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. Lorraine Sharma Nelson gives us a beastly spin on a popular fairy tale.
You have a very full life and career, including your work on the New England Regional Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. What draws you to this arena, and how did it come about?
Working with UNICEF on behalf of the world’s impoverished children goes back to the days of my childhood. My parents worked hard to help underprivileged children in all the countries we lived in when I was a kid. My dad always told my sister and me that if we were fortunate enough to live comfortably as adults, we would also have a responsibility to give back. He drummed that philosophy into us, so naturally, when I grew up, donating to UNICEF seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do. I went from being a donor to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, to being on a committee, to eventually being voted onto the New England Regional Board. Knowing that my family is playing a part in helping children not only survive malnutrition, starvation, and childhood diseases like Polio, but also get a chance at an education, is immensely satisfying on levels I can’t begin to express.
With such varied pursuits, how did you find your path to writing? Naturally, having a Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature and a Master’s in Mass Communications lends wonderfully to the craft, but not everyone ends up delving into the creative writing spectrum.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. It’s as natural to me as breathing. By the time I was ten-years-old I’d written so many stories, my parents assumed, as did I, that I would grow up to be a writer. The idea of not being able to put pen to paper, or firing up the computer when inspiration hits, is something I can’t even fathom. For a long time, my children, and volunteer work, and life in general, took precedence, but I’m finally writing and submitting, and loving seeing my stories in print. I feel very fortunate to be able to pursue the profession I’ve always had a passion for (try saying that three times fast). Long live writers.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale, one that particularly speaks to you?
That’s a tough one, as I heard all kinds of fairy tales and folk lore in the different countries I grew up in. So many of them spoke to me at different stages of my life. I don’t think I have a particular favorite, although there are times I get the urge to revisit certain fables.
You’ve chosen “Beauty and the Beast,” and have tackled the very pragmatic view of a less recognized hurdle in relationships — when we discover that the person we met or fell in love with has changed is no longer that person. It’s a very poignant subject to my mind, because it’s an aspect of human relationships that doesn’t get much fanfare, but this happens in many different relationships along with marriage. I’d love to know more about how you ended up delving into this concept, how this evolved into the story you wrote.
I read “Beauty and the Beast” as a child, and watched a couple of screen versions of the story. Even at a young age I felt betrayed when the Beast, who was warm and caring, was suddenly replaced by this stranger, this human. I could never understand why Beauty wasn’t outraged by this sudden and disturbing turn of events, and didn’t demand that her beloved Beast be returned to her. Of course I was too young and innocent to consider the ramifications of a marriage between a human and a beastly animal. All I knew was that it was wrong that he was replaced by a human. Beauty deserved to be with the person she fell in love with, even if said person was a shaggy creature with fangs and claws.
Why choose “Beauty and the Beast?”
I needed to know, once and for all, what happened to Belle and Adam, after he reverted back to his human form. My story, “Beauty and the Beast: The Beast Within,” takes place after they’ve been married for a month, and Belle has come to the realization that she is still in love with the Beast, not this stranger who’s taken his place. The story of “Beauty and the Beast” is such a universally-loved fable, made even more so by the Disney version released in 1991. Surely there were other people out there who ‘shipped Belle and the Beast as I did? Maybe they were as curious as I was to know what happened to them. Did they live happily ever after, or was their marriage plagued with problems? Enquiring minds (mine) needed to know.
Lorraine Sharma Nelson grew up globally as a child, but for most of her adult life she has called the United States home. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature, and a Master’s in Mass Communications. She is on the New England Regional Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and is grateful for the opportunity to do her part in helping children worldwide. In addition to being a writer, Lorraine is also a wife, and a mom to two amazing children. She is an avid sci-fi geek, who loves traveling, reading, movies, and coconut cupcakes, though not necessarily in that order. Lorraine has written a number of short stories, and is published in horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Her latest short story, “Beauty and the Beast: The Beast Within” is published in an anthology entitled, After the Happily Ever After, fromTransmundane Press, Dec. 2016. The story takes place after the Beast has transformed back to human form and marries Belle. After a month of marriage, Belle realizes that this is not who she fell in love with. Prince Adam is very different from her beloved Beast. And this is where the problems begin. Lorraine has a blog post on the Transmundane Press website, on the dark side of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Her website is currently a work-in-progress, but please feel free to drop by anyway: lorrainesharmanelson.com.You can also find her on Twitter: @loneriter
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. Claire Davon gives peas a chance in her revamped version of The Princess and the Pea.
