Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight! This week Charlotte Henley Babb is returning with her anthology, Pumpkineater.
Having big feet, gray hair, a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Charlotte Henley Babb loves fiction for strong women with a sassy attitude and a flair for magic.
She began writing when she could hold a piece of chalk and scribble her name–although she sometimes mistook “Chocolate” for “Charlotte” on the sign at the drug store ice cream counter. Growing up in the red mud and sweet tea Carolinas, she played with the fairies in the woods and the aliens in the back yard. She has studied the folk stories of many cultures and wonders what happened to ours.
When her third-grade teacher allowed her access to the fiction room at the school library, Charlotte discovered Louisa Alcott and Robert Heinlein, an odd marriage of the minds. These two authors have had the most influence on her desire to share her point of view with the world and to explore how the world might be made better. Her favorite authors now include Sir Terry Pratchett, Robert Aspirin, and Esther Friesner.
She has taught English in high school and junior college, written procedure manuals, and edited writing association newsletters. Her presentations at education and writing conferences on using the Internet, blogging, using social media, and writing science fiction have been well-received.
Her first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, was published in 2012 and won 2014 Sharp Writ Book Awards for Sci-fi/Fantasy and an honorable mention in the 2014 National Federation of Press Women communications contest for adult novels.
She brings to any project a number of experiences: technical writer, gasket inspector, wait staff, fabric and craft retail associate, craft artificer, secret weapon, and telephone psychic.
Currently working as a writing instructor, she writes fractured fairy tales, steampunk, and Southern fiction for people who have survived love’s last kiss.
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About the Book
I love fracturing fairy tales and these are based on Jack and the Beanstalk, Peter Peter Pumpkineater, and (very loosely!) the Robber Bridegroom.
Maven Fairy Godmother deals with kudzu, Giants and a very large pumpkin. She brings her usual channel-the-chaos style to deliver the happily ever after her clients desire.
“Kiss of the Kudzu” begins just after the end of Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil. Maven hasn’t recovered from her first week on the job, but she has her hands full with the wishes of a sentient Palace.
In “Beans,” Maven follows her client up the beanstalk to raid the Giants and steal her way out of abject poverty, but the client finds out there are better ways to solve her problems.
In the title story, “Pumpkineater,” Maven meets a kept sorceress and must find a way out for both of them or risk being kept forever.
Get it today on Amazon!
Keep reading for more from Charlotte:
How to Fracture a Fairy Tale
A guest post by Charlotte Henley Babb
My favorite cartoon as a young child (think late 1950s) was Rocky and Bullwinkle, and the feature “Fractured Fairy Tales.” Raised in the McCarthy era (Google it, millennials), I wondered how the political satire of this show got past the censors. It was then I realized that the people who ran the TV shows had no idea about kids and that we had brains even before we went to middle school.
Those fractured fairy tales had a smirk to them, and rarely a moral, other than you get what you deserve by how you treat people, which appealed to my innocent sense of justice. For example, in the twisted Red Riding Hood story, she was trying to kill the wolf to make a coat from his pelt, but instead, she ended up as a coat. She shrugs and says, “It’s a living.”
So when picking a fairy tale to fracture, it really helps to pick one that is familiar, and if you spend any time on fantasy offerings on Amazon, you can see that this field is well plowed. After all, the entire romance industry is “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and for thrillers, “Snow White.”
Take Cinderella for example. It’s been done and done and done…not to make a dirty joke here. So make the heroine an arsonist (women are not usually arsonists but then again, Carrie), and make up a reason why she is so hot to burn—perhaps she does that as a sideline for her assassin gig, or she is a fire mage, or she’s menopausal and when she has hot flashes, so does everyone else. Now find someone who puts her in a position that she loses control of who and what she torches, so that the “hero” is a target, is a fireman, or in some other way, helps her to gain control again. Hmmm, that would make a pretty good story.
There are several elements to look at: character, setting, point of view, plot twists, satire, and theme.
Gender bending of characters is always fun. I have one story where there are seven female dwarfs, and my lone hero suddenly finds out what it’s like to be the rooster in the henhouse when the hens are in charge. CinderFella is a Jerry Lewis (look it up) movie based on this idea.
Change of setting to modern and urban is a current kick, whether there is a secret, hidden fairy world (e.g. Harry Potter, Dresden Files, Neverwhere) or if the Fae attempt to keep a low profile in the real world (Lost Girl, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, American Gods). Take out the magic, and you have just another mainstream novel with a familiar plot, so finding the magic, the wizard or witch, the fairy godmother, the inept would-be magician, and re-tell the story. Make magic messy, use whatever is available (see Terry Pratchett’s witch novels), and a fair amount of placebo con artist (headology) work as well as actual spellcasting to get the plot moving.
Change of point of view can be fun. Make the wolf the hero, well-motivated to want pork for dinner, and perhaps framed for something he didn’t do (Randy Ingermanson’s How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method incorporates this trope as part of a fairy tale-based novella that presents his novel planning method being taught at a writer’s convention. Hilarious, especially if you have been to half a dozen such events. ).
New plot twists are good: The prince is gay, so even the most beautiful woman is uninteresting unless perhaps she too is gay, and they can have whatever they want on the side while discussing something of mutual interest…perhaps wine or avant garde music (check out Yentl with Barbara Streisand) . What happens if the wicked witch does not melt when she is doused with mop water…perhaps she rusts, causes an electrical fire, or just gets angrier?
Satire is good. Make the character resemble well-known celebrities and just let the story play out on their foibles. Imagine Ivana Trump having to marry Kanye West? Of course, the problem with current events is that they are only current for five minutes. What happens if it is the princess who is being forced to marry is more of a harridan than (Taming of) The Shrew Katherina? What sort of Petruchio would be fun to play with? One who is a rake, truly out only for Katharina’s money, or maybe a street rogue who could actually make the princess happy (Disney’s Aladdin with or without Robin Williams)?
Theme is one place that I start off. I get tired of the obedient, pliant, blonde, D-cup soprano with the size zero foot being the heroine. My heroines tend to be big, loud, resistant to authority, and used to being put down. They get back up and keep on trucking. Returning to Cinderella, it is the stepmother who is the villain, but it is the sisters who are punished. How would the story change if one of the ugly sisters found a fairy godmother? What might she wish for?
What if the highest goal for a woman was not to marry a man of high standing, but to build her own business, to discover her own secret powers and use them, to be single, cis, bi, gay, or trans, and be happy doing what she chooses to do? There’s a fracture in that theme.
It’s time for some new fairy tales, ones that don’t repeat the patriarchal past when women of high standing were married off to a family that secured an alliance with her person, when the idea of marrying someone for love was a fairy tale indeed.
So pick your tale and get out your chisel and hammer. Fracture that fairy tale.