Friday, 1 July 2011

Guest post: What inspired my modern action packed retellings of classic fairy tales by Maureen McGowan + Giveaway

Today my special guest is Maureen McGowan author of the extraordinary fairy tale retellings: Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, which besides the title giving away some of the surprises, namely that these heroines are kickass action heroes is a choose your own path kind of books! You can read my review of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer and get a first taste of what to expect. Ever since I've read these novels I have been curious to know what inspired Maureen to retell the classic fairy tales with such an unusual spin, and today I get my answer :-) Read on to see for yourself and you can win yourself a signed copy of the book of your choice. Please give a warm welcome to Maureen McGowan!

What inspired these modern action packed retellings of classic fairy tales?

While I’ve always loved the romantic aspects of traditional fairy tales, I was never a big fan to be honest. Even as a young girl, I preferred stories where the heroines were more involved in solving their own problems. In tackling the retellings, I wanted to write stories in which the heroines were strong and capable and not sitting around (or sleeping) waiting for someone to save her.

As for the inspiration… a freelance editor asked me if I’d be interested in writing a proposal for a new series that would be fairy tale retellings, with a choose-your-own-path element. She thought I’d be right for the project because she’d seen an (unsold) urban fantasy manuscript I’d written and knew I could do action, fast-pacing and world building.

I was worried that I wouldn’t get full creative freedom in writing the books, so I jokingly asked the editor, “Can there be ninjas?” She answered, “Yes!” and, although I was testing the boundaries more than I was serious, I immediately had an image of ninjas dropping down from trees to attack Cinderella. I thought that was funny and potentially action-packed, so I started developing the idea right away.

One of my aims in writing Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer was to “fix” some of the story elements that bothered me in the traditional versions of these classic tales. Both of my stories include the tried and true fairy tale themes of finding true love and good triumphing over evil, but there are twists, too.

The traditional Cinderella character was too much of a victim for my taste, and I never liked the idea that the prince needed a shoe to recognize her the day after supposedly falling in love. Plus, he falls in love at first sight—presumably because of her beauty—but then doesn’t recognize her the next day when she’s out of her fancy dress? What kind of message does any of that send to modern readers about love or self-worth? And if life with her stepmother was so bad, why wasn’t Cinderella actively trying to leave?

Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer probably has fewer similarities to the traditional tale. (There were no vampires in the original? An oversight, I’m sure.) When I first started the book, I thought it was about prejudice—humans’ misconceptions about vampires and vice versa. But as soon as I started writing, it became more of a child of divorce story. My Sleeping Beauty has to learn that her parents’ and kingdom’s problems aren’t her fault—even if she’s (literally) cursed. This theme popped out at me as soon as I started thinking about how parents might react if they knew their daughter carried a curse. And what it would feel like to grow up with this huge weight hanging over you.

But, although I think my stories have positive messages for girls and an overall theme of empowerment, they are by no means “issue books”. They’re meant to be fun, fast-paced, exciting and most of all—entertaining!

Maureen has always been making up stories—her mother called it lying, her teachers creative talent—but sidetracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to channel her energy into writing novels. Before seeing the light, she was: an auditor, a knowledge engineer, a software development manager, a product development director and a hedge fund CFO.

She finally pummeled her sensible side into submission to let her creative side run free. Aside from books and writing, she’s passionate about art, dance, films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes. Born and raised in various Canadian cities, (okay, born in one, raised in many), her previous career moved her to Northern California and Philadelphia for a number of years. She now lives and writes in Toronto, Canada.

You can reach Maureen at her website, her blog, or on her Twitter, Goodreads or Facebook accounts.


Maureen has generously offered a signed paperback copy of winner's choice of either Cinderella: Ninja Warrior or Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer to a lucky commentator.

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior (Twisted Tales)  Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer (Twisted Tales)
All you have to do is:

1) answer Maureen's question: When you were thirteen, what was your favorite book?
2) leave me a way to contact you (e-mail address, Twitter handle, etc.)

Giveaway is open to residents of the US/Canada and ends on 13 July 2011!

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