Monday, 12 November 2012

Welcome Maureen McGowan!

Our first guest of honour this week is the fascinating Maureen McGowan, who has written a unique fairytale series, and now finds her new, YA dystopian series to have a lot in common with fairy tales! Welcome, Maureen!

Dystopia as Fairy Tale by Maureen McGowan

Fairy tales endure because they give young children a chance to safely explore their deepest darkest fears. Those fears still resonate with us as adults, as do the emotions evoked when we first heard the stories, and I think that’s a strong reason why fairy tale adaptations for teens and adults remain popular. We all want to feel those strong emotions again and again.

My first two novels, Cinderella: Ninja Warrior (Silver Dolphin Books, 2011) and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer (Silver Dolphin Books, 2011) were fun, adventurous twists on the classic stories, written for kids age 10 and over. I loved writing those books. I loved creating stories that had familiar elements but “fixed” the problems I, as an adult reader, saw in the classics. Like: why would Cinderella stay with her step mother if she treated her so badly, or why would she assume a royal marriage would make things any better? Or, the tiny problem of Sleeping Beauty being, um, asleep for most of the story. Talk about a passive heroine! J

But I have to say, I’m even more excited about my new series The Dust Chronicles, and while it’s darker and more serious than my Twisted Tales books, I think it has more in common with fairy tales than first meets the eye.

Deviants (Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012), the first book in The Dust Chronicles, is a supernatural thriller, with a post-apocalyptic setting and elements of dystopia, horror and romance. (I love that you can blend genres in the Young Adult market!) But what occurred to me, when Marie approached me about being part of this fairy tale themed week, was that, in many ways, dystopian novels are the new fairy tales.

Think that’s a stretch? Hear me out. J

Fairy tales feature oppressive villains who exert total control over, not only the heroines, but over entire kingdoms. That sounds exactly like dystopian societies.

Fairy tales put their heroines in dark desperate situations from which they long to escape. So do dystopian novels.

Fairy tales are set in alternate worlds that look a little like our own but with big twists. So do dystopians.

Fairy tales often include elements of magic and/or the fantastical. And most dystopian fiction has an element of the fantastical and/or science fiction. Deviants has both.

Fairy tales pit good against evil. So do dystopians.

Fairy tales feature the triumph of the underdog or the oppressed—often children or teens—over their oppressors. So do dystopians.

Fairy tales disguise evil under something that first appears benign or friendly: Evil queens in disguise, witches hiding in candy houses, beautiful step-mothers seducing grieving fathers. And the main tenet of dystopian fiction is an evil power lurking under the guise of a Utopia.

In my new book Deviants there isn’t a castle, or an evil queen, or a handsome prince—exactly—but there is a domed city and an oppressive Corporate-like society, the executives of which act as evilly as the worst fairy tale queen. And there are monsters. Ugly scab-covered monsters. Plus a hunky love interest who, well, sometimes turns into a monster too.

The thing I love about all fantastical fiction, whether it be fairy tales, urban fantasy or dystopian Young Adult fiction, is that it allows we as authors and readers to explore the darkest corners of our fears and fantasies—from the safety of a book.

 Here’s a short snippet from the start of Deviants. Don’t you think it could be the start of a modern fairy tale?


The air at the uppermost reaches of Haven is hot and thick with the stench of rat droppings. Small price to pay for free food. Normal girls run screaming when this close to rats, but I can’t afford luxuries like fear.

The sky looms close to our building’s rooftop, and I duck to avoid cracking my head on a beam. If this section of the dome was ever painted blue, the pigment wore off long ago, leaving barely reflective metal panels.

Bent at the waist, I creep forward and scan the less-than-five-foot gap between the roof and the sky. Heat and darkness press in from all sides and sweat trails down my spine. I wish I could carry some form of light, but a lantern would make the rats run. Behind me, something moves.

I crouch deeper and spin.

“Who’s there?” My voice comes out higher than I’d like, and the rats echo with screeches.

A large shadow slides across the roof near an air vent, and I press myself down, gravel digging into my knees and palms. The shadow’s too huge to be cast by a person, but my pulse engulfs my senses, blurring my eyes, filling my ears, clouding my judgment.

I blink and the shadow’s gone; all that’s left is the undulating wave of rats over rats.

Shielding my nose to block the smell, I draw in long breaths. You’re okay. You’re safe. No one knows.

For a longer excerpt, click here, or download the sample for your kindle or kindle app

A recently reported Bowker Market Research study found that 55 percent of buyers of Young Adult fiction were adults and 78% of the time they were purchasing for their own reading—that is, they weren’t buying the books for their kids. I talked about why I love YA fiction here.

Do you read YA Fiction? Why or why not? Answer for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of Deviants and a signed trade paperback copy of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior.

Maureen McGowan always loved writing fiction, but side-tracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to channel her energy into novels. After leaving a career in finance and accounting, she hasn't looked back.

