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Cinderella was destined to meet her prince. So was Rapunzel. Even Beauty lucked out with her Beast, in the long run anyway, once he lost his snarly demeanor. It's almost as if they didn't have a choice.
"You're supposed to want to be a princess and fall in love with the prince," says young-adult author Melissa Marr, who taught a course on gender identity in fairy tales while she was an adjunct professor in women's studies and literature -- the perfect pedigree for a burgeoning fantasy author. "But it's really telling the girl what to be, and that sounds really heinous."
So Marr gave her heroine the option: the shockingly beautiful faery prince or the cute human boy. And darn it if Aislinn didn't pick the human in Marr's bestselling debut, Wicked Lovely. Her follow-up, Fragile Eternity, out this month from HarperCollins, deals with the repercussions of that decision.
"If she chose to be with the prince, that's fine," Marr says. "But if we don't have a choice in our future, to me that doesn't sound like a good thing -- having who you love or what your career should be chosen by someone else, as if someone showed up and said, 'Hi, this is your future.' "
So Marr gave Aislinn autonomy, and now Seth, her love, must deal with living in a world of faeries. "There's the idea that his humanity enables him to see things that don't quite make sense within the faerie realm," says Marr, who strives to stay close to traditional lore when it comes to the winged beasts, something her upbringing has helped her with.
"I grew up believing faeries were real," says the author. "We left whiskey out for the faeries in order for the good neighbors not to get angry with you -- we called them good neighbors because they're scary and you don't want to offend them." Marr and her brother also set traps to try to catch faeries. Her love of mystical creatures didn't abate with adolescence. "In high school, I used faeries as an excuse when I was late -- I really wasn't out there necking with a boy -- and if the story was good enough I didn't get in trouble," she remembers.
Marr's imagination was further fertilized by romance novels, which explains the love stories that propel her plots. "My grandmother, mother and I started sharing romance novels when I was 12," she says.
"I'm a romantic at heart," she adds, which probably explains why she wanted Aislinn to follow her heart and make her own decision about whom to love.
Marr also grants free will to other characters in additional books in her series, such as last year's Ink Exchange, set in the same faerie-filled world. Future plans include works featuring different leading characters as well as more with Aislinn and co.
Filled with faeries, folklore, romance and a large dose of gender equality, Melissa Marr's novels encapsulate her life thus far -- and captivate a burgeoning readership.
Now to help out Cinderella.
-- Elissa Petruzzi
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