Wednesday, October 28, 2015

GENDER BENDERS: Flipped Fairytales by Starla Huchton (Don't Miss This!)

What if Snow White was a prince instead of a princess? What if the hero had to be rescued by the damsel instead of the other way around? Starla Huchton asked this very question. Her answer? A book called Shadows on Snow. This novel, which challenges the traditional idea of Snow White, was the beginning of her Flipped Fairytale Books, which takes those beautiful princesses we all know and love - and throws a wrench into the plot. I adore the idea. I like it when timeless tales get a new twist, and when the damsels-in-distress become kick-butt heroines who can hold their own with those dazzling princes! 

Starla has penned several different novels, A Bittersweet Summer, Master of Myth (The Antigone's Wrath Series), and the books from the Flipped Fairytales Series. 

I met Starla at the William Saroyan Theater in Fresno, California, while attending ZappCon with my brother. Naturally, I had to talk to every author there (I love meeting new writers!), and I'm so happy that she was kind enough to join us on Writing Belle and share her insight into the world of fairytales, writing and happily-ever-afters (or not!). 

Hello, Starla! It's so lovely having you here at Writing Belle. You're kind of a jack of all trades in the publishing world. Tell me about the work you've done in the past.
These days, I have to restrict the number of hats I wear purely for time management reasons. Currently I'm focused on the author aspect (which includes all the marketing and business stuff) and freelance book cover design. Two years ago, however, I was also a paid audiobook narrator after podcasting my first book, The Dreamer's Thread, where I discovered I had a knack for narration. I don't have a ton of titles under my belt in that field, but the first three books of Lindsey Buroker's Emperor's Edge series is probably the most popular of the works I narrated. In another life, I was a printer in the US Navy, which is where I first learned some of my desktop publishing skills, and I worked a lot with graphic design in the military while in Iceland, and then in Japan as a civilian. Anymore, I stay pretty busy with my own books (sixteen titles and counting), on top of doing design work for independent authors and small presses like Entangled Publishing.

What was it like being voice actor? What was your favorite part of that line of work?
Voice acting is a strange business. Basically, you get to take on a new personality in the form of spoken words, behind a microphone, with no one standing there giving you weird looks about it. LOL. It still amazes me that it's a thing I can do that people will pay me money for. Such a crazy world we live in!

I think my favorite part of that line of work is the same as it is for authoring and designing. In everything I do, I look at it as another means of storytelling. Sometimes I'm writing the story, sometimes I'm expressing it visually, and sometimes I get to breath life into someone else's world and characters by adding emphasis, inflection, emotion, and personality via audio. Storytelling is a passion of mine, and I wish I was better at speaking live so I could add that to my skill set as well.

I am very intrigued by your stories, especially your Flipped Fairytale books. Tell us about those.
My Flipped Fairy Tales sprung from a single question: can you tell the story of Snow White if Snow White is a prince instead of a princess? Once the idea occurred to me, I couldn't shake it. I had to find out if gender made any difference in the basic tale, and what, if any, effect that would have on such a story. I'd only ever intended it to be a single book (Shadows on Snow), but near the end of writing the first draft, I found I'd planted the seeds for more stories in the same world, tying in other fairy tales. So, I thought, why not keep going? Like anything new anyone tries, you're never sure if a thing will work as well as you hope, but I'm glad to say these books are striking a chord with readers. It seems I wasn't the only one curious about what happens when you gender flip stories that have been around for millennia. Modernizing and/or adding more mature heat levels these legends is perfectly fine, but I wanted to retain that fairy tale feel alongside this new take on old favorites and make them accessible and enjoyable for younger readers as well as adults.They're something familiar, yet refreshingly new at the same time. I also love that they share a connected world and can be read in any order. As an author, it keeps me from getting complacent and bored with the setting and characters, and readers can start with whichever story tickles their fancy and don't lose anything by only reading one, but discovering the ties between the stories is an adventure in itself as well.

Have you always loved fairytales? (I have!) 

I was raised not only on fairy tales, but stories out of mythology alongside Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, thanks to my mother. However, I think I enjoyed the fairy tales a little less because I found certain aspects of them bothersome or problematic. Some of the underlying ideas always troubled me, but in writing these Flipped Fairy Tales, I've discovered a way to fix those issues. Take Jack and the Beanstalk, for example. It's a story about a boy who makes a dumb (and potentially fatal) mistake, then breaks into someone's house, steals their stuff, and finally murders them when they come to reclaim their property. In The Stillness of the Sky, I instead make Jaqueline a victim of terrible circumstance, but she has a determination to be good to others, no matter where life takes her. By showing that kindness can be the harder path, but the more rewarding one, I've returned this fairy tale to the purpose all folk tales originally had. They were passed on not only as a means to entertain, but also to teach. Whether they were imparting valuable life lessons or religious beliefs, every story had a kernel of knowledge to pass on. I try not to be preachy with these stories, but I've always relished the opportunity to inform as I entertain. As people generally learn better when you explain how or why a thing should be done, my Flipped Fairy Tales gave me the chance to explain these qualities of decency in a way the original, bare bones tales can't. And I absolutely love that.

