Gail Carson Levine

Dear Ms. Levine,

When I was a kid, there were three things that I knew about myself: green was my favorite color, I ate too many things deemed inedible, and that I had an unhealthy want for adventure. This unchecked desire often got me in trouble and my early elementary years were full of time outs from recess and being chased by kids I had pranked. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was bored and this boredom got me into trouble. Often. Then there was a day, I think in 3rd or 4th grade that I found myself forced to choose a library book in school. I happened to pick up Ella Enchanted, and I honestly believe that I was never the same.

I never thought I would fall in love with a book based on Cinderella . The funny thing is, I never liked Cinderella, but I love your version of her. I mean, I guess Cinderella was okay as a Disney movie, but I just didn’t get it. She was just so darn nice, and then everything kind of magically worked out for her. I felt distant from Cinderella as a character. Reading about Ella, who was so painfully real, who experienced the world around her as I might have in her position, made me able to accept and immerse myself in the magic from fairy tales. Your book captivated me in a way that I had never experienced before. I remember reading about Ella’s curse, seeing her similarities to Cinderella, both knowing her story and having no idea what would happen. There wasn’t a character in Ella Enchanted that I didn’t feel personally connected to, and you made it so easy.

The truth is, if I hadn’t picked up Ella Enchanted randomly in the library that day, I don’t know if I would have become hooked on reading. It was because of your book that I dove into literature hoping to find characters like Ella that could show me what it means to be a heroine. Now, years later with an English degree and several years of teaching under my belt, when my baby sister was looking for a bed time story I knew exactly which one to start her on. Oh, and she is addicted to reading now too. I don’t think ‘thank you’ will quite cover it, Ms. Levine, but I’m going to say it anyway. Thank you for everything.
Your biggest admirer,
Ayesha

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Juliet Marillier

Dear Juliet,

I was eleven years old when I stumbled upon a display at my local library that contained both Daughter of the Forest and the newly published Son of the Shadows. At the time my reading palate consisted entirely of Harry Potter and historical romance novels. And yes, I do mean romance novels. Like the really bad kind, the kind that my friends and I would read out loud to each other as we hid under the blankets with a flashlight at sleepovers because we couldn’t get over how gross and silly it all sounded. I can’t say what initially drew me to Daughter of the Forest, but I do know that I ended up picking both of the books up because there was a review from the Romantic Times on the book which praised it as being “surprisingly romantic.” I can’t know my eleven year old mind, not entirely, but I can be certain that this review is the reason I decided to give your books a shot.

At 3 am that same night I was awake in my bedroom, pacing back and forth, talking myself through everything that had happened, everything that could happen, and wondering how in the world Daughter of the Forest could possibly have a happy ending and why anyone would call it romantic. Earlier in the day I’d been deeply traumatized by early events in the book but had persevered with that promise of romance, and had somehow become so entirely engrossed in the tale that it wasn’t until the infamous burning day that it even occurred to me that I might not actually be reading a romance novel.  

The sleep I lost that night finishing Sorcha’s journey was absolutely worth it, and I ordered the soon-to-be-published Child of the Prophecy before I even started Son of the Shadows. Since then I have been an avid follower of yours, pre-ordering each book as soon as the pre-order becomes available, and even ordering some books (such as Foxmask) from Australia since the US edition would be released nearly a year after its Australian counterpart.

Daughter of the Forest is the first book, aside from Harry Potter, that I absolutely lost myself in. It sparked my love of the fantasy genre and encouraged me to broaden my reading and writing horizons. But what always gets me about it (and most of your books, honestly), is that no matter how many times I read it I still have the same overwhelming tide of emotions that absolutely stunned eleven-year-old me. My first copy of Daughter of the Forest is filled with post-it notes and the cover on it has long since fallen off from fifteen years of love and avid use. When I read it again several months ago, for what is likely the 500th time, I still cried at some of my favorite parts, still felt that intense need to finish it, to see the story through, to find out what happens next even though I could probably quote the thing line-by-line at this point.

Sorcha and her story marked the beginning of a lot of things for me, and I love that she was the beginning of your writing journey as well. Thank you so much for bringing her to the world, and to my world. Thank you for years of intense love and joy, and for every story you’ve written since then. I never hesitate to name you as my favorite author, and I am grateful every day for that one Romantic Times review which brought you to my life.

Many thanks and all the love,
Rebecca (aka your actual biggest fan)

Tell Me Again, Please!

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Rebecca Kordesh, Director
Twitter | Blog

 

 

 

It is no real secret that we as a culture have a weakness for fairy tales and their retellings. The overwhelming success of Disney alone is a testament to how much we love to hear familiar stories told in a slightly different way. Indeed Disney does not only retell classic fairy tales, but they sometimes even retell their own–think of the strikingly different stories contained in Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, both Disney films, based on the same fairy tale.

The universal appeal of fairy tales and folktales is not such a difficult thing to understand; they are defined by simple and easily accessible motifs that echo deep truths about the human condition. And because fairy tales and folktales were originally passed down orally, the idea of editing and changing the story with each telling is, well, a tale as old as time in some respects. This is what makes me such great fodder for modern stories; indeed it has become its own literary genre, and an incredible number of recent buzz-worthy and bestselling books fall into it.

Think Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle, or Gregory Maquire’s Wicked (which has since been re-told again as a highly popular musical – isn’t this fun?). And because fairy tales and folktales tend to involve magic or other elements of the uncanny, novelized retellings tend to fall into the fantasy genre (or, with some of the really creative ones, the sci-fi genre). In this post I’ll be taking a look at three approaches to the retelling genre and focusing on two books in each (with the exception of the four book series in category three) and thinking about what works and what doesn’t.

This discussion will not contain plot spoilers, but if you happen to feel like maybe you don’t want to know anything at all about the books before you read them (which is hard because they are, you know, fairy tale retelling so…. you probably already know the basic story) this may not be the post for you!

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TBT 07: Evolution of Fantasy

How do you define fantasy literature? At what point was there a shift from mythology and fairy tales to what we consider to be fantasy today? Some of our more well-read Whisperers discuss these questions and more in this episode of The Book Table.

For listeners of The Book Table, Audible is offering a free audiobook and a 30-day free trial! Sign up at http://audibletrial.com/TheBookTable.

In this episode you heard from:
Akhi | akhipill
Dorothy | bwp_dorothy
Madeleine | madnbooks | youtube.com/madnbooks
Rebecca | rumy91989

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The Truth About ‘Happily Ever After’

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Rebecca Kordesh, Director
Twitter | Blog

 

February is the month of love, apparently, and here at Backroom Whispering Productions we are having a lot of fun thinking about love and literature and all the many facets of that rather broad category. My husband and I did an interview about being writing partners as well as life partnersAkhi wrote an engaging post about what he learned about love from reading fantasyThe Book Table did a Valentine’s Day special about sex in fantasy literature and how it’s handled across the genre; and Dorothy wrote a fantastic blog post to follow it.

All of this thinking about love and literature got me musing about the concept of “happily ever after” in fantasy literature and the way the happily ever after trope has played into my real life and into my writing life. I am not ashamed to admit my love of romantic fantasy; indeed, I am far more likely to pick up a book if it has one of those cliche “until she meets ____” or “the boy who may be her undoing, or her salvation” lines in the synopsis. Sometimes, if those lines are missing, I’ll read the end of the book before I decide to read it to see if it seems like there is a resolution to a love story.

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