Friday, July 10, 2020

Guest Post: Kalynn Bayron

Creating a Cinderella Retelling

Cinderella Is Dead is the story of 16-year-old Sophia Grimmins, a young girl living in the kingdom of Mersailles—this is the place where Cinderella lived and died 200 years before. Cinderella’s story has become the backbone of this society, and young women are expected to follow in her footsteps by attending the now mandatory, annual ball, to be chosen by prospective suitors. This kingdom has used Cinderella’s story to manipulate and control the women and girls who reside there. As Sophia is preparing to attend the ball she grapples with how this story doesn’t speak to who she is. She’s in love with her best friend, Erin, she doesn’t want to be married, and she watches the people around her fail to help her at every possible opportunity. The ball is a turning point for Sophia. She makes some decisions that put her on a collision course with Mersaille’s ruler, and in the process she uncovers some earth shattering truths about Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the fairy godmother.

There are versions of what would become Cinderella that date back hundreds, even thousands, of years. In preparation for writing my own retelling, I read the many stories that came before the version we’re now familiar with; the Brothers Grimm version from 1812, the Charles Perrault version from 1607, and the story of Ye Xian from around 850 AD first published in the Tang dynasty compilation Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang written around 850 by Duan Chengshi. Around the first century AD, the story of Rhodopis was popularized. It’s about a Greek woman living in Egypt whose sandal is carried off by a bird and dropped in the lap of the Pharaoh who then sets out to find the owner of the shoe. And there is a similar story recorded five centuries before, by Herodotus in his Histories. This version eludes to at least a part of the story being an account of a real life event. Through all of its iterations, over the passage of so many hundreds and hundreds of years, common threads can still be found, the most prominent being a young girl mistreated by other women in her own family is saved by a prince or king and lives happily ever after. 

One of the reasons I wrote this story was because I really enjoy a retelling that makes me rethink earlier versions of the tale. Wicked (more so the stage production than the novel) is one of my favorite retellings. It did so much more than simply rework The Wizard of Oz. It opened up the world around it and ultimately made me see the Wicked Witch in an entirely new light. She was a one dimensional villain in one story and something completely different in another. That’s what I wanted to do with Cinderella Is Dead. I wanted to approach this retelling in a way that would make readers question everything they thought they knew about the Cinderella story.

Cinderella is highly visible in the pantheon of children’s tales. That’s Cinderella’s castle at Disneyworld! Her blue dress and glass slippers are iconic. I wanted to retell a story that was instantly recognizable and deconstruct it in a way that centered the kinds of people who are nowhere to be found in the story itself, mainly Black, queer people. I wrote this story that explores not only how fairy tales have the power to personally affect who we become, but also allows us to see this fairytale world through the eyes of a young woman who is actively harmed by the societal norms the fairytale perpetuates. It’s a continuation of the story and a kind of expanding of that already established framework. Because this is a bit more of a reimagining than a retelling, I kept the entire Cinderella story intact but with the idea of it being a sacred, historical text and ultimately a piece of propaganda used to further the will of this kingdom’s rulers. When my main character Sophia is navigating this world there are callbacks to Cinderella herself, Prince Charming, the fairy Godmother, the ball, but as she begins to uncover the truth, we pull back and see the bigger picture—that all that glitters isn’t gold.

Storytelling is fluid. It’s constantly evolving, stories are constantly changing. Even a story’s origins can change through retelling. Things become canon that weren’t before. Other elements are cast aside in favor of new ideas. I think that’s what I’m trying to do—changing stories in a way that allows me and my readers to have access to them in a way we didn’t before. 

Wow - I love this. And I really can't wait to read this story! 
Plus, it's perfect for the summer reading theme this year of Imagine Your Story. 

Cinderella Is DeadAbout the Book:
Title: Cinderella is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

About the Author:
Kalynn Bayron is an author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.

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