Thursday, October 25, 2012

Meeting Authors: Once Upon a Slightly Different Time

Every year I got to the Baltimore Book Festival on Friday. The festival lasts all weekend, but Friday night at the Children’s Book Store stage is the greatest panel of the festival. Every. Time. This year: “Five authors and editor Ellen Datlow offer their thoughts on the recreation and retelling of fairy tales for a modern audience. Panelists include: Adam Gidwitz, Jessica Day George, Shannon Hale, Sarah Beth Durst, Ellen Datlow, and Michael Buckley.”

Oh. My. Goddess! I practically jumped out of my seat and shouted in delight when I read this. It’s like they planned this panel just for me.

And because it was requested, here’s some of what was discussed. If it’s in quotes, it’s a direct quote. If it’s not, I’m paraphrasing what they said. Authors, if you see this, and I got something wrong, sorry. I was taking notes as best as I could.

Moderator: What was your introduction to fairy tales?

Ellen Datlow: I don’t remember which story, but Oscar Wilde.

Sarah Beth Durst: I don’t remember. Fairy tales were introduced very early, so I don’t remember a time before they were around me.

Shannon Hale: I had a large two-volume set of fairy tales that was beautifully illustrated. One of them was “The Goose Girl.”

Jessica Day George: I remember watching Jim Henson’s Storyteller. At 16 I found PJ Lynch’s version of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”

Adam Gidwitz: I had a book of Grimm's tales all my life, but I only opened it five years ago. I agreed to be substitute librarian and thought hey, fairy tales are for kids.

Michael Buckley: I grew up with Disney. And I started real tales midway through the first draft of the first Sisters Grimm. The first fairy tale I read was Pinocchio.

Moderator: How did you come to start to writing fairy tales?

Ellen Datlow: Terri and I edited Best Fantasy and Horror. It was suggested to us to edit a fairy tale anthology. Snow White, Blood Red became the first of several, and it’s still one of the most popular.

Sarah Beth Durst: Into the Wild and Out of the Wild was wish fulfillment. I always wanted something magical to happen, so I made fairy tale characters invade my hometown. With Ice it was the same PJ Lynch version of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” that Jessica read. I wanted a fairy tale where the girl wasn't asleep or dead for most, and I wanted to save her beast

Shannon Hale: I didn’t pick my favorite. I picked the fairy tale that bugged me the most. “Rapunzel is dumbest.” A guy climbs up her hair and agrees to braid her a ladder out of silk. Why don’t they just chop off her hair and use that. And she mysteriously becomes pregnant. “It’s useless.” My husband loves super hero comics so Rapunzel’s Revenge was born. But don’t worry… there are no mysterious pregnancies here.

Jessica Day George: I fixed the “Twelve Dancing Princesses. I have an edition in German and so does my husband. There were some inconsistencies so I wrote in details from both. Mette Ivie Harrison said she wrote Mira Mirror because she thought Snow White was useless.

Michael Buckley: I wanted to know what would happen if many characters from different fairy tales were stuck in one place and couldn’t die. I pitched a show idea about celebrities who faded from the spotlight because they were recruited to join a secret organization. I changed it into Grimm characters for this series.

Question for Michael: Did you plan out the entire series?

Michael Buckley: I knew ending and most major moments. I knew Sabrina's direction. But there were a lot of surprises.

Do you intend to keep working with faery tales?

Ellen Datlow: Terri and I want to do a new anthology at some point.

Michael Buckley: Sister’s Grimm is done. (lots of sad faces here) I’m working on young adult books with a mermaid. It’s like District 9 meets The Little Mermaid. And I have an idea for a middle grade Steampunk.

Adam Gidwitz: I have another Grimm book planned, and then I want something new. I’ve been reading up on medieval saints lives.

Jessica Day George: I have nothing planned but that doesn't mean I won't in future.

Sarah Beth Durst: I move around in fantasy genre, but I have nothing with faery tales planned. Though they often come into play.

