Thursday, July 23, 2015

[Guest Post] Fairytales and the Role that Good and Evil Play in Them by Soman Chainani

Fairytales and the Role that Good and Evil Play in Them

      We didn’t have cable or internet or video games when I was young, so all we had was our rickety TV set and VHS tapes of every single Disney animated movie. (My parents figured Disney was an appropriate surrogate parent to my two brothers and me.) Until age 8 or so, those movies were all I watched. Everything I learned about storytelling – and about fairy tales in general – I learned from Disney. When I went to college, however, and took a class about the history of fairy tales, I became fascinated by the gap between the original stories and the Disney revisions I had grown up with. Somewhere in that gap, The School for Good and Evil was born.
     Disney took the original fairy tales -- filled with complexity and darkness and often horror -- and essentially pasteurized them to make them more entertaining, and arguably more “appropriate” for children. I'm always struck by the fact that the original Grimms' stories often spoke loudest to older teenaged readers, while Disney tries to peddle these tales to a younger audience, often by changing the core of the story.
     As a result, Good and Evil became quite simplistic, with Good associated only with handsome princes and beautiful princesses, and Evil with shrewish, ugly villains. Good and Evil were reductive synonyms for Beautiful and Ugly, and often Good characters did nothing to warrant being called Good, other than simply looking the part (I still don’t see anything in Ariel’s character in The Little Mermaid, for instance, that warrants her being a hero; if anything she’s quite selfish and dunderheaded.) The same held true not only for Good and Evil, but for the binaries of Boys and Girls and Old and Young. I knew that when it was time to write my own series, I wanted to fight these clich├ęs head-on.
      To Disney's credit, the new regime has recognized some of these problematic character portrayals and we're seeing changes in the newest stories -- a revisionist Maleficent, a focus on sisterly bonds in Frozen, etc. But with The School for Good and Evil, I wanted to really get back to the core of the original stories and give young readers a taste of what a real fairy tale is. Because a real fairy tale is meant to be a Survival Guide to Life: a warning of all the dangers one faces by moving out of childhood and into an unprotected world. As a result, the characters are naturally and fundamentally unsafe.  In the course of a story, a boy or girl might end up with a pot of gold and an Ever After – or you could lose your head or end up pushed into an oven. There was no ‘warmth’ built into the narrator, no the predictability of a happy ending. The reader vicariously tried to survive the gingerbread house, the hook-handed captain, or the apple-carrying crone at the door just like the characters did.
     In recent years, fairy tale mash-ups, retellings, and revisions have become popular – first, as a response to Disney, and second, because the source material is just so good. That said, I had my sights set on something more primal: a new fairy tale, just as unleashed and unhinged as the old stories, that found the anxieties of today’s children. To acknowledge the past – the alumni of the genre, so to speak – and move on to a new class.


In the epic conclusion to Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling series, The School for Good and Evil, everything old is new again as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their story.

As A World Without Princes closed, the end was written and former best friends Sophie and Agatha went their separate ways. Agatha was whisked back to Gavaldon with Tedros and Sophie stayed behind with the beautiful young School Master.

But as they settle into their new lives, their story begs to be re-written, and this time, theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down.

Readers around the world are eagerly awaiting the third book in The School for Good and Evil series, The Last Ever After. This extraordinary conclusion delivers more action, adventure, laughter, romance and fairy tale twists and turns than you could ever dream of!

About Soman Chainani:

Soman Chainani's first novel, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List, has been translated into 22 languages across six continents, and will soon be a major motion picture from Universal Studios. 

The sequel, A WORLD WITHOUT PRINCES, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List as well. Together, the first two books of the series have been on the print and extended NYT lists for a total of 31 weeks.

As a writer and film director, Soman's films have played at over 150 film festivals around the world, winning more than 30 jury and audience prizes, and his writing awards include honors from Big Bear Lake, New Draft, the CAPE Foundation, the Sun Valley Writer’s Fellowship, and the coveted Shasha Grant, awarded by a jury of international film executives. 

When he’s not telling stories or teaching in New York City, Soman is a die-hard tennis player who never lost a first-round match for ten years . . . until he started writing THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL. Now he loses all the time.

3 Complete sets of the SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL series - US Only
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Tour Schedule:

July 20 - Lili's Reflections (Interview)
July 21 - Reading Teen (Guest Post)
July 22 - Seeing Double In Neverland (Interview)
July 23 - Wonderland Novels (Guest Post)
July 24 - A Backwards Story (Character Interview)
July 25 - Cover Contessa (Guest Post)
July 26 - Good Books and Good Wine (Playlist)

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