Aug. 10 2011 12:00 AM

Author Jim C. Hines gives modern makeovers to fairy tale favorites


It was author Jim C. Hines’ daughter Skylar, now 11, who was the biggest inspiration behind his series of “Princess” novels,  a new take on Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. 

“For a while, our house was overrun with
princesses: princess movies, princess dolls, princess pajamas, princess
toothbrushes, and so on,” explained Hines, 37, of Holt. “Some of the
movies aren’t bad, but a lot of the merchandise … well, let’s just say I
wanted to present an alternative interpretation of these characters.” 

One “alternative interpretation”: making Sleeping Beauty (a.k.a. Talia) a lesbian.

“Why should all princesses be straight? Or white, for that matter? Talia is more Middle Eastern, to use a real-world equivalent.

“The people I know aren’t all straight
and white. Readers aren’t all straight and white,” Hines said. “I’m not
sure how to answer this one, any more than I could answer ‘why make Snow
White straight?’ Talia’s sexuality isn’t the point of the story.  I’m not trying to make a point; that’s just who she is.”

Hines dynamites the “they lived happily
ever” adage heard at the end of most fairy tales throughout his series.
What was originally slated to be a trilogy has been expanded: The fourth
book — “The Snow Queen’s Shadow” — was recently released. 

“The best summation I’ve heard so far is
that the books blend the old (pre-Disney) fairy tales with ‘Charlie’s
Angels.’ There’s plenty of page-turning action, with Snow White
inheriting her mother’s magical power — including the magic mirror —
Sleeping Beauty using her fairy gifts to become a deadly fighter, and
Cinderella wielding a glass sword while summoning the birds and the rats
to her aid,” Hines said. 

In “Shadow,” Snow White’s magic mirror
breaks, unleashing an ancient evil her mother trapped inside it decades
ago. The first to fall under this power is Snow White.

“It unleashes all of the grief and anger
Snow has kept locked away for years,” Hines said. “One of my favorite
parts of writing (this book) was letting Snow completely cut loose for
the first time. She’s always been pretty powerful, but this time around,
she gets scary.”

Hines had a good idea what he wanted to
do in the fourth — and final — book, but was stuck, until he read Hans
Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”

“It was perfect. The fairy tale opens
with the breaking of a magic mirror, which worked beautifully for my
opening chapter. The chaos and destruction in the fairy tale, the quest
to save a missing child, it all mapped so well to what I needed to do.
So I took that story, made it my own, and off we went,” he said.

Hines has no plans for a fifth book,
although he doesn’t rule out revisiting these characters in a few short
stories, however. As it was, he had a hard time ending this series. 

“For one thing, I have to wrap up the
larger plot threads, things I’ve been working with throughout the four
books,” he explained. “There’s also the sadness of being done, and of
saying goodbye to a world and characters I’ve come to love over the past
few years.”