If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology,this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. M. Regan mixes the fantastical and the realistic in her fascinating rendition of Cinderella and the complications that arise amidst lost shoes.
Your writing has involved several fields outside of fiction. How did you start your writing journey that led you along this winding path?
As is becoming more and more the norm, I began writing seriously after discovering fanfiction. While I had always enjoyed writing, I didn’t really feel like I had an outlet for my work. Fandom provided that, along with regular feedback to encourage me to keep trying. The enthusiasm of the other authors and readers online was highly motivational. There was one writer in particular who I idolized, and desperately wanted to impress; I still remember how star-struck I was when my work gained enough attention for her to notice! The positive reviews I received helped me to realize that what I most wanted to do was entertain people. It was then just a matter of finding ways to do that. Applying to other writing positions gave me an opportunity to explore my own style, reach new audiences, and ultimately helped me figure out what medium was the “best fit” for me as an entertainer.
I imagine being able to change hats between writing disciplines may be a challenge. What’s it like to be writing a scholarly review and then change gears for fiction? Pros and cons?
I definitely feel like a modified skill set is required to jump between fiction and non-fiction, articles and advice columns, localization and original work. While all require creativity, the balance one has to strike between being informative, entertaining, and honest is measured on a different set of scales. Even if your audience is exactly the same, people approach different mediums with different expectations, and I think keeping that in mind is crucial to success. To go off the idea of changing hats, wearing a winter beanie in the summer would protect your head from the sun, yes, but it wouldn’t be as comfortable or appropriate as a cap; in the same way, it would be doable but inadvisable to set a scene in a novel in the same way one would an article. Neither would I recommend writing an adaptation with the verboseness I do personal works. (For one thing, it would make the subtitles too long to read!) If there is a “con” about having to change gears in that way, it is how those “gears” sometimes get stuck, making a piece awkward. The pro, though, is being able to apply aspects of what I’ve learned from each discipline to whatever I’m presently working on. Localization work has helped me learn how to phrase ideas more naturally, for example, and being able to make a reader empathize with a fictional character is going to help a writer learn how to engage a reader’s emotions in nonfiction, as well.
Your story concentrates on the beloved fairytale of Cinderella. Tell us about the creative process that went into the work and what it was that spoke to you about this story in particular.
Actually, the very first novel I ever wrote was about Cinderella! That said, I wrote it back in junior high school and it was absolutely awful. It will never see the light of day, so long as I can help it! Still, a lot of the disbelief that spurred that novel has stuck with me over the years. Most especially: The glass slipper. As a child, I got really caught up in the implication that no one else in the entirety of the kingdom shared a shoe size with Cinderella. Isn’t that weird? How does that even happen? While my short story, “Ashes,” takes a different, darker approach than my novel did, I definitely drew from the same well of inspiration this time around.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale of your own?
Well, I allude to both Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel in pieces I’m currently working on, and I paid homage to The Little Mermaid in my story “Deep,” which was picked up by the Shadows at the Door anthology. But even then, I wouldn’t call them my “favorites,” per se; folklore and mythology are such an inspiration to me, I don’t think I could ever really choose just one as a favorite!
You live and work in Kyoto, Japan. While fairytales here in the US are very often derived from Western traditions, Japan has a very rich store of myth and folklore, and the people clearly love a good fantasy story, as evidenced by their pop culture trends. Can you share with us something about Japan, whether it’s a folk tale you have heard, or a universal similarity in how cultures tell stories, or striking difference between them?
I think what most eloquently encapsulates both the similarities and differences between the East and the West are the monsters brought to life by their folklore. Monsters— wherever and whenever they originate— are considered by those who study them to be either embodiments of a certain era’s feelings and fears, or a way to explain what the science of a given time couldn’t. This much is true whether you’re talking about the Algonquin’s wendigo, Europe’s changelings, or Japan’s kappa. However, Western mythology has, in many ways, been shaped by the black-and-white/good-vs-evil mentality of the Christian faith. Amongst other things, this has resulted in the grand majority of supernatural beings—at least traditionally— being pigeonholed into one category or another. A devil is evil. An angel is good. Etcetera. Eastern religions, on the other hand, generally promote a more grayscale mindset, and that is reflected in their beasties. While it is true that some Japanese youkai (often translated as “demons” or “monsters”) are malicious, just as many are said to be benign, and most lie on the spectrum between those extremes. In both the East and the West, there are a great number of TV shows, movies, and books that deal with the supernatural. But in Japan, monsters, ghosts, and even Christian-inspired devils tend to be more moralistically nuanced than their Western counterparts. Truth be told, I find Japan’s interpretations far more appealing. To anyone out there who thinks they might feel the same, I would recommend checking out InuYasha, Chrono Crusade, Black Butler, Natsume’s Book of Friends, and that most pivotal Japanese youkai series, GeGeGe no Kitarou.
M. Regan has been writing in various capacities for over a decade, with credits ranging from localization work to scholarly reviews, advice columns to short stories. Particularly fascinated by those fears and maladies personified by monsters, she enjoys composing dark fiction and studying supernatural creatures. She currently lives and works in Kyoto, Japan, where she draws inspiration from the country’s rich history of youkai, as well as the more modern influences of its popular culture.
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