Aside from her love of books, she's passionate about films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes.

She lives and writes in Toronto, Canada where she attends the Toronto International Film Festival each year.

Twitter: @MaureenMcGowan

Maureen's Contest: Answer Maureen's question above - Do you read YA Fiction? Why or why not? - for the chance to win a signed hardcover copy of Deviants and a signed trade paperback copy of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior. The contest will close at midnight tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread


  1. Good afternoon, Maureen (it's 12:30 'Over the Pond' where I live!)
    Yes, I read YA from time to time: mainly to check on the 'opposition' as t's one of the genre I TRY to write myself! LOL

    I was a bit surprised that the extract from "Deviants" is told from 1st Person POV. You said (and I agree) that with Fairy Tales we want to confront our deepest fears: surely you'd want to do this as a SPECTATOR, rather than experiencing the Main Character's POV throughout the story? Or have I got that wrong, somehow?
    Loved the extract: it really drew me into the tale!

    1. Hi Paul, sorry I didn't reply sooner. :)

      I think the safety comes from it being a book, instead of real life... Not the POV. And if a first person POV can put the reader even closer to the emotions, then it heightens the effect even more. :)

  2. Yes I read some YA fantasy because there are good books in that genre. YA makes a different type of escape from everyday adult problems. There is also a sense of nostalgia in remembering teen years.

    1. Hi Carol, since I discovered the recent (last 5 or so years) crop of YA novels, I'd guess that at least 80% of my pleasure reading is now YA... I find them so inventive and interesting. And such heightened emotions. (But less sex. LOL)

  3. I do read YA! I've come to really like them. I just read Ally Condie's Matched and Crossed and the final book in the trilogy releases tomorrow! I've enjoyed Veronica Roth's Insurgent & Divergent. Lia Habel has 2 fantastic YA books called Dearly, Departed and Dearly,Beloved. Of course The Hunger Games Trilogy was a great read, too. I totally enjoy YA books!

    ~Julie K

    1. Hi Julie,

      I love those books too! If you loved Divergent and The Hunger Games, I'm pretty sure you'll like Deviants. :)

  4. OK, Maureen, I'll buy your idea :). Loved the excerpt, and I agree it does have something the threatening atmosphere of a fairytale!

    So, how many books do you plan in the Dust Chronicles? And do you think you'll ever go back to the "straight" fairytales?


    1. Thanks again for having me, Marie! Sorry I didn't reply to these comments sooner. I was on a deadline this week and it was crazy!

      Right now, The Dust Chronicles is a trilogy, DEVIANTS (Oct 2012), COMPLIANCE (May 2013), GLORY (TBD). That will wrap up my protagonist, Glory's story. But there's lots of scope for telling more stories in the world I've created, so who knows, there may be more Dust Chronicles books in the future.

      As for more of the Twisted Tales books... I have lots more ideas... And ideas for darker fairy tale adaptations. Stay tuned. :)

    2. Wretched deadlines :). No worries, Maureen, glad you managed to make it over!

      Ooh, sounds like you have plenty of reading-treats in store! I'll be looking out for them!


  5. I love reading YA! I love the stories, the fantasies, the heartache and the happily ever after endings. I enjoy remembering my own teenaged years, when dreams loomed ahead with promise! I read to escape and why not into a fantasy where heroes and heroines shine the brightest!!

    I enjoyed you post and would love to be entered in your contest!!
    kmnbooks @ yahoo . com (no spaces)

    1. Hi Karen! Those are some of the reasons I love YA too!

  6. I don't know if this is an international contest.

    But nevertheless I want to participate this fun theme I love fairytales ^-^

    I almost read everything be it YA or books more suitable for adult readers. What I like in YA books is the fantasy world that is created, every little detail counts to create it and while reading you got so absorbed in it that by the time our finished you have to take a moment to come back to the 'real' world.

    1. Fiza, I read all over the board too! So many great stories!

  7. Hi, Maureen! I do sometimes read YA fiction--much of it is captivating, and the themes are ones that resonate with audiences of many ages. Also, now that my kids are beginning to be old enough to read YA themselves, I enjoy being able to share some of the reading experiences together also.

    Thanks for the visit and the intro to some of your books--I'll be looking out for them!

    1. Hi fichen1

      Yes, I think the teen years are when we decide much of what we believe--our world view, so to speak. So, books set during that time really resonate with readers of any age.

      And it's great how many parents are actually enjoying YA books and discussing them with their kids!

  8. Thanks for all your comments - enjoyed reading your thoughts on YA, which seems to keep growing and growing in popularity with older adults too!

    I'll be back in a moment with Maureen's winner...


  9. And Maureen's randomly chosen winner is...

    JULIE K!

    Congratulations, Julie! I'll pass your email address on to Maureen!