Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. Her Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series, set in the court of Henry VIII, includes IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, KEEPER OF THE KING'S SECRETS, and IN DEFENSE OF THE QUEEN. Michelle’s other historical novels include DAUGHTER OF THE SKY, THE EMPEROR'S CONSPIRACY, and BANQUET OF LIES (loosely connected to THE EMPEROR'S CONSPIRACY).
Michelle has also published two fairy tale-inspired fantasy novels, MISTRESS OF THE WIND and THE GOLDEN APPLE.
Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa and currently lives in Australia with her husband and two children.
East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon is one of my favorite fairy tales. What made you want to retell your own version of this classic tale?
It is one of my favorite tales, as well. I really love it, and so when I did retell it, I tried to stay true to the original as much as possible. For me, the strength of the heroine, and her determination and courage, make it timeless and engaging. The images that the tale evokes are also amazing, and were a constant inspiration to me.
What drew you to retell the lesser-known tale The Princess on the Glass Hill? It's also a loose retelling. What are some of the similarities and differences we'll see?
The Princess on the Glass Hill has always intrigued me, because, wow, a glass hill. Cinderella might as well go hide her face in shame. I mean, this is magnitudes bigger than a slipper ^_^ But not only that, as I mention on my website, there is a line in the tale that always caught my interest. It says the princess threw down the golden apple to the hero. It is really clear about the fact that while he manages to get his horse higher than anyone else, he doesn't make it to the top, and it's only because the princess throws him the golden apple that he wins. I find that fascinating, and it's why I called the story THE GOLDEN APPLE.
To me, the golden apple is a symbol of who has the power. In this case, the power to influence who will inherit the kingdom. THE GOLDEN APPLE really kicks off as the tournament for the princess's hand and the golden apple begins, and it's about the consequences of her taking the outcome of the tournament into her own hands, grabbing that power when, while she was sitting passively on top of her glass hill, it looked like she was the only one without power. I just like that twist, and that turnabout.
Are you planning any new fairy tale retellings to look forward to in the future?
There is a sequel to THE GOLDEN APPLE, entitled THE SILVER PEAR, and that will be out in the fall of this year. There will only be two books in this series and the over-arching title is The Dark Forest series. THE SILVER PEAR incorporates fairy tale elements, like THE GOLDEN APPLE did, and is a continuation of THE GOLDEN APPLE. At the end of THE GOLDEN APPLE, the immediate danger has been overcome, but there is a larger issue at stake, which my protagonists, Kayla and Rane, have to deal with.
What have been your favorite elements to write when retelling these stories? The hardest?
I love the whole dark forest element. The dark forest has always been used in fairy tales to symbolize the confronting of our inner fears and darkness, and even though that element wasn't in the original Princess on the Glass Hill, it worked perfectly into the idea I had for the book. The hardest is always making sure the rules of magic I created worked and didn't contradict themselves.
What important lesson(s) have your fairytale characters learned that you wish the traditional fairytale version of the character could have learned from?
Oooh, that's such a great question. In some fairy tales, the characters don't seem to learn a lot, or they just learn being selfish and lying work out really well, LOL, but in my version of the tale, the princess gets to spread her wings and find her power and strength, and I'm not sure she'd have managed to get the same freedom at the end of the original.
What kind of fairy tale kingdom would you reside over? (earth, sea, air, etc)
I'm going to pick a forest kingdom. Mountains and forests have always drawn me, even though I live two minutes from one of the most amazing stretch of beaches in the world. ^_^
Describe your perfect crown.
I am LOVING these questions! ^_^ Gold filigree, very intricate and delicate.
Quickfire Stuff: This or That?
-Talking frog or talking donkey?
-Talking frog, all the way.
-Live in a gingerbread house or a door-less tower?
-That's a tough one. Neither, if I had the choice, but I'll go with hair ribbon / comb if I had to pick one.
Quickfire Stuff: Would You Rather...?
-Ask the witch's son to assist you in the evil tasks she's assigned or perform a troll's tasks in order to cross his bridge?
-Depends what the witch's son looked like ^.~ But probably go it alone and help the troll.
-Be woken up by the Town Musicians of Bremen or a fire-breathing dragon who's just discovered you in her gold hoard?
-Dragon! I was only there looking for my filigree crown, anyway. ^_^
-Be cursed with 10 curses in a row or be cursed 5 times from now until eternity?
-The second option makes it sound like I'd have until eternity to suffer the curses, and that's intriguing, so I'll pick door two.
Title: MISTRESS OF THE WIND
Author: Michelle Diener
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2013
Publisher: Michelle Diener
Bjorn needs to find a very special woman . . . The fate of his people, and his own life,
depends on it. But when he does find her, she is nothing like he
imagined, and may just harbor more secrets than he does himself. Astrid has never taken well to commands. No matter who issues them . . . She's clashed her whole life with her father,
and now her lover, the mysterious man who comes to her bedroom in
darkness and disappears to guard his mountain by day as a bear, is
finding it out the hard way. And when he's taken by his enemies, no one
is prepared for Astrid's response. It is never wise to anger the mistress of the wind . . . A captivating and magical adult retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon.
Title: THE GOLDEN APPLE
Author: Michelle Diener
Release Date: March 24, 2014
Publisher: Michelle Diener
Kayla's world has been turned upside-down . . .
Her father has made her the prize in a deadly, impossible tournament, and Kayla has retaliated in the only way she knows how; by choosing her champion beforehand. But taking control of the outcome changes the game completely, and when the real reason behind the strange test becomes apparent, Kayla realizes not just her life, but her entire kingdom is at stake.
Rane's honor is torn in two...
In order to save his brother, Rane will do whatever he has to--including deceive and betray a princess. He knew nothing about this tournament would be easy, but when it turns into a deeper, far more sinister game, Rane is forced to see it through to the end, or leave his brother at the mercy of their enemy.
Now their fates are entwined, and they must venture into the deep, dark forest together . . .
Kayla and Rane are bound to one another by an enchantment and Kayla's actions. But the sorcerer forcing them to do his will may have miscalculated, because no-one comes out of the Great Forest unchanged. No-one.
THE GOLDEN APPLE is loosely based on the fairy tale The Princess on the Glass Hill.