IVY is my version of a fractured fairy tale for middle-grade readers. According to tradition, Princess Ivy is to be locked in a white tower guarded by a dragon. The prince who slays the dragon and rescues her will, of course, win her hand in marriage. The problem is Ivy doesn't want to be rescued. And Elridge, the rather unferocious dragon sent to guard her, most definitely doesn't want to be slain! Neither wants anything to do with Romil, an unscrupulous prince from the frozen North who will be the doom of them both. And so IVY'S EVER AFTER is a fairy-tale-with-a-twist in which the princess and the dragon actually team up to thwart the handsome prince. I think it's a lot of fun, an adventure with a sassy heroine and a light-hearted, humorous tone. You can read Chapter 1 on the Ivy's Ever After website (if you have a low screen resolution and only see the menu, be sure to scroll down), and watch the book trailer here.
What are your tips for making a fairy tale into something unique--something that's not already been done to death?
I love fractured fairy tales, which are fairy tales where some element of the traditional story is changed. As entertaining as stories of old can be, I think it's quite obvious to modern readers how outdated some of the mentalities behind these tales can be. I think it's a lot of fun to shake things up and revisit these stories with modern sensibilities in mind. If you're interested in creating a fractured fairy tale or retelling of a traditional story, try challenging some element of the story that you find archaic or superficial by today's standards--the role of female characters, the focus on wealth or materialism, the emphasis placed on beauty and good looks, etc.
How do you think writing for kids varies from writing for adults? How do you make it work?
I love writing for middle-grade readers! They are such an imaginative and fun-loving audience. When writing for kids, I think it is important to keep in mind that many members of your audience are going to have a much shorter attention span than your average adult. For this reason, I think kidlit typically needs to be faster-paced than stories geared toward adults. Focus more on the external (action and events) than the internal (emotions, inner dialogues, etc.). This keeps things moving. Not that you can't have quiet moments of inner reflection, but you're probably going to lose the interest of a lot of middle-grade readers if your characters spend a lot of time doing nothing but thinking. And humor helps--kids love to laugh!
Was it hard for you to find an agent? What advice can you give to writers who are in the process of finding one?
My journey to finding an agent was pretty straightforward--I just kept sending out queries until someone made an offer of representation, lol. It was a lengthy process, as it is for a lot of writers, and involved a fair number of rejections, which are never fun to get. I feel so incredibly lucky to have ended up at a literary agency I love! Finding an agent is all about finding someone your story resonates with, so do your research. Visit agents' websites, read interviews with them, find out their likes and dislikes. An agent who hates horror is obviously not the best match for your slasher novel. Find books on the market that are similar (but not too similar) to yours--and then find out who represented them. This is usually pretty easy to do by reading the acknowledgments, visiting the author's website, or simply Googling. That agent might be a good match for you. Above all, don't get discouraged and don't give up!! Rejections are inevitable, but what one agent dislikes about your manuscript could very well be what the next agent loves about it.
Dawn, thanks so much for giving us the skinny on Ivy, you, not to mention giving away a free signed book! w00t! Reluctant dragons rule! :)
Well, that's it kiddos! Please be sure to check out Dawn's uber cool website and way awesome book trailer and for goodness sake, buy Ivy's Ever After! You won't regret it--it's fantastic!
Keep writing and be sure to enter the contest for your signed copy of Ivy's Ever After, ends Friday at midnight so enter NOW!
xoxo -- Hilary