Before I do that, just so you know what to expect in the Tuesday posts, I’ll talk about things relating to writing from the points of view of readers and writers; the progress of my current work-in-progress; book and film reviews; short-short stories; and any interesting news that I’ll want to share.
My next novel is a retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. After discussing it with my editor, we both agree that the title of ‘The Sleeping Curse’ works well. To be honest, I was hoping to publish it this summer. Although there’s nothing stopping me doing just that, I’ve decided a major rewrite will make it a better story, and that’s thanks to my editor, Cassandra. I'd gotten too close to the story, if that makes sense, and couldn't ‘see’ it any other way, but Cassandra brought a fresh perspective and broadened my thinking.
I started writing this back in 2003/04. ‘Sleeping Beauty’ has always been a fairy tale I enjoyed, but, as I got older and experienced relationships, I started to wonder about the ‘happily ever after’ ending. I mean, the couple hardly knew each other. And if we go with the earlier versions – namely Giambattista Basile’s ‘Sun, Moon and Talia’ (published posthumously in his 1634 work, ‘Pentamerone’) and the earliest known version, which was found in the anonymous prose ‘Perceforest’ (composed in the 14th century and first printed in 1528) – it wasn’t the prince’s kiss that woke the sleeping princess. What broke the curse was her baby sucking on her finger and drawing out the flax from the cursed spindle. Yes, readers, the prince had raped the sleeping princess! Not only had he left her pregnant, he also left her! And she gave birth to twins while still asleep (let’s not think too much about that one, shall we?!).
Anyway, back to the couple barely knowing one another… I started to wonder what their ‘ever after’ might have been. Were they happy? How did the princess cope? What about her parents and their courtiers, all those who had been asleep? How different would life have been 100 years later? Were her parents happy to let their daughter marry someone whose parentage they knew nothing about?
At the time, I was reading ‘Realm of the Ring Lords’ by the late Laurence Gardner, a fascinating book, which traced the legends of the Ring and the Holy Grail through history. He covered a whole host of topics in this book, from Ringlords to magic swords and dragon kings to name but a few.
What fired my imagination and got me thinking about the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story was what he referred to as the elf lords and elf maidens. According to Gardner, in the Gaelic world, certain royal families were said to carry fairy blood, while the elf maidens were the chosen "guardians of the earth, starlight and forest".
In my story, I have that the princess is the daughter of an elf lord sent to the human realm for safety. I changed the fairies who bless her to elves who derive their power from gems, and I named them accordingly. In my story, the prince and princess know each other from a young age, and spend time getting to know one another before they’re married. The ‘wicked’ fairy is also a gem elf who’s been banished and she seeks revenge against the princess to augment her powers so she can return to her own realm more powerful than before.
I thought I’d made it different enough for a retelling, but Cassandra believes I can do much better. We batted a few ideas about and I now have to decide which ideas will work best, and get down to rewriting the story.
Not long ago, I know I’d have been quite disheartened with the thought of having to do such a major rewrite, but I’m actually excited about it. Once I’m happy with its progress, I’ll start posting more about it and keep you updated.
What about you? Did your read fairy tales as a child? Which was your favourite? And do you still like the same one as an adult? Let me know in the comments below.