Come See Me at San Diego Comic Con!

Big news here from the land of Charming: one of my alter-egos, John Peck, has been invited to speak on a panel at the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) about fairy tales. He joins some really talented authors, including Shannon Hale (creator of the Ever After High series) and another Voyager Impulse author, Katherine Harbour (author of Thorn Jack), among others, to discuss how we go about reimagining well-known fairy tales into new stories. If you are going to be at SDCC stop by, and if you let us know in advance, John will make a point of looking out for you. As always, we live for our readers.

Panel Name: Fairy Tale Remix

Date/Time: Thursday, 7/24/14, 12:00p.m. 1:00p.m., Room: 32AB

Descriptions: Toto, I’ve a feeling these aren’t our typical fairy tales… From cyborg Cinderellas to swashbuckling pirates, fairy tales are just full of possibilities for retelling and reimagining. A fantastic line up of authors will discuss how they take very well-known stories (such as Rapunzel, The Wizard of Oz, Tam Lin) and remix them for a new audience, and how they create their very own fairy tales! Moderated by Shannon Hale (Ever After High series), this panel featuring Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles), Katherine Harbour (Thorn Jack), John Peck (Charming Series), Cornelia Funke (Mirrorworld Series), Tony DiTerlizzi (Search for WondLa), Ben Tripp (The Accidental Highwayman), and Danielle Page (Dorothy Must Die) will give insight to the fairy tales of old, and new!

Reading The Brothers Grimm

Although fairy tales are doing quite well today, when The Charming Tales were first being drafted in 2009, the explosion of shows like Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and movies like Frozen and Maleficent (both of which were amazing), hadn’t happened.

When we agreed to write the book, one of the first things we did was to make sure that we both had a copy of The Annotated Brothers Grimm (although we didn’t have the 200th anniversary edition that’s in the link). We wanted to make sure that our novel was solidly grounded in fairy tale, rather than just being a fantasy. So, we both shared homework assignments of reading fairy tales.

It’s interesting to see the world through the lens of fairy tale. Many of the tales are precautionary warnings to little children to heed their parents or obey rules, but others deal with virtues such as honesty and show that vices such as greed lead to ruin. Common sense usually wins the day. There are undertones and messages in the tales for adults, implications of dark acts or events that can be interpreted as religious or political commentary. It’s fascinating to read them again as an adult and a parent and wonder, “What were Mom and Dad thinking when they let me read this?”

Anyway, if you see an old book of fairy tales on your shelf, consider picking it and reading a few. They might inspire you; they certainly inspired us.

Collaboration – The Charming Way

The question that comes up when people learn that Jack Heckel is the pen name of two different people is: how do you collaborate?

It does seem right for a comedic fairytale to have some collaboration. After all, the Brothers Grimm were collaborators.

Best photo we could find

Best photo we could find

For us, everything starts with communication. Before we do anything, we make sure that we have a shared vision. We bounce ideas off of one another and then when they coalesce, one of us writes an outline and we review it together. This part is essential. By agreeing on the direction of the book, we have a baseline to discuss changes. If Will Pickett needs to change from a dreaming peasant, does our plan allow his character to develop? Without a written outline, we’d be lost.

After we review the outline, we decide which chapters we’d like to write and present them to one another. If there’s a conflict, John always wins… I mean, Harry always wins… okay, we actually discuss our ideas for the chapter and so far, we’ve come to a consensus. We try to divide the work so one person isn’t writing while the other person is waiting.

Once the writing begins, we write the chapters in order. After one of us finishes a chapter, it is sent to the other writer for a rewrite. Every chapter in the first draft is rewritten. This allows us to keep the same voice throughout the book. Additionally, whoever rewrites the chapter embellishes and even changes parts of the text. It then goes back to the original author for edits. And all this is before any beta readers or editors have had a chance to look at it.

All of that sounds nice, but of course, nothing works perfectly. We’ve had plenty of situations where one or the other of us has gotten stuck. Day jobs and personal crises can also interfere with our well thought out schedule. When either of us runs into trouble, we text, get on the phone or even Skype or Facetime each other. Rarely, we might even meet in person, but we are several time zones apart. After talking through things, we may make some trades or one person takes on some extra work. We’ve both finished chapters that the other has started and stepped in to help tear down the other’s writing block.

We agreed when we started that our partnership isn’t 50-50, but 100-100. Our goal is to have 100% written by both of us. We don’t keep score of how many words one person has written or even how many chapters. Honestly, how do you place the value on a single great line or idea which changes the course of a novel? Is that worth five words or fifty thousand? In our case, neither of us care, because the whole thing belongs to both of us.

Our conversations are hilarious. We spend the entire time finishing each other’s sentences when the ideas fly fast, as we both try to come up with the same concepts. Fortunately, we have a fantastic friendship and usually such things only result in laughter.

So, ultimately, Once Upon a Rhyme, really wasn’t written by Harry or John, but by Jack Heckel, who has his own unique voice, and one we both hope you enjoy. At this stage, we’ve lost track of who wrote the last version of this scene or that. We both remember who wrote the initial scene or chapter most of the time, but once the rewrites and revisions started, it all goes to happy madness.

If anyone out there is trying to collaborate on a fiction piece and would like more details, please feel free to comment and we’ll be glad to help (or well, try to help at any rate.)

Once Upon a Rhyme…

Once upon a time…

The Charming Tales were born about five years ago in a time before the world had gone fairytale crazy with Frozen and Maleficent (two movies that I adore) or even Tangled or Once Upon A Time. Inspired by lots of stories from childhood, along with The Princess Bride, Shrek and books like Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and Robert Lynn Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye’s Myth Adventures, The Charming Tales were meant to be a fun, comedic trip through fairytales. Like most comedy, there are some serious and dark issues lurking beneath the surface, but exploring the darkness is half the fun.

The concept for the series began with the thought, “What if someone besides Prince Charming rescued the princess?” From there, it morphed through a dozen rewrites, as a few very assertive characters (I’m looking at you, Liz and Elle) took their rightful places in the tale and what began as a series of misadventures between the peasant, Will Pickett, and Prince Charming, became something far more. Despite this, it suffered even more rewrites and multiple rejections.

Today, Harper Voyager Impulse announced the publication of Once Upon a Rhyme.

Dreams do come true.

So, thank you to everyone. Books don’t write themselves, and authors don’t exist in a void. So very many people help from amazing editors to supportive families to those friends who won’t let you give up to the people that you’ve never met who read the book or are taking the time to read this blog. Thank you all.

For those of you who are aspiring authors, never give up. It can happen.