Elizabeth Blackwell recreates Sleeping Beauty — plus a giveaway!

Elizabeth Blackwell - While Beauty Slept

When I came across Elizabeth Blackwell’s While Beauty Slept, I knew instantly that I had to get her over to Skipping Midnight! Described as The Brothers Grimm meets The Thirteenth Tale, it puts a mysterious new spin on the fairy tale we’ve all grown up with. 

After the interview, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of While Beauty Slept.

Elizabeth BlackwellReimagining classic fairy tales has become almost as timeless as the original stories themselves. How did the idea for While Beauty Slept come about?

While Beauty Slept is not the official Disney version of the story, but the idea for the book came from watching Sleeping Beauty many, many times with my daughter. The movie has a very distinctive visual style, which I found out was based on medieval tapestries. I began to wonder, “What if this story really happened sometime in the past?” Once I figured out how certain events could be explained without magic, I started envisioning the larger world in which the fairy tale takes place. And I kept going from there!


I imagine this required a bit more research than a modern love story. Can you talk a bit about your process?

Well, the honest answer is that I didn’t have to do too much research, because I purposefully set the book in an unidentified time and place. I wanted it to feel like medieval Europe and be true to that time period, but I didn’t want to get bogged down with specific kings or queens or battles. Any story set in a generic “fairy tale land” forces readers to use their imagination to some extent, and I wanted my readers to have that same experience.

That’s not to say I made up everything from scratch. I had to create rules for my made-up land, and decide how technically advanced that society would be, what the people ate, what they wore, etc. I’ve always loved historical fiction, and books like Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett’s book about the building of a medieval cathedral, gave me a sense of what everyday life was like at that time. (See—reading books you love can count as research!)


What do think people will love most about this book? What do you love about it?

Hopefully, people will like and appreciate the historical-fiction approach. Fairy-tale retellings are often fantasies, and they certainly lend themselves to that genre. You can do amazing things in fantasy. But since I’m a big history nerd, I’m personally attracted to stories that have a basis in real life. I have heard from readers who enjoyed the realistic twists on those iconic Sleeping Beauty moments: the curse, the spinning wheel, the deep sleep. You know they’re coming, but you don’t know exactly how they’ll happen, and I really enjoyed finding a fresh way to approach those elements of the story.

I also really love my narrator, Elise, who is a servant from a poor family who rises in the castle hierarchy. I’m a sucker for Upstairs, Downstairs/Downton Abbey-type stories, and Elise gave me the opportunity to explore this world from different perspectives. I don’t think While Beauty Slept would have been nearly as interesting if it were told solely from the princess’s perspective.


In the spirit of Desperately Ever After and While Beauty Slept, I must ask: If you had to choose, which fairy tale character (doesn’t have to be a princess and doesn’t have to be Disney), would you be and why?

This is such a fun question, but also really hard, since so many fairy-tale characters go through such awful things. At this point in my life, I’d love to have a Cinderella moment: I have kids, and I do a lot of cleaning up and laundry, and it would be great to have a fairy godmother show up, give me a free makeover, and whisk me off to a royal ball. I guess eventually I’d come back to my family (just kidding, guys! Of course I would!), but it would be fun to live out her story for a while.

Even with a large publishing house like Putnam/Penguin, it’s often hard to get your titles out there. How do you make sure your work reaches its target audience?

This is a subject I’ve been grappling with a lot over the past few months. Many (most?) writers are introverts and are perfectly content to sit alone at their desks for hours. But once you’ve got a book out, you’ve got to think like a marketer, which is not something I have much experience with. I will say that book bloggers have been a huge source of support for me (which is why I love doing Q&As like this one). It’s been really fun and rewarding to connect with other people who are passionate about reading and love to discover new writers. Goodreads is another place I try to stay active, and I’ve found a lot of good books that way. Facebook and Twitter are musts for writers these days, but you don’t want to be obnoxious about promoting yourself. I try to talk about what I’m reading and comment on other authors’ pages—it’s a way of paying it forward and being part of the larger writing community.


A writer’s life is certainly not an easy one—from rejections to dwindling sales, to tough reviews, and so on. How did you get through the bad days?

Rejection is an unavoidable part of being a writer. It’s just part of the business, and if you can’t handle it, then you’re better off doing something else. It’s natural to get discouraged when an agent says no or you get a bad review, but over time I’ve learned to accept criticism as a temporary hit. It’s discouraging in the moment, but something I’ll eventually move on from. As I was getting rejected by agents (and later when I started reading online reviews of my book) it really helped to remember that I myself don’t love every book. I read a lot, and sometimes a book can be well-written but it just doesn’t grab me. So I have to accept that other readers might feel the same way about my work.

