It’s my pleasure to welcome Charlotte Henley Babb, author of Maven’s Fractured Fairy Tales!
What is your book about?
Maven’s new dream job–fairy godmother–presents more problems than she expects when she learns that Faery is on the verge of collapse, and the person who is training her isn’t giving her the facts–and may be out to kill her. Will she be able to make all the fractured fairy tales fit together into a happy ending, or will she be eaten by a troll?
What inspired you to write this particular story?
Where are the stories for women of a certain age, the ones Clarissa Pinkola Estès calls The Dangerous Old Woman? The Boomers are the first women to live to a ripe old age, many of us still with our mothers alive. Our only role models in fairy tales are bumbling grandmothers and evil witches. I wanted to write about negotiating the second half of life. One of my great-unts is 97 years old. If I live that long, I have 25 years of adult life left. If I’m to spend it in a rocking chair, the porch will have wi-fi and I’ll be burning up the data with my tablet.
Describe your writing in three words.
Fractured fairy tales
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I’m still learning outlining, so my main technique is character based—what would Maven do and why would she do that? Have I told enough backstory to make that plausible? When I know the motivations of all the characters, major and minor, the story is done, and just needs polish. This may take several drafts
Are your characters in the book based on anyone you know?
Yes and No – there are certainly traits that are from people I know, but for the most part they are just my imaginary friends.
Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you?
Ironically, I’m looking at two villains in my second novel, both of whom I’d like to redeem but one of which, and maybe both will have to die. They have chosen their path, they refuse to change, and there’s only one way out for them—at least that I’ve been able to see so far.
If your book was made into a TV series or movie, which actors would you choose to play your main characters?
If I could do a movie today, I’d have Kathy Bates play Maven, Judi Dench would play Fiona the Fairy Godmother Superior, and Queen Latifa would play Belle. Harrison Ford might be a good choice for Jones.
Who gets to read your drafts before they’re published?
Anyone among my friends who will listen!!! Actually, I’m a member of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop and critters.org, and I get very good critique from them.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve Googled?
Today? “the cult of the Grandmother” and “the two million year old woman” Last month I did a fair amount of research about women named Charlotte to celebrate my birthday month. I’m particularly fond of my blog post about Princess Charlotte of Monaco…trailer trash got nothing on the crowned heads of Europe. http://charlottehenleybabb.com/princess-charlottefairy-tale/
What projects are you working on now?
Current WIP is That Darn Maven, in which Maven is punished for her antics in the first book by being transformed into a cat, who must grant three wishes to get her human form back, but none of the characters she meets are making any wishes.
I’ve completed a couple of short stories to be released on Kindle when I get time to format and upload them. I’ve been working on the print version of Through the Veil, volume one of Maven Fairy Godmother, since my ebook publisher allowed the print rights to revert to me.
Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers?
I appreciate the kind words from readers on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s extremely gratifying to know that some people get what I am doing and think it’s funny. I’d love to know what stories they’d like to see fractured and whose point of view they would find interesting. I have a short story based on Sleeping Beauty that involves Maven and the Palace of the princess, rather than the princess herself.
Where can readers find you and your books online?
§ @charlottebabb on twitter
Short fiction can be found here:
Can a wish be granted across the veil? Trolls need love too, but can Maven find Grizelda’s true love without her wand and wings?
Maven takes a hike across the gender fence to see if the grass is greener, or the straw more golden, but there are some cats who just want to tangle his/her threads.
Maven’s favorite spell backfires and turns her into a frog. How can she grant the wishes of the prince, his rogue fairy godmother mom, and frog princess Medori, if she can’t even hold her wand?
Broke, busted and despairing over the mess her life has turned out to be, middle-aged Maven Morrigan is offered a job as a fairy godmother, a one-time-only last chance to make something of herself and to make the world a better place.
Not knowing whom to trust: her boss, her slithery familiar or her own Bump of Direction, she has to find her personal power by relying on herself, her real-world failures, and her sense of the absurd, to survive in this imaginary garden with real trolls in it, so her clients get their happily ever after.
