Although it doesn’t feel like it, I’ve only been blogging just over a year which means that I have missed several great books and today I’m featuring one of those that slipped past without me noticing it last year. Valerie-Anne Balietto’s Four Sides to Every Story was published by Novelistas Ink on 24th June 2015 and I’m delighted to have a slightly belated guest blog from Valerie-Anne to celebrate that birthday.
Four Sides to Every Story is available for purchase here.
Four Sides to Every Story
If you found ‘the one’ would you know it straight away, or would you need a little push in the right direction?
What if there was someone like Lily Rose Whyte in your life, whose sole aim was to help you? Someone who could jiggle fate and fortune in your favour, without you even realising.
And what if you live in a sleepy Cheshire village where nothing much seems to happen, except suddenly one summer, everything does. Your life is turned upside down and inside out. As we all know, love has a habit of doing that.
But hold on. Slow down. Because what if – for once – Lily’s got it wrong? About as wrong as she can get. What would you do then?
Don’t worry, though. Life isn’t a fairy tale, and magic doesn’t exist. So, as long as you don’t read this book, and you never meet Lily Rose Whyte, you’re perfectly safe.
In Praise of the Fairy Story
A Guest Post by Valerie-Anne Baglietto
I’ve always had a fascination for fairy tales, which isn’t surprising really, as they’re the first stories we usually hear as children. They’ve beguiled their way into many a wannabe writer’s head, and even when, as adults, the trappings of the stories are shrugged away, the basic plotlines will always remain. Writers use them without realising most of the time. As a child, before Enid Blyton came into my life, my shelves groaned with Ladybird books, bought as little treats and rewards by my parents. But one of the most influential books of my childhood came from a family friend. To this day it’s a firm favourite, and one I’ll always have out on display. A compilation of fairy tales sensitively retold by Bridget Hadaway, with the most beautiful illustrations – just look at that fairy godmother’s hat!
I think most of us are aware of the long evolution of folk tales and fables over the centuries, so for the purpose of this post, I’m focussing on the versions in living memory. I’m also not going to drone on about feminism, because I think these stories have been analysed to death on this score. I read them as a child, and I didn’t grow up waiting for some man to save me. I’m in favour of the sexes helping each other equally – or is that too radical an opinion?
I also don’t think watching Disney Princess movies is warping my daughter in any way, although there’s a philosophy that opines differently. The girls are the main characters, aren’t they? They do things that I admire. Walk into parties on their own without flinching. Stand up to beastly men and even more beastly older women. Read a lot to expand their minds. Sing loudly in public places, often to wildlife, unfazed by the fact someone might hear them. They fall in love, and are loved in return, and they make sacrifices for those they love, be they lovers or family members. For pity’s sake, let’s not get nitpicky. Let’s just have fun and enjoy them.
Love and sacrifice go very much hand in hand in my books, too, with the sacrifice usually securing some sort of redemption and the happy ending we’ve come to expect. I think that’s one of the reasons we need fairy tales in our lives. Even the simplest of them carry a moral, a message. Of course, the morals used to be depicted in a much darker way in the earlier tales, and the cautionary messages have evolved to keep up with the times.
My readers want the enchantment I try to inject into my books, and I know this because they often tell me so, but at the same time I like to give them something to chew on. The idea for a novel entitled Four Sides to Every Story came to me early in 2012, and as the concept snowballed over the next few months, I began to think of who the four narrators would be. It was always going to be embedded in the real world but with recognisable fairy tale elements, although not all the narrators would necessarily be reliable. A fashionable trend nowadays, as any bookworm will know, yet why should they be the prerogative of psychological thrillers? I decided I wanted to have a castle in the book, and set it in a picturesque village called Fools Castle (fictional, but located in Cheshire). There would be a ‘wicked’ stepmother. A cottage with wisteria curled around the door. An overgrown garden. A girl with ridiculously long hair. A lonely widower and an independent, dauntless heroine… Ideas from my childhood storybooks, basically. But once I’d set it all up, I wanted to divert the reader down a different path from the one they might have been expecting.
I think the notion of a fairy godmother being one of the main characters came from sitting around munching popcorn and devouring Disney movies with my daughter (terrible mother that I am). Movies like Enchanted, Tangled, Frozen, and especially Maleficent – which is Sleeping Beauty retold from the ‘evil’ fairy’s point of view. We also went to see the musical Wicked last year, which portrays the story of the Wizard of Oz from a different perspective. Although I’d finished writing Four Sides to Every Story by then, watching Wicked struck a chord. I had tried to do the same thing with my own story: subvert the plot, mess around with the old expectations, show how a familiar storyline can be turned on its head when narrated from a different character’s perspective.
While Four Sides to Every Story isn’t a retelling of an actual fairy tale, it probably references Cinderella the most, although it’s definitely not another in a long line of ‘Cinderella stories’. I think it’s safe to say we all know the recognisable thread of a fairy tale, and the way the story ought to unfold. But this time, it doesn’t. It starts going very wrong. The path to true love becomes treacherously rocky. And, oh, the fun I had once I got into my stride writing it!
And finding true love isn’t the end of the adventure. It’s really just a beginning. I hadn’t intended to write a sequel, but when my initial batch of readers came back to me to say they wanted more, my characters seemed to concur. The more I was asked, the more ideas that developed to take my story forward. So now I have a notebook full of fresh plot strands, and a prologue and an epilogue that have already made me cry. When I’m ready, and finished with my current project, I will be sitting down and filling in all the space in between.
To be honest, part of me is impatient to get back to Fools Castle. In a way, it’s a kind of homesickness. The book I’m working on now is more issue driven, and being written under a pen-name, and while it’s stretching me as a writer (always a good thing) I’m beginning to yearn to get lost in a good old fairy tale again. We all need to get lost in them sometimes. To be transported back to the thrill we felt when we were discovering the joy of reading for the first time. As adult bookworms, I think we get a unique kick from the memory of curling up in our comfiest childhood nook, learning to navigate a world of books, of imagination, of hope. I love being reminded of that. Sometimes, all it takes is a modern story to mention a glass slipper or an enchanted mirror, in passing, and I’m whisked back to that cosy childhood nook again.
Almost as if, by magic…
About Valerie-Anne Baglietto
Valerie-Anne Baglietto wrote her first ‘book’ aged four. A story about a boy whose mother’s nose was incredibly long and spiral-shaped. Over twenty years later, her first published novel The Wrong Sort of Girl won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Award. Recently she was shortlisted in the 2105 Love Stories Awards.
Valerie-Anne contributes to the Novelistas Ink blog and lives in a very full house in North Wales. By day, she can be found hunched over her desk, where, like most writers, she consumes too much coffee. By night, she clears up after her husband, three children, a Pomeranian with delusions of grandeur and a perpetually ravenous guinea pig.
Occasionally she sleeps.