As a companion article to yesterday’s review, here’s Jim’s answers to a few questions. *
Tamago: In what ways do the characters of Roudette and Talia compliment or echo each other, if you think they do at all?
Jim: Roudette is definitely a foil to Talia. In many ways, Roudette is who Talia could have become under different circumstances, and vice versa. Both lost their families as children. Both had to flee their homes. But Roudette was alone. To me, that’s the biggest difference between them. Talia has Beatrice, Snow, Danielle, not to mention the other characters we meet in Red Hood’s Revenge. Roudette has only her mission.
Tamago: Do you notice any change in the dynamic between the three princesses from the first two books?
Jim: From day one, I’ve loved the team these three characters create. Individually, they all have weaknesses, but together I’d put them up against just about anything. (Actually, that’s pretty much what I do in these books.) But things have definitely changed over the series. Danielle has grown more comfortable, going from the clueless newbie to an equal member of the team. And there are romantic revelations that create tension within the trio. Because really, what fun is it to read a series where nobody ever changes?
Tamago: How is religion used in the text? Does the author use religion to parallel any real world aspects of religion?
Jim: I struggled with how to answer this one. Religion is more central in this book, with the Fairy Church having such a powerful role in Arathea. In that respect, religion is being used as a tool of oppression. But I didn’t want a simplistic, caricatured portrayal of Religion as Evil, which you sometimes get in fantasy. We also see examples of fairies who truly believe, and who go against their own kind in order to follow those beliefs and do what they think is right — even if it costs them. And of course, there’s always Father Isaac, one of our heroines’ allies who happens to be both a Christian mage and a priest. (I can’t believe I haven’t gotten nasty letters for that one.)
As for parallels to the real world? In my experience, every religion can and usually has been used as a tool for evil. Likewise, every religion can and has produced people who do good, important work for the world, even if it means sacrificing. I hope I’ve captured some of both.
Tamago: What are the different aspects of parenthood offered up in the book? Do you feel they are realistic portrayals?
Jim: This one’s hard to answer without spoilers. You have Danielle and Armand and their son Jakob. We learn more about Talia and her twins, currently being raised by the Queen of Arathea. We also meet Fazaya, a nomadic Arathean who was shunned by her father when she chose to leave the tribe.
Without going into detail, I believe they’re all realistic portrayals, even though they’re very different. I’m particularly fond of a bit where Danielle is talking about an incident with her son Jakob. Everyone sees her as this wonderful mother, but little kids can try the patience of even the most angelic parent. Talia’s confrontation with her children was both difficult and painful to write, mostly because I wanted to be true to the situation: She doesn’t know her children, and they’ve been raised by someone who hates her. I think it’s a powerful scene, but I also know it doesn’t work for everyone. I had to choose between writing something warm and fuzzy and emotionally satisfying vs. something that felt true, and I chose the latter.
Tamago: Even though the princesses vary from their original stories, do you feel there are any aspects of the princesses that remain the same?
Jim: Which original stories? I can point you to ten versions of Cinderwench, a dozen Sleeping Beauty tales, and all sorts of Snow White stories. Danielle is probably closest to the fairy tales we know. She’s got that core of love and goodness, and oh wow does that sound cliche. But it’s true. Her stepmother and stepsisters never broke her, I think in part because her mother’s spirit was always there for her. That’s one of the strengths she brings to the group.
Tamago: The princess that has undergone the most revision in your book is Sleeping Beauty. Can you discuss your decisions to make her a lesbian and to place her in a desert culture?
Jim: There wasn’t really that much to it, I’m afraid. Talia was who she was pretty much from day one. But I will say I believe the series is much stronger because of her. To steal a phrase from another series, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is a good thing indeed. (And if you don’t know IDIC, then shame on you! Get thee to Google at once!)
Tamago: How would you classify the male and female dynamic in your book?
Jim: There’s not much of a male dynamic, to be honest. If you invert the Bechdel Test to apply it to men, this series fails miserably. But given how many books are out there where the men go on the adventures while the women hang out in the background, I’m okay with my series working the other way around.
I’m very happy with the relationship between Snow, Talia, and Danielle. They’re friends and they love one another, but they also argue, and sometimes there’s conflict between them … their relationship feels true, and it makes them much stronger than any of them would be alone. And I love Queen Beatrice, who acts as mother and mentor to all three.
Tamago: Do you have a message that you hope readers will take from the series? If you do, what is it?
Jim: There’s no Message, really. Not in a moral of the story, “knowing is half the battle” way. I’ve said elsewhere that I started writing these books for my daughter. One of the things I hope she takes from them, once she’s old enough to read them, is that there are many different ways to be a strong woman.
Thanks, Jim, for these thought-provoking answers.
Again, I’d like you all to go out and read the princess series. And, if you’re hooked, go pick up the goblin series too.
*Disclaimer: Schaff-Stump is making no money whatsoever for this extended Jim Hines’ informercial. She is merely exercising her rights as a fan of both of Hines’ series in a non-remunerative fashion.