(a scene from Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the veil)
A scratching noise caught Maven’s attention when it began to rattle the door. The latch moved, but not quite far enough to allow the door to open. Maven set her teacup down and pushed herself up out of her chair. She was stiff from sitting still for so long.
All right, all right, don’t have a hissy fit,” she muttered. “Are you going to let me open the door?” she said to the house.
The latch flew up, the door crashed back against the wall, and a wolf leapt into the room. Covered with twigs and leaves, as though he had penetrated the underbrush with his long nose, he panted heavily, his sides heaving. His paws left mud and smears of blood on the floor.
“Oh, NO!” he gasped. “A Grandmother!” He looked back out the door, where someone was coming after him. They could hear the shouts and stamping of someone coming through the woods.
“Calm down,” Maven said. “I’m not going to eat you. What’s wrong?”
The wolf turned to go back out.
“No, wait. Climb into bed.” Maven looked at the nightgown and the bonnet on the peg. Fairy tale people were pretty easily fooled, but surely not that easily. She threw the nightgown over his head and tied the bonnet over his ears. “Don’t wag your tail.” She threw the cloak over him too. Not too bad if they didn’t actually see him. “Roll over.”
“I’m not a dog.” The wolf growled.
“You’ll be dog food if they catch you. Shut up. Look sick.” Maven turned to face the fireplace. “All right, Hut. Make it dark and musty in here, and make a kettle of whatever kind of bad smelling stuff they use for medicine around here. I don’t want anyone chopped up on my watch.”
“I prefer to be called Cottage.” The walls sounded peevish.
“All right, Cottage, you can be the freaking Taj Mahal as long as you do what needs to be done. Fiona would not have gone to this much trouble just to aggravate me.”
“Don’t count on that.” A brownish smell began to bubble from the kettle, an herb that seemed vaguely familiar, but Maven couldn’t place it.
Before she could ask the cottage, the door, having latched itself again, shook with the blows of pounding fists.
Maven leaned heavily on her cane and made her voice croak like a frog. “Who’s there? I’m just an old crone here, go away.”
The door rattled with the heavy blows, shaking the latch loose again. Three hulking woodcutters came in, axe handles in hand.
“Where are you, Wolf?” He saw Maven leaning on her cane. “There he is now.” He grabbed her by her shawl, which came off, exposing her iron gray hair and her face.
“My, what small ears you have.” he exclaimed, pulling on one of them.
“Must be why you are shouting,” Maven said. She pushed against him to no avail. She stomped on the instep of his hobnailed boot, but it only hurt her foot.
“And what small eyes you have.” he said, turning her face between his thumb and forefinger.
“Big enough to see your face and remember it,” Maven said, her look being dark enough to kill if he had been bright enough to see it.
“And your nose isn’t long at all.” He began to look truly perplexed.
“It’s long enough to smell herbs cooking in a sick house.” Maven shook herself loose. “Now if you don’t want to be in the bed at your house, you’d better get on out of here.” Then kicking her self mentally for having a big mouth, she saw that they hadn’t seen the wolf in the bed at all.
“Can’t have a wolf running around, eating helpless grandmothers.” He stepped to the bed, his axe ready to fall and his cronies right behind him. “It’s for your own protection.”
“No!” Maven stretched herself up to her full height, drew in a deep breath, and pointed her cane at the woodcutters. Tulip had said she could turn anyone into a frog for self-protection, so she could do it to protect someone else.
She gathered her anger and forced it through the cane so that green sparkles flew out the end.
By the time the sparkles settled, three bewildered frogs sat on the floor beside their axes, one of which fell, narrowly missing the bed. The bed had seen it coming though, and dodged.
Maven shooed the frogs out, keeping their axes for future reference. She stacked them into a corner where they became a mop, a broom, and a pitchfork.
Thanks” she said to the Cottage.
Certainly,” it replied, less coldly than before.
“All right, you, get up.” Maven shook the wolf’s shoulder, only to feel it quivering. “You’re safe now, from the frogs.” She untied the bonnet and helped the wolf out of the nightgown. “How did they get on your trail? You must have done something to get their attention.”
