Author Archives: Parker Peevyhouse

About Parker Peevyhouse

Parker Peevyhouse writes science fiction for young readers. She loves puzzles of all types and is always up for a game of Clue. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a tutor for junior high and high school students. Her debut YA novel, FUTURES, will be published by Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin in 2015.

Goodbye, Lovely Readers

Goodbye Graphic #21You might not be aware that when this blog was created, the original group of posters agreed to keep it going for 843 days exactly. We had done some pretty complicated calculations on the shelf-life of a blog about speculative fiction for teens and pre-teens, with some assistance from several persons (and a robot) who arrived from the future to warn us about impending utopian conditions.

So here we are at Day 843, feeling compelled to say goodbye so that we can enjoy the sudden utopia we have been informed is about to be created on Earth. (We’ve been told there will be free iced coffee and several Harry Potter sequels for everyone.) We’d like to thank you, blog readers, for following us for so long (two and a half years! over 500 posts!). We’ve appreciated your comments and silent visits alike. We feel this has been a great opportunity to explore our thoughts on various topics important to us science fiction- and fantasy-lovers, and to chat with people we otherwise would never had known existed.

We hope that you will continue to visit us on other places on the web so that we can chat about books and hear your recommendations for what we should be reading and share thoughts about writing and publishing. You can find links to our websites here. Thanks, lovely blog readers, and Happy Reading!

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Book Talk: CHIME by Franny Billingsley

We hope some of you had a chance to read CHIME since we announced our Book Talk about a month ago. CHIME has received six starred reviews and has garnered a lot of praise around the web. The story follows Briony, a young woman living at the start of the twentieth century in Swampsea, where the swamp is being drained to make way for train tracks–and the monsters who lurk in the mud are angry about losing their home. In order to save her twin sister from a curse brought down by the Boggy Mun, Briony must stop the swamp from being drained, all while balancing her self-hatred and her new-found love for a boy who has just come to town.

Today, Joni Sensel and Parker Peevyhouse chat about the book. We hope you’ll comment with your own opinions on some of these topics. We’d love to hear what you thought of CHIME.

Joni Sensel: So, let’s talk about CHIME! I haven’t read it yet, but I’m intrigued by the swamp setting. Is it used well?

Parker Peevyhouse: Yeah, the swamp was COOL. The setting was fab. I loved the swamp, and all the creatures were varied and wondrous.

Joni: What’s the main character like?

Parker: Briony. She was really into hating herself — she took it to a new level. Okay, well, not Black Swan level. But high up there. When she was young, she used her “witchy” powers to knock her twin sister, Rose, off a swing. Rose hit her head and suffered some kind of brain damage. She’s since been rather off–but Rose is a wonderful character. I loved her. She has a great way of talking, very blunt, and always, “I don’t prefer to do this or that.”

Joni: That’s an interesting twin contrast — like one “good” personality and one bad in two bodies?

Parker: Well, Rose isn’t exactly “good.” She’s rather rude and always runs off. They’re both pretty mischievous. But it was hard for me to love Briony or connect with her, although I found her sense of humor sharp and creative.

Joni: How important do you think that kind of connection is for enjoying a book?

Parker: For me, it’s key. I liked the setting of CHIME, I liked a lot of the characters, and I liked the magic, but Briony wouldn’t let me get close. She has this STRANGE way of talking, of narrating. At one point she’s looking for Rose, is desperate to find her in the swamp and wants Rose to call out to her. She says, “Jab your scream into my ear squish.” I honestly don’t understand why Briony talked the way she did.

I thought maybe Briony is just so crazy with self-hatred that she can’t quite keep a hold on her sanity, but it’s hard to say. Briony is just an unusual girl, I suppose, and I like unusual, but there’s a fine line between unusual and un-relatable. I love to read an unusual book, I really do, but it’s got to have an anchor in that main character. This isn’t to say that Briony is categorically unlovable. I think her relatability will vary from reader to reader.

Joni: Was that kind of language something that took you out of the story?

Parker: I didn’t like most of the language, to be honest. There were some lovely bits swimming around in all these strange bits, some really beautiful descriptions. Briony kept saying that Eldric’s eyes were “switch-on eyes,” alluding to the electricity that is new to the time period of the story. I loved that.

Who’s to say what’s lovely and what’s strange? But a lot of it was a little too strange for me.

