princess-free zone or even this viral video of 5year old Riley sounding off about big business, the color pink, and gender marketing.
But much to my chagrin, nay, shame, I’ve really never given a second thought to this issue through the eyes of the concerned princes. I mean, what must it be like, as a fairy tale character, to be so completely overshadowed all the time by princesses like Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty? To be made essentially anonymous, stripped of your individual and autonomous identity, and lumped together with every other Prince Charming of legend and lore?
Luckily, the wildly talented Christopher Healy is coming to the rescue of neglected princes everywhere with his hilarious and imaginative forthcoming The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins, May 2012). I was lucky enough to read an ARC of the novel and interview Christopher; and one of you will be lucky enough – just by leaving a comment below – to win a signed hardcover copy of his hot-off-the-presses forthcoming book! (unless you have some kind of aversion or allergy or something to laughing – in that case, please DON’T leave a comment. Because this book will make you laugh – and laugh a lot!)
But first, the most awesome interview of this most awesome author, in which he reveals which Prince Charming he is most like, why he has a soft spot for witches, and what really “ooks” him out as a writer of fractured fairy tales:
Question: Christopher, your book has four main protagonists – Frederic, Gustav, Liam and Duncan — all former Prince Charmings (er, I mean, Princes Charming. As your character Duncan would remind me, the noun is made plural, not the adjective). Where did you come up with their off-kilter personalities? And tell us the truth – which one is closest to your own?
Christopher: Well, the original fairy tales don’t give us much to go on, but it was still important to me that my princes’ personalities made sense with what little we do know of these guys already. I asked myself, for instance: What do we know about Cinderella’s prince? He can dance. He’s sophisticated. And he’s got noble ladies swooning over him. But beyond that, we don’t know much. So I took what Charles Perrault gave me, and got creative with the rest. From that starting point, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Prince Frederic is probably not very outdoorsy, perhaps a little too focused on his fashion choices, and (to put it mildly) not the most daring guy in the world.
I did the same for all the princes. Rapunzel’s prince wants to rescue her, but never thinks to get a ladder — so Gustav is the kind of guy who rushes into things without thinking. Sleeping Beauty’s prince actually rescues an entire kingdom in his story, and gets major kudos for it — so Liam bases his entire identity on heroics and has a bit of an ego about it. Snow White’s prince gets lucky by wandering through the forest and stumbling upon a bewitched princess to kiss — so Duncan is a carefree oddball who spends a lot of time walking the woods by himself, just waiting to see where life takes him next.
And while there’s definitely a little bit of Duncan in me, the prince who most represents me is Frederic. As a child, I shunned cotton candy because it I was afraid it would make my hands sticky. That says it all, really.
Question: Your book plays with the princess stereotype as well. How did you decide on your princess’ personalities?
Christopher: While I did work to make sure that my princesses were different from previous depictions of those same characters (especially their film incarnations), I crafted their personalities the same way I did the princes. I built them out of the original stories.
Cinderella worked hard labor for years, so she’s tough and strong. Rapunzel has the power to heal people with her tears (in the original tale), so here she’s got a bit of a savior complex. Sleeping Beauty was hidden away and catered to for her whole childhood, and has thus ended up somewhat spoiled.
And Snow White, just like her prince, spends a lot of time wandering the forest and chatting with wildlife, so as it turns out, she’s actually a good match for Duncan.
But those were just starting points for the princesses. The ladies come into the spotlight a whole lot more in Book II, and the further changes you’ll see there should come across as a natural evolution for the characters.
Question: Usually, middle grade novels need middle grade-aged protagonists. But except for Liam’s younger sister, and a juvenile delinquent of a robber baron, none of your characters is kid-aged (and in fact, two are married). Was this a deliberate decision? Did you ever consider making them younger?
To read the answer to this question and more, and to enter to win, visit From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!