So, admit it. We all like fairy tales. The idea of happy-ever-after, the feel-good vibe you get that everything will turn out all right in the end.
But what happens when it doesn't?
What happens when a fairy tale has a curl of darkness inside that you inevitably want to follow like that trail of bread crumbs?
Meet author Anne Rowan:
She'll tell you all about fairy tales with a dark twist:
So, first and foremost, tell us about your fairy tales. I have a feeling they’re not so sweet and innocent.
You’re correct. They’re not sweet and innocent in the Disney-sense, where everything is sewn up into a nice and neat happy ending. My fairy tales don’t necessarily have a happily ever after finale, with a lavish wedding and the prince and princess falling in love as I don’t write about damsels in distress. But, the ending is satisfying and fits with the arc of the stories that contain quite a bit of darkness, pushing the characters to the point that questions their morals and ethics. How far would they go and what/whom would they sacrifice in order to gain what they most desire? This drive, I think, is also true of humans, and I like to explore it in storytelling.
What made you focus your writing talent on the fairy tale genre?
The children of today. [shakes her head, sighing] I work with children and am sad to say that most don’t even know how to turn pages in a book. But put an iPad in front of them and their fingers suddenly come to life. You should see the panic in their eyes when the battery dies. [laughs] They don’t know how to problem-solve; they haven’t been introduced to scenarios that require using their social skills, communication skills, quick wit, reading others’ body language, etc. because technology is so isolating. The fairy tale genre contains everything a child should learn about people. And then there’s always magic! That’s a major bonus point because it teaches them how to imagine… “what if?” Even Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.”
There seems to be a lot of “re-telling” of the original fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Was it easy for you to break away from those molds and create your own?
Absolutely. I’d been in love with fairy tales even before I could read, and I remember always wondering about the secondary characters and the ones who were supposed to be evil. “Why are they so bad?” I’d always question. “What made them so ruthless?” When I got a little older, I saw them as a comment on society and the reflection on how people use and abuse their status. While the classic fairy tales do inspire me, they also guide me on a different journey as I like to read between the lines and imagine what internal and external struggles do the ugly stepsister or the witch or the enchanted beast, for example, go through.
Do you like the idea of a prince saving the day or do you prefer the princess fully capable of wearing the crown on her own?
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t write about damsels in distress. My girls don’t need a prince on a white steed to come save them from a fire-breathing dragon. In my stories, women are just as capable, if not more capable, of fighting battles as men. While they do go through a learning curve and encounter obstacles along the way, they persevere. Even if not in the form in which they initially started—but now I’m giving too much away. [chuckles]
How did you come up with the plots for your fairy tales? What were your inspirations?
Monstrosity. Most definitely monstrosity. It is something I always come back to. I even chose it as my Master’s Degree Thesis, and it is, by far, my most favorite subject to discuss. I’ll tell you a quote by Yours Truly and, hopefully, you’ll see where I’m coming from and what I mean when I plot my fairy tales, “There’s a human lurking within every MONSTER. There’s a monster lurking within every HUMAN.”
A lot of fairy tales have a kind of moral to the story. Do your tales have a strong point to drive home?
Well, yes, of course. They have several sprinkled throughout the stories; however, they are part of the plot and are intertwined within the actions and the dialogue of the characters, so the reader doesn’t feel like s/he’s being preached to. I never really try to write a moral to the story, but the characters have a mind of their own. They are the ones who want to share the lessons they’ve learned, so I oblige. Anyway, I’m merely a vessel, writing down what they tell me. Like any writer, I’d like to think I’m the boss in my storytelling. Quite the opposite is true, however.
Why do you think people find fairy tales so relatable even though they know they’re “make-believe”?
I think the answer lies in your question. The fact that they are make-believe. People have a natural tendency to believe. Faith is one of the most basic characteristics of human nature. That, and curiosity and fear (of the unknown, usually). Fairy tales masterfully address all of these ideas. It’s the perfect recipe for any story, really.
Describe a day in the writing life of Anne Rowan.
At the moment these are my weekdays:
3:15 am Alarm sound. Kill it repeatedly until about 3:30 am. Then get up, make strong coffee, lunch for husband, see him off to work.
4:00 am turn on the computer. Procrastinate.
4:31 am Write, revise, write, delete, revise, write…
5:45 am Wake up kids, get ready for school, work.
6:50 am Leave house
3: 30 pm Get home, do all the mother/wife stuff, write—inside my head (plot, plan, imagine, jot down ideas for dialogue, listen to characters chatter inside my mind—although I may be Schizophrenic. That remains to be seen.)
9-ish pm Drop dead in bed
4:00 am coffee, procrastinate, write until my fingers are numb
Do you believe in happily-ever-after? Or do you think there’s more to it?
I think each person can create a happily ever after. It sure is a lot of hard work and compromising and patience and love and …you know, all the things that make it YOUR happily ever after. So, yeah, there’s definitely more to it.
What kind of tale can we expect next from you?
I have two main characters in my head right now. They are still in the stage of bickering about whose story I should write first. As soon as one of them wins, I’ll let you know. The one sure thing, though, is that one character wants his book cover with lots of white, the other one red. Go figure. It’s either going to be a story where it’s really cold or really hot. I think I’ll leave you with that.
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Want to find out more about Anne Rowan?
A small side note:
Ms. Rowan prefers her chocolate cupcakes with banana pudding filling: