Cinderella, Belle, Arielle, Rapunzel, Snow White et. al
Fellow girls, no stranger to the ball
Flipped over pumpkin carriages, dwarfs, and the like
Tiaras strewn over faux yellow brick roads, thighs exposed due to petticoats they hiked
Tired of waiting for princes with complexes
The women hopped into a baby blue Lexus
Ditching the label of damsel in distress
Desiring to be more, not less
–By Alexandra Caselle
Introducing Carey Torgeson, A Debut Author on the Cliffhanger Press imprint
The Princess Paradox, expected publication date Christmas 2014
Twitter: @CareyTorg Blog: http://seattletfiles.blogspot.com/
1) How did you come up with the idea for The Princess Paradox?
I have a beautiful daughter who, at the time, was only around four years old and she was absolutely smitten with all things princess, as most girls are at some point. While watching her play with her dolls, all vying for the prince’s affections, I thought this is where it happens. When we are little girls we are kind of programmed to believe in this mythic fairy tale love. And at times I feel like this thought is all consuming as we get older. We begin to act out, in real life, what we have seen time and time again in Disney movies. We wait for a perfect love, our prince charming, our happily ever after, assuming that if we don’t find it the way we think we’re supposed to, something is wrong with us. Watching my daughter, I had two ideas. One: I would love to write something that becomes the antithesis of the perfect princess story. And two: I wanted to write a strong female role who is able to make it on her own. So The Princess Paradox is quite literally, what I envision a modern fairy tale to be. And the story follows all the tropes of the traditionally Disney tales, but then twists them and turns them inside out.
2) How do you balance teaching and writing?
That is a tough one. I don’t have an answer. If you find a way, let me know. 🙂 I try to write on weekends and on breaks. I find that I go in spurts. When a story or character wants to talk, I literally find every spare minute to write it. I have written parts of my stories in class at times. I have always been pretty good about not taking my work home with me, so that part makes writing at home easier. I am pretty decent at compartmentalizing my time.
3) What will make The Princess Paradox stand out among other books in women’s fiction genre?
Like I said, I have tried to take all the traditional romance tropes and break them. I think that is what makes my book stand apart. Also, I originally wrote the book with commentaries on characteristics of fairy tales then paralleled my main character’s journey with it. So, with lots of feedback and revising, it ended up being fairytale clichés. My book blends a bit of satire of the whole fairy tale story arc, while still telling my main character’s story. I think it’s smart “chick lit,” it comes off at first as very light and fluffy, but I think the story really tells about what, as women, we go through while navigating love and life. Because my main character, like all of us, have to figure out what we want versus what society has told us we want. The whole story, while funny and romantic and swoon inducing, is also a commentary on society as a whole, and how the princess phenomenon has become a part of who women are.
4) If you could be a Disney princess, which one would you be and why?
This is so difficult. In many ways, I wouldn’t be one. Because, I think too often they put the needs of everyone else before themselves. Some have no backbone, and some just flit about from here to there oblivious of the world around them or how they might be being manipulated. That being said, I think I would be a combination of them. I would want Belle’s intelligence, strength and loyalty. I have always been enamored with Sleeping Beauty. Her beauty, her innocence, and her kindness set her apart for me. And I love Ariel’s sass and spunk. I love that she is willing to sacrifice for love. I think I would want a combination of all of them.
5) If a Disney princess started attending the school in which you teach, which princess would it be and what would her typical day be like?
It would probably be Ariel because my school is literally less than a mile from the water. 🙂
She would have 5 periods of classes, science, math, PE, block (which is English and Social Studies –which is what I teach), and an elective. She would have lunch with her fellow classmates (by grade level) and probably be a part of the Leadership class and ASB. And hopefully she would think it’s a pretty positive school and that the teachers really care about the students.
6) What advice would you give to teachers who want to pursue writing as a career?
Advice…I think the best advice ever given to me wasn’t even advice. It was from a literacy coach who was helping me hone my craft of teaching. She is the reason I started writing. If you want to write, read. First read like a reader, then read like a writer. When I began deconstructing stories at the structure and sentence level, it really demystified writing for me. It no longer was something others could do. It was like the veil was lifted. I realized when I looked at characteristics and structure of books and stories, I was able to then plan my own. I took what I liked from the masters of writing, and morphed it into my own style. I ask myself the questions “what did this writer do that has me hooked?” or “how did this writer structure the narrative” and that gives me things to work on and do in my own writing.
I would also say, share your process with your students. I think what is so cool is that through all of this I have become a better writing and reading teacher. And it’s because it’s what I live and breathe. How many teachers have people had that actually live what they teach? I am able to take them through the real process of writing, the messy part. The part where you want to tear your hair out. And I let them know it’s ok.
Finally, write your inspiration. Whether it’s from a day in class or something you experience, write what strikes you. Then you can’t go wrong.
7) You are currently in the process of preparing your book for publication at Cliffhanger Press. What have you learned about the publishing/business side of writing?
Well, one thing is that there is nothing in a book that is not there for a reason. EVERYTHING is well chosen and necessary, because if it doesn’t move the story forward in some way, it is not needed. Also, I have learned that there are a lot of people that go into creating a book. It is not unlike an assembly line or a well-oiled machine. All the parts are integral to creating a solid product. I also realize how much work is involved and as I near the release date, I know things are going to get crazy hectic so I’ll really have to work to balance it all. I am excited for it all though.
8) What advice would you give new writers?
