Last year, I interviewed Cheryl Mahoney about her debut release, The Wanderers. This year, we’re back with an interview centring on her second book, The Storyteller and Her Sisters! (I had the privilege and pleasure of being one of Cheryl’s betareaders. I’ve been sitting on my squee for so long. SQUEE! Suffice to say that if you enjoy fairytale retellings, I recommend you go out and get this as soon as possible. It’s a fantastic retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.)
Before we get to the interview, here’s a little bit about Cheryl herself:
Cheryl Mahoney is a book blogger at Tales of the Marvelous, and the author of two books based on fairy tales. The Wanderers, published in 2013, follows the journeys of a wandering adventurer, a talking cat and a witch’s daughter. Her new novel, The Storyteller and Her Sisters, was published in October, 2014.
And here’s a bit about The Storyteller and Her Sisters too. Have the product description. ^_^
Maybe you’ve heard a tale about twelve princesses who danced their shoes to pieces. That was only part of our story.
Talya would tell you how dark and frightening the cursed forest and enchanted lake were. Vira would be too busy looking after us all to tell you many details, while Mina would try to give you every fact and figure (even though magic is rarely so logical). Each of my sisters would tell the story differently.
And Dastan—he’d write a ballad. Or maybe a love song.
As for me, I’m the storyteller, so I’m giving you my version. It’s about my sisters and me, our father, twelve princes and a cursed country—about a series of misguided champions, one even more misguided Fairy Godmother, and a great deal of dancing. It’s about twelve trapped princesses who decided to take control of the story.
I’m Lyra, the ninth princess, and this is how I tell the tale.
<3 And now, without further ado, below the cut lies the interview with Cheryl. Enjoy!
CM: I’ve been calling this a companion novel, rather than a sequel, because it’s set chronologically during the same time period, and the books can be read in either order. The Wanderers is a series of adventures, and one of them involves twelve princesses who are mysteriously wearing their dancing slippers out. Storyteller turns the point of view around, and we get to see what’s happening from the princesses’ point of view. We find out much more about the girls, their father, and the twelve princes they’re dancing with every night.
The plot is based on the Brothers Grimm story, “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.” But because it’s me 🙂 I wanted to give the princesses much more power and agency than the fairy tale did. My princesses aren’t victims being forced to dance—they’re making choices and trying to achieve something…but I’ll keep it vague to not give too much away.
It’s a story about sisters, about romance and of course, about stories!
LEO: When did you decide to write a companion to The Wanderers?
CM: I came up with the idea for a new twist on the princesses’ fairy tale while I was writing The Wanderers. I was trying not to be distracted, so I decided to take the idea and weave it into my current project. It became the longest chapter (and the one people most frequently cite as their favorite!)
I still felt like there was more to the story, though, so I decided to take a break from The Wanderers and write the princesses’ story for NaNoWriMo in 2012. I figured that way, I was only spending a month distracted by it! It ended up being two months—I wrote 50,000 words in November and another 26,000 in December to finish the first draft. And I liked it so much, I knew I’d have to take it seriously as more than a distracting project!
LEO: Some of the scenes will be familiar to people who’ve read The Wanderers first. Did you have a lot of trouble keeping the contents of the scenes the same?
CM: For the most part, no. When the scenes actually overlapped, I copied the relevant scene from The Wanderers and rewrote it from Lyra’s point of view line by line. I tried to focus on different pieces of the scene to keep it fresh for readers who had read the first book—so in some conversations, a portion will be summarized past in one book but told in dialogue in the other.
This would have worked great for consistency, except that in my final-final revision of The Wanderers, when I was looking at the first proof copy, I changed some of the dialogue and didn’t think of correcting it in Storyteller! But I had one beta-reader who’s very good at details, and actually laid out her copy of the first book to compare everything and pointed out the changes to me, so I don’t think you’ll find differences now. (Well…there is one extra sentence of dialogue, which I’ve added into the second edition of The Wanderers too, but I doubt anyone will spot it!)
LEO: Inquiring cat-lovers want to know: Does Tom play a large role in The Storyteller and Her Sisters?
CM: Oh, I wish I could say he does! I wanted to bring him in more, but it just didn’t fit the story because Lyra didn’t find out until the very end that he could talk. However, he is in a few scenes and I think readers of The Wanderers will see more significance in some of his actions than Lyra does. And despite the limited opportunity, I managed to give him a snarky moment or two.
LEO: What are your plans now? Are there any other fairytales you’re looking forward to retelling?
CM: I’m planning another “companion novel” for next fall, although it will be less connected than these first two. It will be in the same world, and have a few familiar characters. The narrator is Tarragon, an unusual fairy (he’s against little wings and sparkles) who had a small role in The Wanderers. He gets into some clashes with Marjoram, my resident Good Fairy who flutters (and sheds sparkles) through both The Wanderers and The Storyteller and Her Sisters.
That book retells a few more famous fairy tales: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. But of course there’s a twist. Instead of focusing on the princes and princesses the fairy tales center on, Tarragon and my story are interested in the people on the edges of the original story. What if one of the kitchen maids who falls asleep during Sleeping Beauty’s curse also has a true love outside the castle? What if Cinderella’s slipper fits on one of those other girls in town, and the prince expects her to marry him—and she doesn’t want to? I had so much fun giving Marj a bigger role, and I can’t wait for people to meet Cinderella’s horribly self-centered prince! The People the Fairies Forget should be out (crossing fingers) next fall.