Do you love fairy tale retellings? I do! And today, I am pleased to introduce you to an author I just discovered myself. Rachel Kovaciny writes ... you guessed it. Fairy tale retellings. But not just as fairy tales. She puts a western spin on it. And I can't wait to get to know her with you. Read on to find out more.
Rachel, welcome! Your books are fairytale retellings set as westerns, right? How did you come up with that idea of a crossover?
Thanks for having me!
I had the idea of retelling the fairy tale "Twelve Dancing Princesses" as a western about ten years ago. It struck me that the hero of that particular fairy tale is a soldier returning home from the war, and I knew that many Civil War veterans went westward when the war ended, so that kind of made the story a natural fit for that era. I actually considered doing a series of fairy tale-based mysteries set in the Old West, but it never went farther than daydreaming. I had other books I was working on instead.
Then, in 2015, I heard that Rooglewood Press had announced that Sleeping Beauty would be the focus for the new contest for their third anthology of fairy tale retellings. I had recently been to Colonial Williamsburg and learned about the larger kind of spinning wheels, called walking wheels, which have a large spindle that sticks out horizontally about three feet from the floor. The interpreter demonstrating that wheel made a joke about what body part Sleeping Beauty might have pricked if she'd been using that kind of wheel. That joke came back to me, along with the idea of drifting gunmen being a sort of correlation to the knights errant of yore, and suddenly, I had the idea for my novella The Man on the Buckskin Horse.
I won that contest and my novella was included in the anthology Five Magic Spindles. By the time the anthology was released in 2016, I had ideas for six more fairy tales retold as non-magical westerns. I decided to write them as a series of interconnected standalones. And here I am six years later, with four books out and two to go!
So exciting! Of all the fairy tales out there, do you have a favorite? Why?
My favorite is "Twelve Dancing Princesses." I love that the hero triumphs because he is kind and clever.
What is the hardest part of setting a fairy tale in a different setting?
My retellings are non-magical, so the hardest part for me is figuring out how to make the stories work without magic. Sometimes it's not hard -- the poisoned apple in Snow White doesn't need magic, for instance. Sometimes, it's more tricky, like how to have a girl who is injured with the spindle of a spinning wheel fall into a deep sleep. I love that challenge.
What is your favorite thing about westerns?
The opportunity to change your own life that the west presented to so many people -- that's huge for me. Also, you can throw a lot of different characters from very different backgrounds together pretty naturally because the West was kind of the ultimate melting pot. And when characters have very different backgrounds, social status, skills, and so on, that can lead to a lot of conflict. Conflict drives stories. But there's also this sense of "we need to stick together to survive" in a lot of Old West history, and that can draw very different people to work with each other too, which I very much enjoy exploring.
Which of your characters do you think is most like you and why?
Different characters are like different parts of me, or me at different points in my life. Mary Rose O'Brien in Cloaked is a lot like me as an older teen -- over-imaginative, still needing to learn to trust her instincts, but hoping to be friends with everyone she meets. Anna Algona in Dancing and Doughnuts is more like me now -- quiet, shy, and reserved. Levi Dalton in One Bad Apple is also pretty similar to me as a younger teen -- prone to hero-worship, full of big plans, but not great at judging character. And Marta Beckmann in My Rock and My Refuge shares my drive to keep busy, my love of baking, and the desire to help others.
What is the most interesting thing you've come across while doing research?
It's hard to pick one thing specifically from the research I've done for my books. I also write a column about Old West history for the newspaper the Prairie Times, and a lot of things I learn about for my books end up in my column, but also vice-versa. One thing that I think many people find interesting is that soda pop existed in the Old West! Isn't that crazy? It totally did -- you could buy bottles of flavored carbonated water pretty easily all across the country in the latter half of the 1800s.
Can you give us a sneak peek into something in the works for you now?
I'm not actively writing it yet, but I'm almost ready to start a short story follow-up to My Rock and My Refuge that will retell "The Seven Swans." After that, I'll be researching things for my next book, Steadfast, which will retell "The Steadfast Tin Soldier." But I can't share anything from those because... I haven't started writing them yet. I can say that it looks like the short story will be giving a happily-ever-after to the character Alex McLeod from MRAMR...
Please leave us with one fact about yourself that very few people know.
Back in 2018, we camped in the Badlands of South Dakota and, one night, two buffalos bedded down about a hundred feet from our tent!
Well, that is really fun! Though I don't think I'd like them any closer. ;) Thanks so much for sharing with us today about your stories. I can't wait to check a few out.
If you're interested in finding out more about Rachel and her stories, keep scrolling.
Beauty and the Beast… re-imagined.
Marta knows she shouldn't feel this way toward Mr. Wendell. She needs to keep her job as his servant, especially because her family back in Germany depends on the money she and her brother Jakob send home. Marta's new feelings can't be as important as helping her family save their bakery, can they?
Marta doesn't want to believe the rumors that Mr. Wendell profited from another's tragedy to gain his wealth. Although his face bears terrible scars, she sees past them to his kind and generous heart. Still, she wonders why he never leaves his big house high in the Colorado mountains. Does he hide himself away because of his disfigured face, or because he has a guilty conscience?
While Marta tries to push away her questions, others are determined to find answers. Their efforts lead to a fresh tragedy that threatens Marta's hope of finding happiness with Mr. Wendell. Will Marta fail her family and her new friends, or will God bless her efforts to build a happy future for them all?
Born only a few miles from where Jesse James robbed his first train, Rachel Kovaciny has loved westerns all her life. She says they’re where her imagination feels most at home. A Christian wife and mother, Rachel homeschools her children. In her spare time, she writes books and a column on Old West history for the Prairie Times.
Find out more here.
1/3/2023 09:56:47 pm
Thanks for the interview, Amy! I had a lot of fun answering your questions :-)
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This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
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