Your bio lets us know that you’re passionate about writing, and this passion comes through in your enthusiasm for story — no matter the genre! Why is this so? How many different genres have you dabbled in and is there one you prefer more than the other?
I think of myself as a genre writer, but what that basically means is that I love writing in fantasy, romance, science fiction and horror. I don’t know that I prefer one over the other although all of my novellas and full length novels to date have been some form of romance, whether contemporary, time travel or paranormal. A lot of times the muse comes out of whatever I am thinking about at the time or where a call for submission takes me. Sometimes I write a story and find a call that fits and sometimes a call inspires me to write a story. For instance, when I saw the call for After the Happily Ever After I started thinking about the different fairy/folk tales in their original forms and where that would lead when the original tale was done. Pea Soup grew out of that.
Fanfiction is increasingly being the way that people are exposed to fiction and inspired to join the ranks of writers. Tell us how your journey down the writing path took form, and is it still evolving?
A lot of what I did for fan fiction “back in the day” came out of my desire to see the tale continue and/or being unhappy with the way a storyline ended. For instance I used to watch soap operas and if a character that I liked was written off then I would design my own story about what happened next. And if the female character happened to resemble me, well… I think that fan fiction is a great way to explore your creative side since it’s a universe someone else already created for you that the writer gets to play in. I felt very passionately about these characters and did not want to let them go. It was also wish fulfillment for me, and a desire for a certain outcome. Some of those original stories are ones that I am revisiting in a completely changed form (while keeping the spirit of the initial story) to be my own. These days I want to create my own universe rather than play in someone else’s.
You’ve chosen to tackle the Princess and the Pea in this anthology. And you’ve given the princess an interesting spin as a former barmaid turned aspiring royal. Tell us how this came about, and are there any interesting jobs you’ve held before you reached the place you are now? Do tell.
I’m one of those people who gravitates toward the unusual, so when I saw this anthology call I wanted to explore a fairy tale that wasn’t one of the main ones such as Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood. There wasn’t any one thing that made me select this fairy tale other than it being one that I didn’t think a lot of people would choose. When Hecelin/Giselle sprang to mind I knew that this was the fairy tale that needed a continuation/a bit of a retelling. Further to question #2 above, when you think about it these continuations are their own form of fan fiction, albeit for much loved tales that have been around for hundreds of years rather than writing about the Cassadines from General Hospital in the 1980s (who, me?).
Do you have a particular fairy tale that speaks to you? Which is it?
There isn’t one in particular per se, what interests me is to dig back into the origins and/or the first versions of these tales and see how they changed over time. Especially when the first tellings were decidedly more gruesome than today’s versions. I went looking for such a version when I investigated The Princess and the Pea but that tale was a bit newer than others and didn’t have some of the gore associated with early Grimm versions (cutting Little Red Riding Hood out of the wolf’s stomach…brutal!). It’s the chronology of the telling of a tale that fascinates me rather than one in particular.
While you’re busy conquering so many genres in the writing field, is there anything special you’re working on, that you’re hoping to share soon? Future projects on the line?
Why yes, yes there is! On the novel front the second book in my Elementals’ Challenge series, titled Air Attack, is being released by Samhain Publishing in late March. This paranormal romance series is near and dear to my heart and I am most excited for my readers to experience the continuation of this series. I am also going to be self-publishing a fantasy/paranormal romance novella that I hope will also be the start of a series sometime later this year. As always I am writing short stories in all those genres I love so much and am subbing them far and wide. A reprint fantasy short story is being turned into a podcast but I don’t yet know the release on that.
