Inside Scoop on Cinderella: Ninja Warrior

Yesterday, one of my fabulous fellow bloggers at Get Lost in a Story, debut author Donnell Ann Bell, interviewed me. Below is an excerpt from the interview with some insider information on how CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR came about.

Donnell: Maureen, I just have to say I love fairy tales. You’re talking to a person who has watched The Little Mermaid at least 15 times. When you described to me the story adaptation that brought about CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, I made the decision right then and there to pick up this book.

You take the tried and true Cinderella fairy tale, in which the message to little girls is, let the prince save you. You, however, turn it into a kick-butt heroine who can darn well save herself. Love your message. What inspired you to create this version?

Maureen:  Thanks, Donnell. When I was asked by the editor to take a shot at writing a proposal for a Cinderella story with a choose-your-own-adventure element, I jumped at the chance. But because the idea had come from the editor, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories the way I wanted. The editor assured me I’d have complete creative freedom. To test her assertion, I asked, “Can there be ninjas?” She said sure, and the rest is history.
I also liked the idea of “fixing” some of the elements of the traditional stories that bothered me. For example, the original Cinderella character was too much of a victim for my taste, waiting around for a handsome prince to save her. I wanted to create a strong heroine who was doing all she could to save herself. I also never liked the idea that the prince needed a shoe to recognize her the day after supposedly falling in love, or that he fell in love with her because of her beauty—beauty which he doesn’t recognize the next day when she’s out of her fancy dress. What kind of message does that send to modern young readers about love or their self-worth?
Donnell: Not much of an esteem builder at all. I so agree. Would you say the theme is still good vs. evil, or do you see something else in the storytelling?
Maureen: The traditional fairy tale themes of finding true love and good vs. evil are definitely in CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, but other themes in the story include: believing in yourself and seeing through the superficial to what really matters—the person inside.
Donnell: You have a prince in disguise and a fairy godfather. Will you tell us about those switches and what inspired those roles?
Maureen: I made the decision about the godfather right from the start. One of the first things that popped into my mind as I started working on this book, (after ninjas), was the line, “Hi, I’m Fred, your fairy godfather.” It just struck me as funny. 
That line, minus the word “fairy”, ended up in the book. (He’s actually her real godfather, not a fairy.) But he has a magical secret, too… and that element is something I discovered organically while writing the opening pages.
The prince in disguise was a happy accident while writing—when he showed up at the door, I realized the messenger bringing the invitations to the ball wasn’t who he said he was—but in hindsight that element was essential to the story. I wanted Cinderella and the Prince to fall in love, so I needed to get him into the story well ahead of the ball—especially since, depending on the readers’ choices, Cinderella doesn’t necessarily go to the ball. The prince-in-disguise element also nicely ties together with the theme of seeing the true person inside.
Tune in Friday for the scoop on SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Letters From Home

Happy, happy release day to Kristina McMorris, whose fabulous book, Letters From Home, officially hits stores today.

Have you ever seen a more gorgeous cover?

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn’t need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she’s set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation – cut short by the soldier’s evident interest in Betty – but Liz can’t forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from “Betty” are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn’t know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

I met the lovely Kristina when we were both finalists for the Golden Heart competition in 2007, her with this very book. I couldn’t be more excited for her. Seriously. Go out and buy this book. Now. :)

Book Giveaway from Claudia Osmond!

Today, I interviewed the fabulous, Claudia Osmond over at Get Lost in a Story.

Drop by to read her great answers to my silly questions. If you comment on that post you’ll get a chance to win her book, SMUDGE’S MARK!

Claudia Osmond is an only child, wife, and mother who loves caramel apples, hates snakes, stands for social justice, sits at the feet of her Muse, accepts the fact that she’s getting older, denies the idea that her best years are behind her, reads voraciously, writes passionately, sings only when no one’s listening, and admits that she wrote her very first novel in a closet ~ both literally and figuratively speaking.
“With a shaky hand, I laid the brass key on the paper flat side down, and slid it over top of the sketch. It fit the shape exactly. Then the line circling the key uncurled and reformed itself into two words: FIND IT.”
Simon is a fourteen-year-old Orphan with No Options: an O.W.N.O. And “Oh no” pretty much sums up his life. He’s stuck in Grimstown with his prank-pulling grampa and a housekeeper-slash-nanny from you-know-where. Worse, Simon can’t remember a thing about his childhood. Then one night a bizarre dream unlocks some of those forgotten memories, leaving Simon with half of a key in his pajama pocket and a growing awareness that he’s in the middle of a dangerous plot that threatens to destroy Emogen, a hidden realm connected to Earth. In order to save Emogen – and his best friend – from a deadly curse, Simon needs to find out who he really is. But can he discover his true identity before it’s too late?
Again, for a chance to win the book, leave a comment on the post at Get Lost in a Story! A blog for readers of all ages. 

Interview with Eileen Cook!

