Last year, Jim C. Hines finished his humorous goblin trilogy with GOBLIN WAR, which made the Locus Bestseller list the month it came out. January 6 marks the release of THE STEPSISTER SCHEME, the first in a new series of butt-kicking princess tales. This one has earned advance praise from the likes of Esther Friesner and Jane Yolen, and was a January Top Pick from Romantic Times. Jim is currently in full book-release freakout mode, but took some time to answer a few questions about the new series.
Q) Tell us about THE STEPSISTER SCHEME.
A) I think just about every author does a fairy tale retelling at some point. It's a membership requirement or something. But the thing about fairy tales and so many of the retellings is that our heroines often end up being symbols rather than fully developed characters. I wanted to make my three princesses real people, with strengths and flaws and depth and personality. I've described the book as Charlie's Angels crossed with fairy tale princesses, but more than that; it's a story of three women learning to work as a team to save a prince, fight evil, and generally kick ass. Also, it's got the best use of silverware in hand-to-hand combat of any book I've ever seen.
Q) Can you introduce us to these characters?
A) Danielle Whiteshore (Cinderella) is our viewpoint character. She's a little overwhelmed by all the changes in her life since she married Prince Armand. She's in heaven with a loving husband and a family who doesn't treat her like a slave ... even if the palace staff look at her a little funny for chatting with the doves and the rats. Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (White) both came to serve Queen Beatrice after fleeing their respective homelands. Snow is a bit of a flirt as well as a bookworm. She inherited her mother's gift for magic, as well as the magic mirror, making her quite the powerful magician. Talia is the fighter of the group, both physically and emotionally. She's learned to use her fairy gifts of grace and dancing to become one of the deadliest warriors in the kingdom.
Q) What sort of research did you do to write this book?
A) Mostly I read a lot of fairy tales. There are so many versions of the different stories, which allowed me to pick and choose elements from each when building my characters and their backstories. Then there were all the details: castle blueprints, wardrobes, medieval glassmaking, how far a horse can travel in a day, fairy myths, weapons, 16th century houses, hazel trees, and everything else you don't think of until you're midway through a scene and realize you have absolutely no idea how to describe what your characters are seeing.
Q) Are there any interesting scenes or ideas that didn't make it into the final book?
A) Snow White wears a choker of gold wire and small glass mirrors. In her original incarnation, Snow was blind and used those mirrors as her eyes. To be totally honest, I don't remember exactly why I changed that, except that it just didn't feel right for her character. I posted a deleted scene on my web site that shows Snow as she was in that first draft.
Q) What's next for your princesses?
A) I turned in the revisions for book two, THE MERMAID'S MADNESS, a month or so back. If you read the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Little Mermaid," the mermaid's prince chooses another, and she's faced with a choice: either allow the sea witch's spell to kill her, or take her prince's life to save her own. In the Anderson story, the mermaid oh-so-nobly gives up her life for her prince. My mermaid makes a different choice. I'm currently working on the third book in the series, RED HOOD'S REVENGE.
Q) What do you really think about "happily ever after"?
A) In real life, your story doesn't end until you're dead. Even then, your actions and your life continue to influence other people's stories. The idea that these three women could go through what they did, with murderous mothers (and why is it always the mothers?) and curses and poisons and betrayals, but then they have a good night at the ball and suddenly everything is happy from then on? That's the real fairy tale.
Q) Who is your favorite author?
A) The answer changes from day to day, depending on my mood and what I've been reading. Today, I think I'm going to say ... Snoopy. His prose isn't always the greatest, but he's quite the inspirational little beagle. He never lets rejection slow him down, and he knows the most important thing is to drag that typewriter back onto the doghouse and just keep writing.
Q) Any closing thoughts?
A) Thanks to everyone who read this far! I hope folks will take a look at the preview, or at the very least, check out the cover art Scott Fischer did for the book. I absolutely love the image he came up with. I have a larger copy at http://www.sff.net/people/jchines/Covers/Stepsister%20-%20Full.jpg Scott actually used my daughter as a model for Talia, the princess on the right. Best. Cover. Ever!
Read the first chapter of THE STEPSISTER SCHEME at http://www.sff.net/people/jchines/SS%20Preview.pdf
Jim's blog: http://jimhines.livejournal.com
Jim's home page: http://www.jimchines.com
Purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0756405327/