Friday, July 5, 2013

Lindsay Townsend: Inspired by Fairy Tales

Multi-published historical romance author Lindsay Townsend visits The Plain today with a fascinating post about the inspiration she’s received from classic fairy tales. Welcome, Lindsay. The Plain is yours!

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Inspired by Fairy Tales
Lindsay Townsend

Thank you so much, Pat, for hosting me on your blog!

In this article, I’m talking about how fairy tales inspire me. I’m sure many writers use and adapt old tales, especially if they are writers of historical romance.

For myself, I’ve always loved fairy tales: African fairy stories, Old Peter’s Russian tales, Grimm’s fairy tales and the western classics – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Goose Girl, The Frog Prince. The themes of love, sacrifice, keeping promises (the theme of the Frog prince) transformation (in The Goose Girl and Cinderella) justice (again in Cinderella) are epic to me and timeless, worthy of exploration in romances and modern stories.

Cinderella, the story of selfless devotion rewarded, is a popular theme for many romance stories, with the ‘prince’ often an Italian or Arab billionaire who sweeps in to transform the heroine’s drab, oppressed life. I’m sure there are romances to be written about the ugly sisters, too – positive stories where they grow from their petty spitefulness and obsession over balls and dances into generous, complete women, who also find love. That element of the happily ever after and the unexpected is strong in both fairy tales and in romance and both appeal to me greatly.

Fairy tales can also be epic, dealing with issues of life and death. Look at Gerda and her determination to win her brother out of enchantment in The Snow Queen. Look at Sleeping Beauty, where the prince rescues the princess from the ‘death’ of endless sleep.

Recently I did my own ‘take’ on Sleeping Beauty in my ‘A Christmas Sleeping Beauty’. I made it a story of transformation for both my heroine, Rosie, and the prince Orlando, who starts as a very arrogant and selfish young man who needs to learn to love and cherish. I didn’t want my Rosie to be passive, simply waiting to be woken, so she is active in the story both through her dreams and through her speaking directly to the hero in a letter. I also added more urgency by making it a ticking clock story – Orlando must wake Rosie in three days or he loses his chance forever.

The story of Beauty and the Beast has thrilled me since I was a child, with its dark and menacing beginning, the terrifying beast and Beauty’s courage and love for her father and ultimately for the beast. I was inspired by these basic tenets to write my own medieval version of Beauty and the Beast in my ‘The Snow Bride’. Magnus, the hero, has been hideously scarred by war and looks like a beast. He considers himself unworthy of love. Elfrida, my heroine, is also an outsider since she is a white witch, but she willingly sacrifices herself (as Beauty does in the fairy story) because of love, in her case her love for her younger sister, Christina, for whom she feels responsible. When she and Magnus encounter each other, I made it that they could not understand each other at first, to add to the mystery and dread – is Magnus as ugly in soul as in body? They must learn to trust each other, despite appearances, and come to love (just as in the original fairy tale).

I also added other fairy tale elements to ‘The Snow Bride’: magic, darkness, the idea of three (a common motif in fairy tales) spirits in the forest and more. Perhaps in the darker elements of my forest I was inspired by that other old fairy story – Red Riding Hood.

I really loved writing about Magnus and Elfrida and thought their story deserved a sequel. Again I was inspired by a fairy tale, the rather sinister story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The idea of a piper stealing innocents away became part of the plot ‘drivers’ in my ‘A Summer Bewitchment’. I also looked at Magnus and Elfrida again, at the way their deepest fears impact on the relationship. In ‘A Summer Bewitchment’ they are married, so that whole "getting to know and fall in love" aspect is not the same, but I found their romantic relationship could still be developed and still brought into conflict.

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About Lindsay Townsend:
Lindsay Townsend is fascinated by ancient world and medieval history and writes historical romance covering these periods. She also enjoys thrillers and writes both historical and contemporary romantic suspense. When not writing, Lindsay enjoys spending time with her husband, gardening, reading and taking long, languid baths – possibly with chocolate.

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Read More About Lindsay’s "Fairy Tale" Books:

Lindsay’s Blogs:


  1. Thank you so much, Pat, for having me at the Plain today! I'm looking forward to chatting with people. Best wishes, Lindsay

    1. My pleasure, Lindsay. I see that you "Across the Pond" folks are already hard at work. Thank you for sharing some of that wonderful work here today.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Lindsay! Traditional tales from many different sources [Celtic, European, Scandinavian, Indian ...] have been a steady source of inspiration for me, too.
    The role of the Seanch'ai (Storyteller) in Ireland is still important, keeping Folk Tales alive following the old Oral Tradition from a time before education for all was possible.

  3. This is such a great idea for writers, and Lindsay, you do it so well. Fairy tales are eternal, and the way they often have a lesson in them is so common to so many cultures. Endless inspiration!

    Jane x

  4. Thanks for your post, Lindsay. My novel The Silk Romance is a Cinderella story. I love fairytale retellings, and have joined a dedicated Goodreads challenge:
    I've added The Snow Bride to my list for the group - thanks again!

  5. I love your reworking of classic fairy tales, Lindsay, and you do them so well.

  6. Thanks again for hosting me today, Pat.

    Paul, I like you, find all traditional stories great 'wells' of inspiration. The oral tradition is a great and powerful one. (I love the Iliad, Odyssey, Tain and Kalvela).

    Jane, I so agree about the eternal nature of these stories.

    Helen - Cinderella? Lovely! It's on the TBR pile!

    Rosemary, thank you. You are always so supportive of fellow writers.

  7. Lindsay,
    Loved your post and inspiration. I rely on the voices in my head for inspiration and as it turns out, most of my characters hail from the old west. I've written cross genres but usually the western influence wins out when I have to choose which ones to listen to. I have no idea why because writing historical comes with lots more research even if my stories are fictional. Good earn that credibility. :)

  8. A lovely post, Lindsay. Fairy tales and old folk stories are indeed a rich, varied and fascinating sources of inspiration. The Snow Bride sounds like a wonderful read.

  9. As a writer who often uses fairy tales as an inspiration, I so enjoyed your post about how you use yours. I think these tales touch on what I call "core" stories, that we need to tell. Thanks for your great post!

  10. Fairytales, folk tales, and legends are all great sources of material. It's fun to mix them up to your own use.

  11. I always loved Anderson's Fairy Tales, but they are all so sad.
    I read Snow Bride some time back and loved it. I'm so glad to see you have a sequel to it. The cover is amazing.
    I wish you every success.

  12. Hi Sarah - thanks so much. I love the cover for 'A Summer Bewitchment,' too.

    Hi Marva - as you say, all great sources and what Conda calls 'core' stories. I agree with you, ladies.

    Thanks, Marie! Lovely supportive comment.

    Hi Ginger - the Old West has a wonderful, epic quality to it. I'm not surprised it inspires you. My old Classics tutor used to say that Westerns were Homeric - two heroes, slugging it out in final conflict.