Jim's latest is something rather special - an unabashaed romp through the tropes of Fairytaleland which the author himself fairly obviously enjoyed, but a romp with unexpected depths and poignant moments and the occasional utter confounding surprise. Yes, it's all relatively predictable - how could it not be, seeing as we all know the stories of Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty so well? But don't come here expecting to be fed the same old tropes, either. Jim Hines takes the known and makes it unknown; his is the gift of laying brand new roads through familiar territory and making you look at it with new eyes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this.
But hey, here's what Jim himself had to say in answer to a few questions:
1. Goblins as guardians to the gate. HAH. I'd like to know what Jig thinks about that. [grin]
I’m afraid Jig’s thoughts on that aren’t fit for a family-friendly blog. Suffice it to say, if Jig were ever given the chance to meet me, I doubt I’d be walking away from the encounter. Goblins aren’t known for their forgiving natures.
2.I love the way you are using-but-not-quite-using the accepted tropes of the known fairy stories concerning the princesses - for example, Cinderella's animalspeak ability, the mirror connection with Snow White - and then turning things slightly sideways just enough to make them glitter with a tantalizing glint of unfamiliarity. How did you decide on what to use in the mix-and-match?
In part, it was just a matter of reading various versions of the stories and picking out the bits which were most interesting. With this being a fantasy team, I knew I needed a magic-wielding member, and who better than Snow White? Her mother was a powerful witch, so it makes sense that Snow would have inherited some of that power, as well as her mother’s mirror. Talia (Sleeping Beauty) came together for me when I realized that the gifts the fairies bestowed on her at her birth (angelic grace, dancing skills, etc.) translated so well into fighting. She’d be the perfect warrior. Danielle (Cinderella) was the trickiest, but the tales are pretty clear that the rats and the doves all help her. And given my own fascination with glassblowing and glassmaking, I had to give her something extra to fit the glass slipper theme, which is where she gets the glass sword you see on the cover.
3. Sleeping Beauty is such a Germanic fairy-tale, with the classic blonde princess bride - but I sense middle- or even far-eastern influences in Talia - where did this come from?
My version of Sleeping Beauty draws a great deal from the first part of “Sun, Moon, and Talia” by Giambattista Basile. (And if I never hear the euphemism “gathered the first fruits of her love” again, it will be too soon.) A version of the Sleeping Beauty tale also appears as one of the stories in 1001 Nights. Talia is in many ways my favorite of the three princesses, and I did visualize a middle-eastern heritage as I was writing her. It wasn’t a deliberate choice. This is just how I imagined her when I started creating the character.
4. The fairy realm feels to me as though there was far more there than you could ever have used in a book which would remain publishably short. Tell us something that you know about that place that didn't quite make it into the book. I for once would love to know more.
Fairytown is an interesting place. It’s not truly a part of the fairy realm, so much as . . . a reservation, really. The fairies were given this small piece of land after losing their war with the humans of Lorindar. Fairytown is a part of the “real” world, but heavily influenced by fairy magic. As for what I know that you don’t? Probably the most important thing is that I know where they’re hiding their fairy hill and what’s on the other side. . . .
5. Do you have plans for returning to this universe? I would love, for instance, to read the full tale of the Lady of the Red Hood.
Oh, yes. I’m contracted for three books, and I’m hoping to do at least five. I’ve also got a short story coming out in “Terribly Twisted Tales” that introduces my Red Riding Hood character. The third book in the series is called Red Hood’s Revenge. I’m writing that one now, and having a lot of fun with Red’s character. She and Talia are more alike than I realized at first, and it’s going to be great playing them off of one another.
6. It's the PRINCE who needs rescuing. By the PRINCESSES. [high fives all around]. Are you aware that you're steering a course for "feminist fantasy", and is it something you were deliberately aiming for?
This is actually a hard one to answer. I’ve identified as a feminist for years, as anyone who’s read my blog probably knows. And I’m pleased that this book passes the Beschel Test with flying colors. I’m also very happy that there will be one more book for my daughter to read which portrays women as the primary protagonists, showing them as (I hope) complex, fully realized characters. Part of the reason I started writing the book in the first place was to offer an alternative to the princess imagery which had been slowly infiltrating our household. I mean, look at them! How could I not write this book? :-)
Extra links you might find of interest:
Preview - http://www.sff.net/people/jchines/SS%20Preview.pdf
Jim's Sites - http://jimhines.livejournal.com or http://www.jimchines.com
Cover Art - http://www.sff.net/people/jchines/Covers/Stepsister%20-%20Lg.jpg
Amazon link -