Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On Retellings

I have always loved retellings, like Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (Cinderella), Edith Pattou's East (East of the Sun, West of the Moon), Robin McKinley's Beauty (Beauty and the Beast), Diana Wynne Jones Fire and Hemlock (Tam Lin.)  Ever After, I must admit (only slightly shamefacedly) is still my favorite movie (another Cinderella retelling). There's just something intriguing about stories so timeless they can be told over and over again and no one (myself included!!) seems to get sick of them.

The novel I finished drafting last month is a retelling of the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, with a little bit of Tam Lin thrown in because I thought it meshed really well.

My favorite fairy tale of all time is Beauty and the Beast which, like East of the Sun, is a variant of the Cupid and Psyche myth. I love it SO much I never thought I'd do a retelling—there are many, many wonderful versions out there already (And yes, Cruel Beauty is on my to-read list. I'll get to it soon!). But stories have a way of tugging at you, and here I am now with a first draft of my own take on East of the Sun. I have no idea if I did the story justice (though I hope I did!), but regardless, it was a fascinating experience to follow a plot essentially already written for me, trying to keep it fresh by doing new/different things, and at the same time wanting to remain faithful to the spirit of the original fairytale. I made a conscious decision to not re-read the fairytale before writing my first draft, as I wanted to allow myself the freedom to follow the story where I felt like it needed to go.

In my version, I modeled the setting after 19th-century rural Russia. Looking at pictures of the Siberian landscape inspired whole sections of the plot (seriously, it's so gorgeous!). I'm excited to do further research and incorporate even more historically-inspired details in future drafts.

Now that my rough draft is finished, I'm going to go back and re-read the original fairytales, dig deeper into my world, fix inconsistencies, figure out the real backstory of a character who unexpectedly turned out to be somebody different than I'd planned, unravel the confusion of my middle, work on characters' relationships… Lots and lots to do, but I'm looking forward to shaping my version of East of the Sun into exactly what it's meant to be.


Hanna C. Howard said...

Hey Joanna-- I found my way to your blog through Query Tracker after the virtual group hug on Maria Vicente's thread, and I just had to tell you that I think we're kindred spirits. Ella Enchanted is my favorite standalone novel of all time, and the last book I tried to sell (before the current YA fantasy) was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. All those books you mentioned are on my favorites list (EAST is so, so fabulous), and I am always caught between choosing retellings and high fantasy when I start a new draft.

Anyway. Just wanted to admit to my e-stalking and let you know you seem like a lovely person! I wish you all the best with your MS!


Joanna Ruth Meyer said...

I'm so glad you stopped by! Always happy to find a kindred spirit. It sounds like you have excellent, excellent taste!! :) I definitely looked you up on Twitter today, so I've done my fair share of e-stalking! Feel free to hit me up on there as well! I'm @gamwyn.

Lovely to meet you! And best of luck with your manuscript!!