My favorite school assignment ever was modernizing and retelling a fairy tale, so when Decadent put out the call for a retelling of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, my hand immediately shot in the air. But then I got my fairy tale assignment, and my excitement wilted. The Three Army Surgeons. Huh? I’d never heard of it.
Not only was it obscure, it was also a little gruesome and definitely not a romance. Basically, there are three guys who cut out their eye, hand and heart. They put them on a tray and give them to an innkeeper, intending to put them back in their bodies the next day. Instead, the parts are taken, so a soldier replaces them with the eye of a cat, the hand of a thief and the heart of a pig. The new parts then make the guys act like a cat, a thief and a pig. The guys discover they’ve been tricked and return to confront the innkeeper who gives them some money to pacify them. (You can read the full original story here.)
My charge was to turn this story into a romance. Um, yeah. I couldn’t even figure out who the hero and heroine would be.
So I started with what I did know. Although I enjoy a good ménage romance, I don’t write them, so having the body-part-plucking guys as heroes was out. Same for paranormal stories, which meant I needed a way for these people to walk around with missing parts that would be believable in a contemporary setting without magic or special powers.
This framework led me to have the men run a prosthetics company, but I was still stumped on the romance angle. The only woman in the original story stood around wringing her hands while others found a solution. Then she ran away and never returned when things went bad. I needed an active heroine, someone with a purpose, someone a reader would want to root for.
After dumping the sexist assumption that a solider automatically had to be a man, I made the soldier’s character my heroine. I named her “Armina,” which means soldier. In case that was too subtle, her uncles (the guys with the missing body parts) affectionately refer to her as “Soldier.”
The other person who played a critical role in the story conflict is the innkeeper. He would fit nicely as the hero. After playing with words for a bit, I dubbed him Ian Keer. Now I needed to make him into hero material, and I needed to create a romance (and conflict) between the innkeeper and the soldier. This wasn’t part of the original fairy tale, so my challenge was to write it within the framework of the fairy tale retelling. Finally, I’d arrived at the fun story retelling I’d expected when I raised my hand for this assignment.
I went from “You have got to be kidding me” at the beginning of the initial brainstorming of The Three Army Surgeons fairy tale to “This is so much fun” as I wrote Once Upon a Marriage. Check out the new Beyond Fairytales line from Decadent Publishing. I’m so excited to be a part of it.
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