Your Flipped Fairytales remind me a bit of Once Upon A Time (my favorite show of the moment!) Have you ever seen it?
I'm not caught up with the current season, but it's definitely a show I've been watching since it began. The world of OUaT is very similar to mine, in that all the stories intertwine with one another, but it's obviously a modern day retelling of fairy tales, so it's very different from what I've created. I do love what they've done with some of the characters, like Hook and Regina, in that they're more than two-dimensional villains. The idea that anyone can be redeemed is amazing and powerful, and the world needs much more of that.

Who is your favorite storybook character - male and female?
If we're speaking about the very earliest picture books I read, I think I'd probably choose Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon, as that story speaks a lot about using art to explore your world (a thing a kid like I was would know a lot about) as the male choice. For female, the one I'd choose doesn't have a name. The heroine from East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a poor, peasant girl who is chosen by a cursed prince to break the curse upon him. She makes a terrible mistake and lets her doubts get the better of her, but then proceeds to own that mistake and do whatever it takes to fix it. I loved that story so much, it's the basis of my third Flipped Fairy Tale, Ride the Wind.

What other novels have you written?
I currently have 16 books available, and they range from YA Fantasy (my Flipped Fairy Tales), to YA Contemporary (My Bittersweet Summer), to Steampunk adventure (Master of Myth) to adult titles that aren't intended for younger readers. I keep them separated by author name, that being Starla Huchton for general audiences and S. A. Huchton for my books with mature language/situations. My adult titles cover Suspense (Lex Talionis), sexy superheroes (the Evolution series and the first in the follow-on series to that, Spark), and Science Fiction Romance (the Endure series and The Night Bridge). I have plans to release High Fantasy Romance titles next year, so I'll be adding that to my repertoire as well.

What was it like flying to Fresno, California, and participating in ZappCon?
Being a military family and a big fan of geeky conventions, I wasn't a stranger to travel or cons in general, but flying across the country to attend one as an invited guest was a brand new experience. ZappCon is a smaller con, and this was only it's second year, so I wasn't totally sure what would be waiting for me when I got there. I have to say, it was definitely an enjoyable experience. The staff was friendly, the con was well-organized, there was a huge range of nerdy interests to occupy all tastes, and I met some incredible and talented people. I used to live in California, but that was three and a half years ago and a lot has changed for me. Visiting the west coast as an author gave me an opportunity to connect with a whole new audience I don't normally get to interact with outside of the internet, so it was a huge treat for me. Most of the conventions I've been to were on the east coast, so I was really excited to see California bring their A-game when it came to cosplay, gaming, comics, and other geekery. I'm absolutely a huge nerd, so spending so much time on the vendor floor was more or less a dream come true. I got to stare at awesome artwork of superheroes and talk about books for two days straight. It was amazing. LOL

Are you working on any more projects?
I am ALWAYS working on more projects. Always. My list of works in progress is almost as long as my list of completed projects. At the top of the WIP list right now is my fourth Flipped Fairy Tale (Dust in the Desert), finishing up the second book in the Antigone's Wrath series (Master of Machines), and working on the third book in my unreleased and heretofore un-talked about High Fantasy Romance series, Hearts of Valentia. Yes, I said third book. I've already finished the first two, but haven't set a release date until I finish what I started. I have four of them planned, but I need to play a lot more Dragon Age for inspiration, I think. Not that I need a reason to play Dragon Age. Did I mention I'm a huge nerd? Hearts of Valentia is very much along the line of video games like Dragon Age and The Witcher... only more romance and less monster slaughter. Sort of. It wouldn't be High Fantasy if I didn't hack away at a few demons and ogres, at least.

Where can readers visit you online?
I'm around the web in lots of places. I have a blog where I post about writerly and bookish things from time to time, and there are links to all my titles there:
My Facebook Author Page, where I post teasers and the occasional giveaway and book news items:

I'm over on Twitter, though not as much as I used to be:

And, of course, there's my new release newsletter, for folks who hate spam, but still want to know when I have a new book out:

I'm always open to meeting new fans and readers, so please feel free to stop by and say hello!

Thank you so much for your time, Starla. Best of luck!

Thanks so much for having me as a guest! Happy reading to all!

About the Author 
A geek of all trades, Starla Huchton has been crafting stories in various genres since 2007. She is a three time finalist for Parsec Awards for her podcast, fiction work, and was the first place winner for science fiction and fantasy in the Sandy Competition in 2012. Her works span science fiction, fantasy, new adult romance, young adult titles, steampunk, contemporary, and various other varieties of stories. She is greedy and likes all the genres! 

When not writing, Starla trains three minions, a black lab and a military husband whilst designing book covers for independent authors and publishers at: DesignedByStarla.Com. 

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