Shannon Hale: The thing I’m working on now I not a retelling. But it’s influenced by Cinderella.

What stories would you like to fix or see fixed?

Michael Buckley: Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey

Ellen Datlow: The Goose Girl. Without giving away spoilers, the part with the beheading.

Michael Buckley: The Wizard of Oz

Adam Gidwitz: I accidentally fixed “Brother and Sister.”

Ellen Datlow: Rumplestiltskin

Michael Buckley: Hansel and Gretel. The witch has a point. They could've used stones instead of food to mark their path. Then they wouldn't have to eat the house.

Do any of you watch Once Upon a Time?

Michael Buckley: No but my lawyer does. Every week.

Jessica Day George: I love it. I never miss it. However, the best Hansel and Gretel is The Simpsons.

What do you think about staying within the lines of archetype and tradition?

Sarah Beth Durst: I don’t stay within the lines, but I’m aware of them. The reason for that is because readers often know the story.

Ellen Datlow: I don't follow to closely. It’s boring.

Shannon Hale: The importance is to change the story. These stories come from an oral tradition. Transform it into something new.

Moderator: Andrew Lang takes out a lot of specifics so you can really see how similar they are.

Adam Gidwitz: Most names used were common. Archetypes help retain an elastic emotional state.

Did you study faery tales?

Jessica Day George: I read a lot and took classes.

Sarah Beth Durst: I read a lot, too, and did lots of research.

How did you come up with the personalities for the Sisters Grimm?

Michael Buckley: I had a girlfriend who was like Daphne in personality and who had a relationship with her sister like Sabrina. My grandma was named Relda. Puck is like my brother.

How do you afford to be an author?

Shannon Hale: “I’m a kept woman.”

Michael Buckley: “I’m a kept man.”

Adam Gidwitz: “I keep Michael.”

Michael Buckley: Touring. Putting out two books a year. Having a good publisher.

Adam Gidwitz: Getting out and meeting readers. I’m like a traveling salesman.

Michael Buckley: I wanted to be a writer so I wouldn't need to be a salesman. Indie stores are best for selling.

Adam Gidwitz: Teachers and librarians.

Considering how gruesome faery tales are, what do you consider a kids story?

Adam Gidwitz: It’s the technicality. The way it's told. As faery tales move into YA, they become more brutal.

Emma (moderator): Kids love justice. The bad guy gets his.

Michael Buckley: A good book for your child is what's good for them. It depends on who they are.

Shannon Hale: Very young readers can't escape visual brutality in a movie. And they can't visualize a lot of gruesome faery tale stories because they haven't been in that kind of situation. It's beyond what they can imagine.

Adam Gidwitz: Kids know what they're ready for. And it’s easier to put a book down. Movies rush at you.

Emma: Kids get what they can get and everything else goes over their head.

Ellen: It’s great to read to kids to help them understand.

Shannon Hale: I’m a fan of talents that can't be tested for show off.

What do you do when writers block?

Michael Buckley: I never get it. I’m full of ideas. If you do, it might be because you don’t know enough about what you're writing about.

Jessica Day George: If it’s not working I take a few days off and read familiar book.

Sarah Beth Durst: I shut my brain off. Music. Chocolate. And then I write more.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Michael Buckley: Four months for a draft. Four months revising.

Sarah Beth Durst: Six months. Two years originally, but then I learned more about the writing process. I need to outline.

Shannon Hale: A year to four years

Jessica Day George: Six weeks for the last one.

Adam Gidwitz: A year to two years

Do you commission stories for anthologies?

Ellen Datlow: We assign a story. We have to herd them as time goes on. Keep on them. Always get 1/3 more authors than you need. You can only read a story the first time once, so I try not to read any while they’re being written.


This was introduced to me at another panel, but I wanted to share it with you. If you like faery tales, check out Sur La Lune.


Sandy said...

Great post! Loved reading all of the authors' answers.

Jessica Keyes said...

Thank you for such detailed notes! I linked to this post from Pratt Chat's post about the same event.


Post a Comment