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An illustration from my fairy tale, The Cobbler Mage, illustrated by Rebekah Pearson. Published by Little Fox Press.

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Fairy Tale Friday - Erzebet Barthold

Posted by Angie on November 5, 2015 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday -  Erzebet Barthold




This week's writer for Fairy Tale Friday is Erzebet Barthold. She  is an author, a publisher, and a book artist & binder. Her written work has been published by Prime Books, Lethe Press, Masque Books, Tor Books, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine and more. Most of these were written under her previous name, Erzebet YellowBoy. She is the founder of Papaveria Press, a micropress devoted to fairy tales and fantasy, and the long-time editor of Cabinet des Fées, an online journal of fairy tales. Her current hobby is trying to replicate Baba Yaga's hut in the back garden. Visit her website at www.erzebetbarthold.com.


The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?

I've written about this before in a not-a-review of Alice Hoffman's Green Heart (two novels combined: Green Angel and Green Witch), which I think is one of the most lovely fairy tales of our time. I suggested that what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale has to do with the way in which it is read and absorbed, by the way in which it transports the reader through a specifically mythic landscape (any landscape, yours or mine), and by the way it opens and concludes. The key to the fairy tale is magic. This kind of magic is the kind that does not need human intervention to move it. Rather, it moves us. It is a serendipitous magic, the magic of the happy accident, which isn’t an accident at all but more of a synchronicity. And of course there is the tradition opening: Once upon a time. Once upon is not our time, it is a time “beyond the fields we know,” and even if the story itself is actually taking place in our time, that time has been separated from ours in that it becomes, through the agency of “once upon,” a time that lies sideways to our own. There can be deep woods, or there can be skyscrapers, or both, but the entrance to the fairy tale is found right there in the beginning, when we are transported into the landscape of a time that is not our time. It is, in fact, timeless, as are fairy tales themselves.



 Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

It is unique to the characters in each story. Some of them have been quite happy to live in their old dusty castles, while others want to shop in boutiques on the high street and still others want to go to school. I'm working on something right now set in yet another stereotypical medieval village, English of course, because that's where the main character lives, though in this work, rather than the character living in a fairy tale, the fairy tales are coming to her.



 Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

I want to say scaffolds, but it really is all three and most of the time, however they end up acting is unintentional. I aim for the scaffolding, I should say, but fairy tales have lives of their own and can't be controlled. My preferred method of writing is to let the bones speak for themselves.



 Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

I love the symbolism of "Snow White", the apples, the mirror, the comb, the colors, all of it. When I wrote "The Mirror Tells All" (Once Upon A Time: New Fairy Tales, 2013) I wanted to explore what the story could be if the rivalry between the queen and Snow was removed. The symbols are still there, the mirror, the apple, the comb, but the tale itself was reimagined. I'm really tired of the story of women being pitted aginst each other in general, and of this competition between a mother and daughter in particular. There are plenty of things that can go wrong between a mother and a daughter that do not involve either one's appearance or age. "The Mirror Tells All" is built on the skeleton of "Snow White", but it is a story about a daughter's resilience in the face of maternal neglect rather than of maternal competition.



 If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

I would love to sit down and share a cackle or two with Mother Hulda, Baba Yaga, and Frau Trude. I don't believe these characters are misrepresented; they are simply being true to their natures. We would trade spells and recipes, and tell stories by firelight. The question is, would I survive the meal?

 

 


Fairy Tale Friday - Margo Lanagan

Posted by Angie on October 29, 2015 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

 


Fairy Tale Friday - Margo Lanagan


This week's Fairy Tale Friday writer is the amazing World Fantasy Award Winner,  Margo Lanagan!

Margo Lanagan has mucked about with “Snow White and Rose Red” (in Tender Morsels) Scottish selkie stories (in Sea Hearts), “Rapunzel”, “Red Riding Hood”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “The Tinderbox”, “Thumbelina” and “The Six Swans” and probably a few other fairy tales, too. Her latest novel is a collaboration with Scott Westerfeld and Deborah Biancotti, the first book of the Zeroes, a YA superhero, which recently landed on the NYT Bestsellers list. You can find Margo online here.

 


The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’, thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?


As a reader, a fairy tale is a story in a battered old book without illustrations. This story smells of magic and talks about people dealing with danger. It can be read in many forms, lighter or darker according to your taste—some retellings clean fairy tales up so thoroughly that there’s no smell at all! But the best will retain the original’s ability to lift the hairs on the back of your neck with their strangeness.

As a writer, a fairy tale’s an interestingly shaped sandbox scattered with tools and toys. The Grimms’ “Snow White and Rose Red”, for example, has bear-to-human transformations, a very cranky dwarf, a pile of treasure, and two innocent girls living a charmed life, all wrapped in a deep, dark forest. Andersen’s “The Tinderbox” has a nonchalantly violent soldier, a beautiful princess and three dogs with ever-larger eyes, as well as the magical object of the title. As soon as you start looking at the furnishings of a fairy tale, they start throwing out possibilities for stories.


Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?


I have to thrash around a bit to find how each story’s going to transform. Mostly I start by chugging through the entire tale, engineering some sort of change to every element as it shows up in the original. This results in my first, faithful, clinically dead story, whose corpse I sit over disconsolately before I find a way to both break out of the straitjacket of the original and hang on to what I feel is its essence. I’m retelling “Thumbelina” at the moment, and I’ve just got past that breakout point and can feel that this is working now.

When I’m reading retellings, I like to be able to see the original through them, see how the author’s used all the juicy bits of the story in her own way—and that’s part of the fun of writing retellings. For example, these four spiders, mentioned in passing as sewing Thumbelina’s trousseau, how can I amuse myself with them? And should this swallow that rescues her be an actual swallow, or should it be a fae aircraft shaped like a swallow, or a rocketship, or a wood-and-fabric biplane with an aviatrix in it called Miss Swallow? These are enjoyable issues to resolve. Generally I get a better story by going for slightly loonier options than I thought I was allowed to.


Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

The closest, I think, is scaffolding—although it’s more like a skeleton (bones, as you say), or possibly a heart or a brain, because as well as determining the structure the original elements give a life to the story that it wouldn’t have if I’d written the story from scratch.

Because the new story arises from a body of literature that’s widely known in Western cultures, it also transmits energy from its being communal—I’m starting with something that we all agree is a functioning story. So it’s also a rock-steady underpinning. Or possibly a lifebelt, something to cling to in a swirling ocean of too many story possibilities.


 Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

I wrote a sequel to “Hansel and Gretel”, which was published as “The Goosle”. It re-imagined parts of the original in flashbacks, having Hansel escape the witch but Gretel get left behind and eaten, along with many, many other children. Poor Hansel ran off into Plague-era Europe, where he fell prey to Grinnan, one of a number of tramps roaming the countryside, plundering Plague-victims’ houses and accumulating lost boys as assistants and amusements.

My new story echoed the original, but forced Hansel to free himself from this second oppressor by his own actions rather than relying on his resourceful sister. I also gave him pica so that he could eat chunks of the witch’s house without sacrificing my more naturalistic interpretation of the story. I don’t know why doing that tickled my fancy so much, but it did.


If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

Ooh, I’d like to pick the brains of a selkie, male or female, and see if I got the transformations in 'Sea Hearts' right.

I think the Little Match Girl should come inside and be given a good feed—perhaps we could organise a roster and save her life?

And that old lady who gave the tinderbox to the soldier, I wouldn’t mind finding out what mischief she and her ancestors got up to before the magic was stolen from that family. Ply her with a few glasses of wine and I reckon she’d tell an interesting tale or two.



Fairy Tale Friday - Leife Shallcross

Posted by Angie on October 22, 2015 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday - Leife Shallcross!


This week's Fairy Tale Friday is writer,  Leife Shallcross. Leife lives in Canberra, Australia, with her family and a small, scruffy creature that snores. She reads fairy tales to her children at night, and then lies awake listening to trolls (or maybe possums) galloping over her tin roof. Her work has appeared in Aurealis and several Australian and international anthologies, including the forthcoming Belladonna Publishing anthology Strange Little Girls. She is actively involved in the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and is the current president. When writing is not consuming her spare time and energy, she plays the fiddle (badly). She can be found online at leifeshallcross.com and on Twitter @leioss. Welcome, Leife!



The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?


Imagery is critically important to me, and an important part of the fairy tale canon is the kind of imagery the stories rely upon. As a reader, the first things that attracted me to fairy tales as a young child were the simplistic fantastical elements – the resplendent ball gowns, the hidden princesses with impossibly long hair, wizened gnomes guarding treasure troves and turreted castles surrounded by forests. These things are just as important to me now as they were when I was little, but my Hilda Boswell-inspired repertoire of imagery has now been expanded by the quirky charm of Joan Aiken, the velvet seduction of Tanith Lee and the dark eroticism of Janine Ashbless.

I was also lucky enough to have been plied with a large range of feminist fairy tales as a kid. So from an early age my fairy tale world was well-populated with clever princesses, enterprising peasant girls, cunning old women and fairies with ulterior motives. This is another thing I love about fairy tales. Despite popular misconceptions, these tales (the really interesting ones) often are a place where female characters get to exercise agency and influence.