Joni: I understand the book has a romance. Was that satisfying?

Parker: The romance was wonderful. Many of the love interests of YA fantasy are brooding boys whom the main character finds instantly, irresistibly attractive. In contrast, Eldric is a somewhat ordinary young man whose relationship with Briony builds very slowly. (I suspect too slowly for some, but not for me.)

I was relieved to find that the author didn’t give Briony this “lust at first sight/soul mate” guy. Eldric was a nice guy with a great sense of humor, and he was really kind to Rose, Briony’s sister. And he and Briony played off each other well. The interchange of dialogue between the two was one of the book’s best aspects.

Joni: Kind of a “guy next door?”

Parker: A “Guy From the Big City Could Fit Right In With Us Swamp Folk.” He moves into town, they plan to share a tutor, so it makes sense that they fall for each other–they’re always around each other, and they get along well. Eldric has this great habit of toying with little novelties, like paperclips. Briony comes to appreciate that about him.

They really become friends first, which I like, even if it’s not as exciting as something like him hungering for her blood or her organs or whatever you see in other romances.

Joni: I just noticed the sisters’ names: Rose and Briony, like Rose and Briar. Is there a noticeable fairy tale underpinning in the book?

Parker: The author really points out that Rose and Briony both have flower names, but that Briony is a poisonous plant. The magical creatures play up that fairy tale aspect, too. There are witches — flying-naked-on-a-broom witches — very folksy.

Joni: Awesome!

Parker: There are also creatures like brownies, mud-things, and most importantly, the Chime Child. The Chime Child is a person born at midnight with connections to both the magical world and the real world. The story takes place early in the twentieth century, in a place where people still accuse young women of witchcraft and then hang them to see if they’ll burst into flames (if they don’t–oops! they were innocent after all). Because the Chime Child can see and interact with magical beings, she has an important role to play.

I think the title, CHIME, tells you that there’s going to be a lot about the play between the two worlds—magic and non-magic. Even Briony and her love interest, Eldric, follow this theme–she lives in a world where the Boggy Mun can infect children with swamp cough. He’s from a place where electricity and trains and paperclips are the norm.

Joni: It sounds very unusual. Not high concept. More complicated.

Parker: Yeah, it’s totally literary. Weird literary. My kind of book, usually!

Joni: Without spoilers, was the ending satisfying?

Parker: It’s hard to say, because Briony ends up having all her problems solved for her, but in a legitimate way. It works with the rules of the story world, and I was relieved to find an answer to her dilemma, but since I saw that answer coming, I didn’t get that last minute feeling of “Phew!” More like, oh good, that’s tidy.

Lots of secrets are revealed at the end, but there are quite a lot of clues all along the way. Some I picked up on, some I didn’t. Still, I never really believed Briony was in danger because there were hints that her dilemma could be worked out in the end.

Joni: Overall, it sounds like you’d recommend CHIME?

Parker: There is a lot to love, but it’s certainly different. I’d say read it, but don’t hate me if you don’t like it!

Joni: Ha ha! I won’t. Is there anything else you’d like to mention about it?

Parker: There are some lovely turns of phrase, and you know, it really is very fairy tale-ish: a stepmother, an emotionally absent father, deals made with dark creatures… What more can you ask for?

Joni: Not too much! Thanks, Parker. You’ve definitely piqued my interest in CHIME!

What did you think about CHIME? Were you able to connect with Briony and her experiences? How do you feel about her relationship with Eldric? What comments do you have about the setting? Did the ending meet your expectations?

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Interview: P. J. Hoover Talks About E-Publishing SOLSTICE (Part 2)

P. J. Hoover answers more of my questions about her new YA e-book, SOLSTICE, which she e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Read Part 1 of this interview.) SOLSTICE blends teen romance with dystopian elements with Greek mythology.

Parker Peevyhouse: What about marketing–is that all up to you or will the agency help with that? We friended your book on Facebook, by the way. :)

P. J. Hoover: Thanks. I think they will do what they can to help market the book as far as advertising on their Facebook page, and Laura Rennert will be talking about it at a panel at BEA.

Parker:  I would guess it’ll get press just from the angle of “ABLA takes psuedo-publishing role.”

PJ: I hope so.

