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My Interview with Susan Meredith and Catelyn
Susan Meredith and her granddaughter, Catelyn, agreed to talk with me. We talked for about an hour by messaging back and forth on Skype. In this article and the next one, I share with you the conversation that we had.
Lisa: What was the first fairy tale that you all read that inspired you to begin rewriting the fairy tales?
Susan: Cinderella because I am a stepmother and nice. My husband always told his children that even if he went away, he would always come back and my grandmother told me she would always watch over me even if she were not around. I wanted a story that would provide reassurance to children - children who have lost a parent or have a new stepmother.
Lisa: The original versions of the fairy tales are not that long, but your versions are much longer; they are small books with chapters. Do you think they will hold the interest of a really young child? Or are these books meant more for children who are beginning to read themselves?
Susan: They are for older children and parents/grandparents who read to them. They are in chapters so they can read one chapter a night or the entire book.
Catelyn: For children in school, they can read a chapter during free time.
Lisa: I really enjoyed reading all of the fairy tales. In Rumpelstiltskin, we learn the history of the strange little man who can spin straw into gold. In the original, we know nothing of his previous life; he just appears on the scene. What made you decide to give him a history?
Susan: I do a lot of character development in all the books. I did this so it would help the children understand where the characters come from and why they do the things they do. I mean, how does anyone spin straw into gold? How does someone get named Rumpelstiltskin? Why does he do good deeds? It may interest you to know that Rumpelstiltskin originally got a pony from his parents, but Catelyn asked, "If he has a pony, why is he walking to town?" We changed the pony to a puppy.
Lisa: Learning Rumpelstiltskin's history was great. I think all of the character development makes the stories more appealing. I had always wondered where he came from and how in the world did he learn to spin straw into gold? I don't even think that is possible, but it is a neat idea. The thing about him originally having a pony, well, Catelyn was right. He wouldn't be walking to town if he had a pony. That is why a second set of eyes is so great.
Susan: especially when that pair of eyes belongs to a young reader.
Lisa: The one character in Little Red Riding Hood that everyone knows about is the big bad wolf. In your version he was a timid creature running from a hunter. What made you decide to change the wolf into an animal that was scared and in trouble, rather than an animal that caused trouble?
Susan: The wolf is actually based on a true story of a friend named Rafael. He was a director of a safari park in New Jersey when one of their wolves escaped. He had a natural fear of dogs and so, when the manager said, We all have to chase the wolf, he balked. Relunctantly, he picked up a stick and made as much noise as he could while they tired to corner the wolf. They finally caught up with the wolf, threw a net over it, but it bit its way out of the net. Rafael freaked, threw up the stick and ran through the woods. He heard something running after him and assumed it was the wolf. He then stumbled over a tree root and fell to the ground. He was sure the wolf would eat him but it was so scared, it ran right over him and kept on going. The story was a gentler version for children. I didn't want them to have nightmares about being eaten (or, their grandmothers being eaten like in the original) eek!
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