When I was first “getting serious” about my writing, I joined a local writers’ club. Turned out most of the authors were into ‘literary’ writing and pooh-poohed any type of genre fiction at all. In fact, a past-president of the group told me that ‘romances are written by and for people with an eighth grade education.’ I quit right after that. Nowadays, I’d point out that the average romance reader has university education, I’d point to authors like Jennifer Crusie, Stephanie Laurens, Diana Gabaldon and Eloisa James who all have PhDs. (Stephanie is a scientist who is working on a cure for cancer, and Eloisa James is a Shakespeare scholar at Fordham University. For more on changing the image of the average romance reader/writer, read this article.)
Today’s guest is no slouch either. A member of the Toronto Romance Writers, Robie Madison holds an honors specialist degree in Classical Civilization and English and a Master of Education. She’s published by Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing, her paranormal romance Love Partner won the 2006 Dream Realm Award, was a 2006 Ecataromance Reviewers Choice Award nominee, and placed second for a From the Heart Romance Writers‘ Lorrie award in 2006 as well. Desperate Alliance is a 2008 Dream Realm finalist, as well as a finalist for a 2009 Eppie. Good Enough for You has been nominated for a 2009 FTHRW Lorrie, and in 2008 a Sensual Reviewer’s Choice award.
Phew! Anyway, the point is Robie is an incredibly talented and highly educated romance writer…which makes me think that maybe I should introduce her to that other writers’ group so she can dispel that “grade eight” fairy tale once and for all …
The literary fairy tales we are familiar with today began as oral stories. In both forms, the fairy tale provides cultural insight—expressing the concerns and lessons of its time. Fairy tales fascinate both adults and children and musicians, artists, and authors are all fond of adapting and remodeling these stories to express human condition. It is therefore not surprising that these tales have long been a popular “source” for romance plots.
One of the reasons is the power of transformation for the protagonist(s) these story types offer. “…it is the celebration of wondrous change and how the protagonist reacts to wondrous occurrences that account for its major appeal. [Zipes, p. xix] In romance, love is the power that can transform both the heroine and hero, bringing them together and offering a different vision of the future. It also helps that these tales of wonder usually conclude with a romance genre standard—a happily ever after (HEA).
My latest release, The Man of Her Dreams draws on The Little Mermaid fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson for inspiration.
In the original story (with no reference to Disney, please!), the mermaid’s goal is to gain an immortal soul—something, according to folk belief, that supernatural beings do not have. So she sacrifices her voice to become human for the chance to make a prince fall in love with her and thus obtain an immortal soul.
In The Man of Her Dreams, I flip this idea to put my unique spin on the story. My hero Owain is a supernatural being—but in this case a cursed one, forced to exist for some of the time as a water horse. His deepest desire is to break the curse and live as a mortal with the (mortal) woman he loves and so he makes a dangerous bargain with the Fairy Queen.
Anderson’s HEA for the little mermaid did not include a prince. When this first quest fails, the mermaid unknowingly passes another test—she refuses to kill the prince for a chance to return to the sea— and is rewarded with the promise of an immortal soul. Owain, too, faces a challenge to achieve his happily-ever-after.
Putting a distinctive twist on a favorite but familiar plot offers readers a chance to revisit and rethink their expectations. Consider:
Cinderfella by Susan Wiggs from Merry Christmas, Baby! (Harlequin, 1996) = you guessed it from the title, “Cinderella” is a man and the glass slipper is a cowboy boot!
Red by Jordan Summers (Tor, 2008) = the book’s tagline reads, “What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf turned out to be the same person?”
What are some of your favorite Fairy Tale re-takes?
[Reference: The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales. Edited by Jack Zipes.]