Parker: What specifically will you do to market SOLSTICE? You’ve got the book trailer, your blog, this interview…

PJ: I plan to really focus on the online. There is no book party at a store to plan, no postcards to mail. So I am going to focus on blog tours, twitter… I’m going to Dallas Comic Con. I made trading cards to hand out with secret content–each card has a special QR code.

Parker: Those weird boxes that you take pictures of with your phone?

PJ: Yes, with a barcode scanner app. It takes you to a hidden website link with maybe a secret vlog or a deleted scene or a chapter from another character’s POV. That sort of thing.

Parker: So I will get one of these cards, when?

PJ: I’ll mail you some! Teens are totally savvy about these things. I handed out cards last Saturday at an event and had hits on my hidden links before I got home.

Parker: Wow. So your marketing will target teens, not gatekeepers like booksellers, librarians and teachers.

PJ: Librarians are definitely in the mix because you can loan out e-books.

Parker: How will sales of your e-book affect future sales of other projects to publishers?

PJ: I think with as much as the market is changing, my options are wide open. I also think, for my career, marketing is very important. I don’t think it’s enough for an author to e-publish a book and put it on Amazon and expect it to just take off. I really think author marketing is huge. HUGE.

Parker: Did author marketing work well for your EMERALD TABLET books [which were published by a small press, CBAY Books]? Is there a difference here?

PJ: There are a few differences. First, those books were middle grade. MG readers are not online, so online marketing is very hard. So much depends on librarians and bookstores. Also, the CBAY books are hardcover and priced at $16.95. Some parents are reluctant to spend that on a book for their kid. SOLSTICE is priced at $2.99. So now I have a book aimed at teen readers who are online and moms who are online. And it is less expensive than a cup of coffee.

Parker: Are you going to aim any marketing specifically at older women?

PJ: Yes, I would like to. It has enough romance in it that I think older readers will enjoy it, too. There are lots of blogs for teens that readers of YA love, and then there are writers, and romance blogs.

Parker: What’s your next project?

PJ: Well, I do plan to write a sequel to SOLSTICE, and I’m also working on another standalone YA but I’m not going to talk too much about it except to say that it’s the first thing I’ve written without mythology in it.

Parker: I ask because with Hocking and others it seems like the strategy is to get as many e-books out there at one time as possible to up visibility and keep the hype going. That’s not your strategy?

PJ: I would love to be able to write that fast, but I can’t. :) I do see the genius behind doing that, though. I may work on some short stories in the same world.

Parker: What if a publisher sweeps in and wants to publish the sequel(s)? Would you do that or stick with e-books? Is getting a contract with a “Big 6″ publisher your end goal?

PJ: For SOLSTICE?

Parker: For any book at all.

PJ: I certainly wouldn’t say I’m sticking with e-books forever and never traditionally publishing, but I’m not in the mindset that I have to be at a traditional publisher either. I think so much is changing that even in a year, it will look different.

Parker: So SOLSTICE is not a stepping stone?

PJ: No! It’s just an awesome way to get the book in the hands of readers.

Parker: Before the mythology/dystopia trend dies.

PJ: I think with dystopia we see so much of the same type of thing–the government is bad or the world is destroyed. But what I love about SOLSTICE is that it is a totally new take on the subject.

Parker: I happen to know what that take is and it is pretty cool :)

PJ: Thanks!

SOLSTICE is available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.

Parker Peevyhouse

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Interview: P. J. Hoover Talks About E-Publishing SOLSTICE

With the explosion of chatter online about authors who make their careers by self-publishing e-books, I was eager to talk with former Spectacle contributor P. J. Hoover about her new YA novel SOLSTICE, which has just been e-published with the help of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. This is a new model for literary agencies who are interested in finding a place in the e-publishing process, and P. J. explains here how that partnership worked in her case.

SOLSTICE is set in a future plauged by a Global Heating Crisis and is about a young woman who becomes entangled in a love triangle of Greek mythic proportions. It’s available now on Amazon and Smashwords, and will be available soon on Barnes&Noble.com.

Parker Peevyhouse:  It’s been a while since we’ve seen you here! Looks like a lot has been happening since then. Let’s hear about why you chose to self-publish. Why this book?

P. J. Hoover: This book is really timely for right now. It’s a mythology-based dystopian novel, and right now both of those elements are hot. I think the tipping point was really looking at the market and seeing the books that were coming out and knowing that even if we did sell to a traditional press it could take over a year to come out. Like even into 2013.

