Fairy Tales for Grown Ups
Did you sigh over Cinderella when you were young? I know I did. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast–they are all classic stories with memorable characters and plot points that hit the hot buttons in the human psyche.
My guest today, Helen Johannes, makes it a point to reimagine these stories in fresh retellings. She and I had a little cyber-chat the other day. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and listen in…
Mia: Thanks for visiting with us today, Helen. We’d like to get to know a little more about you. What were your favorite books growing up?
Helen: Fairy tales and books about horses, definitely. My earliest favorite book was a collection of fairy tales for young readers. Besides the well-known tales of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, this one had stories like The Donkey Prince, Snow White and Rose Red, The Tin Soldier, and The Dancing Princesses, to name a few. I’ve always been drawn to the stories about heroes in disguise, about people who are misjudged or discounted by others because of appearances. The Donkey Prince, for instance, is about a prince born with a donkey’s body due to a curse on his parents. They give him the best of everything, and he becomes a skilled lute player, but he’s still a donkey. Tired of being looked upon as a freak in his home town, he decides to take to the road, playing his lute, until one young woman falls in love with the sensitive man inside the ugly skin. That transformation from beast to beloved is a theme that I’ve always enjoyed reading, and it’s probably what drew me to the romance genre in the most elemental sense.
And horse books—what little girl doesn’t love horses (or unicorns)? The stories of a boy and his horse, or a girl and her horse, feeds right into my historical bent. I do so love a hero on horseback with a sword. From fairy tales to medieval knights isn’t a big leap, especially when fairy tales led me to THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and Middle Earth. It’s no wonder that my two published novels are fantasy romances featuring heroes on horseback with swords.
Mia: I hear you. I think every 12 year old girl goes through a horse phase. I know I did. What can you tell us about your workspace/writing process?
Helen: I write in the kitchen on a laptop at the table where I’ve installed my cushy office chair. I like the sunlight from my southerly window and the easy access to the microwave for hot tea. Sometimes I listen to music while I write, usually a soundtrack or something Celtic-inspired. I need something where I don’t understand the lyrics so I won’t try to listen to them. The music for me is about creating a ‘zone.’
My process involves mulling an idea for a character/story until I think I have enough to sustain a plot. This might take years for any one idea to come to the top of the ‘mulling’ pile. Plus, even though I’m a ‘pantser,’ I don’t like writing more than one story at a time. That means the new idea has to percolate while I finish the one I’m writing. Once I get started, I ‘discover’ more about my characters and their story in the act of writing it. Sometimes they provide me with serendipitous surprises. Of course, then I have to go back to earlier chapters and add in something or another, but those ‘Wow!’ moments are part of the reward for me as story-teller. And they usually make a pretty cool ‘reveal’ in the story too.
Mia: Sounds like you enjoy the discovery process. I too am a pantser and while it gives my palpitations sometimes not to have a hard and fast roadmap, I figure if I’m surprised by what happens, my readers will be too! What’s the best thing about being an author?
Helen: Realizing a dream has to be the foremost. To anyone who has any aspirations to be published someday—or to achieve any other creative dreams—I’d like to affirm that turtles do win.
That’s right—turtles, the slow and steady plodders. I am a turtle. It’s taken me years to realize my dream of becoming a published author. Lots of rejection letters, contest finals, conferences and workshops later, I have two books available from The Wild Rose Press. I’m not likely to become a household name, but I can hold my dreams in my hand today. So can you. Just keep plodding along.
Mia: Thanks for those encouraging words. I’m a firm believer in setting goals. Now what can you tell us about your latest book?
Helen: My most recently realized ‘dream’ is BLOODSTONE, a beauty-and-the-beast-inspired fantasy romance available now on Amazon Kindle. I’d love to share it with you.
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man—not a fiend—hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
Mia: Sounds great! Now it’s time for our lightning round questions?
– Favorite Food?
Fresh baked bread
– Favorite Vacation Spot?
Anyplace warm with a water view (the ocean is especially nice)
– Favorite TV Show?
– Favorite Paranormal? (witch, vampire, zombie etc)
Shape shifters and elves
– Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate?
Tea, dark and steeped 5 minutes
– Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate
– Favorite author?
Susan Elizabeth Phillips for her complex characters and deeply emotional stories; Rick Riordan for his fast-paced stories of adventure and updating of myth
Visit Helen at her blog: http://helencjohannes.blogspot.com/
Buy link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bloodstone-Helen-C-Johannes-ebook/dp/B00G8GTHRC/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_tnr_5
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4031965.Helen_C_Johannes
I will offer a copy of my first book THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE, (US Kindle or US Nook format only) to a lucky commenter.
Growing up, Helen C. Johannes read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure. A member of Romance Writers of America, she credits the friends she has made and the critiques she’s received from her chapter members for encouraging her to achieve her dream of publication.
If you don’t have one of those ereaders, did you know you can download the Nook software to your phone, tablet or PC? Here’s the link: FREE Nook Apps
“Plaid to the Bone and the Spirit of the Highlands series by Mia Marlowe is the perfect read-a little humor, a little romance, a little sex and a little mystery all rolled into a tale of the Scottish Highlands.” ~ The Reading Cafe
Now before you run off to claim your Highland hero, why not share your favorite fairy tale with Helen and me?