Thursday, January 21, 2016

Indie Author Spotlight: Britain Soderquist

When Eleanor stops her stepsister Fanny from eloping, their father decides to take the company away from England and into Europe proper before the embarrassment can be discovered. Using this new change as an opportunity to distance herself from her family, Eleanor finds herself in a chance meeting with Baron Rupert von Schӧnfeld, a cousin to the imperial family of Austria. Angry at her stepsister’s sudden upturn in luck, Fanny sets out to destroy her life with gossip, and Eleanor seeks solace in her cousin Isabella.

Isabella is having her own adventure to share. Her father is a friend to Duke William of Stirling, a grumbly man with rough manners. Even though he’s rough around the edges, Isabella is more than a match with her quick wit. As they retreat to the Scottish countryside, Isabella slowly learns more about William’s past and finds that there is a reason for his gruff exterior.

As the Goodreads description will tell you, Glass Roses is a fairy tale without the one thing that makes a fairy tale a fairy tale: magic. There’s no curses or fairy godmothers. There aren’t monsters or witches. However, it still works. Actually, it’s kind of a refreshing take on the idea of fairy tales. It kind of empowers the classic “princess” into making their own happiness by taking control of their own lives instead of bowing to a mystic force to make things work out. The writing was good and the stories were well told. That being said, romance stories aren’t typically something I get into so this was a little slow for me. But that’s just me.

If you like a good “fairy” tale or romance book, Glass Roses is for you.

You can buy it here!

Now let’s meet the author!

Britain Kalai Soderquist lives in Seattle with her husband and two children. When she is not writing or editing, she is chasing after said kids and watching "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" with said husband. Before she became serious about accomplishing her writing goals, Britain studied classical voice and opera. She has traveled extensively around the U.S. and several of the smaller European nations, and still remembers a few things from her German, French, and Italian lessons. She loves peppermint ice cream, crochet, books and films with clever plots and dialogue, dark chocolate, and playing Dominion. Her ultimate goal as an author is to write stories with positive role models and uplifting messages for readers today and in the next generation.

Start us off with a Twitter synopsis of the book (140 characters or less):

It is Jane Austen Meets the Brothers Grimm in this historical retelling of two beloved fairytales, “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Where did you get the idea for Glass Roses?

The idea came from a random series of thoughts I had in the spring of 2014. I was thinking about all of the plot holes in the fairy tale “Cinderella.” There are actually quite a few. Why does no one from her neighborhood come to see how the grieving family is doing after her father dies? How could Cinderella just disappear into the cellar without one of her parents’ old friends noticing that she didn’t come by for tea anymore? Since no male relative shows up to inherit the property (and if the step-family of a man traditionally did not inherit land), how could the lawyers have let the Stepmother take over everything? Did Cinderella’s father ever notice the Stepmother’s mean-spirited tendencies, or was he truly blind to his terrible choice? How did he fall for a woman like the Stepmother in the first place when Cinderella’s mother was apparently so amazing (and his taste was presumably so good)? It seemed that the only way to answer all of these questions for myself was to write my own retelling.

At the same time, I was expecting a baby and looking for a way to keep my mind busy. I had been itching to try my hand at playing The Letter Game (where two people write letters back and forth as fictional characters). My cousin, a long-time writing buddy, agreed to play the game with me. I sent the first letter to set the tone. The first letter in the finished book is almost exactly the same as when I first sent it to her. Her side of the story was a loose retelling of the fairytale “Maid Maleen.”

This went on for a few weeks, but her busy schedule and the arrival of my baby put the game on hold. Fast forward to February of 2015, and I couldn’t seem to shake the idea of finishing the story. I had already written almost all of Eleanor’s story the year before, but much of it had never been sent to my cousin. When I picked it up again, I took my original setting and idea, came up with Isabella’s side of the story, and the whole project took off like a rocket!

What was the motivation for eliminating the magical element of the fairy tale component for this book?

The motivation to remove the magic seemed like a natural progression after choosing the time period and setting for the book. I felt that the answers to all of my questions could be found in the social customs and historic details of Victorian England. To be honest, I also did it because it seemed more challenging. I didn’t allow myself the luxury of saying “Oh, and then this happens by magic!” Instead I had to carefully find logical, historically and socially appropriate reasons for the major events in the book, while still making them obviously connected to their fairy tales. It’s not easy to find an appropriate way of getting a single man and a single woman alone together in the same house for long periods of time! In the end, though, I think removing the magic allows the characters to drive the story with their personalities and emotions. They rely on themselves to make their own happily ever after endings, not on some sparkling fairy godmother with a magic wand who may or may not know anything about who they are or what struggles they have been through.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?

Once upon a time, I would have said it was “Beauty and the Beast” without hesitation. Then I realized that I own four different film adaptations of “Cinderella.” I’m evenly split between the two these days, with a little “Sleeping Beauty” on the side.

Who was your favorite character to write?

I’m torn between saying the Duke of Stirling and Eleanor. The Duke is the brooding Victorian man in every sense of the word, very Rochester-like, but with a little more innocence. I also threw in my own take on Mr. Darcy’s lonely life as the long-time only child of parents who were not very warm and inviting. I especially loved writing about how the Duke learns to see that people really can be loving and kind just because they want to be.

Eleanor I loved because I threw a lot of myself in there. Her tendency to feel guilty for speaking out even when she is in the right is definitely a feeling I experience a lot. I have never seen Cinderella as a weak character; I’ve always imagined that she could stand up for herself when it really mattered, but that she took the hard road and tried to be kind to people instead. Finding the balance between that kindness and strength was fulfilling for me as a writer.

What can we expect next from Britain Soderquist?

Currently I am in the middle of three different projects. The first is another historical/fairytale mash-up, set in Regency era England and Wales just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. That story features retellings of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White,” with both girls sharing one antagonist. I’m particularly excited about having one baddie in the story, because it requires a more complicated weaving together of the two plot lines. And honestly, how many evil women could London realistically be expected to hold at any one time?

The second project is a modern retelling of “The Princess and the Pea.” Set in Seattle, it features a little magic, a little romance, and a little haute cuisine. It’s a departure from my usual historical focus, and my first real attempt at creating a magic system, so it’s thrilling and challenging all at once.

The third project is also a retelling. Can you sense a theme yet? The source material is the unique element for this one: a traditional legend from the Tahitian islands in French Polynesia. It started life as my first-ever NaNoWriMo project in 2013. Now I am trying to turn 50,000 messy words into a real first draft.

All of these projects are in draft form and available to read for free as serial chapters on Wattpad. The original draft of “Glass Roses” is also there, where I plan to keep it as part of my writing portfolio for the time being. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, one or more of these will hopefully end up as a Kindle Scout campaign sometime later this year.

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