Claire Davon has written on and off for most of her life, starting with fan fiction when she was very young. She writes across a wide range of genres, and does not consider any of it off limits. If a story calls to her, she will write it. She currently lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time writing novels and short stories, as well as doing animal rescue and enjoying the sunshine. Claire’s website is www.clairedavon.com.
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. Sati Chock turns our attention to all that is ugly and beautiful with her rendition of Beauty and the Beast.
Sati, your bio reveals that you have traveled to far flung places across the globe before landing in Honolulu. I was fortunate enough to visit Maui as a child and remember clearly stumbling upon the locals performing traditional dances for the tourists. It left quite an impression! Do you feel the local flavour of the places your pass through, or live in, find their way into your artistic endeavours?
Good question. Sometimes I do, yes. But the stories that truly haunt me, that I can’t let go of, are the ones born in a landscape that I am quite familiar with, such as my childhood in Massachusetts, or in Hawaii (where I have now lived for 20 years).
You work at an art museum. The collection of artefacts for the viewing public is such a fascinating, specialized field. In your work at the museum, is there an object or an art piece you look forward to seeing every day?
This is a hard question to answer because there are many. Having worked at the museum for nearly 16 years, a number of the works now feel like old friends! If I had to choose only one, though, it would be our 11th- century Chinese wooden sculpture of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, or mercy. It is one of our most popular works, and this enlightened lady is far ahead of her time because she transcends gender– historically she has been depicted variously as either male or female.
I began working at the museum only a few weeks after 9/11, and it was such a sad, unsettled time. I was far from my East Coast family & friends, and worried about them. I often visited Guanyin during breaks to absorb some of that serene energy. I suspect I will be visiting her a lot in 2017, too. 😉
Having experienced a melange of cultures, did you happen to pick up any interesting folklore, folk tales, or fairy tales in your travels?
Certainly. Ghost stories and other supernatural tales have always interested me, and they are told everywhere in the world. In much of the United States, though, there is generally a fair bit of skepticism that accompanies the telling. People say things like: “I don’t really believe in ghost stories, but…” Perhaps with a little laugh or an eye-roll. In other areas of the world, there is more acceptance. In some places, it isn’t even a question. It is understood that our ancestors might come back to visit, and that we should probably take care of them in the afterlife, just in case. This sort of thinking has various origins, including ancestor worship and Buddhism, and has permeated the social fabric of many countries.
For example, in China, ghosts are usually vengeful. So there are things that are done to appease them–such as the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is celebrated in other parts of Asia, too-Singapore and Malaysia, to name a couple of places. Other Asian countries with strong beliefs in ghosts include Thailand, Japan, and Tibet.
While living in Japan I became fascinated with female ghosts. They are hard core–tough and seriously scary, considered capable of all kinds of terrifying things (remember The Ring??) in their quest for revenge. There is one lass with vampire-like tendencies called the yuki-onna, or snow woman, who is believed to freeze men to death during sexual intercourse. Other ghosts are known to devour children, remove testicles, or cause natural disasters, among other things. Not the sorts of creatures you want to bump into in the middle of the night!
This doesn’t really qualify as a folk tale, but you can’t talk about female Japanese ghosts without mentioning the Tale of Genji, (c. 1008), considered by many to be the world’s first novel, and written by a woman–Lady Murasaki Shikibu. One of the major themes of this complex work is revenge, and female ghosts and instances of spirit possession recur throughout the pages of the story.
You chose to tell the story of Beauty and the Beast, a beloved tale with roots in the story of Cupid and Psyche. However, one could say we encounter beasts all the time in our daily lives, whether it’s someone who we clash with at work or in the home. Have you any experiences with real life “beasts”?
I’m afraid that we have all experienced beasts in our real lives. But here is the bright side: this is often how we come up with good stories! They make excellent material, don’t they?
As someone with an interest — a Masters — in Japanese literature and working in a museum — how does writing pull you in a way these other interests do not?
