Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Welcome guest Maia Chance!

When people ask me where I got the idea for Snow White Red-Handed, I’m not sure where to start.  I can say with certainty, however, that the entire Fairy Tale Fatal series began as a self-indulgent, irresponsible project.

Yes.  Call it Escape from Academic Drudgery.  Charge me as guilty for writing an entire novel as a way to procrastinate on my homework.

This is what happened: I’ve always been fascinated with fairy tales, so when I had the chance to pick my texts for a freshman comp class I was teaching, I decided to use fairy tales and fairy tale criticism as a way to help my students learn to write about literature.  So I had fairy tales on the brain, big time.  The next thing I knew, the fairy tale stuff had cross-pollinated in the back of my mind with the nineteenth-century American literature texts I was reading in preparation for my PhD qualifying exams.  Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman . . . yeah.  How the heck does that crowd mix with fairy tales?  But the more I thought about it, the more excited I got.  I’ve always loved stories with outsider protagonists, and a Yankee girl in the Black Forest sounded like a book I wanted to read.  So I decided to write it.  Kind of for fun.  And as a way to procrastinate on grading student papers and chewing through that pesky PhD reading list.

Once I got started writing and researching Snow White Red-Handed, other things worked their way into the story.  Some of them are personal.  For instance, my heroine Ophelia Flax is a variety hall actress, and one of my great-grandmothers was a singer on the variety hall stage.

Other personal ingredients are the Baden-Baden and Heidelberg settings.  When I was in college, I spent two summers in Heidelberg working as an orchestral violinist in Heidelberg’s Castle Festival, and I traveled a couple of times to Baden-Baden on my days off.

Baden-Baden has a simply amazing thermal spa, by the way, if you aren’t averse to getting whacked on the rear after your scrubbing has been completed by a muscly attendant.  Seriously.   I was enchanted by the area, and it evidently left its mark on my imagination.  I even have a recurring dream of hiking to a castle inhabited by elves, hidden on a mountain above Heidelberg.  There is a story to that, and no, it doesn’t involve a psychotherapist.  Although maybe it should.

Another personal inspiration: I’ve always had a secret crush on the composer Johannes Brahms, and Brahms spent a lot of time in Baden-Baden.  In fact, even though the hero of Snow White Red-Handed, Professor Penrose, is British, I picture him like the young Brahms, plus spectacles. 

Okay, so I had this amazing setting that I’d always been in love with, a hero who looks like the young Brahms, and the fruitfully absurd concept of a practical Yankee variety hall actress who finds herself in the patently impractical land of German fairy tales.  Add a castle, a murder, and a cast of shifty characters, plus a hapless friend for Ophelia by the name of Prue, and off I went.

There were times, I’ll admit, when writing Snow White Red-Handed seemed like a lot more work than just doing my homework and grading my students’ papers, by golly.  The historical research was time consuming, though once I found Mark Twain’s two travelogues The Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad, things got smoother.  Getting my characters’ speech to sound historical without confusing twenty-first century readers was also tricky (fingers crossed that I pulled it off).  Oh, and then there was the little issue called the mystery plot.  Tangled, indeed.

In the end, though, Snow White Red-Handed almost miraculously turned out as that book I’d wanted to read: an unexpected, frivolous, magical, adventurous, and romantic romp.  I am so delighted that Berkley Prime Crime picked up my Fairy Tale Fatal series, and I hope readers will enjoy escaping into the mysterious woods of the nineteenth century as much as I did.

The publisher has generously offered a copy of Snow White Red-Handed to one of my readers. Please comment below before midnight on November 12, 2014. Entries from the US only, please.


  1. Enjoyed the post! The author really did her "homework".

    patucker54 at aol dot com

  2. Who doesn't love fairy tales!~ The process sounds fascinating, as does the book.

  3. Fairy tales have always been some of my favorite stories. Combining them with a cozy mystery? Sounds like paradise. I've been looking forward to this book for months, so glad it's finally here. Thanks for the chance to win.


  4. This sounds like an interesting take on fairy tales.


  5. Thank you for a chance to win a copy of Snow White Red-Handed. This sounds like an interesting twist for a cozy.

  6. A very unique and interesting book. Thanks for this feature. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com