Guest Post: Cheryl Mahoney on Fairy Tale Connections

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I am super excited to have Cheryl Mahoney back on my blog for the fourth time to discuss all the interesting connections she has made between her books and fairy tales. I don’t usually host guest posts but I always make a special exception for Cheryl; a fellow book blogger at Tales of the Marvelous, and the author of The Wanderers, The Storyteller and Her Sisters and The People the Fairies Forget. Take it away Cheryl…


I’m delighted to be welcomed onto Jessica’s blog for a guest post today! I love stories that draw in references and connections to other stories, creating a bigger tapestry beyond a single book.  Today, I’m going to explore a bit about some of those connections layered into my newest book—with maybe a secret or two from the author’s-eye view!

My Beyond the Tales series began with the intention to create larger, more complex, hopefully more logical (!) stories that go beyond what we see in the traditional fairy tales. The Wanderers pulls in frequent elements from fairy tales, like youngest sons always succeeding at quests; The Storyteller and Her Sisters retells “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces;” and The People the Fairies Forget retells “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” from new points of view. The Lioness and the Spellspinners is closer to the first book, more independent in plot—but still with plenty of fairy tales references for readers to spot.

In the first portion of the book, one of the chief challenges for the characters is strange spells cropping up without explanation. I hope readers won’t immediately solve the mystery of the spells, but will recognize the literary sources: I use elements of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “The Red Shoes,” plus a talking animal who could be from many fairy tales.

A later scene involves exploring a magician’s study. This particular magician is a collector of magical items, and I had fun thinking of objects to present from different tales.  The magician has traditional things like Snow White’s apple, walnuts from the tale of “Donkeyskin,” and a golden apple from Greek mythology.  I also couldn’t resist a teacup with a chip in the rim!

Besides connections to fairy tales, I like connecting my various novels. Each book in the series can be read independently, but readers of multiple books will spot connections.  This one links most closely to The Storyteller and Her Sisters.  The princesses in that tale must free twelve princes from a curse, and Lioness is set in the princes’ country, in pre-curse days.  Prince Dastan, the love interest in Storyteller, appears as a child in Lioness.

Magical knitting is a major theme in this book that has not directly appeared in the others—but there is a small link.  I added an extra detail at the last possible moment when I was doing final edits for Storyteller.  That book came out October, 2014, a month before I started writing Lioness, but I was already working out the magic system.  I was just barely in time to include a new detail where Dastan gives my heroine a scarf, dyed a special color that is a trade secret in their country. Lioness reveals what that scarf and color mean magically, for readers who go back to compare the details.

I also had to sneak in another character—Sam Jones is a personal favorite character of mine, who has made appearances in every novel I’ve written, including the unpublished ones I wrote in high school.  He’s always earnest, well-meaning and deeply clumsy.  He already appeared in the other books in this series, and with this one set significantly earlier he can’t really be the same person…so we have to assume that the Sam in this book is an ancestor of the other one.  But really, they’re all Sam, and I was particularly pleased to be able to give him a nice moment highlighting his best qualities.

I hope readers will enjoy looking for the connections in the story—and I haven’t given away every secret about characters or references that may turn up!


Thank you so much Cheryl for another great post. I loved your previous books and I can’t wait to read your new one:

The Lioness and the Spellspinners

Forrest can’t fathom this prickly, knife-wielding girl who so unceremoniously turns up in his family’s barn one morning. His life has never been thisthe-lioness-cover exciting.  Karina can’t make herself trust the strangely hospitable villagers on this island she’s now stuck on, and when they claim they can knit spells into their garments, that doesn’t help.  She knows magic exists, but that’s just ridiculous.

And no one can understand why the chickens have suddenly started laying gilded eggs, or why the horse is talking in rhyming couplets.

When the inexplicable magic goes from mere bad poetry to actual threats, when dancing becomes dangerous and the wrong thought could cause disaster, the only answers are in the past Karina is fleeing—and the only way to survive is for the knife-wielder to trust the spellspinner.

The Lioness and the Spellspinners is now available to buy in paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Have you read any of Cheryl’s wonderful books? Are you looking forward to reading her new one?

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7 thoughts on “Guest Post: Cheryl Mahoney on Fairy Tale Connections

  1. I loved hearing about the way Cheryl hides references in her stories. I always enjoy spotting a reference in a book – it makes me feel all well read and stuff. And since I never know about the ones I miss, they don’t bother me… 😉

    1. I am so pleased to hear you enjoyed Cheryl’s post FF – I think it is fascinating to hear about how an author fits literary/fairy tale references into a new story. I’d never thought about it that way, even though it seems so obvious now you’ve said it, but you’re right we love recognising a reference we know and never have to worry about the ones we don’t recognise 😀

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