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. Join us with After Happily Ever After contributor Shaun Avery as he reveals the inspiration behind his story, “The Princess Quest.”
How did you begin your journey on the path to fiction writing?
Oh, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – first science fiction stuff inspired by comics when I was a kid, then I went through a phase of writing about gang warfare when I was a teenager, having watched a lot of movies based around that subject, before eventually evolving into a writer who’ll happily tackle any subject so long as it seems interesting. I’ve taken it a lot more seriously in the last eight years, though – for reasons that will become apparent in our final question!
You write primarily in horror, which oddly enough, a lot of people tend not to realize horror is ever-present in many fairy tales. The connection might seem obvious to those of us who know the more horrific aspect of fairy tales, but for others, it might not be clear how a horror writer goes from demons, ghosts, or zombies, to the fantasy world of gingerbread houses and far off kingdoms. What compelled you to switch gears and write a fairy tale story?
Although I write in horror the most, I read and watch all sorts, and I’m peripherally aware enough of the parameters of fantasy stories to feel comfortable enough working with them. That’s how the idea for “The Princess Quest” started off, as a twist on the standard ‘quest’ tale, and then all the satirical fairy tale stuff just ended up seeping into it and taking over. I’m pretty pleased with the results, though, thinking it among the best of my short stories. And probably one of the funniest, too – though you’ll probably need quite a dark sense of humour to agree.
I’ve been dying to ask you about your contribution to the After Happily Ever After Anthology, “The Princess Quest” which takes some of its inspiration from the Choose Your Own Adventure novels — how awesome is that?! But how did the creative process for this idea take form?
I think it came mostly from wanting to write something in the second person – I love that narrative form. This seemed to gel in my mind with all those old Choose Your Own Adventure novels, which I’d loved as a child and which I’d been reminded of from recently re-watching classic kids’ TV show “Knightmare” with my stepson.
Satire can be a delicate medium that is sometimes the most challenging type of story. A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is for a satirical tale to fall flat on its face if handled incorrectly and that requires a measure of skill. Tell us more about the theme of your story and how it relates.
Well, the hook of the story is that ditching your friends and loved ones to go on a quest for someone you’ve never actually met is perhaps not the best use of a person’s time, even if the subject of the quest is a princess – and that was something that always seemed to happen in a lot of those books. I accepted it as a kid, but as a grown-up it seemed a subject ripe for satire, and I was happy to attack it.
You mention in your bio that your own search for a princess is just as interesting as the one in your story. Care to share any details with us romantics?
Of course! I’ve been with the lovely Emma for eight years now, which seems like a lifetime – but, you know, in a pretty good way. We met online, which back then there seemed to be a stigma about, a slightly sniffy, peering down the nose look at you whenever you mentioned it – but now, with the rise of social media and all that stuff, it seems to be a lot more accepted, almost normal. It was never an issue to me, though . . . it’s the only way we could have met, since we lived a slight distance apart and circumstances would probably have never brought us into contact any other way. Besides, I had met plenty women in real life – you know, the normal way, or so they said back then – and for one reason or another it had never worked out. I somehow had a tendency to hook-up with women who were temporarily estranged from the loves of their lives, who inevitably went back to them after a couple of dates with me – no kidding . . . I had that one happen to me three times. Three! But it all worked out with the one I was meant to meet, thank heavens, and since then all the awesome stuff has happened, particularly in relation to my writing. So, you know, if you enjoy “The Princess Quest,” all you readers out there – you can thank my girlfriend for it, too.
Shaun Avery writes crime and horror and satirical fiction to the best of his ability across a number of mediums. He has won prizes with prose and comic scripting work, and had a short screenplay shortlisted in a competition. He is now disturbingly used to writing about himself in the third person.
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