{Guest Post/Giveaway} "Creating a Real-Life Sleeping Beauty" with Author Elizabeth Blackwell

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Elizabeth Blackwell
The "Strong Female" Fairy Tale...!

As the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, Elizabeth Blackwell grew up in Washington, D.C., interspersed with stints in Africa, the Middle East and Europe--pretty much always with a book in hand. She majored in history at Northwestern University (hooray! more reading!) and received her master's in journalism from Columbia University, which led to a career as an editor and writer for a number of publications that have since gone out of business (surely just a coincidence?). She now writes fiction from her home office in the Chicago suburbs, in between wrangling her three children and fighting for a parking spot at the local Target.
Check out Elizabeth's website and visit her on Twitter and Facebook.

Creating a Real-Life Sleeping Beauty

by Elizabeth Blackwell

I’ll admit it: I’m a total history geek. I majored in history in college, I love vacationing in places where I can wander around a crumbling castle or temple, and I’ve always devoured historical fiction, from Ken Follett’s cathedral-building masterpiece PILLARS OF THE EARTH to Steven Saylor’s ancient Roman murder-mystery series.

Why, then, was I so inspired by Sleeping Beauty—a fantasy—that I wrote a whole book around it? Because this particular fairy tale offered so many elements that felt true to life. I could envision the main characters living in an actual medieval castle; I could identify with their struggles and imagine ways the story unfolded not because of magic, but through human actions.

In the process of writing WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT, there were certain themes I kept returning to, themes that helped explain my characters and the choices they made. (I should note here that I used the Disney movie as my main reference, rather than the original French version.) These were the elements that convinced me Sleeping Beauty had great potential as historical fiction, not just fantasy:

1. A childless king and queen: The story starts with rulers who have waited years for a child. I wondered what that infertility would mean for the future of that royal family. How would the queen feel, in a time when it was considered the woman’s fault if she couldn’t get pregnant? How would the king react to having no heir?
2. Powerful rivals: In the real-life Middle Ages, a royal court was more than a setting for jousting tournaments. Those who had the king’s favor could make their fortune, and those who didn’t could be executed on a whim. A king without a son would be seen as vulnerable, and I knew that plots to take over the throne would play into my story.
3. The princess is born: When the king and queen finally have their child, they celebrate with an extravagant baptism. But in most countries at that time, a woman couldn’t take the throne in her own right; the title would go to another male relative. How would the princess feel about that as she grew up? Would that uncertainty about the future put a strain on her family?
4. The curse: Maleficent is one of the all-time great Disney villains, and I knew I’d have to create a version of her that was menacing, but not cartoonish. For WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT, I re-named her Millicent and made her a member of the royal family. A woman with certain powers but also a great deal of resentment. I wanted her to embody the idea that evil can happen when people set terrible things in motion, not because they cast a spell.
5. The eternal sleep: In the movie, Princess Aurora drifts off to sleep and all the members of the court nod off around her. What, I wondered, was a real-life scenario that could explain this particular image? I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say I came up with a solution that that was inspired by actual historical events.
 6. The view from downstairs: I wanted to create a believable, fully-realized world, and I knew that wouldn’t be possible if I told the story from Sleeping Beauty’s viewpoint. As a princess, she’d be confined to the castle and sheltered from the real world. That’s why I chose to tell the story through the voice of Elise, a servant. She witnesses all the events leading up to the curse and beyond, and can explain what happens in a larger context. Ultimately, she stands in for us: a real person, who experiences both joy and tragedy in the real world.

Elizabeth Blackwell is the author of WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2014). Find out what else she’s up to at elizabethblackwellbooks.com or Facebook/elizabethblackwellbooks.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
Release Date: Feb. 20, 2014
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam // Penguin

A beautiful princess lies in a sleep so deep it is close to death. Was Sleeping Beauty revived by a prince's kiss? What really happened in that tower so long ago? 

WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT re-imagines the legend through the lens of historical fiction, telling the story as if it really happened. A Gothic tale of suspense and ambition, love and loss, it interweaves the story of a royal family and the servants who see behind the glamorous facade, following the journey of a young woman as she lives out a destiny that leads her to the brink of death.


Ready to check out

To celebrate the recent release of WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT, Elizabeth has offered up one signed hardcover copy to one lucky Fairy Tale Fortnight reader! 

This giveaway is open to US/CAN, and ends May 10th, 2014 at midnight. 

Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter, and make sure to leave Elizabeth some comment-love!

All FTF giveaways run until May 10th.

You must register on the Giveaway Registration Form during the event to be considered for any prizes in individual giveaways throughout the event.

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