Another big part of my enjoyment of fairy tales is the way they’re told. They have such a strong narrative structure. Even if it is a brand new, original tale, if it has this structure you know it’s a fairy tale because you can feel the rhythms of the oral traditions that make up the soil the old tales are rooted in. There’s something enchanting about the way fairy tales loop around themselves several times before coming to a conclusion. The wicked stepmother has to try three times to poison Snow White; Donkeyskin must attend three balls in dresses of increasing splendour before her prince comes in search of her, Rumplestiltskin spins for the Miller’s daughter three times before her marriage is assured and, in turn, she gets three opportunities to guess his name. This rhythm is one of the things that keeps me coming back to these tales as a writer. It’s such a compelling framework for storytelling.



Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

I guess I can’t see the point of writing a retelling if you aren’t going to put something of your own into the mix. That’s what I love so much about writing or reading retellings of old tales – that sense of seeing something familiar in a new light, or of discovering something old at the heart of something new.

A great example is the Cinderella movie Ever After. It’s very clever about how it takes the key motifs of Cinderella and weaves them into a new tale – incorporating elements from at least one other folk tale (Clever Manka) along the way. On the other hand, I found the recent Disney Cinderella movie a massive disappointment because it simply didn’t do anything new with the tale. It was very pretty, but there was no substance to it and it was ultimately unsatisfying.

That’s another important aspect of my enjoyment of fairy tales – the way retellings and reimaginings become layered with meaning. The way these stories are constantly reshaped and mashed together or picked apart and have their key motifs extracted by new writers is what keeps them alive and relevant and exciting.

Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

I probably do a bit of all of that. I am certainly conscious of using fairy tales as scaffolds for new tales, or twists on tales that I dream up. I like to think of fairy tales like colouring-in stencils. You have the outline of the picture, but how you colour it in and what extra detail you add is up to you. (I think that’s why I love the silhouette illustrations of artists like Arthur Rackham and Jan Pienkowski so much – they capture that quality of the stories.)

What I find fascinating is how malleable fairy tales are. There are so many ways you can use them, and just being able to draw the connection back to an existing body of folklore makes a tale so much richer and deeper.

One of the most memorable modern fairy tale “retellings” I’ve read was not so much a retelling, as an exploration of one of the shadowier corners of an existing tale. You Wandered Off Like A Foolish Child To Break Your Heart And Mine by Pat York (Silver Birch, Blood Moon, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) was inspired by this line from Briar Rose by the Grimms:

...from time to time, several kings’ sons came, and tried to break through the thicket into the palace. This, however, none of them could ever do; for the thorns and bushes laid hold of them, as it were with hands; and there they stuck fast, and died wretchedly.

York’s haunting tale tells of the fate of those princes. (Not so much a Happily Ever After.)



Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?


Argh, so many. The tales in their simplest forms leave so many questions unanswered. If you try to make sense out of their elements, they don’t work and you’re forced into creative conjecture to fill in the gaps. By way of example, Beauty and the Beast I seem to play with endlessly. I have written a novel-length version of it, and several short stories. Why was he cursed really? If he was that awful, that a fairy was minded to sock him with an impossible curse and lock him away in isolation from society, how is it possible he could be rehabilitated? What if he can’t be? Or, if he wasn’t that awful, why was he cursed? What would happen if Beauty’s family refused to give her up? If Beauty really does fall in love with him, how does she feel when he transforms back into a man?

I’m also fascinated by the way certain motifs seem to keep appearing in different tales. The curse – that typically can only be broken by a love-token like a kiss or promise of marriage. The high hedge sequestering someone from the world, be it a beast or a sleeping princess. The something lurking at the heart of a forest.

Cinderella, is another favourite. It’s probably one of the most overused tales, but it has such a compelling story premise at its heart, and there are so many ways you can spin it. I’m shopping around a dark, novella-length version at the moment, told from the perspective of Prince Charming’s male lover, and I’m writing a YA novel length retelling in which faking her father’s death is only the first act of desperate cunning my Macgyver-like Cinderella has had to resort to in order to foil a dastardly plot.



If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?


I can’t help feeling that would be a dangerous thing to do. One only has to look at the cautionary tale of Sleeping Beauty to understand the perils of leaving someone off the guest list. However, I will brave the possibility of being sent to sleep for a century, and, having raised the issue of problematic guest lists, I think I would invite Princess Amethyst (Amy to her friends) from M.M. Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess, because she seems lovely and is basically responsible for my deep abiding sense that proper fairy tale princesses would rather climb trees and live in the woods than sit in towers guarded by dragons and do embroidery. I’d also invite Tatterhood, because she’s so much her own person and I’d love to find out more about her. And perhaps Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, because I’d love to know why a little old lady was living out in the woods on her own.



 

Fairy Tale Friday with Elizabeth Carroll

Posted by Angie on October 16, 2015 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday with Elizabeth Carroll!

