Fairy tales are survivors. They've survived bowdlerizing and Disneyfication, they've been reinvented as urban fantasy and darkened into the nastiest of horrors. After all that, they still have the power to draw new writers to retool them for new readers... Katharina kindly answered some questions I had about the process.
Are you retelling these fairy tales in the same world, or in different ones?
They are all set in the same world. It is an environment where magic and science battle. Most of the time, magic loses, so there's less and less magic in the world. The kingdoms of that world are very differently developed. Some don't have much magic left at all while others have much more magic. This gives me the room to write anything from more traditional tales of magic and curses to stories with steampunkt settings.
Did you tailor the world to fit the story's needs, or vice versa? How?
The world grew as I wrote it. The first story I wrote in this series held many steampunk elements, and I loved it. Then, I began to ask myself, “How did it get like that?” That was the way the second and third story came into existence. I wrote the fourth because I wanted to handle my mother's favorite fairy tale.
Tell us about an aspect of the world that was just for the fun of it.
In the retelling of “The Beauty and the Beast” (due spring 2015), I used roses made from rubies. In the original tale, the rose is the reason Belle has to go to the Beast's castle, so I thought it a nice touch to have them show up in the retelling too. But then, they morphed into something more (you'll need to read the tale to find out). In “The Stepmother”, I couldn't resist bringing up secret passages (I love those). At first, they were only meant to be an easy way to get the siblings together, but then, they became a hiding place for something important... I think what I'm trying to say is that even if I create something “for fun” it always ends up becoming more or less important.
What's the next project that you have in the works?
I'm currently revising and translating the fourth novel in this series, a retelling of “The Hut in the Woods” by the Brothers Grimm. That's a lesser known story, and my mother's favorite. At the same time, I'm preparing my non-linear fantasy mystery for publication (but it's a long process), and plan the next novel I'm dying to write (well, not like dead dying... you know what I mean).
Somehow, each day could do with a couple more hours for me...
Even with her powers as a witch, Isabel cannot find a trace of her stepchildren. Desperate, she crosses the Old Forest, filled with as much malignant as benevolent magic, to reach the distant mountain kingdom she left as a young girl when her magical powers manifested. She soon realizes that a sinister creature holds the unsuspecting kingdom in thrall. It will take all she's able to give to save her children and the kingdom she once loved.
An imaginative retelling of “Little Brother, Little Sister” by the Brothers Grimm. What if they painted a wrong portrait of the stepmother?
Born and raised German with a generous helping of an adopted Scottish heritage, Katharina started writing at age seven (although she didn't get serious until much later) when the tomboy adventures she lived in her father's forest weren't enough for her imagination any more.
Writing about balloon people, flying hearts, giant spiders, and more was her lifeline to sanity and Real Life™ all through her education. After finishing with a PhD in science, marriage and the start of a beloved but distracting family, she returned to her life-long vocation.
These days, Katharina lives for stolen moments of writing happiness in two languages while juggling her husband, two girls in puberty, a fledgling daughter that just left the house, a dog, and … laundry.