If there’s something I’ve said over and over (and over and over) while promoting Olde School since it’s release, it’s that I love fairy and folktales. While I’ve probably talked this to death, I do feel like sometimes I have to re-direct what exactly these types of stories mean to me and why I love them.
I get it’s cliche for every little girl (and every big girl’s inner little girl) to want the happy ever after, the prince, the castle, the singing happy little birds and all that…
…..which is completely not the reason I like fairy tales.
While I definitely saw my share of Disney movies in the theatre (Thank you, constant theatrical re-releases of the 1980s), from the start I was made very much aware that there were other versions of the stories. The first time I saw Cinderella, my dad pointed out as we were leaving the theater that they left out the bit where the step sisters cut off their toes and heel. After I stopped feeling mildly horrified, I couldn’t help but think that that bit of conniving would make so much more sense than the two ladies in the movie pouting and whining (especially after such a fantastically violent scene where they spoil Cinderella’s first dress). Little tidbits like that came up all the time. This happens when one of your parents’ best friends from high school ends up becoming a leading folklore scholar and you steal all the books sent to your parent and read them yourself. So from an early age I was aware that there was something more, something I was missing.
As i grew up I discovered kids collections of different fairy tales from around the world and was amazed at how different and how epic some of the adventures that these so-called boring heroines went on. They also suffered many, many different forms of abuse at many different hands – “real” and magical. What struck me was as much as magic played a part, a lot of the characters (male and female) also really strove to fix things for themselves. Not all of them waiting around for someone else to solve their problems.
That’s probably the reason I love fairy and folktales. As much as I adore mythology of different sorts, to me those tales give us explanations of things and tales of larger than life heroics, monsters, and power. Fairy tales (to me, anyway) is what happens when the world happens to regular people. Most of the time the protagonists aren’t particularly bright or powerful or out of the ordinary. They’re just like anyone you’d meet on the street (or at the edge of a forest). Yet they are able to dig deep and think on their feet when they have to. They make mistakes and suffer the consequences and keep going. While there’s a non-emotional, disconnected quality to fairy tales, that always served to help me look at the stories objectively, really inserting myself into every character to see what I would do if faced with their problems. This was especially important during my teenage years – both in learning to develop characters first for the stage and then for the page, plus as moral support in facing my own life problems.
And then I discovered the work of Clarissa Pinkola Estes and my brain broke open with love of stories and what they meant. Seriously, if you want some really hardcore Jungian study (that’s women-centric for the most part, but she’s done other work, as well), you cannot get better than Women Who Run With the Wolves. She’s used myths and other types of tales in her other work, but it’s her specific take on a lot of folktales that really spoke to me. I’ve probably read that book at least ten or fifteen times, and I get something out of it every time I do. I think as a sixteen or seventeen year old I had this theory that if I read it carefully and learned everything I’d save myself a lot of heartache later by doing everything right……
yeah I’ll just wait while everyone stops laughing…
….and then of course I went and fell in a lot of ditches anyway, because that’s what you do growing up. That’s what you do living life. That’s what regular people do, that’s what any kind of person does….that’s what the protagonists in the stories I love did. And by having the examples of Allerleirauh, Vasiissa, Katie Woodencloak, the skeleton woman, the lady at the center of Bluebeard’s castle, and so many others gave me hope that I could work out a solution to whatever it was that I was going through. As I’ve said before, heroines and princesses don’t just wear crowns and are rescued and act pretty. Some of them escape tragic situations, fight trolls, and outsmart curses.
If they can do that, I think I can take a deep breath and make it through the metaphorical woods one step at a time until I get to the next part of my own story. It’s a thought that’s always stayed with me, and it amazes me that something so deep can be found in these so-called simple little tales.
Olde School isn’t as deep per say, but I do think there’s something to be said for unusual heroes acting out-of-the-box, for kindness and compassion being just as important as clubs and maces. I definitely play with the thought process that nothing is what it seems in fairy tales and there is always, always something to be learned. I even include an appendix in the back to make sure I mention the major tales the book pays tribute to.
If people enjoy the book, then I’m happy. If they talk about it and look forward to the next one, I’m deliriously happy. If it makes people think a little, I’m ecstatic. If it gets people to realize that there is far more magic in the world and in pages than they first thought….then that’s a happily ever after that I’m thrilled to contribute to.
Book One of The Kingdom City Chronicles
Cross-Genre: Fantasy, Fairy/Folktale, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Horror
Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs than cause trouble. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they’re just fodder for the next movie franchise. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as magic. It’s all old superstition and harmless tradition.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Paddlelump Stonemonger is quickly coming to wish he’d never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it’s also brought him unwanted attention from the Lord Mayor. Adding to his frustration, Padd’s oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. When a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest, he doesn’t think much of it. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he’ll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap’s diner. It’s enough to make the troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians