One question I’m often asked is where do you get the ideas for your writing. My first published novel, The Goddess’s Choice—an adult sword and sorcery fantasy novel—originated deep within my childhood. My sister Jalane–she is ten years older than me–would tell me and my younger sister stories, fairy tales mostly: “Midas and His Golden Touch,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hanzel and Gretel.” But my favorite was always “The Princess and the Glass Hill” or “The Glass Mountain” as my sister titled it. Wendie and I would have her tell that story over and over again. I was captivated by the bold hero on his magical horses of bronze, silver, and gold.
As I got older, the story faded from my consciousness. Then in graduate school it came back to me for an essay I wrote. We were discussing children’s literature in a Women’s Studies course and had to do a personal essay on our experience with literature as a child. The story of “The Princess and the Glass Hill” figured heavily in that paper. I noted the inherit sexism of the story. The princess has no name, no personality, performs almost no actions. She is not even described. She is nothing more than the prize–a trophy–to be handed off to the lucky man who wins her father’s contest. How she feels about the matter is not discussed, not even thought of, as I did not think about it when I was a child. I identified with the bold young hero of the tale, not the nearly invisible princess waiting at the top of the mountain with her golden apples.
Two years after graduate school, “The Glass Mountain” made another appearance when I had a child. My son Jesse loved it every bit as much as I had and requested I tell it again and again.
One day after telling it to him, I realized that the story could be so much more than the few pages and sparse details devoted to it in either the original or my sister’s version. Suddenly the image came to me of a peasant boy, Robbie, sleeping on a straw mattress in the cramped attic of his father’s farmhouse. That detail didn’t survive into the final version, but it generated the story. I also knew that my princess would be no passive character in the tale of another, as she was in “The Glass Mountain.” Rather, she’d be as strong and fully developed as Robbie–a true heroine to match his hero. After several attempts to get her right, I flashed on the image that proved to be the key to unlocking her character: Samantha being dressed by her chamber maids for yet another dreaded ball, wishing she were out riding her horse.
I didn’t want to write a children’s story, however, but the type of epic fantasy I enjoy as an adult. I upped the dramatic tension, villainy, and sexuality of the piece to create something far different from the original fairy tale. The Goddess’s Choice is intended for an adult audience.