content by

Heather Tomlinson

Adventure Calling

When people learn that I live on a sailboat with my husband, young son, and three cats, they express one of two sentiments. Either “Wow, that’s so cool!” or a variation of “You must be nuts.” Both, of course, are true. It’s way cool. But you also have to be a little, let’s be kind and say, “eccentric,” to enjoy this gig.

Their follow-up comment is usually, “Hey, you could write a book.”

Yes. But not that book. I write fantasy for teens. If I’ve learned one thing about the interplay between my life and my fiction, it’s that experiences have to marinate for a while before they show up on the page. Even then, I can’t always map characters, emotions, or images directly to memory. So my next book won’t be a memoir relating anecdotes from our three years of cruising life: the wicked storms, the colorful nautical types, the theater playing live and unscripted every day on the VHF radio, wacky encounters with the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, or the Mexican Navy.


Lutins and Tengu and Were-Bears. Oh, my.

We may not be in Kansas anymore, but still it can be challenging to add that tasty international flavor to a teen fantasy reading menu. It seems that most contemporary fantasy novels for young people are rooted securely in the Western European folklore tradition. Not surprisingly, English-language writers rely heavily on British, Celtic, Norse, and classical Greek mythology to populate their worlds. Contemporary urban fantasy authors have spread the net wider, including vampires and werewolves among their casts. Others go off the map altogether, creating brand-new creatures and mythologies (Monster Blood Tattoo-man, I’m looking at you!).

Trolling around the internet to assemble a list of current YA novels published in the U.S. but set far from these shores, I was surprised to see it so short!

As always, recommendations most welcome.

[list follows below the cut]

Irritation, the Step-mother of Invention

In the comments following my post on YA fairy tale fiction, contributor Patrick Garson remarked that we can’t know the “original” meanings of fairy tales that have been transmitted through the oral tradition. It’s not until a version has been recorded—or composed, in the case of literary tales like those by Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy or Hans Christian Andersen—that a text exists to which subsequent storytellers can respond.

Thinking about this point, I realized that my fairy tale novels are less like a conversation and more like an argument with established canon. Stories I already love don’t provoke me enough to spend the effort required to build a novel around them. A source of irritation, not fondness, must provide the necessary energy.

[What on earth was the heroine thinking?]

YA Fairy Tale Fiction

If Little Red Riding Hood had a cell phone, the conversation might go something like this:

LRRH: Grandma, OMG!
Wolf: LOL

Although the classic dialog loses a little in the texting, fairy tale-inspired novels and retellings for teens are more popular than ever. What does today’s digital generation find relevant in stories they first encountered as small children? Perhaps it’s how those stories are being updated to speak to their experience.

For a genre with roots in a centuries-old oral tradition, fairy tales have proven notably flexible. Like polymer modeling clay, the material is easy to work with and the sophistication of the results limited only by the crafter’s skill and imagination. Some young adult writers bring traditional lore into a modern setting. Others revisit darker elements that popular culture has tended to leave out, whether in the name of protecting vulnerable young people, or not offending the parents who pay good money for adorable princess merchandise.

[Read more…]

Cover Girls

First of all, my thanks to the team for inviting me to contribute to the blog.

I write YA fantasy novels, often with fairy tale themes. My second book, Aurelie: A Faerie Tale, has just been released in paperback with a brand spankin’ new cover. For the record, I’m pleased with both the hardcover and paperback art, but I especially love that they’re so different, considering that none of the words inside have changed. Now the game is to decode what my publisher’s marketing department wants to achieve by the switch.

Consider Exhibit A: the hardcover and paperback editions for Aurelie: A Faerie Tale.

Cover art by Julie Paschkis (left) and Larry Rostant

[The same book]

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