I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Jennifer Donnelly’s Poisoned! I adored Stepsister so when the email dropped in my inbox I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. I’m delighted to be sharing a guest post from Jennifer!
Your Favourite Thing about Retellings
I love how an author’s retelling of a classic fairy tale tells me as much about the author as it does the story.
I wrote POISONED because ever since I was small, and first heard the tale of Snow White, I wanted to know who that creepy voice in the mirror belonged to. Why is he there? What does he want? Why does the evil queen listen to him? Without giving anything away, I can tell you that I got my answers. I found out who he is…and that he doesn’t have our best interests at heart.
I wrote STEPSISTER for the same reason – to get answers. That book follows the story of the Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. I loved Cinderella when I was small. How could anyone not love her? She’s so good and kind, and she stays true to herself no matter what. But I was fascinated by her stepsisters. They weren’t so good. They liked to sleep in and hated to do their chores and my five-year-old self could really relate to that. (My slightly-older-than-five-year-old self still can.) I wanted to know why the stepsisters were so mean. What had made them that way? Were they sorry for being so awful? Did they try to change?
I guess what my retellings reveal about me is that I was a kid with a lot of questions, and as I got older, those questions only deepened. I wanted to know what made the evil queen so obsessed with her mirror. How could she spend so much time gazing into it – after all, didn’t she have a realm to rule? What made her cruel? Evil queens aren’t born evil. Did she have a backstory? If so, what was it? What happened to her? And why don’t stories about kings begin with their wrinkles?
I also wanted to know who told the stepsisters that they were ugly. And what does it do to a person to be labeled that way? Why do we accept the labels that others stick on us? Why do we let other people define what beauty is?
I’m working on my third retelling now, and it, too, was prompted by questions, and by a sense of unfairness toward a main character that I need to address. It’s a bit of a compulsion with me, this need to give readers a different perspective, to let a new voice speak.
I really do think that fairy tales are like Rorschach tests – the things that we see in them reveal a great deal about us.
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of seven novels and a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.
Jennifer’s first novel, THE TEA ROSE, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called ‘exquisite’ by Booklist, ‘so much fun’ by the Washington Post, a ‘guilty pleasure’ by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times.
Her second novel, A GATHERING LIGHT, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as ‘rich and true’ by The New York Times, the book was named on the Best Book lists of The Times (London), The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the School Library Journal.
REVOLUTION was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Chicago Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.
In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling WATERFIRE saga, an epic series about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil. The first book in the series, DEEP BLUE, was released in May, 2014; the second book, ROGUE WAVE, launched in January 2015.
Jennifer Donnelly lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.