Parker: Which means you might miss the trend for dystopian or mythology-based novels.

PJ: And also, given how exciting all the e-book news is these days, it seemed like a really fun thing to do.

Parker: Had you previously submitted the manuscript to publishers?

PJ: My agent [Laura Rennert] and I had subbed a very different version earlier (about a year ago) with minimal dystopian elements. We got close to selling but never found the right fit.

Parker: How did you talk to your agent about self-pubbing?

PJ: I didn’t. I had a phone call scheduled with her to talk about what our submission strategy would be. We talked about that a bit and then she said, “Well, there is another option.” And she suggested the self-publishing route.

Parker: Was this before or after Amanda Hocking’s success with self-publishing?

PJ: This was two months ago–so after her news went viral.

Parker: Had the agency ever suggested self-publishing to their other authors or was this a new view they were taking?

PJ: I’m not sure if they had suggested this to any of their other clients or not. But once I decided I wanted to go the indie pub route, they took the ball and ran with it. We did another round of edits. And then a copy edit, and two proofreading edits.

Parker: Is that more editing than an e-book usually gets? I guess it probably varies.

PJ: We did many rounds back and forth. My agent and her reader are some of the most gifted people I can imagine when it comes to editing.

Parker: Were you always cool with the suggestions?

PJ: There are definitely some things I stood against changing. For example, the character of Piper’s mom–I really had an idea of how I wanted her to be, and though it was mentioned a few times, I didn’t change her (too much). I think in some ways, they imagined a happier world in the world of gods, and I viewed the world of gods as a bit of a cruel and deceitful one.

Parker: The agency did a lot more than editing, though, right?

PJ: They chose the cover picture and found a cover designer. (The POD book should come out a while after the e-book.) So, the agency arranged for cover design and layout and editing, and they are getting their regular 15% of royalties.

Parker: Did you get to approve the cover? How much say did you have? You like to think e-pubbing gives you more control…

PJ: They sent me the cover photo, which I loved, and then they sent me the actual cover and really, it was so gorgeous, I never would have even thought to say anything should change. I was in love with it the second I saw it.

Parker: That worked out well!

PJ: It really did.

Parker: It is a really great cover!

PJ: Thanks!

On Tuesday, I’ll talk with P. J. about marketing and more…

Parker Peevyhouse

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Parker Peevyhouse Chats With Joni Sensel

We continue our interview series today with Parker Peevyhouse and Joni Sensel, who met up online to chat about books, the internet, and e-publishing.

Parker Peevyhouse: So, I’m anxious to hear how you’re going to tackle the next book in your Farwalker series. How are you going to prepare it for e-pubbing?

Joni Sensel: I talked to an editor who knows my work, and she’s going to edit the third book at a rate I couldn’t refuse. That will happen in another couple of months, so I hope to put out a POD and ebook around September or so… assuming the revisions don’t take longer.

Parker: What about the cover?

Joni: I have an illustrator friend, Kirsten Carlson, who created the telling dart for my bookmarks and website. She’s going to do the cover.

Parker: That dart is pretty cool. I love how it starts off the adventure. Very intriguing.

Joni: I’m really just doing it to have something for those who ask. And for psychological closure. :) I think it’s important for writers to find the rewards where we can.

Parker: I think that last reason is more important than people would guess.

Joni: I’m also working hard on a YA sci-fi thriller. I hope it’s thrilling, anyway. What are you working on now?

Parker: I’m between projects, really. And writing some short stories I hope to turn into a collection.

Joni: That might be an interesting e-project — worth experimenting with, anyway.

Parker: You know, P. J. Hoover is e-publishing a YA called SOLSTICE. It’s dystopian with mythological elements. Her agency is helping–they helped her get an awesome cover.

Joni: YES! I heard. I’m dying to know the story there–

Parker: I’m going to interview her in a couple of weeks for the blog, so you will soon have that story.

Joni: Cool. It seems to me that blogs and so forth have built up the writing community and a lot of support for each other even in just the last couple of years.

Parker: Yeah, I would say it has built up support, but has it “made” writers’ careers? I mean, with Amanda Hocking, it’s clearly a case of the Internet making her career. She would not be published or rich without it. But it’s hard to say if it will now be the norm for writers to find fame solely through online marketing.