This week's fellow writer of fairy tales is Elizabeth Carroll. A graduate of Clarion South, Elizabeth Carroll lives in Tasmania with her family and at present writes during baby naps. Her previous work has been published in Island Magazine and Strange Horizons, and shortlisted for an Aurealis Award. She is currently learning how to write her first novel during those naps, which has its fair share of natural philosophy, automata, angels and a certain miniature assassin.


The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?


I like Professor Tolkien’s idea that they are ‘tales of Faerie’ – ‘a place of myth and magic where faeries have their being…’ ‘Faerie’ according to Professor Tolkien contains all manner of supernatural creatures, but also all the natural world, ‘including ourselves… when we are enchanted.’ From my point of view Faerie is a place or state of mind where happily ever afters can’t necessarily be guaranteed, although like in real life that makes them more precious when they do happen.

More seriously perhaps, what we now call fairy tales have changed again and again – first told by the fireside, then in print, first told for adults or a gathered family, then for children, and now for all ages again. But even the darkest, grimmest tales can offer children something as well as adults, and adults crave happy endings while kids maybe just expect them, because we know they’re a little rarer on the ground. Fairy tales show us the world through new eyes – it isn’t a safe world, but it’s beautiful and strange and sometimes you can win your happy ending.



2. Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?


While I enjoy reading them, I’ve never written a straight re-telling of a fairy tale yet – I suspect it might be a bit like me writing a straight historical fiction. I’d feel a bit too bound by what I know of the original. It’s not been that important to me so far to retain the content of the original – but that might change in the future. Every story is different and in each one I have to learn how to write all over again.



3. Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?


I find they are like sparks or seeds for a new story – so perhaps somewhere near the heart of the story, but it’s often a process of discovery and surprise rather than sitting down deliberately to write a variation on Cinderella. So they suggest themselves while I’m already writing something. Ideas from myths or folk tales get stuck in my head and they come out in my stories. We read and read and listen and listen, and as storytellers our brains spit up these ideas into our stories. Sometimes I only realise where it came from after I’ve written it. Sometimes my storytelling brain is far smarter than my conscious brain.



4. Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?


One time I have sat down deliberately to re-tell a tale is a variation on the tale of the Loathly Lady, which almost immediately met up with the tale of the curse of Macha on the men of Ulster and ran off in a completely different direction. The Loathly Lady was everything that is ugly, embarrassing and undesirable in a woman. She demanded of her knight that he accept her as she is, to marry her, kiss her or have sex with her in all her grossness, and in doing so he finds she becomes a goddess. Macha had been forced to run a race when about to give birth by the King of Ulster. As she died in childbirth she cursed the Ulstermen so they could no longer fight without suffering her pain. That story is a third of the way written and even writing what I have above I feel the same excitement I did when those ideas met up in my head!



5. If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?


Joseph Campbell writes about the hero with a thousand faces, and fairy tale characters in the traditional tales are just like that – they have so many faces, they need to be all things to all people. Can you invite an archetype to dinner? Are archetypes specific enough to have a conversation, enjoy your cooking or flirt with your guests? I’m not sure. So I don’t think I’d invite Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Baba Yaga to dinner, but I might invite specific versions of these fairy tale characters that I’ve loved rewritten by authors I admire: Beauty and her Beast from Robin McKinley’s ‘Beauty’, the questing young queen in Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sleeper and the Spindle’, and Mossy and Tangle from George McDonald’s fairy tale ‘The Golden Key’. All have had such extraordinary adventures that I could listen to their stories all day and all night.

 


Fairy Tale Friday - Kathleen Jennings

Posted by Angie on October 8, 2015 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)



This week’s Fairy Tale Friday writer is Kathleen Jennings!






Kathleen is a writer and illustrator based in Brisbane, but she was raised on fairy tales in western Queensland. Her thoughts (but mostly her art) appear at https://tanaudel.wordpress.com/ . Kathleen’s stories are rich with the wonders and delights of the fairy tale world. Her interview comes coupled with some of her whimsical illustrations – all inspired by the world of fairy tales, of course!



1. The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?

For me, a fairy tale is a story that takes place within a certain set of rules. There is a logic to fairy tales by which you can recognize them, a core at which it is inevitable and obvious that a polar bear should turn out to be a Princess of Arabia, or a giant's hair have certain powers. They suit as bedtime and fireside stories because the framework is not always dissimilar from dream-logic (and has certain connections to jurisprudential theory, too).

Old folktales and marchen are part of that, and so are original literary tales that have learned the verbal or visual lilt of the language of fairy tales. It's a spectrum, of course. There are novels which keep the trappings but use a different logic, and vice versa. They're in that galaxy of fairy tales, somewhere along an outer spiral arm.

Neil Gaiman's Instructions captures some of that law/lore explicitly, but so does Shaun Tan's Rules for Summer: the stories in Tan's world are unfamiliar but the reasoning process is that same (and remember: never leave a single red sock on the line).

