A Bit of Magic is an upcoming fairy tale retelling anthology, and will be the fifth collection of stories published by the Just-Us League. One of the authors, Lynden Wade, joins me today for an interview about her contribution to the anthology – ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.
Lynden Wade was home schooled in a village in West Africa, giving her lots of time to read. The bright colours of illustrations to fairy tales, legends and medieval history – worlds away from the dry grasslands and termite hills around her – inspired her to write her own stories. Her muses include Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff. She has had stories published in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 and in the JL Anthology From The Stories of Old. Two more stories are due to be published in 2018 in addition to ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,’ her contribution to A Bit of Magic. She is working on a historical novel. She loves tea shops, book shops, period drama, castles and trees. You can find her on quillsquotesqueensquests.wordpress.com, on lyndenwadeauthor.weebly.com and on Facebook.
What inspired your retelling?
One of my favourite books as a child was ‘The Kingdom under the Sea and Other Stories’ by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, who drew delicate silhouettes that entwined the text. I particularly loved the story ‘The Reed Girl,’ but I also felt quite impatient with the Prince, who kept letting the reed girls die because he didn’t get to them fast enough to give them water. It needed a retelling!
Sounds like an interesting story to base a retelling on. What was the hardest part of writing it?
Trying to make Yanek, the hero, sympathetic. He’s got to move from stupid and a bit conceited, but kind-hearted too, to acknowledgement that he doesn’t have to use his muscles to solve everything.
What other short stories have you written for the JL anthologies?
I contributed ‘The Goose and his Girl’ to the first JL anthology, From the Stories of Old.
How did this experience differ from writing ‘The Goose and his Girl’?
I’d already rewritten the story before putting it through the JL grinder, so it didn’t need as many rewrites!
Always handy to get a head start! Did you stick closely to the fairy tale you rewrote?
No, my story goes on from the reed girl incident. Yanek needs to meet other daughters of nature to learn his lesson.
Do you prefer a happy ending, and did that affect how you wrote your story?
The original had a happy ending – if you don’t count the two dead reed girls! I felt I had to tread a careful line when I reworked this element. If nothing happened to the girls Yanek met, then he wouldn’t notice the effect of his crash-and-burn approach to life. If they died, the reader would lose all sympathy with him. I hope I’ve got the right balance.
There’s often a balancing act when rewriting stories. Did you find retelling a story more or less challenging than writing an original story, and how did the experience differ?
It gives you a diving board, so you can dive straight in. I don’t find the fairytale structure limiting, either – it’s pretty loose and flexible. Personally, what I found challenging here was that I love the style of classic fairy tales, and like to write something that aims to be lyrical, with characters that are quite simple – everyman and everywoman. But I had to consciously round my characters a bit more to appeal to a modern audience.
How did you combine elements from multiple fairy tales to create one story?
I needed more girls for Yanek to quest for. At first I used elements of Eastern European fairy tales to inspire me – the Firebird from Russian fairy tales, and the Griffin from Bulgaria, as I remember. Quite late on in the writing process I realised that though I’d been using characters from one geographical area, the root story is Hungarian and the Hungarian language and people are a different ethnic group from most of Eastern Europe, which is Slavic. I kept the griffin, because he seems to stretch over a fairly wide geographical space, but changed the Firebird into a Fire Toad, my own invention.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was five. My mother kept my story about the tooth fairy. I won’t be publishing it, though!
Everyone starts somewhere! So you’ve been writing for a long time. What projects are you working on now?
I have a story based on the legend of Wayland the Smith that is due to be published in another anthology at the end of this month: it’s called ‘The Web and the Wildwood’ and it will appear in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 4. In between, I’m working on my third draft of a historical novel about characters from the Foundling Hospital in London in the 18th century.
A Bit of Magic will be released on 31st May.
Follow the rest of the blog tour:
Melion Traverse hosts Mae Baum — 18th May
Heather Hayden hosts B.C. Marine — 21st May
Allie May hosts Rebecca Mikkelson — 24th May
M.T. Wilson hosts Lynden Wade — 27th May
**RELEASE DAY — 31 MAY**
Louise Ross hosts Heather Hayden — 1st June
Authors4Authors hosts Katelyn Barbee — 6th June
Mae Baum hosts Allie May — 9th June
Elise Edmonds hosts Louise Ross — 12th June