Well, my first passion is reading. But I have a young child and work full time. So my biggest challenge is taking time away from reading–and, yes, family–so that I can create something of my own. But although (to me) reading is like breathing, unless I am occasionally writing as well, I do not feel balanced. We escape when we read, and we escape when we write. But the escape when we write allows us to explore our psyches and work out issues in a way that we cannot when reading someone else’s story. I mean, we might identify strongly with a tale and feel tremendous empathy. But it is a different experience. It doesn’t provide the same cathartic release that writing does.
An excerpt from Sati’s story, “Eye of the Beholder”:
Father has done something so, so foolish. He didn’t want to tell me, but I coaxed it out of him in the special way that only I can. He purloined a rose from a beastly lord for me and was caught. Now, either he must stay, or I must go as payment for his crime. Of course, I will go. I’d never do otherwise. But I confess that I am horrified at being handed over to a husband sight unseen, even if he does live in a castle.
At least we won’t starve.
Sati Benes Chock was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, but grew up in New England. She attended Wheaton College (Massachusetts) and taught English in Tokyo before getting her MA in Japanese Literature at the University of Hawaii. She currently lives with her family in Honolulu, where she works at an art museum. Her short fiction has been published in a number of online and print publications, including Amsterdam Scriptum, Hawaii Pacific Review, Hiss Quarterly, Flash Me Magazine, Thereby Hangs a Tale, and Mouth Full of Bullets.
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. Our next interview presents Matthew Brockmeyer who delves into the story of a very curious nightingale.
One of the most amazing features of this anthology is that each contributor has something wildly unique to bring to the table. You seem to be living in the archetypal fairy tale setting — in an off-grid cabin with your family in the woods of North California. Could you share with us how your journey took you there, all while running a nursery and an herbal products business — and how your writing flourished from this?
I suppose I am living in a fairy tale setting, though that never really occurred to me until now. I better keep my eyes open for the big bad wolf! My journey? Well, I always wanted to be a horror writer, but I’ve also always been a bit of an anarchist and was easily sucked into weird subcultures like punk rock that distracted me from the focus and dedication writing demands. After travelling around, exploring the world and touring with the Grateful Dead, I ended up studying literature at the University of Oregon, where I was in a creative-writing fellowship with award winning novelist Chang-Rae Lee. After graduating, I planned on getting an MFA in creative writing, but, as fate would have it, got pulled into the back-to-the-land scene of permaculture design, biodynamics and organic farming. I met my wife, and we purchased forty isolated acres of heavily forested, hilly land on an old hippie commune called Shit Fuck Piss (no joke!). We were seeking an alternative lifestyle, closer to nature. We homesteaded, raising milking goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, growing our own vegetables and before I knew it we had two children and over a decade had slipped by. Then the writing bug hit again. Hard. I’d say my writing flourished because I had the time and space to read deeply and contemplate humanity’s existence. In the past three years, I have completed a novel and started another, written a collection of short stories, and been published multiple times.
You have two children. I find the raising of family is often an overlooked component of artistic life, but fairy tales have often been able to tackle family matters in both their dark and light aspects. With all your obligations, how has the rearing of children affected your writing for better or worse? What have they taught you about life?
The rearing of children has been invaluable to my writing. It has added depth and maturity to my understanding of the human condition beyond measure. Nearly all of my stories involve a family’s struggle to exist. My children have taught me so much about life I don’t know where to begin. They have taught me patience (lol), understanding, the nature of innocence, a deep and all permeating love that is hard to describe. The protectiveness of a mama bear, the need to impart wisdom like a father fox. The preciousness and fragility of life. My wife and I actually struggled for many years to have children and had many heartbreaking, failed attempts. My family is absolutely the most important thing in my life and I suppose I owe all my inspiration to them.
You chose a lesser known Hans Christian Anderson story called “The Nightingale”. I’m intrigued by the style and setting of your story, especially because it takes place in a brothel. Tell us a little more about the concept behind your take on “The Nightingale” and how you landed on this modern idea to present it.
I am a bit of a history buff, and find myself drawn to the turn of the twentieth century. It was a time when the clash of modernity with old-time ways was most prevalent. Horses and cars fighting it out in the streets, machines beginning to take over the labors of humans. In the original story of “The Nightingale” the Empress forsakes her flesh and blood bird for a mechanical creation encrusted with jewels. I found this to be the perfect metaphor for that time period, and decided to have my Empress shun her loyal pianist for a player piano. I had done a little research into how the entire Old Town of Eureka, California had been a red-light district and it just seemed the perfect setting. So full of intrigue and drama. I’ve always been a big John Steinbeck fan, and East of Eden, I suppose, had some influence on my decision to use a brothel as the setting. As for the concept, I’d never written a story in the epistolary style and thought I’d give it a try. An interview conducted by the historical society just seemed like a good fit.
Do you have a preferred genre that you normally write in, and is this story a departure from that, or how does it dovetail into your interests?
Horror is my genre of choice. Ever since I was a child I’ve been obsessed with horror. I find it a medium that is easily used to explore our existential nature, absurdity, and the human condition in general. It’s also a lot of fun. A roller coaster ride. But I try and put a literary touch to it. I actually don’t read that much horror, though I did as a kid, sticking these days mostly to literary fiction. I hope that brings a level of maturity to my writing (I can hope, lol) and keeps my work original. I’d like to think this story exemplifies that prerogative.
Even though I realize I’m supposed to be promoting After Happily Ever After, I can’t resist asking on purely selfish reasons, more about your herbal business — partly because I’m hoping there will be an opportunity to order something for a nice cup of tea or maybe for an enchantment to beautify myself for the mirror, mirror on the wall!
Ha ha. My wife is a certified herbalist. Her business is called Blainey’s Botanicals. She distills essential oils and hydrosol from lavender, lemon balm, roses, mint, plum blossoms, etc. and makes lotions, tinctures, salves, and all sorts of potions and teas. We mainly sell locally, to neighborhood health-food stores and at farmer’s markets. But if you give me your address we can send you some samples and if you’d like to order more I’m sure she can accommodate you!
Matthew Brockmeyer explores the dark caves and caverns of the human mind using words as his flashlight. His work has appeared in Cultured Vultures, Alephi, Timeless Tales Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, Pulp Metal Magazine, and the anthology 100 Voices, among others. He resides in an off-grid cabin, deep in the hills of Humboldt County, California with his wife and two children. Find more of his work at http://www.matthewbrockmeyer.com.
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.
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. Jenner Michaud joins us to discuss the creative process, and the unique joys and dangers of the fairy tale world.
Tell us about your journey on the path of fiction writer. How did you begin?
I began writing seriously after attending a workshop on speculative fiction in 2012. That’s when everything clicked. I never could qualify what I wrote before that workshop, and I usually tried to make my writing fit into more mainstream fiction instead of going with what instinctively poured out of me. Since I was always drawn into places that push the boundaries of the possible (and keep me up at night), writing was more of a chore when I fought against instincts. I wasn’t exposed to horror or dark fiction until adulthood, which is why I think I fought it for so long because it seemed to come out of nowhere even though it’s something I was born with. Learning about SpecFic made it okay to write offbeat, weird and dark material, and I have been writing consistently since I have become more comfortable and embraced what comes out naturally.
You seem to have a flair for dark fiction. What is it about the fairy tale concept at work in the anthology that caught your fancy?
Dark fiction is definitely my niche. Writing a fantasy story was a challenge I had set for myself since I am not all that comfortable with the genre. Fantasy often requires a lot of world building, and the creation of concepts and characters way beyond anything my brain can comfortably grasp. The most obvious way for me to tip my toe in the genre was to attempt retelling an existing fairy tale where a lot of the elements were already established, and give it a new twist by turning it on its head. That being said, my story is technically fantasy because it’s a fairy tale, but the story itself does not have fantasy elements other than animals acting like humans, so I have not strayed too far from my comfort zone, which is probably why I was able to make the story work.