We all have bad days, and you should treat yourself to whatever you need to get through a rough patch (cookies, chocolate, binge-watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries, etc.). But ultimately, the only cure is to get back to writing and produce something you’re proud of, even if it’s just a paragraph. If you literally cannot stop writing—despite the rejections—then congratulations! You’re a writer!


What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you can share with aspiring writers?

My writing style is nothing like his, but there’s a piece of advice from Elmore Leonard that I love, which is to leave out the boring parts. When you’re writing plot-driven fiction, you have to keep things moving. For me, that means adding just enough description so that the reader can get create their own mental picture, but no more. It’s advice that forces me to be really ruthless when it comes to editing: if a sentence or paragraph doesn’t move the plot along or explain a character, then it gets cut.


What can fans expect from you next?

I’m currently working on my next book, which is a multigenerational family saga set in the American Midwest. It’s a very different setting from While Beauty Slept, but has many of the same Gothic elements: a mysterious mansion, power struggles, and an examination of what it means to be a woman and a daughter in that particular society. No publication date yet, but hopefully I’ll have news on that soon.


In addition to checking her website, ElizabethBlackwellBooks.com, be sure to keep up with Elizabeth on Twitter (@eblackwellbooks) and Facebook. She promises, “I’ll never fill up your news feed with cat videos or pictures of what I cooked for dinner!” Her books are available at both Amazon.com (US) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).


Elizabeth Blackwell - While Beauty SleptComment below to win a  copy of While Beauty Slept (US addresses only, please). The giveaway will remain open until 11:59 p.m. (PST) Tuesday, May 13, at which point TWO winners will be chosen at random.

Best of luck to you all!



dfw-lk-dea-cover-midIn honor of International Chick Lit Month and Mother’s Day, Desperately Ever After has been marked down once again, in both print and e-book formats. If your mother misses “Desperate Housewives” …  if she could use a laugh … if she’s ever referred to her home as her “castle” or poked fun the notion of “damsels in distress” … give her an early beach read with Desperately Ever After 😉

Click here for Amazon US or here for Amazon UK   



TALAMN coverNext Wednesday, May 14, bestselling author Miranda Dickinson stops by to talk about her phenomenal career, give away a signed copy of Take a Look at Me Now, and whet our appetites for what’s coming next. Mark your calendars!


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Filed under Author Interviews, Contests

42 responses to “Elizabeth Blackwell recreates Sleeping Beauty — plus a giveaway!

  1. I have always loved fairy tales in their original forms, much grittier and darker than the Disney versions. ( I still pick up my “Blue Fairy Book” published in 1929 for a reread.) Your retelling of Sleeping Beauty from a less-than-royal point of view is intriguing, and your saga as a writer is interesting, too. I also agree that Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice are balm for the soul! Congratulations on your book.

    • It’s so true, Cathy. I was amazed when I began researching the original tales for Desperately Ever After. Granted, I opted not to have Cinderella’s stepsisters chop up their feet or lose their eyeballs … but it’s really interesting to see what Disney’s sugar-coated tales are based on.

  2. Great interview! And the book sounds fascinating – adding it to my TBR list!

  3. I was really inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell’s experience & her story . I have been trying to write stories in the same vein, but have has no success so far.
    Laura you continue to inspire and encourage me and I look forward to reading Ms Blackwell’s book.

  4. rinib

    Wow, I love how fairy tales are an inspiration (and I also want a fairy godmother to come to the house and wave her wand). Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. What a great interview. I’ve seen this book on Goodreads and have been curious from the start. I love Elizabeth’s comment that reading other books can be considered research. It absolutely IS. I’m fascinated that she did so little historical research — but did so purposely so that the reader can fill in the fairytale setting/details on her own. Thanks for the chance to win!

  6. rgdole

    That’s what I love about the retelling of fairy tales… is that there are so many different ways to approach them… it keeps it interesting every time I find one… it’d be interesting to see Sleeping Beauty out of the fantasy realm and into a more historical fiction setting…

  7. jerylt

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  8. This book has been on my to-read shelf on Goodreads for months! So I was excited to see the interview, and have a chance to win a copy! 🙂

  9. Kimberly V

    This sounds like a great book. I love the Gothic elements and the time period in which it is set.