I interviewed Eileen Cook at Get Lost in a Story, and we talked about her new YA book THE EDUCATION OF HAILEY KENDRICK (and about Johnny Depp). Check it out. :)

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

About the Book

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what’s expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way…and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.
Suddenly, Hailey’s perfect life–and her reputation–are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don’t trust her. Her boyfriend won’t even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she’s been dumped.
They say honesty is the best policy–but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

If you don’t believe me, (and why wouldn’t you?), here’s what major reviewers have had to say about her latest release, THE EDUCATION OF HAILEY KENDRICK:

“Cook effectively builds both Hailey’s (justified) feelings of rebellion and the social dynamics of her ostracism, especially in her growing friendship with a challenging townie, Drew, who supervises her punishment working with the janitorial staff….Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence.”

–Publishers Weekly

* “Hailey may be an A student headed to the Ivy League, but when it comes to taking a chance on life, she’s clueless. She’s also enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read. Yes, it’s chick lit, but of the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.”

–Kirkus starred review

You can keep in touch with Eileen online here:
Twitter: @Eileenwriter

Ready for Valentine’s?

Okay, being single at the moment, I’ll admit Valentine’s Day isn’t my all time favourite holiday — although this year I have a couple of reasons to be more excited about it than usual. First, my CP Molly O’Keefe is speaking at the Toronto Reference Library that day as part of Keep Toronto Reading.

As if that weren’t enough Valentine’s excitement, one of my TKA sistah’s, Renee Luke, has a new book out, containing three novellas that sound great!
Just listen to this!
Romance has never been as temptingly sweet as it is in this trio of erotic treats from an author who knows how to seduce…and deliver.

In Gimme Some Sugar…Jackson never realized how much he loved his best friend Alexis—until her wedding day was on the horizon. Now all he has to do is convince her that their harmless kissing games over the years weren’t so harmless after all. In fact, they may end up breaking his heart.

In 4 U Sweetheart…Toni never imagined that a night of speed-dating could lead to something serious. But three minutes with the hunk of her dreams changed that. Especially after he slipped her a candy heart that said “Pick Me”…

In Dipped in Chocolate…Nathan wants a special delicacy for his sister’s bridal shower. He finds it in Jayla, the owner of a decadent chocolate shop. As hot as she is, Jayla’s not looking for a fling. As hot as he’s getting, Nathan may have to abandon his bachelor ways for a piece of chocolate that’s a little more solid.

Who needs a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day? I’m going to date this book.
Here are the book’s vitals:
Dipped in ChocolateNAL / SignetISBN: 0451220315 (trade paperback)
February 2007
You can find Renee on the web at She also writes young adult books as Nyomi Scott.
Congratulations Renee! Can’t wait to read it.

Nadine Dajani

I had the pleasure of meeting fellow Canadian, Nadine Dajani, this summer in Atlanta after corresponding with her a few times and discovering a strange connection… Not only are we both accountants turned fiction writers, we have a connection through the Cayman bank she works (worked now, I think). No, I’m not filthy rich and I’ve never laundered money through the Caymans. The connection is through a past job of mine. My former employer is a (very ligitimate and totally above board) client of said Cayman bank.

Nadine’s first book FASHIONABLY LATE is coming out in June 2007 from Forge books. I, for one, can’t wait to read it. It’s set partially in Montreal and partially in Cuba and the heroine is a Lebanese Canadian. What could be more interesting than that? Those critics who say chick lit is all about rich white American women should do a little research!

Anyway, perhaps I should get around to the point of this post?

Nadine just launched her website and is running a great contest all week via her blog to celebrate. Check it out!

She had me at saskatoon berry bush

I read a great book this summer. And one I picked up on a whim. Don’t you love great surprises like that?

The book is THE JOURNAL OF MORTIFYING MOMENTS by Robyn Harding. When I bought the book, I didn’t realize she was a Canadian author, but on page 1 she mentions a saskatoon berry bush, which immediately sent me to the author bio to confirm her nationality. Yup.

(Okay, she set the book in Seattle, but she’s from my home and native land. The saskatoon berry reference makes me wonder if she’s not originally from the prairies… but I digress…)

THE JOURNAL OF MORTIFYING MOMENTS has a great hook and a creative structure—and I’m a sucker for writers who use clever little twists to straightforward storytelling. The premise is that the heroine lets her gorgeous ex-boyfriend walk all over her (and have sex with her whenever he wants, in spite of treating her like dirt). So she goes to a shrink for help, who suggests that she keep a journal of times in her life when she made a fool of herself because of a man. (I’m paraphrasing here.)

For you writers… The entries in the journal become a clever way for the writer to show interesting back-story about the protagonist and help us understand her better without flashbacks or pages of narrative. Cool idea. Wish I’d thought of it first. :-)

Ms. Harding has an engaging style and great sense of humour and I love a book where the heroine actually changes/grows as a result of events in the story and her reaction to them. Even though Kerry, her protagonist, makes some bad decisions, she doesn’t just let things happen to her. All her actions felt really organic and true in this fast paced fun read. She did include the now-cliché-in-chick-lit gay best friend… but he was a real character and I believed they were actually friends. Kerry also has female friends with their own subplots which all fit well into the overall story, adding depth. I also loved that there were at least three possible guys who could be Mr. Right, and while I think most readers will be rooting for the one who wins her, Ms. Harding did a great job of making you wonder if Kerry would choose someone else.

Some of the mortifying moments were truly cringe-worthy and I laughed out loud several times (This book embarrassed me on my flight back from the RWA conference in Atlanta).

Check it out!