Andrea Cefalo’s first published novel, The Fairytale Keeper offers an original take on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Set in thirteenth century Germany, the novel follows the exploits of fifteen year-old Adelaide, who will one day be immortalized in the story of Snow White, in this coming-of-age tale in which she quickly and harshly learns how corrupt her beloved home city of Cologne has become. Aimed at the young-adult market, this is the first novel in The Fairytale Keeper series. The second novel will debut in the summer of 2013.
We had the opportunity to interview Andrea Cefalo about her novel:
The stories of the Brothers Grimm have been re-imagined in many ways, but your take is a little different, in that you are combining several of the tales and giving their origins a historical basis. Why did you want to write your novel based on these stories?
After learning that nearly all cultures had a Cinderella story, I started thinking. If this is true, then either the real Cinderella lived thousands of years ago or there is just something so compelling about such a story that most cultures created their own. I have an interest in the Romantic Movement, Grimm’s fairy tales, and the Middle Ages so I made my story work on my love for these things, as well as on a twist of my first assumption. Rather than answer the question, what if Cinderella originated from one girl, The Fairytale Keeper series answer the question: what if all Grimm’s fairy tales originated with one person?
You wrote this book for a young-adult audience – to make a book more accessible to teens do you change your writing style or craft the narrative in a different way than you would do for adults?
I remember reading once that authors should never write down to children and I really stick to that. When writing for a younger audience, I do try to avoid gratuitous sex and swearing. That’s not very difficult. I feel that suggestion is far more powerful than graphic descriptions when it comes to sex. As far as swearing goes, people living in the Middle Ages didn’t say the same curse words that we say today so that worked in my favor.
With all that being said, I think The Fairytale Keeper appeals to a wider audience, much like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter does. Adelaide grows up through the series. The books mature as she matures. So far, most of my fans are adults, not teens. I didn’t expect that.
You are also planning to release a set of resources to make the novel more useful for classrooms. What makes The Fairytale Keeper a good book for teaching?
So often, history is told from a wealthy man’s point-of-view even though wealthy men made up a small part of the population. In this story, readers see a variety of lifestyles and roles. I think this gives students a set of perspectives, rather than the same one over and over. I did tons of research to illustrate thirteenth century Cologne as vividly and accurately as possible. This goes beyond a textbook description of the time period. Rather than going a mile wide and an inch deep, The Fairytale Keeper paints a very specific place and time for students in an engaging way, giving them an experience rather than a set of dates and events to memorize. Also, Adelaide and Ivo are teenagers themselves. Students get to live the Middle Ages vicariously through these characters. They can relate their own challenges to those of the characters. As a former teacher, I know that students retain more when the topic is relatable and experiential, so I really feel that The Fairytale Keeper would be a great resource for Language Arts departments to use in collaboration with Social Studies departments to optimize learning in both subjects.
I have a basic mental plan of how the first three books will go, but sometimes the plot changes as I go. I am never afraid to change the plot. My characters start to have conversations in my head sometimes and I start writing. At times, this takes me in strange directions and I end up overhauling the story. I think my readers will find that I like to take risks as a writer. I’m never afraid to kill a character or have them make a huge mistake, so they can expect the unexpected.
Also, there may be a book in between book two and book three. One of my characters has some major adventures during his/her absence from the series and I miss him/her dearly. That being said, I pretty much know how the books will go. As for the conclusion, I have some ideas, but I want to do more research before setting anything in stone.