Donnell: Maureen, I just have to say I love fairy tales. You're talking to a person who has watched The Little Mermaid at least 15 times. When you described to me the story adaptation that brought about CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, I made the decision right then and there to pick up this book.
You take the tried and true Cinderella fairy tale, in which the message to little girls is, let the prince save you. You, however, turn it into a kick-butt heroine who can darn well save herself. Love your message. What inspired you to create this version?
Maureen: Thanks, Donnell. When I was asked by the editor to take a shot at writing a proposal for a Cinderella story with a choose-your-own-adventure element, I jumped at the chance. But because the idea had come from the editor, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories the way I wanted. The editor assured me I’d have complete creative freedom. To test her assertion, I asked, “Can there be ninjas?” She said sure, and the rest is history.
I also liked the idea of “fixing” some of the elements of the traditional stories that bothered me. For example, the original Cinderella character was too much of a victim for my taste, waiting around for a handsome prince to save her. I wanted to create a strong heroine who was doing all she could to save herself. I also never liked the idea that the prince needed a shoe to recognize her the day after supposedly falling in love, or that he fell in love with her because of her beauty—beauty which he doesn’t recognize the next day when she’s out of her fancy dress. What kind of message does that send to modern young readers about love or their self-worth?
Donnell: Not much of an esteem builder at all. I so agree. Would you say the theme is still good vs. evil, or do you see something else in the storytelling?
Maureen: The traditional fairy tale themes of finding true love and good vs. evil are definitely in CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, but other themes in the story include: believing in yourself and seeing through the superficial to what really matters—the person inside.
Donnell: You have a prince in disguise and a fairy godfather. Will you tell us about those switches and what inspired those roles?
Maureen: I made the decision about the godfather right from the start. One of the first things that popped into my mind as I started working on this book, (after ninjas), was the line, “Hi, I’m Fred, your fairy godfather.” It just struck me as funny.
That line, minus the word “fairy”, ended up in the book. (He’s actually her real godfather, not a fairy.) But he has a magical secret, too… and that element is something I discovered organically while writing the opening pages.
The prince in disguise was a happy accident while writing—when he showed up at the door, I realized the messenger bringing the invitations to the ball wasn’t who he said he was—but in hindsight that element was essential to the story. I wanted Cinderella and the Prince to fall in love, so I needed to get him into the story well ahead of the ball—especially since, depending on the readers’ choices, Cinderella doesn’t necessarily go to the ball. The prince-in-disguise element also nicely ties together with the theme of seeing the true person inside.
Tune in Friday for the scoop on SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER.