"I swear before the glittering, pompous courts of Ashby: the birth certificates were switched!"
Thus says Lady Alisandra Carlisle in the most exasperated of tones to a jury of crows in the start of The Windy Side of Care. Alis' story is one I did not expect to write at all. I most certainly did not expect it to win a place in Five Glass Slippers. I started my first entry for Anne Elisabeth's contest way way back when the contest was first announced. I began with something I called "Driftfire" which, while being a perfectly beautiful sea-shell colored thing, was little bit ordinary in terms of plot. The descriptions were gorgeous as sunset shining in the mirror-lick of sea on a shore's edge. But the plot. Ohhhhh the plot. It was hopelessly Cinderella...and not in the "Yay! Cinderella!" way. More of the "Yadayada Cinderella? Why can't we have Sleeping Beauty?" way. About the time I began to pay heed to the creeping, ghostly feeling that I was tying a noose around my own neck with Driftfire, I started to think about possibly, someday, y'know-not-any-time-soon writing my best friend into a book. Most people take offense at being told you are going to write them into a book...with good reason too. We authors are not above giving someone their just desserts in print if we cannot in real life. My mind flits back to an occasion wherein I cast an arrogant man I nowise trust as the antagonist in my novel. Ahem. But I did not intend to cast Katie as a villain and as I thrashed about mentally for new inspiration for a Five Glass Slippers entry, a question hit me like an anvil tumbling down Niagara Falls:
What would Katie do as a Cinderella?
You can't know Katie. You can't possibly understand how incongruous a question this is unless you really know her. Most of the time, Katie's a classy, brilliant political strategist. As in, she's currently managing a campaign for state senate. She dresses fabulously, keeps close tabs on the royals in other countries, and plots the day when she and I (if we are both still single at thirty) will go on a 2-month vacation in London. The other half of the time she's sending me Tom Hiddleston pins and snapping crazy photos wearing her Dad's glasses and telling me hockey scores and how her brother rubs elbows with Jimmy Carter's grandson and all about tracing her family tree back to the ancient Romans.
What would Katie do as a Cinderella? The very oddity of that question spurred me onward and by seeking to answer a seemingly unanswerable question, I got Alisandra Carlisle. Alis isn't your typical Cinderella...and she's also not your typical headstrong female lead. She's deeply compassionate and possesses a wit sharp as glass. She's equal parts Queen of Common Sense and hopeless romantic. And did I mention impulsive? When the story begins, Alis is stuck at her home at Cock-on-Stylingham plotting to overthrow the Prince of Ashby on suspicion that she is the real royal. On a suspicion, mind you! Treason is, apparently, held cheap in Ashby. So I began with an inverted version of Cinderella (she believes she is royalty and the prince is not) and kept asking myself the whole way, "How would Katie behave? What would Katie say?" and the story grew at the pace of hilarity. I wrote it fast--breathtakingly fast--and easy. Having a dynamic personality on which to base Lady Alis certainly helped. Rather like taking someone's likeness rather than imagining a face and sketching the imagination, having a flesh-and-blood model for this very flesh-and-blood character was a boon indeed. One can hardly avoid a well-rounded paper-Alis when taking cues from a real-life Alis, right?
All the same, I did not expect to place with The Windy Side of Care...chiefly because it is an entirely scapegrace affair born out of my love for a dear, scapegrace friend. I wrote it to please myself only. In fact, when I clicked "send" and shot the file to Rooglewood Press, I expected it would be too undignified and rattle-trap a tale to win favor. But I loved it. And, evidently (isn't it so jolly when these things sort themselves out?) the judges loved it too. I think this is a decisive element for a writer in deciding what sort of author they will be. You can write what is popular and sells, or you can write to please yourself. There are merits to both methods, but I favor writing what I please. Sometimes, like this time, it comes around to bless you.
Five Glass Slippers is going to be a marvelous collection of stories. I cannot wait to hear about the Cinderellas of my fellow winners! They are all likely to be just as unique and wonderful as My Lady Alis Carlisle. I hope that those of you who like to live your own lives on the windier side of care will grow to love Alis and her halcyon personality, and that you will find her as fast an ally and friend as the girl who inspired her has been to me.