You chose to reinvent the Three Little Pigs. Good choice! Is there something special about this one? Why this one over the others?
I didn’t have it in book form as a child – it was a record that we played on a six-foot, wooden monstrosity of a record player. And we played that thing endlessly on all speeds (45, 33 and 78, because that’s how old that player was), so if there is one fairy tale I could work with, it’s this one. For my own version, I flipped it around to make the pigs the antagonists to the Wolf’s protagonist. It was also great fun to work in other famous fairy tale characters like Red Riding Hood (caught in a love triangle with B.B. Wolf and the pot-smoking pig), as well as Mickey and Donald (as crooked cops).
There’s a great modern flair to your version which incorporates clever nods to the present, such as social media, and the nod to that great storyteller who has animated so many fairy tales, Walt Disney. How did your concept for this reinventing this story take form? What was the creative process like?
A few years ago, I was reading another retelling of The Three Little Pigs and ideas for a different version bloomed in my head. I could barely finish reading that story before putting my own down on paper. I shared that first version for critique, where it was summarily lambasted and torn to shreds, seen as too “Disney and dated”. I filed it away with the thought “nice try, but stick to what you know”. About a year later, I saw a call for reimagined fairy tales so I dug it up and reworked it, adding some modern twists and Grimmer details. It was rejected, but I became obsessed with making it work. I edited and rewrote it until I was pretty sure it was “something”. When AHEA came up, I sent it in, and I was both ecstatic and flabbergasted when the acceptance letter arrived. I had done it and written a successful fantasy story: “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” will be my first published short story of that genre.
Your credits list numerous short stories with various publications, an accomplishment to any working writer constantly engaging in their craft. Tell us about what it’s like to engage in the hard work of submitting to so many markets, the challenges and successes that come with it?
I write what’s in my head rather than create a story from prompts or themes, so the biggest challenge is always finding a market for a completed story. I wish I could boast about submitting frequently, but I only submit when I find the right match. Perhaps as a result of this, I have a very high submission / published ratio (e.g. 4 of the last 5 short stories I submitted were accepted for publishing). Once a story has been rejected by a certain market, it can’t be submitted there again even if it eventually turns into a version that becomes a perfect fit. So it’s best to put our best foot forward as we get one shot at making a first impression, and because of this I submit very strategically – even if unfrequently.
Time is always a challenge for most, but I’d say focus is an even bigger one for me. Even though I always have many projects on the go, I can only focus on one story at any one time despite stories having a mind of their own and developing all at once. I need to find a better brain traffic controller to be more focused and efficient.
Can you share with us your creative projects for the future?
My number of wips is somewhat staggering and I think reflects my challenge with focusing on one project at a time. I have some 40 completed short stories at various stages of the editing process, and at least 4 apocalyptic novels/series in the works, all of them with various TEOTWAWKI scenarios (The End Of The World As We Know It), with half of them falling into the currently trending genre of climate change fiction. (I say at least 4 because there are others that I have set aside for now but will return to at a later time.) My novel project for NaNoWriMo 2016 is a dark thriller called Ilmassa (the Finnish term for “in the air”), where a deadly pathogen is dropped from planes in a bio-terrorist attack on Canada.
Even if I lived a thousand years and wrote 24 hours a days, I would only scratch the surface of all the ideas I have. The more I write, the more ideas I get, so there is no writer’s block in sight for me.
Jenner Michaud is a Canadian speculative fiction writer with an interest in the dark recesses found at the edge of reality. She enjoys weaving stories that push the boundaries of the possible, even when they go bump in the night and keep her up.
Her short fiction has appeared in several horror anthologies, most recently in “Killing it Softly”, “Largely Deceased” and “Paying the Ferryman”. She is also a contributor to Ephiroll Productions’ Plague series (“Plague: Aftermath“ and ”Plague: Ruination”), imagining a world devastated by a fictional airborne strain of Ebola. Her short story “Of Holes and Craters” has been featured by Digital Fiction Publishing and released with its own cover. (All titles are available from Amazon).
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.