For my final post in the Cinderella Schemes interviews, I’m thrilled to welcome the epic Cameron Dokey. She is, as most of you are aware, the author of the acclaimed Once Upon a Time series of fairy tale retellings. She’s with us today to discuss her own spellbinding Cinderella story, Before Midnight, and the universal truths we can glean from Cinderella herself.
Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea for your retelling? What was it? How did it come about?
There was a very specific spark for the direction my re-telling ended up taking. I like to do quite a bit of research, reading as many variations of the “original” story as I can. One thing I discovered very quickly about Cinderella was that, in its earliest versions, her father is alive during the events of the story (though he’s not a very active character). This totally blew me away. What kind of guy lets this happen to his own daughter? I wondered. And that was the genesis for my re-telling right there.
The other thing that putting a living father back into the story accomplishes is that it also let me do some re-thinking about the stepmother and stepsisters. I don’t know that I can claim that re-thinking the stepmother/stepsisters is a completely new idea, but I really did want to sort of rehabilitate them. If we jettison the notion that the stepmother is a straight out villain, what might her motivations for “mistreating” a stepdaughter be? Could it be as simple as a series of misunderstandings, eventually sorted out? I really enjoyed that aspect of the re-telling.
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?
One of the tricks about any re-telling is that you have to decide what you can and cannot do without. In the case of Cinderella, I think you need a ball, a glass slipper, and a pumpkin! They’re just such touchstones. And you need the stepmother and stepsisters and a prince, of course. But, as I hope I’ve successfully shown, just because you have to have them, they don’t have to behave quite the way that readers expect. Deciding what the core of the story is for you as a writer is not only fun, it also lets you decide what can stay and what might go.
What themes from Cinderella do you think resound well for readers today? What themes or lessons did you personally take away from this fairy tale?
It has always seemed to me that one of the core lessons of the Cinderella story is the notion that, eventually, you will be seen and honored (or punished) for being who you truly are. I think, even more than the “she gets the prince” angle, this is what keeps us coming back to this particular story. She is misunderstood, put upon–in many versions we would say abused–but eventually, she comes out right. She stays true to herself, and her worth is recognized. I think we’d all like to believe that this aspect of this fairy tale that could come true for us. That someone will see us for who we really are no matter what the surface might suggest, no matter what others might say about us. And that, having seen us, they will love who we are and give us the opportunity to love in return. Now that’s a happy ending!
It was an honor to visit with you, Cameron. Thanks so much for visiting Finding the True Fairy Tale!
Find out more about Cameron and her books here:
Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.
The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants’ care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon’s father, and her arrival changes their lives.
When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon’s new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny — a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are.