Joni: Do you have any insights or conclusions about our Spectacle blog experience?

Parker: The blogging is fun, and I like chatting with commenters. I don’t know that it did a lot to increase book sales for our bloggers. So the real value is getting to talk about stuff we like to talk about! And meeting new people online.

Joni: Our readers have been very loyal. But I’ve seen several not-very-scientific studies that suggest the same thing–blogging and social networking are fun but probably don’t sell books.

Parker: If you’re already selling, then it helps, I guess.

Joni: Yeah, it troubles me a little that when it seems to work, maybe it’s not the books that sell, it’s the author’s personality. That only works if you’re funny!

Parker: I posted about that once on the Spec. I don’t really want to sell myself, charming as I am :) I just want to sell my stories.

Joni: I don’t think anyone would buy me, ha! :)

Parker: I’d throw in a few dollars for you…

Joni: We like to think a good story will do it in the end… I’m not convinced. But I don’t want to be pessimistic, either!

Parker: That question haunts me. Does a good book ALWAYS sell? USUALLY sell? Depends on LUCK?

Joni: Do good books ever languish? Undoubtedly, I think.

Parker: But why? Why doesn’t word of mouth always work? I read an article in WIRED magazine [Jan 2010] that said people are more likely to like what’s popular, even if it’s not to their taste.
Maybe part of the problem is that great books sell, and popular books sell, but books that are just pretty decent have a harder time than they should?

Have you read any SF YA lately that you love?

Joni: Oh, I’m always so far behind. I just finished MOCKINGJAY, which I liked with some reservations, and am reading THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO and enjoying it… what are you reading?

Parker: I’m reading NEUROMANCER, if you can believe it. From the ‘80s.

Joni: Classic!

Parker: I tried reading it when I was much younger and couldn’t understand a word of it.

Joni: I’m waiting for when we can just put a book drip IV on at night, or a download… and know the story when we wake up! Then we could read so much more…

Parker: That would be my dream come true.

Joni: I think that’s a good place to end — looking forward to that utopian day!

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Literary Science Fiction and Fantasy For Young Readers

In its earliest days, science fiction would never have been called literary. But for every “astounding” story of the 50′s, there’s a lyrical Bradbury tale or an experimental Mieville novel or a pointed dystopian story. Both science fiction and fantasy now share shelf space with literary novels of the more typical contemporary and historical bent. In the YA and MG markets,  literary science fiction and fantasy particularly flourishes.

There’s no shortage of praise for literary science fiction and fantasy for young readers. Last year’s Printz award-winner was the surreal Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Franny Billingsley’s Chime, a recent fantasy novel whose dominating element is its lyrical voice, has received an incredible six starred reviews. Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, a novel about telepathic cousins who fall in love during a future war, received the 2005 Printz. And M. T. Anderson’s futuristic satire, Feed, was a finalist for the 2002 National Book Award. Not to mention all the middle grade science fiction and fantasy novels that have won the Newbery, including The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, and When You Reach Me.

What makes this particular strain of YA/MG literature so successful? It might be that it’s a magnet for both high sales and good reviews–teens are drawn to the high-interest elements, like supernatural romance, while reviewers are keen to praise the quality of writing. It might also have to do with the perception that young readers are open to reading books that experiment with structure, voice, and setting–something common in literary works as well as science fiction and fantasy stories.

In any case, it seems that agents and editors are looking for sf/f literature that blends literary style with high-interest stories. What do you think of literary science fiction and fantasy–are you writing it? Reading it? Do you love it or are you sick of hearing about it?

Parker Peevyhouse just finished reading Chime in preparation of our May book talk

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Book Talk: CHIME, coming in May

The week of May 23rd, we’ll be talking about CHIME by Franny Billingsley. If you’ve been thinking of reading it, now is the time to pick up your copy and prepare for our book talk. We’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this novel!

Before Briony’s stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family’s hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it’s become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He’s as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she’s extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn’t know. (from Goodreads.com)

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Right Now in Speculative Fiction: Giveaways

I’ve been posting links to different giveaways on our Facebook page, and I thought I’d post a big list of some here–because everyone loves free books!

First of all, don’t forget that right now you can download an e-book version of Aprilynne Pike’s WINGS, the story of a girl caught between two boys–one of whom is a fairy, here at Amazon for free until April 18th.