The fairytale-telling card game Once Upon A Time has a rule that players can object to a round on the basis it is ridiculous. I love this, because I mean, it's fairy tales, by ordinary standards everything is ridiculous. Yet there's a category of odd things that simply feel correct in a fairy tale context.



2. Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

It's unique. There's content, motif and feel. A story can be a Red Riding Hood story because there's a girl with a red hat: anything you say after that can be interpreted through that lense. Or it can be a Red Riding Hood story because of a theme of threat, betrayal, disguise, self-rescue: Dickens' Our Mutual Friend is a very effective Red Riding Hood story (openly so).

And it depends on the writer's intention: is it a strict retelling, a psychological investigation, a synthesis of variant traditions, a forcible imposition of one story on another...?

On some level, if you've studied enough literary theory, or are just contrary, you can argue almost any story is a variation on another. A recent story of mine ("The Wolves of Thornfield Hall: A Variation on a Theme" in Eleven Eleven Journal #19) is a deliberately inaccurate reading of Jane Eyre as a conscious retelling with Rochester as Little Red Riding Hood (although I started convincing myself partway through – Rochester does wear a red cape at one point).



3. Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

All of the above! I like to take tales, separate them into their elements and then force them together. Putting two stories together wrong can break all sorts of ideas open.

We played a game like this over dinner at Illuxcon a few years back: pick two fairy tales and combine them to come up with an illustration topic. People had BEAUTIFUL ideas. And I've sat with friends and made up our own element cards during coffee and used them to tell stories.

But I have also drafted stories without a fairy tale kernel and, when struggling with the logic or the emotional arc, gone back and battened them onto an existing fairy tale. I did this with "Skull & Hyssop" (Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet #31), which is steampunk-ish. I had written the story but it lacked... something. So I distilled the plot, then distilled those of several fairy tales until I found one which matched pleasingly. I used it as a diagnosis and scaffold, and also a reference for motifs.

There's a very visual language of motifs in fairy tales, which also opens the door to that land of fairy tale logic. A sense of the sublime as well as of horror, the power and co-existence of the domestic with the fantastic. They are elements I love to play with in my illustration as well as writing. Put a wolf in it.



4. Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

I really like "Seven Ravens" and its related tales, but also the ballad of "Tam Lin": the girl who goes out and rescues the enchanted boy (often her brother, but "East of the Sun, West of the Moon"/"Beauty and the Beast" belong to this type of tale as well). It's a beautiful, practical, active group of fairy tales, and it's why I'm quite cool with damsel-in-distress stories, because I think they're more than balanced by the other. We can have stars and swans and knitting and dresses AND brave lassies being witty and clever, competent and strong AT THE SAME TIME. And there are enough motifs in them to splice them onto other stories easily.

"Seven Ravens" was the splint for "Skull & Hyssop", while the rose connection between "Tam Lin" and "Sleeping Beauty" opened the door into "A Hedge of Yellow Roses" (in Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications). And a larger project I am working on springs from Tam Lin/Robin Hood rootstock, with branches from half a dozen other tales grafted on.



5. If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

Little Red Riding Hood, the version who made Dickens fall in love with her, and who ran across the river on the sheets held by the washerwomen. Puss in Boots, for telling such dreadful lies. And one of the foolish sons: the ones who win the princess by being kind to all creatures, or happiness by being grateful for misfortune. (I love reading about the brave lassies and Tam Lin's Janet, but I think they would be exhaustinglpragmatic in company).


 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Tale Friday with Kate Forsyth

Posted by Angie on October 1, 2015 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

This week's Fairy Tale Friday Writer is the superb Kate Forsyth.


If there is a writer who exudes the magic and wonder of fairy tale, it is Kate Forsyth. Kate is a wondrous writer of fantasy and fairy tale inspired historical fiction. She is the author of thirty-six books for both adults and children. Recently voted one of Australia's Favourite 20 Novelists, Kate has been called 'one of the finest writers of this generation'. Her fairy tale novel, Bitter Greens, won the American Library Association (ALA) Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2015 and chosen as a Library Journal (US) Best Historical Novel of 2015.

Kate's books have sold more than a million copies internationally, having been published in 17 countries including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, France, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. Not only is she a spinner of great tales, she also has a doctorate in fairy tale studies!

We welcome the amazing Kate to our Fairy Tale Friday!


The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?

Fairy tales are stories of magic and metamorphosis, which have been told and retold over centuries in ever changing forms, yet still carry within them the essence of their ancient mythic wisdom.


Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

I believe this is something that is discovered through the telling of each story. I have used fairy tales in very different ways in each of my novels. Sometimes I retell the story, sometimes I merely draw upon its structures and symbols, other times I tell the life story of the teller of the tale. Each time is a new process of discovery and experimentation.


Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

Again, it depends on the novel. In Bitter Greens, I retell the story of 'Rapunzel' in its purest form, and make very few changes to the basic pattern of action, or its motifs and metaphors. I entwine this with the true story of the woman who wrote the tale as it is best known, Charlotte-Rose de la Force, who was a 17th century French noblewoman. In The Wild Girl, however, I used the stories that Dortchen Wild told Wilhelm Grimm as a way of guessing at her inner life. Only a few of the key elements of each tale remain, and they are concealed within the fabric of the story.


Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

My most recent novel The Beast’s Garden is a retelling of the Grimm brothers' version of 'Beauty and the Beast', set in Nazi Germany. It is a retelling in its lowest possible term. I took the key characters, and the story's skeleton, and transplanted them to Berlin between the years 1938 and 1945. I use the symbols of roses and birds (from 'The Singing, Springing Lark', the Grimm tale), and the idea of the beast-skin being a form of camouflage to hid someone's true nature, but you could read the novel and not realise it was a fairy tale retelling at all.


 If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would they be? And why?

I would invite Puss in Boots so he can busy himself getting me a castle and bags of gold, the Portuguese monk who can summon a feast by cooking a stone in a pot, and Scheherazade so she could tell me stories all night. That means all I have to do is sit back and enjoy myself!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fairy Tale Friday - Mary Elizabeth Burroughs

Posted by Angie on September 24, 2015 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Fairy Tale Friday with Mary Elizabeth Burroughs

I was very lucky to have met Mary when she came to live in Sydney, Australia from the US of A and joined our writing circle, The Amberjacks. Mary is a very talented writer and great story teller. An Octavia Butler Scholar and graduate of Clarion San Diego, her short stories have appeared in publications including Bloodchildren and Black Static. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with specific studies in Postcolonial literature, British literature, Victorian literature and the Southern Gothic. She is currently working on a YA novel.


The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?

When you say “fairy tales” I have a myriad of thoughts that go off in my mind akin to something like children lighting firecrackers on the 4th of July. I think the first fairy tales I heard were delivered to my ears via audio cassette tapes. My mother worked nights as a security guard at a housing complex and would record her versions of fairy tales for me to listen to on our dusty little tape deck recorder. My father, who stayed home with my sister and I, was a quiet man; I feel like the only stories that were being told to me in those first five or six years of life were via my mother’s disembodied voice melodically spinning tales about lovelorn, smooch-hungry frogs and snooty princesses. Fairy tales were oral and conveyed strange, inexplicable yet wondrous events by someone I yearned to be near. I reckon I’ll never shake that association when I think of fairy tales: the stuff of yearning, the stuff of wonder.


Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

Personally, unless you’re offering a translation, I believe it’s downright wrong and a wee bit icky to simply retell an “original" fairy tale. Fairy tales origins come from oral folk tales and you must respect that inherent quality. As anyone who has ever sat down and properly delivered some gossip knows, events change in the telling of them. They become embroidered. The importance of certain events shifts according to who you’re doing the telling to (if you’re a sensitive storyteller). By stubbornly resisting to properly re-imagine a fairy tale, you’re committing some kind of narrative sin. I try not to sin as a storyteller — ever. Divergence is fundamental for me, though I did not decide this until I stumbled upon it while writing.


Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

All three!

Though I do have a preference for using the scaffolding of the magical event or incident from a fairy tale. The preference comes from this Theory of Knowledge course I had to take as a high school student. Our teacher, a wise man whose motivations we could not always fully unravel, had us watch all of Joseph Campbell’s interviews with Bill Moyers about the power of myth and I realised that my uber-geeky obsession with Star Wars was just an extension for the love of certain story structures. We also watched various versions of Puccini and did obnoxious logic problems in the class, all of which helped me have an epiphany later on: humans crave pattern recognition. Whether it be in life or stories, humans need to recognise structures that are similar. Inserting those patterns into your stories is giving something humans need to your readers. Play with the structures and mess with the flesh and organs of the thing, but you have to have some bones that people recognise for them to be moved.


Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

A handful of years ago, I decided to write a very short horror story which bucked some tropes in horror that bothered me. It was a flash fiction piece called “The Flinchfield Dance” for Christopher Fowler and Maura McHugh’s The Campaign for Real Fear and wound up being published in Black Static. While I wanted to ask questions about our desire to take pleasure in others’ torture in horror and how communities and the media can respond messily, if not terribly, with their anxieties, the story’s bones (maybe even its red, beating heart) are in a fairy tale: Little Red Riding Hood. A girl is out in the woods and she encounters someone terrible. While Little Red Riding Hood is not necessarily my favourite fairy tale (it’s 12 Dancing Princesses or Rumplestiltskin), I felt like excavating that tale helped cohere the short story for me and give it a weird, primal power it would not have had without that framework.