“Humans. It’s always the wolf at the door; never mind what they do to us.” The wolf growled, slinking away from her towards the door. Yet he was afraid to go out.
Maven thought he looked pitiful, wavering. She dipped water out of the bucket into a bowl and set it on the floor. “Here, at least drink something and rest.”
“You aren’t afraid that I will eat you?” The wolf said. His legs shook, on the verge of collapse.
“You weren’t planning to, were you?” Maven said.
He slunk over to the bowl and lapped noisily until the bowl was dry.
Maven sat back in the rocker. She swirled the tea leaves again to listen to the wolf’s story. It was a different perspective, film noir, and at a 24-inch eye level, but it was clear he was a sheep in a wolf’s body.
“You are obviously a witch. Are you going to turn me into a frog too?” the wolf asked finally. “I’d probably be better at being a frog.” He laid his chin on his paws. “At least people wouldn’t be afraid of me.”
“Actually, I’m a fairy godmother. On vacation.”
What would a wolf wish for?
“That explains the brambles around the cottage.” He began to chew at the brambles in his paws. “I thought I would never get through. I don’t remember this cottage being here before.”
“That’s magic for you.” Maven shrugged. “Now, you rest here tonight. I’d be glad of the company.” She spoke to the kettle, and the medicine smell disappeared. She made more tea, and when a plate of meat appeared on the table, she laid it on the floor by the wolf. After he had eaten, he curled up by the hearth and went to sleep.
Maven moved closer to the fire as well, her legs cold and shakier than the persona warranted. She was so tired.
She picked up the bit of gossamer that had been her shawl before the woodcutter grabbed it and stretched it around her bare arms. No wonder she was cold. Her hemline had crept up at least a foot and her sleeves had disappeared. She tugged the rags down, making them slightly less ragged, and much warmer.
What had happened to her gossamers?
She had used her energy, her anger, to transform the frogs. Now she could see why she had to be careful. It hadn’t seemed like all that much energy, but the adrenaline pumping through her was hers, not the energy available in the cottage. She turned the rocker towards the fire.
She was very tired now, and finally feeling warm again, she drifted off into a nap.
Charlotte Henley Babb, presently living in Spartanburg, SC, is originally from the Charlotte, NC, area. When she told her mother she wanted to be a teacher, her mom said, “You’d better find a job.” She thought her mother just meant that she had to pay her college tuition!
She is the first college graduate in the history of her family, and the second high school grad, after her mother. While she has done many other things, as her mom suggested, teaching has always supported her true vocation: writing.
Babb earned a Bachelor of Science in English/Education from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, a Masters of Secondary Education from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, and a Master of Arts in Humanities from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her studies have focused on writing, special needs learners, personal growth, and computer applications.
Charlotte’s new MA in the Humanities—Myth and Education, gave her a California perspective on her Southern heritage. She studies mythology to deepen her work with themes from ancient sources. Sharing perspectives with people from across the country lets her delve into the cultural notions that are as invisible as water is to fish, fertilizer for the soul!
For the first eighteen years of her work life, she taught remedial English at three rural high schools, mostly to students in technical programs or in the bottom quartile. She taught at Spartanburg Community College and Spartanburg Methodist College, as well as University of Phoenix since 2002. She is currently the web designer and social networks manager for Sherman College of Chiropractic. As her mom, suggested, she did finally get a ‘real’ job. She was the webmaster and newsletter editor for the Southeastern Writers Association from 2005 to 2011. To supplement her income, she has worked various jobs:
§ computer support technician
§ cloth store associate
§ office temp
§ art, craft, and frame store
§ washing machine gasket inspector
§ newspaper ads designer
§ craft fair creative
§ technical writer of ISO 9000 procedures
§ telephone tech support
§ telephone tarot reader
Each job has given her more insight to the challenges involved being human and living in the human condition. She is a mistress of juggling time and energy. She still reads the Tarot, but not for money. She has one daughter, a freelance illustrator of fantasy and science fiction.
Fantastic interview! Thanks for stopping by today, Charlotte.