Sunday 26 April 2020

The Tangled Forest for #IndieApril

The penultimate book on my #IndieApril book tour and probably the shortest.

This one came out in 2018, the same year as Creeper's Cottage. It began life as a one-off novella called Wolfish. It was a very dark retelling of Red Riding Hood. I've always been interested in myths and fairytales. Philip Pullman's introduction to Grimm's Fairytales has it pegged - they're very two-dimensional and often with quite a blatant moral message. But I love this idea that many of the gods from Vodoun to Norse mythology were based on people who probably walked the earth. The way the Kings of Ireland, Africa and many other areas start out as mythical god-like beings and then suddenly step onto the page as recorded individuals with complete histories. More complete the more time passes.

I love the idea of reaching back into those half-known places and pulling a complete, complex being from the mists. Taking flat fairytales and blowing some life into them. What would those stories be like if those were real people with all their thoughts and feelings, all that messy emotion, along for the ride?

I'm also drawn towards Red Riding Hood for the sexual element. There are so many folk angles in there about what she represents: Mother Redcap with her love charms, or the menarche with its first stirrings of sexual possibility, or forbidden lust for that animalistic side of things, the fight between desire and decorum.

Plus, I'm someone who likes the darker side of literature, so the colour red is always a lure. How did that cloak get so awfully red?

That's sort of the question I set out to answer, so you can probably guess where it goes.

So, I wrote it just for fun in between Rosy Hours and Creeper's Cottage. I put it out on submission and got a very polite knockback saying they really liked the writing but couldn't take a novella... and they weren't the only ones. It soon became very apparent that no serious writer in their right mind ever, ever writes a novella.

Ghostwoods took pity on me and suggested that if I wrote a couple more to go with it, they could perhaps release them as a collection.

So, that's what I did. Two more, that I have to admit I wasn't overly into until I started them, but which quickly grew on me. I went for the story of Snow-White and Rose-Red, which, being honest, didn't come out at all as I planned. It was all going to be told from one sister's perspective and there was going to be a lot of blood-on-snow imagery, which just never materialised. Instead, both sisters got in on the act and it turned into a sort of weird romp through the woods with a bit of dark, cartoonish humour. I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself.

Then I switched back to serious tone for the final telling, Skin, which is based on the French story Donkeyskin (Peau d'Âne). I chose that one because I had a huge book of illustrated fairytales as a kid and one of the most beautifully illustrated was this story, with its dresses sewn of sunlight and stars. Wish I could remember the book, now.

Anyway, I cobbled them together as a collection. Unfortunately, Ghostwoods decided they didn't want them, but that did leave me free to self-publish using the wonderful artwork of Victoria Cooper.

It was just a little side project that got a bit out of hand. 

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