Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Retellings: Hayden Wand and Fairytale Retellings

Today we have Hayden with some fairytale retellings of her own--and some great thoughts about the fairytales and questions concerning them.

Meet Hayden...
Hayden Wand has been writing stories since before she can remember, but only decided to pursue being an author after she realized her childhood dream jobs were surprisingly unattainable. (Why is it so hard to get a gig as an international jewel thief or a deadly-spy-slash-private-detective these days?)

Her novella “The Wulver’s Rose” was published in Rooglewood Press’s FIVE ENCHANTED ROSES anthology, and she is also the author of two more fairy tale retellings: WITH BLOSSOMS GOLD (2017), and JANUARY SNOW (Coming Winter 2019). She lives in South Carolina with her family.

Hayden's Retellings...


Nella has lived quietly in her tower in the woods for over a decade. After dangerous accusations drove her and her grandmother away from their village, they escaped deep into the forest where no one would try to harm them. Now, after her grandmother’s death, Nella is alone, and she is determined to stay that way. She has no patience for a world she deems judgmental and ignorant.
Or so she tells herself. In reality, her paralyzing fear prevents her from stepping foot outside of the tower.

Prince Benedict Allesandro is an adventurer- a rescuer who prides himself on saving the weak and unfortunate. When he hears rumors of a beautiful damsel trapped in a tower, he rushes to her rescue…only to find a woman who most definitely does not wish to be saved.

But when war breaks out, this reckless prince and reclusive maiden are faced with overcoming their deepest fears in order to determine not only their own fate, but that of their entire country.

A life is a high price to pay for stealing a rose. Nevertheless, Bonnie honors her father’s agreement and travels to the remote, ruinous castle wherein dwells the legendary creature known as a wulver—half man, half wolf. Though he is monstrous to behold, this beast is oddly gentle, tenderly caring for his beautiful rosebush, which blooms out of season. Is there more to the wulver than meets the eye? Is he somehow connected to the frightened child who visits Bonnie in her dreams?

Find Hayden's books on Amazon

The Questions That Drive Fairy Tales
A Note from Hayden...
“But it’s been done before.”

Originality is a haunting concept that hangs over artists of all types—including authors. And perhaps writers of retellings struggle with this even more than others. After all, we know from the start that we are dealing with expanding, twisting, or reexamining something that we know has already been done. But all writers deal with juggling well-known tropes, archetypes, and genre expectations. The trick is how to use those tools effectively—and for someone who writes retellings, the original story is just one of the tools in the box. An important one to be sure, but one that shouldn’t really be all that more intimidating to use than any other.

For me, one of the best ways to effectively retell any well-known story is to focus on the questions the original tale brings up.

Fairy tales are complex and heavily thematic, and at times heavily moralistic. But there is a simplicity to them, too; sometimes, what seems important to us isn’t important to the fairy tale at all! Why did Rumpelstiltskin want the queen’s firstborn child? Why did Rapunzel’s birth mother want forbidden lettuce so badly that she was willing to risk her husband’s life and give up her daughter for it? Did the prince really think that Cinderella’s shoe size was so unique that he was sure her foot was the only one that would fit the slipper?

We don’t know because the fairy tales don’t tell us; those aren’t the questions that the themes of the tales are prompting us to answer.


Answering these questions are a great starting point for writing retellings.

For instance, the entirety of the plot of my Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Wulver’s Rose, came from wondering why on earth the beast was so upset that Beauty’s father took one of his roses.

That single question spiraled out in my planning process, so that it became the central issue that the rest of the story hinged on—and one that drove the story’s theme of reparation, redemption, and forgiveness. 

But sometimes, the ways we choose to answer these questions are simple and don’t end up taking much of the story to explain. In my Rapunzel retelling With Blossoms Gold, the reason Rapunzel’s father stole from the “witch” was because of famine; that’s why the wife would die without it, and why he was willing to give up his daughter. However, this ends up in my character’s backstory and doesn’t play a large part in the plot at all. That question simply didn’t became central enough to play such a large part of the story.

And that’s where different kinds of questions come in. The questions that don’t ask “why?” but rather “what if?”

Each of the fairy tale retellings that I’ve written—including unpublished ones—have their driving force grounded in flipping one aspect of the fairy tale and then trying to remain as true as possible to the rest of the story. I’m not looking to be subversive and completely flip the morals or motivations of the original tales on their head, but rather imagine, “what if this one central thing was different?”

For instance, in With Blossoms Gold, the question was, “What if Rapunzel didn’t want to leave the tower?”

For The Wulver’s Rose, without going too much into spoiler territory, the idea was “what if the Beast was trying to break the spell primarily to save someone else?”

In January Snow, my upcoming twist on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the question became, “what if Snow White, the ‘innocent princess’ wasn’t innocent at all?”

But what really makes a retelling “click” for me is when the “what if?” questions perfectly intersect with the “why?” questions.

For example, the two questions “Why does Cinderella stay with her abusive family?” and “What if Cinderella literally couldn’t refuse to obey her stepmother?” collide in Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted.

In her Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer asks the question “What if classic fairy tales took place in the future?” but then utilizes the tools of her setting—technology and space—to create parallel situations to the original stories: a cyborg Cinderella loses her mechanical foot rather than a shoe; Rapunzel is trapped in a orbiting satellite rather than a tower. The core elements and imagery of the original story are still there but they’ve been utilized in an unexpected way—subverting and fulfilling expectations all at once.

Any fairy tale retelling you write can be as traditional or as unconventional as you desire—but pondering the questions that tug at you when you read the original usually gives you a personal investment and connection to the fairy tale. If you want those answers, then your readers can usually tell.

And that gets us invested in finding those answers, too.


Anonymous said...

Thank You for this post Amanda. Hayden., wishing you continued success with your writing.God Bless.


Katja L. said...

I’m enjoying this series! Thanks, Amanda!

Hayden said...

Thank you for having me on the blog, Amanda! :D

Hayden said...

Thank you for having me on the blog, Amanda! :D

A.M. Heath said...

I love that you asked the original the question "why" instead of just "what if." Your retellings sound very interesting.

Amanda Tero said...

@ Marilyn - thank you!

@ Katja - yay, glad you're enjoying it! It's fun for me too!

@ Hayden - and thank you for BEING on my blog! <3

@ A.M. - right?? I loved that part of her retellings!

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