – I seem to come from a long line of story tellers) I figured that I should look into self-publishing through Amazon, and it turns out that I have a friend who is a fabulous artist (Todd Cameron Hamilton) and I sent him my first book, and he came back with a lovely painting for Dragons and Dreams, and has done the covers for me for most of my other books.

And one thing leads to another. Writing one story gives me ideas for another one, and some how they keep coming.fairies and fireflies

Do you have any projects on the boil right now that we should look out for? (And are there any plans to feature more gargoyles in your future works?!)

My immediate goals are to get illustrations for my other books. I’ve stumbled on a wonderful artist who is illustrating Fairies and Fireflies for me, and I hope to get that one out by July. I have a second set of butterfly-fairy stories cooking, but I don’t know when I’ll have time to write them. I’m also working on a fairy tale collection called “Quests and Fairy Queens” that may contain more gargoyle stories.I hope to have Quests out by the end of the year, as well as a few more stand-alone stories.

My beta readers, and other reviewers have told me that there needs to be more to Heart of Rock than the relatively simple fairy tale it currently is. One of my goals, for maybe this year, for maybe early next year, is to expand the current story into something maybe 20,000 words long, aimed at late middle-grade, with more chapters and more details.I’m not sure whether I’ll keep the same name for the longer version or not – but I definitely want to expand on the gargoyles, make them more individuals and characters in their own right.

But yes, there will be more gargoyle stories – they’re too fascinating to leave alone.

Hurrah! We agree. Too many gargoyle stories is never enough.  We of the shelf thank Becca for her time and for telling us all about how her ideas get from brain to book.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Haiku Review (and a giveaway heads-up): The Purple Girl…

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Good morning my bookish brethren and shelfish sisterhood, it’s Mad Martha with you today with a Haiku Review of another not-to-be-missed title.  Today’s fresh off the press offering is The Purple Girl by Audrey Kane.  I received a copy for review from the publisher via Netgalley – we thank thee!

The Purple Girl is a middle grade fantasy adventure that centres around Violet, a girl who was born …well…violet.  Violet’s skin is purple and everything she touches takes on a purplish hue for a few moments after she moves on.  Her parents keep her away from most ordinary folk for her own protection, but occasionally venture out amidst taunting and frightened looks to participate in usual village business.  On meeting a gypsy girl who promises to remove Violet’s purple for the small price of her voicebox, Violet is presented with a choice – should she blend in with those around her and live the life she imagines or is her voice too precious to lose?  Once Violet makes her decision, it seems that new opportunities pop up from everywhere to challenge her resolve and push her to be independent. After all, she’s growing up – surely it’s time for her parents to let her go?

Buy the book here

the purple girl

Little lilac lass

ventures over garden wall

seeks key to freedom

This book was completely out-of-the-box for me.  I read the blurb, expected a bit of a fairy-tale-ish, atmospheric sort of choreographed adventure and was blown away by the sensitivity with which Kane has created the characters and the story that unfolds for them in these pages.  This was an unexpected joy to read.

Violet, the protagonist, is neither a shy, retiring petal nor a swashbuckling, all action GI Jane – she’s simply an ordinary person with a less than ordinary …skin condition, I suppose you could say.  This was refreshing, I must say, as many books these days, especially those aimed at middle grade or tween girls, seem to rely on one or the other of those stereotypes (or one that turns into the other).  To have a rounded female with believable flaws really added to the book as a whole, and moved it away from that run-of-the-mill, all-been-done-before vibe that can happen so easily with books for this age group.

The story was at once complicated but simple.  There were a number of plot twists that pushed the action forward, but they occured gently and almost naturally based on Violet’s actions.  There are a lot of different elements to the plot – Violet’s encounter with the gypsy girl, her discovery of a mysterious jewelled book belonging to her father, the relationship between Violet and her first real friend, Frankie, and Violet’s ability to sing.  All of these elements contribute to the story, but none takes precedence over another.  It was a strange experience reading, because every time one of these plot twists arose, I immediately thought, “Oh, I know where this is going!” but not once was I right!  It’s a wonderful thing to be surprised more than once in a story that you think you probably already know, or could figure out from the blurb or the picture on the cover.

Oh, did I mention it’s illustrated?  Yep, it was a (lovely) surprise to me, but there are a few illustrated pages throughout and they have the same dream-like quality as the front cover.

This would be a fantastic read-aloud for tweens, particularly girls, as the action in the book is tempered with a certain gentleness in the telling.  It’s also a reasonably fast read, so could be completed over a few sessions easily.

The Purple Girl was released on the 8th of January, so it’s available to purchase right now – good news, hey! – and you can buy it for yourself at Amazon, by clicking here.

But even better than that – the author, Audrey Kane, who will be visiting the Shelf on Monday for a spotlight post, has also been generous enough to put up a SIGNED paperback copy of The Purple Girl for one lucky reader to win…and better than that, it’s an INTERNATIONAL competition! Hooooooorayyyy!  So be sure to pop back on Monday for your chance to win.

Adieu until we meet again, my many-hued friends,

Mad Martha

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Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop: Win a Hardback copy of The Race for Polldovia…

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Morning all! I am very excited to be participating in the Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop that is being hosted by Stuck in Books.  The Hop will run from March 7th to March 21st and there are lots of blogs participating with a variety of awesome prizes so hop along after you’ve entered here!

race for polldovia better quality

I’m super-excited because I will be offering you the chance to win one of THREE HARDBACK (yes, you read that right – hardback!!) copies of middle-grade fantasy adventure new release The Race for Polldovia by James Rochfort, courtesy of the publisher, Book Guild Publishing, UK.  And even better, the giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!

In case you missed it, I reviewed The Race for Polldovia last week, and you can find that review here.

So here’s the rules for the giveaway:

– Three winners will be chosen at random and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a redraw will occur.

– The publisher is responsible for shipping prizes – no responsibility will be taken for packages lost in the mail. Sorry.

– The giveaway is in no way related to WordPress, Goodreads, The Book Depository, Rafflecopter, Facebook or any other individual or company that is not me.

– I will be checking entries, so be honest.

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Until next time,

Bruce

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ARC Haiku Review: The Race for Polldovia…

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Greetings my lovely lovers of laudable literature! It is Mad Martha with you today, bringing you a haiku review for a delightful new middle grade novel, The Race for Polldovia by first time author James Rochfort.  I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy for review from the publisher, Book Guild UK – ta muchly!

The Race for Polldovia features nine year old Sophia, who, possessed as she is of a vivid imagination, spends a lot of time daydreaming about a magical land called Polldovia, and Polly, the plucky and pure of heart young princess who lives there.  During one of these daydreams, Sophia finds herself drawn into the world of her imagination, only to find Princess Polly a prisoner of the terrible war-lord, Naberius, and in desperate need of help.  So begins a daring bid for freedom and the search for a magical flower of legend, that has the power to bring peace and healing to all…or in the wrong hands, the destruction of all that is good.  As Sophia and Polly embark on their quest, along with the faithful steed Acanthus, and with Naberius in hot pursuit, other mysteries are uncovered that may make Sophia question who she really is…and how she was able to travel to Polldovia in the first place.

race for polldovia better quality

World of daydreams is

all too real for  Sophia

Needs all her courage

Now first off, let me say that this is decisively one for the girls.  That’s not to say that male readers won’t enjoy the story by any means, but this book has all the ingredients that girls of a certain age seem to love above all else.  There’s an imaginary best friend that Sophia suddenly meets in real life, a (sort-of) talking horse, magic, castles, a princess and a beautiful fairytale-type land to frolick in.  But added to this, there’s also rollicking adventure, some pretty scary monsters on the girls’ tails, and the promise of major terror should they fail in their quest.  So all in all, there’s a lot going on here in what is a fairly compact little novel and it is perfectly pitched to the interests of the tween market.

Rochfort creates an atmosphere in this book that is reminiscent of authors like Eva Ibbottsen and Joan Aiken.  There’s an ethereal other-ness about the magical land, overshadowed with a certain sense of danger or fear.  There is also an authenticity to the lands of Sophia’s imagination that isn’t reliant on reams of detail or bogged down by unnecessary descriptive passages that slow down the action.

I thought it was interesting that the author chose to make Polly older than Sophia, although the reason for this becomes obvious later in the story.  The character of Polly assumes a sort of big sister role for Sophia throughout the book, and almost works as a role model for Sophia’s character development.  All in all, this would be the perfect choice for young girls who love fairytale type stories with strong, yet obviously feminine protagonists, or alternately, would work beautifully as a read-aloud before bed, to inspire dreams of looking one’s fears in the face and conquering them.

The Race for Polldovia was released on the 27th of February – so it really is hot off the press!  And if that’s not exciting enough, keep an eye out for a GIVEAWAY (!!!) coming next week, in which you have the opportunity to WIN (!!!) one of THREE (wohoo!) paperback copies of The Race for Polldovia. Exciting, no?!

Until we meet again, my fair ladies and gents,

Mad Martha