Today I’m interviewing my good friend Rachel Kovaciny as part of the blog tour for her new book, Dancing and Doughnuts, which comes out August 31st. It’s a retelling of the classic fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and I’ve been impatiently eagerly awaiting its release for some time now!
(You may know Rachel better as Hamlette the Dame from Hamlette’s Soliloquy. Her author website, meanwhile, can be found here. The blog tour schedule is here, and there is a GIVEAWAY with PRIZES, so you won’t want to miss that.)
Welcome, Rachel! *sets out coffee and doughnuts for all*
1. So, tell us about your latest book! It’s a Western fairy tale retelling like your previous release, Cloaked, right?
Indeed! In fact, it’s the first fairy tale I ever imagined writing in a Wild West setting. The main character in the Grimm Brothers’ version is a soldier returning from the war, and I thought, “How perfect for a western, when there were so many Civil War veterans roaming the west!” So the idea for it simmered in the back of my mind for probably seven or eight years until I found the right time to write it.
2. You’ve mentioned that “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” is your favorite fairy tale. What makes it your favorite?
I love the clever protagonist who solves the mystery, not with magic or good luck, but with his wits. In the fairy tale, he does get advice and an invisibility cloak from an old enchantress, but it’s up to him to figure out how to use those to find the answers. Also, he’s not royalty in any way, which makes him really relatable.
Plus, the whole idea of the forests of silver, gold, and diamond trees is just beautiful. I love imagining that world.
3. What do you love about your main character? What about him irks you or annoys you?
I love how kind and honorable my character is. He really does want to help this family with twelve daughters, he’s not only in it for the reward money they’re offering. Also, he’s fairly funny, and his observations of the people in this story make me grin.
What about him annoys me? He’s very self-confident, to the point of being brash. One of the reasons I decided to tell the story from his point of view was so he’d remain likable. I think if you just heard his dialog and saw his actions, without hearing his thoughts, he could come off as arrogant. And he isn’t actually arrogant, he just believes he can do things and so sets about doing them. But I wish he would mellow out a little.
4. Is there a character in this story that you relate to particularly strongly? Who, and why?
Oooh. Probably Sheriff Walbridge. He’s just trying to take care of this town and the people in it, but they keep doing bullheaded things that make that really hard on him. As a mom with three kids, I can totally identify with that.
5. Can you tell us about a scene that was especially fun to write? It doesn’t have to be spoiler-y 😉
One of the very last scenes I wrote (but not one of the last in the book) was a small scuffle between two guys, and it was amazingly fun to write because I didn’t see it coming. I knew I needed one of them to say particular things to the other, but when I sat down to write it, instead of coming in nicely and demurely, hitting marks and saying lines like I’d rehearsed in my head… one of them showed up drunk. And it rocked. That scene just boinged right up to a whole new level of fun, and I wrote it really fast.
6. How did you choose your story’s setting? I know it’s in the Old West, of course; but what state/region did you pick, and why?
I knew my main character was going to be a Civil War veteran, and I wanted him to have been discharged within the last year or so, which set my story in 1866. That meant I needed a part of the west that contained established towns by 1866, and one where there would be a need for a dance hall. That needed to either be near a lot of ranches or close to a big cattle trail. The really big cattle drives from Texas to the railheads in Kansas started right after the Civil War, so I decided to use Kansas because, by the time the cowboys herding cattle got there, they’d really be lonesome for fun, so the dance hall would thrive.
7. What’s the most challenging thing about writing a Western fairy tale retelling?
I’ve chosen to keep these retellings non-magical, so my biggest challenge is usually coming up with ways for the magical bits of fairy tales to work without magic. In “The Man on the Buckskin Horse,” the princess gets such a high fever from an infected hand, she loses consciousness for a long time. There you go, non-magical Sleeping Beauty. In Cloaked, a young girl travelling to her grandmother’s house encounters a predatory man. And there we have a non-magical Little Red Riding Hood. A father with twelve daughters needs someone to figure out why a mysterious thing keeps happening to his girls. Ta-da! Non-magical Twelve Dancing Princesses.
It can be tricky, and usually I try to figure out what the main message of the fairy tale is. Don’t slight powerful neighbors? Don’t trust strange men? Don’t disobey your parents? Once I find a central theme, then I can work the story around that, using archetypical characters and bits of symbolism from the original.
8. What music did you listen to as you were working on this book? Can you share any samples?
I listened to a TON of Bobby Darin while writing this. He’s been my muse since I was 16, and I’ve turned to his music over and over through the years to give myself creative boosts. But this is the first time I’ve written anything where I could imagine him in the main role, and his music always helped me focus on this book sooo well. I turned to particular songs of his over and over while writing, including “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You,” “The Sweetheart Tree,” “Feeling Good,” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Her.” I also listened to the suite from the movie The Rare Breed by John Williams a lot. And endless movie soundtracks, because I’m always listening to those.
Thanks so much for your questions, Katie! This was such fun ☺
And thank YOU, Rachel!
Everyone, be sure to grab a copy of Dancing and Doughnuts on the 31st!
I promise, you won’t regret it 😉