Now that I’ve pontificated about what my debut novel is NOT (click here to view On Desperately Ever After — Part I), perhaps I should explain what I was trying to accomplish in the first place.
Like so many women today, I grew up on Disney movies and fairy tales. According to my mother, I saw The Little Mermaid in theaters at least a dozen times (take that, Titanic!), and I definitely made my family listen to every sing-along I could find during our four-hour drives to Cape Cod (sorry guys). Even as late as high school, my friends and I often debated (sometimes quite contentiously) which of us was Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Ariel (me), Snow White, etc. The designations we came up with were based purely on looks, of course, but isn’t that pretty much how the princes determined their true loves anyway?
Then… shocker… I grew up. I got to know the real world. I experienced heartbreak and cursed the very notion of “true love” as a bunch of poison we were all force fed as a generation. I took a second look at the tales I used to love and wondered how each princess would have really felt in her situation. What would they have said if they had the freedom to do so? If their choices weren’t marriage, poverty or spinsterhood? If they had the luxury of deciding between the story’s chosen hero, someone else, or self-sufficient independence.
Was Cinderella really happy to trade indentured servitude for the confines of a royal life? How did Rapunzel fare when she got out of her tower? Could Sleeping Beauty have actually fallen for a stranger who found her in a bed and was presumptuous enough to kiss her? Did Beast really change when Beauty broke his curse? And did Beauty truly want to marry him in the first place, or was she just that filled with guilt over nearly getting him killed?
Admit it. These are all questions we’ve wondered at one time or another. Tim Manley, creator of Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings and the new book Alice in Tumblr-land, pokes fun at them with quite hilarious results in his cartoons.
But there’s a difference between examining the characters Disney hid behind a rose-tinted lens, and leaping to the opposite extreme entirely. Making them more realistic is not the same as making them miserable. If that was the case, what does that say about us?
The characters in Desperately Ever After — each of whom I’ve come to love like the truest flesh-and-blood friends — still live in a world slightly different from our own. But while they have castles, they also have cities. While they have crowns, they also have rush hour. Like us, they get pushed to the edge. They ignore problems that are right in front of their faces. They pretend they feel one way because they think it protects them, when really they feel the complete opposite.
Just like in our world, the villains in the United Kingdoms of Marestam aren’t cut and dry, the heroes aren’t perfect, and happy endings are never really endings at all.
Check back Wednesday for an interview with Dana Gynther, fabulous author of Crossing on the Paris!