  10. I love fairy tales. Excited to see this updated version.

  11. bn100

    Sounds like an interesting book

  12. Lisa

    Great interview. Will be adding to my reading list! Amazing how fairy tales are being reinvented……….love it!

    • Between all the Hollywood remakes, TV’s Once Upon a a Time and Grimm, and all the books, we seem to be in a golden age of fairy tale reinvention. I’m honored to be a part of that 😉

  13. Cool interview. I had no idea so much research went into the foundation for a project in this arena. Because this is a new genre for me, (I’m not scared to broaden my horizons) what is the target market for a project like this? When you are writing a novel like this who is the ideal reader you’re thinking of? (Or age range) I know its a huge market-and probably a silly question. But it seems like a really great book, and obviously much more than a fairy tale or statement about them. Almost like an “adult” version of a an awesome story line. I think someone mentioned “Ever After.” Which I thought was great. Thanks for the interview and time. (I just came here trying to find a picture of a silver dog-which I still have not found-ahhmm.)

    • Thanks for the interest! In terms of “target market,” when I was writing the book, I was definitely thinking adults, although everyone assumed YA once I mentioned Sleeping Beauty. Laura and I both are examples of how fairy tales can be adapted for grown-up readers, and I hope word gets out that these types of stories are not just for kids!

      I loved Ever After, too. As far as pop culture goes, I’ve been describing my book as a cross between Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey 🙂

      • It’s so true, Elizabeth. When I had to list similar authors for Desperately Ever After, the adult market only seemed to include Gregory Maguire and Carolyn Turgeon. Everyone else was YA or a rom com set in modern times and only loosely based on a fairy tale theme. I’m so glad to be a part of this new movement!

      • Thanks for the Reply! That’s a great pitch! I used to write and edit screenplays and was often amazed how great writers were terrible at comparing works in a pitch session. Obviously with books its quite different-but amazingly helpful when approaching new readers. For instance-(I take care of my mom who has Lupus-I have been desperately trying to get her into Game of Thrones-(but the Lanister Bedroom Habits are a tough sell–but she loves Downton Abbey)-So I am excited for a new project to read to her-Plus with an adult adaptation-I won’t need to do voice’s like at the children’s hospital in the fairy tales I am used to (although I still might-LOL-It’s fun for me too-Haha, just teasing)-I am really excited for something new though. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply to my questions-(I am terrible at WP or I would have replied quicker). FYI-I am tempted to put some old “pitches” up and see who “likes them”–“The Exorcist meets Mary Poppins in Space.” It was a huge film! Thanks again for the insight. I hope to see you or Laura at an event sometime and dig into some sales strategy theories from a writers perspective (I am fascinated by new ideas-especially from fun authors who write things I am not yet familiar with)-But I hope to be a “grown-up reader” someday-and can’t wait to get my hands on your recent books!

    • Thanks for stopping by. You must be talking about my silver Labrador, Shadow. You can read about him here and by following the links in that post.

      • OOH Thanks! That’s a really cool blog too. I love finding fun stuff and will dream of silver puppies. Thanks for everything!

      • I am so confused by WordPress! Also-I think I “pinned a picture of you in an interview on some couch” and I can’t take it down. Because I know your blog has awesome genres I don’t fit into I wanted to ask your advice. I really want to do a blog tour and meet some readers. I have some Hardcover Books to giveaway. I brought a 100 to BEA and ran out in 15 minutes! and was on the Rush Limbaugh show, although I can’t figure out why still. LOL. Any advice on someone, or some blog whose readers might be interested? Thanks for any advice you could give me. The pub date is less than a month away and I am freaking out. Ohh Also I tried to do a Raffle Copter http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b7d5075/

  14. Holly B

    I would love to win a copy of this book! It sounds amazing! Thanks for the great giveaway!

  15. Thank you for the chance and the opportunity to meet an author that is new to me.

  16. Good luck, everyone–loved your comments. And thanks again to Laura for hosting me!

  17. I love reading fairy tales re-told. I hope to win a copy of this as it sounds great. Thanks for the chance! cosgrove.julia@yahoo.com

  18. The book sounds fascinating – adding it to my TBR list!

  19. Ms. Blackwell has revamped a beloved fairy tale and she has also made it for adults. I appreciate the chance to enter the giveaway but whether I win or lose the book is going on my to read list on Goodreads!

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