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.
SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER
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!