Despite this past experience, I seemed to stray from consciously playing with fairy tales for a while. It wasn’t until recently, when I was lucky enough to take a day course called The Story Road with the fantasy author Isobelle Carmody, that I got reacquainted with them. Given Carmody’s novels and the stunning Tales from the Tower volumes she edited that are based on fairy tales, it shouldn’t have surprised me that she made her pupils write about a fairy tale we wanted to change or pick at. So I did and I’m rather loving it.


If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

Whoa, whoa, whoa—I don’t want any fairy tale character to come for dinner. They’re often so blissfully happy or woefully cursed/ vengeful, I’d be either annoyed or frightened! I suppose if I’m forced to I might choose re-imagined versions of fairy tale characters. Can I do that? I might take in Flycatcher/ King Ambrose (a version of the Frog Prince) from Bill Willingham’s Fables comics because he is truly good. As a high school teacher, I might also invite the Disney version of Ariel in to have a chat about how losing her voice in order to pursue a man is not the way to go. Maybe I’d invite Holly Black’s punk changeling protagonist Kaye from Tithe as well. We’d all have a chat with Miss Ariel.

 


Fairy Tale Friday Natalia Theodoridou

Posted by Angie on September 17, 2015 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

It's Fairy Tale Friday with Natalia Theodoridou!



This week’s Fairy Tale Friday’s featured writer is Natalia Theodoridou. Natalia writes stories that sing of  strange darkness and stark beauty. She is a media & cultural studies scholar based in Portsmouth, UK. Her short stories and weird unclassifiables have appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, Clarkesworld, Interfictions, the Black Apples anthology, and elsewhere. Find out more at her website (www.natalia-theodoridou.com) or drop her a line on Twitter @natalia_theodor.


1. The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?

As a child of the 1980s I was, of course, exposed to all the Disney-fied versions of well-known tales like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, etc. But I was also growing up in northern Greece, with grandparents that spoke Turkish mixed with Russian; their fairy tales were very different. They felt darker, dangerous. These were the stories that attracted me the most, the stories I kept going back to: there were short men with long beards defying giants and making soup out of stones; women cutting off their breasts and feeding them to their husbands; girls hunted down by their fathers and turning into stars. Later I also went looking for the original, untamed versions of the fairy tales that came to us from further west. What I found clicked perfectly with my experience of fairy tales as something wild, and sometimes deeply cruel, but resonating in a very truthful way.


2. Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

I never begin a story with such considerations in mind, unless I am doing it as a writing exercise or I am responding to a very specific call for submissions. That said, it is usually the thing that makes a specific fairy tale resonate for me that I try to preserve in the retelling, be it a major component, such as a character or a plot element, or something subtle and hard to pin down, like a particular detail, some tragic irony, a feeling. For example, in "The Shadow and the Snake" (in Black Apples), it was the sense that all these extraordinary things that can happen in a Greek folk tale are absolutely normal--they can happen every day, any day, to anyone. In "The Ravens' Sister" (in The Kenyon Review Online), it was the origin of the motif that intrigued me; a lot of stories about lost brothers turning into birds (e.g. the Seven Ravens, the Six Swans, the Twelve Wild Ducks, etc.) came about at times of war. I wanted to explore this in a more contemporary setting.


3. Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

Fairy tales are useful blueprints, but I think it is the story-as-metaphor that has more impact in the end. Because some of these narratives are so familiar to many readers, it is easy to make them do double duty in a retelling: on the one hand they act as familiar background, and so perhaps allow the writer to set the scene with a few broad strokes, and on the other hand they bring in old themes that illuminate, and are in turn illuminated by, the new settings in which they are transplanted. It is my feeling that, when a fairy tale is rewritten and retold, both the "original" and the "retelling" are imbued with something new. After writing or reading a retelling, the original tale will never be the same for me again--it will have always already included its own retelling, as well as all of its other retellings by other writers I've read. That's what makes fairy tales so interesting, I think; can you really tell when you first read a fairy tale and what you thought of it, or is your memory already coloured by all your subsequent encounters with it? It's almost as if you can never read a fairy tale for the first time.


4. Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

I think I may have already answered that when talking about "The Ravens' Sister" above. It would be the story of the Six Swans (even though I ended up retelling the Seven Ravens instead, which had similar themes but a different structure). I followed the major plot points of the original story, but I went experimental with the format, because I wanted to say something about the ways histories (both personal and national) are fluid, contested, and full of silences, erasures, strikethroughs. I also wanted to find out exactly who the Sister was, how she viewed the world. So I tried to write her as a fully-formed person rather than an archetype. Inevitably, where there is a new character, there is a new story.


5. If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

I'm not sure how many dinner guests I could handle (I am terrible at social interaction), but I would definitely invite as many of the children from Hamelin as I could fit around my small dining table. It's not easy being uprooted from your home--I bet they would have some interesting stories to tell.

 

Nowra Librarian Rhapsody

Posted by Angie on September 16, 2015 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Because I am a School Librarian I couldn't resist posting this video on You Tube for library lovers to share! Thank you Megan for sending it my way!

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Fairy Tale Friday Suzanne J. Willis

Posted by Angie on September 9, 2015 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

It's Fairy Tale Friday! Introducing Suzanne J. Willis!


This week we have magical wordsmith and citizen of the world of fae, the very talented and dear friend of mine, Suzanne J. Willis. 

Suzanne is a Melbourne writer and a graduate of Clarion South. Her short stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Schlock Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, the British Fantasy Society Journal, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, SQ Mag and anthologies by PS Publishing,Prime Books, Fablecroft Publishing and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. She works full-time and writes in the spaces around it, inspired by fairytales,ghost stories and all things strange. Suzanne can be found online at suzannejwillis.webs.com

1. The term ‘fairy tale’ can conjure up clichéd images of ‘happy ever afters’ and thanks to Andrew Lang’s ‘Coloured Fairy Books’ Victorian tales for children told before bedtime. In your experience as a reader and writer, what is a fairy tale?


Fairy tales are the stories that I grew up on and the ones that I return to time again, for comfort, entertainment, elucidation and inspiration. They are, in some ways, the perfect form of short story – the reader is immediately plunged into the heart of the tale, we quickly recognise the characters and identify with them, and they allow us to escape into a world in which magic is commonplace and justice is (almost always) served.

As a reader and a writer, the most appealing aspect of the tales is the darkness that runs through them, revealing the unforgiving nature of the world. Who doesn’t shiver when they read of Snow White’s wicked Queen being made to dance in re-hot iron shoes until she is dead, or the Goose Girl’s false bride suffering her own punishment of being placed in a barrel full of nails and dragged along by two white horses until she, too, expires?

For me, fairy tales give us a glimpse into and a wander through the dark heart of human beings.


2. Writers such as Angela Carter have written retellings of fairy tales set in contemporary worlds. In your retellings or re-imaginings how important is it to keep the original content? How important is divergence to you? Or is this something that is discovered through the writing process and unique to each story?

Much of the joy of fairy tales is in everything that isn’t written, but is there waiting for the imagination to explore. The depths of the forest, thorny and dark and overgrown with shadowy things, surely contain more than one hungry wolf; castles have any number of rooms and cellars and forgotten treasures waiting to be explored; an ever-after that is not so happy, after all. So, I like to keep pieces of the original tales – a character, an unexplored relationship, an image that seems more than what it is – and use them as a springboard for other stories. Rather than keep the original content, I use these snippets that speak to create different spins on the old tales, or tell the story of what came after.


3. Sometimes writers work with the bones of fairy tales to write new tales. When ‘working the bones’, do you find that the original tales act as scaffolds, metaphors or symbols for your new tale?

It all depends on the tale! I tend to carve the bones into new shapes, I guess. For example, When the Sea is Blue and the Shallows Clear (reprinted in Luna Station Quarterly’s 2015 “The First Five Years” best of anthology) is a story inspired by the Little Mermaid. It has all the main characters of the original, the Little Mermaid’s home and the sharpness of the knives under her feet, but the mermaid, the prince and his wife are very different characters with a completely different dynamic between them. The original story inspired the “what if” questions about character and motive, the bones shaped into a new form of story about morality, love and sacrifice.

Even in my stories that aren't fairy tales, as such, there still appear familiar elements and motifs. The resourceful, lost child, wicked kings, old earth magic, often appear as the anchor points from which new stories and conflicts are spun.


4. Can you tell us about a favourite fairy tale you have worked with for one of your stories? Was it a retelling or a re-imagining or a new story with the skeletons of past tales?

I’ve always loved The Pied Piper of Hamelin – such a creepy story, with all those children following the piper out of town and disappearing forever. But the piper is left to wander the world and I just knew he hadn’t disappeared in the same way. The Rattenfanger’s Pipe (Shlock Magazine February 2014) sees the re-emergence of the piper many years later, still up to his old tricks, revelling in human misery and folly. A new tale, requiring knowledge of the old. A familiar skeleton in new skin!


5. If you could invite three fairy tale characters to dinner, who would it be? And why?

Oooh, so many choices! Definitely the Snow Queen, bringing a glorious winter with her (but hopefully not lodging any ice in my heart!). The nightingale, so I could listen to the music that brought an emperor back from the brink of death. Lastly, the witch from Hansel and Gretel, provided that she brings the dessert.




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