Guess who has a new novella out? Bettie Sharpe, one of my favorite writers. Bettie burst onto the scene in 2008, with Ember, a retelling of the Cinderella story. And what a retelling. The story was posted in ten weekly installments, and readers were counting the days until the next installment.
She publishes infrequently. So a new release from her is always a cause for celebration. I did a little interview with Bettie for my newsletter and thought I’d post it here also.
Once upon a time there was a scheming, lying tart who cared for nothing but her own pleasures and her shoe collection.
Once the peerlessly beautiful Lady Catriona, consort to the king, Cat’s fortunes fall far when her aged husband dies. The king’s wizard turns her into a cat and tries to drown her in the mill pond. Fortunately Cat is a clever survivor and enlists the help of Julian, the miller’s youngest son, in her plan for revenge.
She originally sees Julian as a mere pawn for her plans to break her curse, but as they work together Cat comes to know and care for him. Even if the curse can be broken, can a good-hearted man love a woman who has been as vain and selfish as Cat?
A Few Answers from Bettie Sharpe
Bettie Sharpe is a Los Angeles native with a fondness for hot weather, classic cars, and air so thick it sticks in your teeth. When she’s not busy attempting to metabolize smog into oxygen, she enjoys romance novels, action movies, comic books, video games, and every other entertainment product her teachers said would rot her brain. She loves to write almost as much as she loves to read. As a child, she dreamed of seeing her name in shiny gold cursive on the cover of a luridly titled paperback book.
Bettie and her husband share their house with two cats, numerous computers, and the possum in their palm tree.
Three out of the four stories I’ve read of yours (Ember, Cat’s Tale, and the retelling of The Little Mermaid in the upcoming Agony/Ecstasy Anthology) are reworked fairy tales. Holy-$%!# reworked fairy tales if I may add. What draws you to these classics?
I grew up reading the gory old versions of fairy tales, and was always kind of appalled at the Disney versions (even though I do adore some of the later Disney fairy tale movies like Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Frog). The cool thing about fairy tales is that these stories were told again and again as folk tales before they were codified in print, and every author who has ever told these tales aloud or in writing has put their own spin on them. It’s what you’re supposed to do with them. Also, it’s really fun to twist and
reshape familiar elements into something new or different.
Are there any fairy tales you look at and say, nope, not interested? If so, why not?
Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales, but there are already so many great retellings–Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Robin McKinley (twice!), and all of the many, many romance novels that use variations on the theme. There are already more than a dozen versions
of the tale that I adore. I’m not really sure I could bring anything new to it.
If I’d been asked to answer this question a year ago, I might also have said that I didn’t care for fairy tales that ended tragically, but then I wrote “Each Step Sublime,” my retelling of The Little Mermaid that will be part Jane Litte’s Agony/Ecstasy Anthology, and I had a blast giving those characters an appropriate happy ending. So I guess my main criteria for retelling a story is
just whether I think I can do anything different with it.
You are known for your bad-ass heroines–and when I say bad-ass, I mean BAD-ASS. Yet you in person are a complete lady from top to bottom. Where do your uncompromising heroines come from?
Writers tend to be introspective and thinky. Sometimes it’s fun to get out of your own mind and step into the thoughts of someone completely different from you–someone with different morals, different values, different capabilities. While some of my characters’ traits are exaggerated versions of aspects of my own personality (Cat’s obsession with clothes and shoes springs to mind), other traits are the complete opposite.
Also, with the fairy tale retellings, the plot is predetermined. I have to create characters who would logically act and react to plot developments in ways that drive the plot to its proper ending.
I find your heroines exhilarating to read. Why do you suppose I–and other readers like me–get such a kick out of badass girls being badass?
Probably for the same reason I get a kick out of writing them–they’re fun! My favorite quote on the subject of badassery is from Neal Stephenson’s book, Snow Crash:
Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken….Which is okay. Sometimes it’s all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you’ve got.
I like to read and write about badass heroines, but I don’t think I’d ever want to be one–it seems like a lot of effort. I follow the Hiro Protagonist Philosophy on Badassery– it’s good to be a little badass. In fact, it’s probably best. But seeing a true badass, or reading or writing about a really fun fictional badass, is always liberating.
Last, but not least, what are you working on now and when can we have the pleasuring of reading it?
I have plenty of projects, but the one I’ve been writing the most on is another fairy tale retelling based on a comparatively obscure story about a princess cursed with perfect ugliness. After the heroine of Cat’s Tale, who was beautiful and quite enamored of her own looks and the advantages they grant her, I thought it might be fun to write an ugly heroine. I can promise you now, she does not whine or wallow in self-pity.
I’m not sure when I’ll be finished, or even whether it will be another novella or –gasp!– a novel. It’s running a little long for a novella right now, and I’m nowhere near the end.
Be still my heart! Thank you, Bettie.
If you haven’t tried Bettie yet, you can read Ember free online at Bettie’s website or buy it for your e-reader for
only $0.99. And then it’s only three bucks for Cat’s Tale! What are you waiting for?