Guest Blog: Sleeping girls (and how to wake them up)

My guest blogger today is Jenniffer Wardell! She’s the fabulous author of fairy tales with a twist (and a zing). Her titles are Fairy Godmothers, Inc., Beast Charming, and her newest release (May 17!) Dreamless. To celebrate the launch of her latest work of art, she’s visiting today and treating us to the amazing cover reveal. Enjoy!

Dreamless comes out May 17. Preorder your copy today!

Dreamless comes out May 17. Preorder your copy today!

When you’re trying to adapt “Sleeping Beauty,” the first thing you have to do is figure out what you’re going to do with the big stumbling block right at the heart of the story.

See, the problem with “Sleeping Beauty” is that the heroine is asleep for the most exciting parts. In fact, her falling asleep is the big dramatic event in the third act, normally after supporting characters have run around frantically trying to stop it from happening. Then someone else – the prince, Maleficent, what have you – comes along and breaks the curse. The same curse, mind you, that was dropped on her head as a baby through no fault (or even decision-making) of her own.

Noticing a pattern here? More than in most fairy tales, our poor Sleeping Beauty is mostly a pawn of the plot – things happen to her, but she never seems to get the chance to actually make things happen for herself. Even in Perrault’s version, which goes into considerable detail about what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up, doesn’t give the poor girl much more to do. Yes, her ogre of a mother-in-law threatens to eat her children, but it’s a compassionate steward who saves them. The princess herself barely rates an inconveniently-timed mention in her own future. (We won’t talk about the version where the babies are what wake her up.)

For many women, writers and readers alike, this powerlessness is like an itch just under the skin that can never be quite scratched. So we tweak the story, time and time again – never let her fall asleep, have her save the day after she wakes up, let her help in defeating the villain, let her meet her hero before the curse hits and she falls asleep. Something, anything, to give her a piece of her agency back. To let her be the hero of her own story, instead of merely the prize.

With “Dreamless,” I wanted to take it even further. First, I made sure she knew about the curse. Many versions of the story leave her clueless, and while that may make for a more pleasant childhood it leaves her completely unable to fight back when the worst danger comes. Second, I made her a sorceress, putting her on equal footing with the woman who dropped the curse on her in the first place. It doesn’t magically let her fix the problem (when you’re writing about sorceresses, it’s hard not to pun), but it at least gives her the firepower to fight back.

Third, and most importantly, I make Elena realize that she needs to fight back. At the start of “Dreamless,” Elena has accepted her fate – she and other magic-users have spent years trying to undo the curse, but no one has been able to manage it. She’s lost hope, and because of that she sits back and prepares to let the story happen to her. To, basically, become the version of Sleeping Beauty from the original stories.

But sometimes, you’ll fight for the people you love even when you won’t fight for yourself. Elena realizes over the course of the book that she has too much to live for, and that she has to hope even though it’s the scariest thing in the world. It’s a different kind of wake-up call, but in some ways it’s a lot more effective.