Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day Three of Maureen McGowan's Release Week

Hello everyone, my name's Donnell Ann Bell and it's my turn to help celebrate Maureen's release week. Today, Maureen talks about her thought processes that went into these books. I know I was impressed. Tell us if you agree.

Donnell: Maureen, I just have to say I love fairy tales. You're talking to a person who has watched The Little Mermaid at least 15 times. When you described to me the story adaptation that brought about CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, I made the decision right then and there to pick up this book. You take the tried and true Cinderella fairy tale, in which the message to little girls is, let the prince save you. You, however, turn it into a kick-butt heroine who can darn well save herself. Love your message. What inspired you to create this version?

Maureen:Thanks, Donnell. When I was asked by the editor to take a shot at writing a proposal for a Cinderella story with a choose-your-own-adventure element, I jumped at the chance. But because the idea had come from the editor, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories the way I wanted. The editor assured me I’d have complete creative freedom. To test her assertion, I asked, “Can there be ninjas?” She said sure, and the rest is history.

I also liked the idea of “fixing” some of the elements of the traditional stories that bothered me. For example, the original Cinderella character was too much of a victim for my taste, waiting around for a handsome prince to save her. I wanted to create a strong heroine who was doing all she could to save herself. I also never liked the idea that the prince needed a shoe to recognize her the day after supposedly falling in love, or that he fell in love with her because of her beauty—beauty which he doesn’t recognize the next day when she’s out of her fancy dress. What kind of message does that send to modern young readers about love or their self-worth?

Donnell: Not much of an esteem builder at all. I so agree. Would you say the theme is still good vs. evil, or do you see something else in the storytelling?

Maureen: The traditional fairy tale themes of finding true love and good vs. evil are definitely in CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, but other themes in the story include: believing in yourself and seeing through the superficial to what really matters—the person inside.

Donnell: You have a prince in disguise and a fairy godfather. Will you tell us about those switches and what inspired those roles?

Maureen: I made the decision about the godfather right from the start. One of the first things that popped into my mind as I started working on this book, (after ninjas), was the line, “Hi, I’m Fred, your fairy godfather.” It just struck me as funny.

That line, minus the word “fairy”, ended up in the books. He’s actually her real godfather, not a fairy. But he has a magical secret, too… and that element is something I discovered organically while writing the opening pages.

The prince in disguise was a happy accident while writing—when he showed up at the door, I realized the messenger bringing the invitations to the ball wasn’t who he said he was—but in hindsight that element was essential to the story. I wanted Cinderella and the Prince to fall in love, so I needed to get him into the story well ahead of the ball—especially since, depending on the readers’ choices, Cinderella doesn’t necessarily go to the ball. The prince-in-disguise element also nicely ties together with the theme of seeing the true person inside.


Donnell: In SBVS, Sleeping Beauty is actually a beautiful girl named Lucette (meaning light). The story is similar to the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, with the exception that Lucette doesn’t fall asleep for 100 years, she pricks her finger at 16 and sleeps when the sun is up, while the rest of the kingdom sleeps when it’s night. (which is a bummer of a way to meet boys, I might add). The wicked stepmother isn’t a witch in this case, she’s actually a vampire. And a nasty one at that. Lucette will spend the awake-time training to defeat the Vampire Queen.

This fairy tale has some important lessons, too. Lucette not only fights prejudice, she learns that even though she’s cursed, doesn’t mean it’s her fault. Sounds to me like there’s some important self-esteem work going on in this story. When you write a story, do you have a theme in mind?

Maureen: I usually start with a theme in mind, but it always changes. When I wrote the synopsis for Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer it was primarily a story about prejudice. But as soon as I started writing, it became more of a child of divorce story. A common issue for kids whose parents fight is learning that it’s not their fault and no matter how hard they might try to keep the peace, they can’t control their parents’ relationship. This theme and/or story element popped out at me as soon as I started thinking about how parents might react if they knew their daughter was cursed. And then what would happen if each parent had a different idea of how best to protect her. It all flowed from there.

Donnell: You not only turn the traditional fairy tale, you alter the vampire legends as well. I’ll bet you weren’t a follower in junior high, were you? You like to buck trends. When you see a story as the status quo, do you always think of ways to mix it up?

Maureen: Ha! It’s true that I don’t like to be told what to do, that’s for sure. (I am a Taurus.) But I was probably more of a follower back then than I am now. I was one of those kids who learned the inherent rewards in pleasing adults (parents, teachers, coaches) early on, and was, I suspect, kind of a suck up in junior high. Maybe I’m making up for it, now?

Donnell: What’s next in your adventure as a writer, and what do you hope readers come away with when they read your stories?

Maureen: I’m working on a few things right now, but nothing I can talk about. While my new projects are also aimed at the young adult market, they will likely be darker and for the fourteen and over age group. The Twisted Tales series is suitable for readers as young as nine or ten—but fun for readers of all ages.

First and foremost, I hope that readers will enjoy CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR and SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER. While they do have themes, they aren’t “issue books” by any stretch of the imagination, and what I most want readers to experience is fun. They’re fast-paced, page-turning (I hope) adventure stories—but like most fairy tales, they also have romance and happy endings.

Bottom line: Happy endings are worth fighting for!

I'll say, Maureen. Can't wait to read both these book from cover to cover. Happy Release Week!

Question for Readers: In honor of Day 3 of Maureen's release week, we're giving away a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Nobel. But there's a little work involved. Do you have a movie or book that you watch or read over and over again? Tell us what makes it special for you. And of course, feel free to ask Maureen questions about these fab books!


  1. I re-read Lynsay Sands and Kerrelyn Sparks' vampire books often. I love the humor that is added to the romance.

    I used to love reading the "choose your own adventure" stories when I was young. You could re-read them and depending on what you choose, the story would change.

  2. I read The Beekeepers Apprentice over and over again because I adore Sherlock Holmes and always wanted him to have a romance with a woman who could match his brilliance.

    I also have read the cover off of The Devil In Winter (Lisa Kleypas), and Mary Balogh's More Than A Mistress. Perfection.

    My oldest will love your books (as will I!) She always disliked the princesses in the classic stories because they never "did" anything.

  3. I admit, I haven't reread a lot of stuff since I had kids and realized there's so much great new stuff (like these books!) and I'd never have time to get to them all. :) But I listen to the Harry Potter books every spring. The Princess Bride is the movie I can watch over and over forever. :)

    I'm looking forward to sharing these with Number Two! She loves when we read the same books and can talk about them.

  4. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite "fairy tale" to watch again and again!
    Can't wait to get your books for my daughter. I too always had a problem w/ the damsel in distress, waiting for the prince plot. These sound like a great twist!
    Wishing you many, many sales :)

  5. Maureen, How exciting! And what a unique take on old stories.

    I watch The Quiet Man several times a year. Love, love, love the John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara combo and the whole overcoming aspects of the story.

    Reading? Julie Garwood's Lion's Lady has been a favorite since forever. It can still make me laugh---that makes it a treasure. Karen Marie Moning's Immortal Highlander is my newest "read it again." Love the hero and heroine and the ridiculous situations his punishment and her "gifts" invoke. Fun read.

    Best of luck with these stories. I have a couple of nieces that will be getting these books for birthdays! {{{Hugs}}}

  6. Hello, all. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm pretty excited for my fellow crew member. I just love her slant on these fairy tales. As the mother of a girl (now a woman -- soooob), sports helped her break through any thinking that she needed a man to complete her. Maureen has carried these themes through in her stories. She's kind of like a public servant. Let's salute her ;) Loving your stories. I watch the movie Dave over and over again and An American President. Love powerful women who are equal to the challenge.

  7. Hi, found your site through Maureen's post on Goodreads! I just loved reading her books for review, can't wait to finally get copies in hand!

    Books I love and have reread multiple times? Probably my favorites are from authors: Grace livingston Hill, and Jeanette Oke - I have reread their books so many times, my books fell apart and I had to purchase new copies. I pretty much know them by heart, but still love to go back and reread them over and over.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

    Loves 2 Read

  8. The more I read about these books, the more excited I am to read them. I particularly like the new way you've done the Sleeping Beauty tale. Brilliant.

    Are there other authors of fairy tale retellings that you enjoy? I recently read Alex Flinn's Beastly and really enjoyed it.

  9. I re-read A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James quite a bit last yr. I like how the heroine changes from a shy girl to a confident woman....

    As for movies, I do love Beauty and the Beast and Princess Bride quite a lot... Love watching it all the time...

  10. Maureen, these books are wonderful! I love everything about them, as will all of the faithful readers you'll obtain after they read these. I predict legions of followers

    I can re-read LaVyrle Spencer until I'm cross-eyed, and Mary Jo Putney, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Mary Balogh and Jude Deveraux...the list goes on.

    Happy release week, Maureen!

  11. Fantastic interview, Maureen!

    For a gazillion reasons, I've watched "Moonstruck" over and over again. Hilarious, beautifully acted film, of course. I love the fact that Loretta finally finds true happiness by risking her heart and going against what's safe and expected, rescuing Ronny from a pretty grim existence along the way. And the movie asks serious questions about the meaning of life and love and what men and women want.

    In fact, I think I'll pop it in the DVD player again tonight.

  12. Sleeping Beauty slaying vampires at night? Cinderella learning to kick ass? Sooo creative, Maureen. I am jealous of your awesome ideas!

    It's one of those days I wish I could be entered in our own contests, lol. I'll just have to buy these :)

  13. Hi Maureen and Donnell,
    Hilarious titles! My 13year old wants to know if you're going to redo all fairy tales! Sounds like you had a lot of fun writing these books and to me (a writer) that is sooo important.

    Congrats on your wonderful success!


  14. June M, Thanks again! The funny thing about choose your own adventure books, is that I had NEVER read one. Some early readers have been disappointed that I didn't follow the same format as those books -- but because they were fairy tales, I decided to deliver on the happy ending regardless of the path readers' choose. No -- "Bad choice--you die!"

    Gillian, I hope your daughter loves them. I gave an ARC to my twelve year old niece and she loved it and so did her friends who she passed it on to.

  15. Natalie, thanks for coming by. I hope Number Two enjoys them. :)

    Jennifer, thanks to you, too! I also like the Beauty and the Beast story. It's the next one I was planning on tackling -- but in a VERY different way.

    Gwynlyn, I hope your nieces love them. :)

  16. Donnell, you are so sweet. :) Thank you.

  17. Great concepts of using fairy tales for romance books. I did one for a screenplay and enjoyed doing it.

    My favorite romance book is Carla Kelly's The Lady's Companion. I fell in love with the hero. It's one book I won't lend out.

    My favorite film is Snatch. A British movie made by Madonna's last husband. It's a heist movie filled with humor and has Brad Pitt as a scruffy Irish gypsy. Jason Statham is the lead character, plus has Benito Del Toro in a small part. To me, it's the perfect movie. I've watched it four times in one day! Saw something new in each viewing.

  18. Maureen,

    Can you explain how the choose-your-own-adventure feature works? I've never read a book with this format, but it sounds fascinating!

    As for books that I've read multiple times in the past year...Rebecca Stead's amazing WHEN YOU REACH ME and Jandy Nelson's exquisite THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE.

  19. Loves2Read, thanks again for reviewing the galleys! I am so in love with book bloggers. :)

    Trish, thanks for stopping by. I purposefully have been avoiding other fairy tale adaptations right now. I did watch the movie Ella Enchanted, which I hadn't seen (in a panic) when a marketing person at the *first* publisher for these books worried my Cinderella story was too similar. I thought that take on the story was hilarious... but other than magic being involved (and, um, there's magic inherent in Cinderella) the two stories don't have much in common. That was a huge relief!

    I haven't read yet, but am excited to read Robert Paul Weston's Dust City. It's not a fairy tale adaptation, per se, but uses fairy tale characters. The back cover tagline is something like, "When your father's in jail for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, life's no fairy tale".

    Love that. And Paul is another Toronto based writer.

  20. I'm so excited for these books to come out, Maureen! They sound awesome and fun and everything a fairy tale should be.

    I re-read all sorts of books from YA to Literary. In the Fairy tale realm, I love re-watching Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and How to Train Your Dragon.

    Have a fabulous release day!!!

  21. May, Princess Bride is one movie I've watched over and over and over, too. I don't think I could ever get tired of that movie.

  22. Shea, I loved How to Train Your Dragon, too. But it made me a little sad because I had never heard of it before it hit theatres and kind of killed my Snow White: Dragon Trainer idea... (But I have another Snow White idea up my sleeve...)

  23. Great question, Shelley

    The first publisher of these books wanted to bind the books with tabs... so the only restriction I had on how to set up the choose-your-own adventure element was that every section in the book had to be EXACTLY the same length. Boy was that a challenge!! And then the ultimate publisher (after the hiccup of the first one closing) didn't care about that... But the books were written at that point...

    I think the choose-your-own adventure books from the eighties and nineties had shorter sections, many of which ended in lines like: You die! Go back to page xx and pick again! When I was first offered the chance to write the proposal I picked up a more recent contemporary set series for teens and it also had "wrong" choices that ended in boyfriends dumping the characters, and things like that.

    I didn't want to do that...

    So, the way mine work is: three times during the stories, the reader is given a choice. (The character faces a decision.) Then there are alternate paths depending on the choice. BUT... there are also sections common to the story no matter which choice you follow and only one ending for each book... So, it's like parallel paths to the same ending.

    It was complicated to write them that way, but I figure we face decisions in life every day and there's rarely one that's "right" and one that's "wrong" -- just different. And my heroines are smart and brave enough to fight their way to their happy endings regardless of which of two viable choices they make. :)

    That was probably a longer answer than anyone wanted. LOL

  24. Hi, Maureen and Donnell!

    Maureen - thanks for the great post, and good luck with the books!

    In keeping with the fairy tales and going back to childhood, I love reading and viewing The Wizard of Oz.

    It's all about friendship, finding what you're meant to do (AKA your heart's desire), and arriving at a happy ending.


  25. Dale! I hope there will be more of these. I hope to announce something soon.

  26. Wow! I am always amazed at the creativity of others. Your stories sound wonderful, Maureen. Other than reading fairy tales to my grandchildren (Snow White is my favorite!)the only kid things I watch over and over are Pete's Dragon and Riki Tiki Tavi.

    Wishing you much success on your release week.

  27. Hi Maureen! Love the concepts for your books. Love the covers. And love, love, love the titles!

    From the very beginning my favorite story has been the LITTLE MERMAID (the Hans Christian Andersen version). I've read it many times (as a child and an adult) and the end always makes me cry.

    In the 70's or 80's (can't remember which) Reader's Digest made it into a short animated movie. They also made Oscar Wilde's THE SELFISH GIANT and THE HAPPY PRINCE into shorts and I became hooked on those as well. They showed them on TV every year and then I bought them and kept watching them. I've watched them too many times to count. They are all tear jerkers! So watch out!

    One of my other favorite movies to watch over and over again is also LADYHAWKE. There. I've finally said a story with a happy ending :)


    I have a surprise for tomorrow ! So everyone come back to see what it is.


    (And Jacqui, LADYHAWKE is one of my all time favorites!)

  29. AND MY favorite movie fairy tale to watch over and over and over is EVER AFTER...Dugray Scott is a dish & a half as the Prince.

  30. What great stories. Your heroines are much better role models for young girls - and older women - than the originals.

    We watch Love Actually over and over again. It's a movie that has everything - sad, funny, poignant, hilarious, and some of it's just sweet.

  31. I second EVER AFTER! I can watch that one over and over!
    My favorite books are: IT by Stephen King, Silken Savage by Catherine Hart (the heroine scalps people!) and UNTIL YOU and ALMOST HEAVEN by Judith McNaught.

    These books sound like a blast!

  32. Happy release week!
    I can watch Pride and Prejudice (KK version) over and over again! Guh. I adore it :-)

  33. My 12 year old is looking forward to reading these books! She is not a fairy-tale type person, but these sound so fun!

    I have to say, along the same lines of these books, a children's book I re-read and buy for all the little girls I know is The Paper Bag Princess. THis is the only fairy tale I ever read to my daughter when she was younger.


  34. There are a few movies I can watch over and over and never get tired of. Titanic and Pride and Prejudice are a few of them. I love anything Titanic related. I have been fascinated with it since I was really little.

    As for Pride and Prejudice. C'mon, who doesn't love it. It's just so good.


  35. I can read the Twilight series over and over again. Sometimes I get to the end of it and just start over! It really is that good!
    lexie.bookbug at gmail dot com

  36. There's a comedy called Noises Off that I could watch over and over and over again. In fact, I giggle just thinking about some of the lines. "Sardines!" *laugh*

    As for books, the old standby, Pride and Prejudice. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is right up there, too.

  37. I'm not going to count any Jane Austen movies - which I watch constantly! The other movies that I watch a lot are Robin Hood with Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman, and The Three Musketeers with Chris O'Donnel. Both movies have action and humor and are thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Our Robin Hood version wore out and we had to buy a replacement!

  38. I can't wait to read Cinderella Ninja Warrior (eagerly waiting for that Amazon package to get here..) The cover is beautiful!

    Cinderella was always my favourite fairy tale right after The Little Mermaid. I also loved the movies. So glad Ariel lived in the Disney version. The original story made me depressed when she dies and the Prince marries some other girl..

  39. I always loved fairy tales and I'm sooo curious to read your versions of them :)

  40. Thanks to everyone who entered! Getting ready to pick the winners now!