As a way to celebrate the release of A Wish Made of Glass, I’m doing a series of interviews with other authors who have written retellings or renditions of the Cinderella story. I’ve got some pretty spectacular authors lined up, so I hope you’ll join me every Monday from today until August 3rd.
In the first of these interviews I am hosting the lovely Shonna Slayton. She is the author of Cinderella’s Dress (June 2014) and its sequel, Cinderella’s Shoes (October 2015).
Without further ado, here’s what Shonna has to say about writing her re-vamp of this age-old tale . . .
How difficult was it for you to come up with a fresh plot for such a well-known story? Were there any tricks you used to imagine a new angle on the theme?
My two Cinderella novels are spin-offs of the original story, told from the point of view of the descendants of all the characters. The novels are set in New York City during the 1940’s starting from around D-Day in 1944 until the summer of 1947 where I move the cast to post-WWII Europe.
I had been going through a fairy-tale binge when the ideas for Cinderella’s Dress started to take shape, but I never intended to write my own retelling. So many people had already produced such wonderful retellings that I was too intimidated to try my hand at it. Instead, I wanted to “tell the rest of the story” using the objects Cinderella might have bequeathed to her children: her dress, her glass slippers!
When I was younger my parents dragged me around to antique stores, and at the time I hated it, but now I have a fascination with old objects and the stories they silently keep. What would Cinderella’s children…grandchildren…great grandchildren do with her dress? Her shoes? Would the children fight over them? Would these items remain full of fairy-tale magic? If so, what could they do? These are some of the concepts that had me daydreaming a new angle for the well-known story.
What original storylines, scenes, characters or props did you feel you just had to retain from the original Cinderella to use in your own version?
During the first draft I started to parallel the Cinderella story pretty closely. Almost like a retelling where my main character, Kate, had a wicked stepmom, and she had an older sister who took advantage of her, but not far into the writing I realized that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. I really wanted to change it up even more.
Back in medieval times there was a job called “Keeper of the Wardrobe.” As the job title suggests, a keeper maintained the clothing of the royal family. I latched onto that role and made Kate’s family the descendants of the original Keeper. They became the ones responsible for the safety of the dress. And since the 1940’s was a pivotal time in fashion, I had a lot of fun placing the story in an upscale department store, and talking about the arrival of Dior’s New Look.
Now, for the sequel, Cinderella’s Shoes, which comes out in October, I had a bit of fun with adding more references to classic Cinderella tropes. Some are obvious, but others more subtle. The story moves from New York to Europe so it seemed appropriate to add more fantasy to the sequel the closer my characters got to the source, so to speak.
What type of research, if any, did you do for your retelling? How deeply into the history of Cinderella did you dig?
I didn’t research the original Cinderella tales very much at all, since I was only taking pieces from the story. For Cinderella’s Dress I spent most of my research time learning about New York in the 1940’s, department store window dressing, and 1940’s fashions. I was thrilled to discover actual historical events to tie my plot points to. (Seriously thrilling—often gave myself goosebumps over it!)
For Cinderella’s Shoes, I dove into research of post WWII Europe. This research was a bit trickier considering much of what we know from Eastern Europe has only recently come to light. As an English speaker studying Polish history, I felt frustrated at the lack of information available compared to the wealth of information that was available for New York during this same time period. Nonetheless, I did find some fascinating bits of info that I was able to include in the story. Much of what I learned about WWII and the aftermath was quite terrible, but given that I was not writing a realistic novel like Code Name Verity, I put a lot of what I learned into the backstory of a new character, and only hinted at what she went through during the war.
Do you have plans for more retellings? If so, could you give us a hint as to which fairy tale(s) they may be based on?
I do! This summer during Camp NaNoWriMo I am writing a new fairy-tale/historical mashup, and if you check out my Pinterest boards, you could come up with a pretty good guess as to both the fairy tale and the historical time period.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Ashlee! I’ve enjoyed following your publishing adventures this past year and look forward to more fun with you.
Thanks, Shonna! Sooo fun to visit with you, as always!
Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she’s working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.
Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.
After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.
(Available Oct 6, 2015)
The war may be over, but Kate Allen’s life is still in upheaval. Not only has she discovered that Cinderella was real, but now she’s been made Keeper of the Wardrobe, her sole responsibility to protect Cinderella’s magical dresses from the greed of the evil stepsisters’ modern descendants.
But Cinderella’s dresses are just the beginning. It turns out that the priceless glass slippers might actually exist, too, and they could hold the power to reunite lost loved ones like her father—missing in action since World War II ended. As Kate and her boyfriend, Johnny, embark on an adventure from New York to Italy and Poland in search of the mysterious slippers, they will be tested in ways they never imagined.
Because when you harness Cinderella’s magic, danger and evil are sure to follow…
FIND SHONNA HERE
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