Welcome to another week, my bookish friends! I've got an amazing guest post for you today, from an author who has written a book I'm extremely excited about! Today it's all about Bethany Cassel and her book, Shadowskin.
Cursed with a deadly touch, Pomona never thought she would leave the royal gardens of Norarchland, where she uses her magic over plant life to make the gardens flourish. But when she discovers a magic mirror beneath the roots of an apple tree, she learns a horrifying truth: the life of the beautiful Princess Nevea is in danger, and Pomona is the only one who can save her. Pomona flees with the princess into the dark forest, where she is taken in by the mysterious Selene Magna and her huntress companion, Callisto. They claim that the Tenebrari-short, magical beings responsible for Pomona's curse-are trying to conquer all of the kingdoms of Archland. Even more, Pomona is destined to play an important role in their defeat. The cursed gardener must now embark on a journey far beyond her imagination to stop the Tenebrari, or else she and all those she cares about will be cursed forever.
This is definitely on my wishlist! I've always been a fan of fairy tale retellings, and I can't wait to meet Pomona. I'll stop rambling though, and let Bethany take over! She's brought a wonderful guest post for you, all about why her book breaks tradition.
Enjoy, and don't forget to add Shadowskin to your reading list!
Breaking Tradition: Writing a YA Fairy Tale Retelling Without Romance
Writing a book is hard. Anyone will tell you that (and those who say it is easy are liars). It takes a long time to discover your voice when writing, and even longer to fine-tune that voice to make the best story you can. But writing a book goes beyond just the writing. It requires research into characters, genres, and traditions. When I set out to write a fairy tale retelling in the YA genre, I discovered that there was a lot of precedent for my work. I was faced with a challenge: how can I make my book different?
I have always been a voracious reader (much like the host of this fabulous blog, Jessica). I had been reading YA books for a long time, and I knew the formulas. The problem was that I was tired of the formulas. I tend to read the inside flap of a YA book now and check off cliché elements: an outcast girl, a mysterious boy who follows her around (creepy), yet she’s inexplicably drawn to him, etc. and so forth. Oh, and let’s not forget the love triangle. This is not to say that these stories can’t be successful (there is much evidence to support that they can be), but it is definitely difficult. I discovered this in the early stages of my book, Shadowskin, when I attempted to have my protagonist, Pomona, engage in a love triangle with my Snow White and Prince Charming characters. I hammered it and pushed it and shoved it, but it just wasn’t working.
I panicked a little. What is a fairy tale, let alone a YA novel, without romance? I struggled with it for a while, and soon I found my answer. It is a YA fairy tale without romance. It is no more or less fairy tale or YA just because Pomona has other things besides a relationship that she’s concerned about (the fact that touching her is almost certainly fatal, for one). One of the things that I learned as a writer was that one does not have to follow the formulas to write a good story. In fact, the very basis of Shadowskin revolves around challenging the formulas! Snow White is not as sweet as you might think; enemies lie in unexpected places; and the queen may have other things on her mind besides beauty. So, instead of forcing Pomona into a contrived relationship with a prince, I decided to let her go her own way.
A lot of young people deal with romance. It’s true! Books that explore this topic are not wrong. Shadowskin, however, is not about that. Shadowskin is about what happens when you are forced out of your comfort zone and must take control of your own fate, even as those around you are trying to take that control away from you. And even though Pomona does not experience a romantic relationship, I hope that she is still relatable to YA audiences and beyond. I have grown very fond of her in our time together; it has taken more than three years to fully nail down her identity, and she still has so much growing to do (Shadowskin is the first in a series of at least three fairy tale retellings). I’m looking forward to finding out what she learns along the way, and I hope that the readers of her story will be as excited as I am.
If you’re interested in meeting Pomona, Shadowskin is available in print from Amazon.com. It is also available on Kindle and Nook.
Bethany Cassel lives in a land surrounded by forests and cornfields, and she was lucky enough to grow up in the same house all her life. Falling asleep to the sound of waterfalls and seldom-disturbed quiet provided the perfect environment for her to develop her passion for writing. Inspired by the beautiful landscape around her, Bethany created Archland, a world with deep forests, rolling hills, and fierce winters, home to dozens of fairy tale characters.
When she is not writing, Bethany is a voracious reader, known to finish the likes of "Seraphina" by Rachel Hartman in two sittings (it was a great book)! Her favorite writers are, in no particular order, Sir Thomas Malory, J.K. Rowling, John Keats, Victor Hugo, Kendare Blake, Jay Asher, Toni Morrison, and Marissa Meyer. This list is by no means complete. When she is not writing, Bethany enjoys archery and bow hunting, drawing, playing piano, and volunteering with ministries in her community. She enjoys learning and is currently teaching herself sign language. She also wants to learn how to drive large vehicles. She currently lives in Western New York with four dogs, twenty-ish chickens (she lost count), a lizard, and a couple of frogs.