The best advice would be that if you think it’s going to be easy, or that it’s a hobby, maybe writing isn’t for you. Make no mistake, it’s a full time job and it’s work. It’s fun work most of the time, but it isn’t some “Sex and The City” glamorous life. And much like teaching, if you’re in it for the money, walk away now. Because like teaching, you have to do it because it is who you are, not something you do. It’s like breathing or sleeping, you need it to survive and without it, there’s an emptiness. That’s why I write. I teach because I love not only the content, but inspiring others. I write for very much the same reason. I hope in some way I can make a mark on this world, a stamp to say “Carey Torgesen was here…and she made a difference.”
Also, you must network. Find other writers to help you, to critique you and give you honest feedback, surround yourself with others who understand. And make sure you’re not only taking but you’re giving back to them too. But don’t take on more than you can handle at any given time.
Because there are times when your social life will suffer and people in your life may say you are giving too much to this hobby, that you’re ignoring reality for want of fiction. And it may be true, but it’s worth it.
Finally, know that sometimes, you aren’t going to know when a story is going to die out, when the voices are going to stop narrating, where the story is going and you will have doubt, doubt, doubt. But this is all part of it. And it’s how you deal with those setbacks that differentiate you from someone who writes and being a writer.
9) How would you describe your writing process?
I usually am struck with an idea and then I map it out. I try to outline the basic plot. I usually try different methods; I’m not committed to any one type yet. I have done post-its for each chapter, written the query first, written a synopsis, plot lines, and even used some basic charts. So far, I’m still looking for one way that works enough to where I want to use it again and again.
I also reread as I write, editing as I go. So when I get to THE END, it usually isn’t a true first draft. It has gone through changes. Then I reread it again, making small changes. Then I send it out to my CPs and betas to get feedback. I DO have a great alpha reader who also sometimes gives me feedback chapter by chapter. THAT is indispensable.
And I have about three WIPs that I have pages for, so sometimes I go back and forth. I have a YA Contemporary Romance that I’m querying right now too, a Little Mermaid retell (YES AGAIN WITH THE PRINCESS THEME) So, I like to be in all stages at one time. It keeps things from being monotonous.
10) Name 5 books (young adult, classic, middle grade, children’s literature, etc.) that you recommend for any classroom?
This is my favorite thing to do. 🙂
Freak the Mighty
Fault in Our Stars
Mockingjay (last of The Hunger Games)
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Great Gatsby
11) What are some ways that you engage students in the learning process?
I try to remember they are just kids and that they work better when they feel safe and that I am someone who “gets them.” I try to make learning connect to the world. I want them to understand that reading and writing are simply forms of communication. We’re all just trying to be heard and understood. We write to tell the stories of our lives, or how we feel or what is important to us. We read to see that we are not alone in all of that. We read to live in other’s shoes, to learn what we go through is not so different from what others’ do and we also learn about the world we live in through books.
So, I try to make them work hard. But we play hard too. We have fun. And that is what my students always remember. They come back and say “You made learning fun” and “I didn’t realize how much I learned until (years) later.” One student who just visited looked at the essays we were doing and remarked that it was more rigorous than what they expected in high school. That is the best compliment.
I give my students a lot of privileges and I include them on decision making processes. And I ALWAYS let them know I have a clear purpose for everything we do. It’s never to fill time. It’s always because we are building on our prior knowledge and working toward a clear end.
I try to teach as if we are a team moving forward to a common goal. And because we are in it together, I think there is more buy in.
12) What is one lesson that has really made an impact in your students’ lives?
This one is really hard because I try to teach them not just academics, but about life. I try, all the time, to connect the books we read to their lives. And the common themes that run through all that we read is this idea that no one is really alone; we all go through things, have our crosses to bear, but how you respond to difficulty will build who you are and who you will become. My favorite quote is written in the front of my room. “The world is a stage, and we are merely players. That you get to contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” It’s from Dead Poet’s Society. And I think it captures what I try to teach my students. Whether they are “good” or “bad” in school, everyone leaves their mark. I tell them, “You don’t get to decide IF you affect people. You only get to decide HOW you affect people.” I also tell them constantly, I don’t believe people are “stupid”. There are people willing to work hard, and there are people who aren’t. Again, it’s a choice.
So, I don’t think there is one lesson. I use these threads throughout all my lessons for the entire year, and I hope by the time they leave my classroom, some of it has rubbed off. 🙂
Jaded by fairy tales, twenty-four-year-old Nora Roseberry has written off the probability Prince Charming will come rescue her. Which is great. She’s not interested in being saved. But fate is about to step in, offering this “damsel in distress” a shot at happily ever after.
When Nora takes her love life into her own hands by placing a want-ad in the local newspaper, she’s shocked, not to mention apprehensive, when roguish neighbor Aidan O’Neill comes-a-courtin’. Aidan’s not the kind of prince who needs relationship help–evidenced by the sheer volume of maidens crossing his threshold. Besides, he doesn’t go for women like her. He dates knockouts. But his flirtatious manner and dimples-to-die-for are sure making her consider the possibility of becoming his princess. Which is why Nora is more than a little disappointed when Aidan reveals he answered the ad for his brother, Finn. Unsure of what fate has in store, Nora figures ‘what the hell?’ and agrees to the blind date.
She quickly finds out Finn is everything fairy tales promised and more. Romantic, sincere, and ready to commit, he’s totally husband material. And Nora knows she’s on her way to her fairy tale ending–just when Aidan seems to have decided to change his ways and pursue Nora himself. Talk about crappy timing. With magic in the air and two handsome heroes vying for her attention, Nora will need to make a choice. Prince Charming or Prince-Damn-He’s-Charming? Perhaps there’s a third option? Happily ever after is about to get messy.
Fans of Emily Giffen and Sophie Kinsella will enjoy THE PRINCESS PARADOX a lighthearted novel that unabashedly breaks the rules of traditional fairy tales. It’s Sex and the City meets Disney Princesses, with a twist.
Make sure you check out THE PRINCESS PARADOX later on this year!