And They Lived as Happily as They Could:
Writing a Crazy Russian Novel Saga
by Joy Preble
(Author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, Sourcebooks: DREAMING
ANASTASIA, 2009; HAUNTED, 2011; ANASTASIA FOREVER, 2012)
Russian fairy tales are not like the Disney ones. (Full disclosure: neither are the original Grimm’s Brothers tales. In the Grimm version of Cinderella, for example, those little birds peck out the stepsisters’ eyes on Cinderella’s wedding day. And to fit into that glass slipper? Those same crazy nut job stepsisters slice off their heels and toes. Yeah. Really.)
But let’s get back to that HEA thing. Happily Ever After. Everyone wants one, right?
Not the Russian tales. They mostly end with some variation of “And they lived as happily as they could.” Which is not the same at all. But to me, much juicier and satisfying to work with. Because it means that I can make my characters sort of happy, maybe even very happy. But they’re going to have to suffer first. And I really like that.
Honestly, I’m not a fan of stories – movies, books, TV – where the main character gets her/his HEA without really earning it. Or even a ‘clean getaway’ from whatever bad stuff they perpetrated during the course of the story. Like the film version of Jurassic Park, for example. I love that movie. Those dinos still scare the pee out of me. But the sweet grandfatherly John Hammond in the movie who created the park and cloned that dino DNA? In the book he was a greedy CEO jerk who gets eaten by those very same dinos in the end. Because. He. Deserves. It.
In Spielberg’s movie? Not so much. He lives on for the sequel. And cause he’s a grandpa. But he’s done this really bad thing. And he should. Suffer. More. At least in my humble opinion.
All this informed my writing of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series and my plotting of the series arc once I knew for sure that this would indeed get to stretch over three books. (And actually, even before I knew. Some things you have to know even if you’re not going to get to use them. Which fortunately I did.)
Without giving away what happens in ANASTASIA FOREVER (which you are totally going to love, I know!), let me say that it was important to me that Anne and Ethan got their HEA, but I wanted them to earn it. Anne’s best friend, Tess, too. But there are many things in the novels for which there are no easy fixes. (Slight spoiler alert: If you have not read any of the books, I’m to give away a bit here, but nothing too major) Anne’s brother is still going to be dead. Her grandmother, even if Anne manages to break her mermaid curse, is still going to have suffered all that she suffered. Ethan is still going to have lost people he loved and made some dunderheaded mistakes for which he is paying and will continue to pay. Etc. etc.
All of which is why I decided that it was time in book 3 to go backward a bit and have Anne, Tess and Ethan do a little time travel. More than a little, actually. Because through the past we learn everything that’s at stake in the present. And when the HEA finally gets there – well, I think both the readers and the characters have the deepest appreciation possibly of what they’ve gained and what they’ve lost.
Maybe it’s those cold winters. Maybe it’s something else. But those Russians know their storytelling. I’m proud to follow their pattern in ANASTASIA FOREVER!
~ Thank You Joy, for this wonderful guest post on ReadingTeen.net