Other April giveaways:

YA Reads (ends April 19)
Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann, in which a girl with OCD searches for a boy who has mysteriously vanished
Eona by Alison Goodman, in which a girl must learn to bond with her dragon in order to control her powers
Department 19 by Will Hill , in which a boy fights against a supernatural secret agency

Vampire Book Club (ends April 19)
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes, in which a girl falls for a boy she meets in her dreams
Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr, the conclusion to her Wicked Lovely series
Teeth: Vampire Tales, an anthology featuring stories by Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Melissa Marr, and more

Young Adult Books–What We’re Reading Now (ends April 20)
Wither by Lauren DeStefano, a YA dystopian novel in which girls must bear children to save a declining population

There’s a Book (ends April 24th)
The Imagination Station by Paul McCusker and Marianne Hering, in which two friends go back in time in search of treasure

Moonlight Book Reviews (ends April 25th)
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney, in which a cursed girl will need a faerie’s help to save her friend

Megan Crewe’s blog (ends April 30th)
Give Up The Ghost by Megan Crewe, in which a girl who sees ghosts uses them to learn the secrets of everyone at school

Mandy Hubbard’s blog (ends in May)
Across the Universe by Beth Revis, in which a girl wakes too early from cryogenic sleep while in transit to another planet
Tighter by Adele Griffin, a thriller in which a girl investigates ghostly happenings
Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting, in which sees ghosts of murdered people and investigates her boyfriend’s tragic family history
Betrayal by Lee Nichols, in which a ghostkeeper trains for battle

ETA: Check out Natalie and Casey’s blog for upcoming giveaways of Possession by Elana Johnson and Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney in the month of April.

Happy reading!

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Stump the Bookseller

It’s time for another round of Stump the Bookseller, in which you show off your sleuthing skills to help find a particular novel of speculative fiction for young readers. You don’t have to be a bookseller to play, but the winner will be bestowed with the title

Super Bookseller Sleuth

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Here are your clues:

  • This YA novel is based on a lesser known french fairy tale
  • Its sequel was just released and another will follow
  • Each book in the series has a color in its title, as does the author’s name

ETA: LaWanica is our new Super Bookseller Sleuth! To see her answer…

CLICK HERE

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Modern Twists on Fairy Tales

Since Chris started posting about YA and MG novels based on fairy tales and folktales, I’ve been wondering–What is it about modern day twists on fairy tales that I like? I’ve been thinking about some of my favorites examples of this perpetual source for stories. Here’s what I came up with:

It’s fun to “spot the story.”

I loved Francesca Lia Block’s The Rose and The Beast: Fairy Tales Retold; I liked trying to figure out which fairy tale each modern day story represented, and figuring out how each element from the original story had been translated into something new. The Ice Queen who kidnaps a boy and takes him away to her palace? She’s now a heartless girl looking for her next boy toy. Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheel? Now a heroin needle.

Another book that makes “spotting the story” an incredibly satisfying feat is The Witch’s Boy by Michael Gruber. The main character, an orphan named Lump, meets several fairy tale characters throughout the course of the novel, some easier to spot than others. The fairy tale character Lump himself parallels? The answer is the story’s best surprise.

Familiarity is inviting.

Every fairy tale has its iconic elements: Cinderella has her shoe, Snow White has her dwarfs, Hansel and Gretel have their candy. Stories that create modern-day correlations borrow from what we’re already familiar with. What’s great about that? It’s clever, for one thing, and fun. But we also start off knowing the heart of the story: a new take on Cinderella will still be a rags to riches romance, a new Sleeping Beauty will involve a girl under a curse. We know what to expect and that makes it easier to enter the story.

When a flying carpet and a genie come into the possession of the main character of Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious Castle in the Air, we know things are bound to get a lot more complicated before they’re going to get better. The story is a twisty-mishmash of The Arabian Nights but with a familiar warning of “be careful what you wish for.”

Modern takes can play on expectations.

We think we know what to expect from a story based on a fairytale. We know that Snow White ends with a kiss. We know witches are evil, princesses are good, step-parents are suspect. But sometimes writers take advantage of that to surprise us. That’s a risky thing to do, because changing a major element of a traditional tale can take a story too far from its source. But surprises can also be fun.

Parker Peevyhouse wishes someone would do a modern twist on Clue.

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