1. Can you tell us something about your history to do with writing and publishing?
I have always loved creative writing and I have been writing poetry and stories for my own amusement from a young age. In 2014, I decided it was past time to start sharing some of my writing with others and I polished up a number of radically retold fairy tales I had written.
Beyond the Briar: A Collection of Romantic Fairy Tales is a collection of ‘novelettes’ (stories of about 10 – 16 000 words, longer than short stories but shorter than novellas) for young adult and adult readers. As it is typically difficult for emerging writers to find a traditional publisher for a collection of their short fiction, I decided to independently publish the collection on Amazon, as an experiment with the self-publishing industry. It has been a really interesting experience in building my platform as an author and has taught me a lot about the industry.
Over that time, I have also published several short stories in anthologies and other places, including in an annual Indie Author’s Advent Calendar, and I have independently published a few short stories on Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. It has all been something of a fun exploration while I plug away (very slowly!) at several more demanding novels.
2. You are putting out a collection of modern fairy tales called WISH UPON A SOUTHERN STAR. Can you tell us something about them?
Wish Upon a Southern Star is a collection of radically retold fairy tales by 21 New Zealand and Australian writers. It is a young adult collection and I like to think it holds something for everyone — the anthology brings together stories which are dramatic and heartfelt with those which are tongue-in-cheek and mischievous. As the blurb describes:
The Southern Cross shines high above a fairy tale wood. Come step inside. Drink dew from the leaves with tiny Tommelise. Eat egg sandwiches with a toothy young troll. Escape with Rapunzel. Trick Rumpelstiltskin. Shiver in the snow. Climb the beanstalk. Pray to the Piper. Be a cat. In and out of the wood, whether in this world or another, these stories will take you to new places. Explore how far you can go in this anthology of twenty-one fairy tale retellings by New Zealand and Australian authors.
3. Why did this genre interest you?
Fairy tales have interested me for a long time. I loved reading fairy tales as a child and watching the Disney reinterpretations of some of those tales. I have also been a reader of fairy tale retellings for a long time, starting when I was a teenager with Robin McKinley’s Beauty.
When I was writing my PhD in young adult fiction at Macquarie University in Sydney, I read a number of critical analyses of fairy tale fiction, and this deepened my interest in the genre.
While fantasy is my favourite genre, there is something very satisfying about fairy tale archetypes, whether they appear in fantasy or other genres. I love the familiarity of common tropes and I love to see how authors play with those tropes and reader expectations.
4. Can you please describe the process from beginning to end of how you collected these stories and how you intend publishing them?
The idea of editing a collection of fairy tales by a variety of authors developed when I was running a fairy tale workshop for the Christchurch Children’s Literature Hub, an adjunct of the New Zealand Society of Authors.
I decided that the collection would showcase South Pacific writers only, so I put out a call for submissions to writing groups across these countries and writers submitted their work to me electronically by the deadline. Over the reading period of several months, I selected stories for the collection and began the process of editing the stories, in collaboration with the contributing authors. Several proofs later, the anthology is now nearly ready for release.
The collection will be published through the Kindle and Createspace platforms, which are the ebook and paperback platforms for Amazon. They will be available for purchase through Amazon and their expanded distribution networks.
5. How are you planning to PR this collection? ( mention the launch)
As most authors, I think, will agree, marketing is the most difficult part of independent publishing. However, there are many pathways available to get the message about a new book out to the public. For Wish Upon a Southern Star, I have been maximising the message about the upcoming release of the anthology on my website and Facebook author page by interviewing each of the contributing authors and giving readers a sample of their stories. We will be having an official book launch on Saturday 2nd September at the South Library in Christchurch, and a number of the authors will be in attendance to meet and greet readers and sign copies of the book. As part of the celebration, I am also running a fairy tale poetry writing competition for Canterbury high school students, with the winner to be announced at the book launch.
Although the anthology is a Pacific endeavour, we hope that a range of young adults across the globe will enjoy our radically retold fairy tales.
6. Anything else you want to add?
Readers are sometimes more reluctant to try independently published books than books distributed by traditional publishers – and this makes sense. They know what to expect from traditional publishers who have established their brands with the publication of multiple books over a period of time. Each new indie author offers readers a whole new brand to sample – readers don’t know what they are going to get and whether the brand will meet their needs. I hope readers will be adventurous and give Wish Upon a Southern Star a go – and in doing so, I hope they will discover some new favourite fairy tales.
Shelley Chappell is a writer of fantasy fiction and fairy tale retellings. She is the editor of Wish Upon a Southern Star (2017) and the author of Beyond the Briar: A Collection of Romantic Fairy Tales (2014) and a variety of short stories.
Shelley’s PhD, Werewolves, wings, and other weird transformations (2011), explored shape-shifting in children’s and young adult fantasy literature. She has worked as a university sessional lecturer and tutor, a high school English teacher and a tertiary student advisor. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.To find out more about Shelley and her writing, follow her on Facebook or visit her website, http://www.shelleychappell.com/