A. G. Marshall brings joy and insight to any conversation she’s part of — and her stories are no different.
Tell us about your fairytale retellings and what inspired you to write in this genre.
I have always loved reading fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, so it wasn’t a hard decision. Even when I’m not writing fairy tales, I kind of am. My first novel, Rook and Shadow, isn’t a retelling but has a fairy godmother and a very fairy tale feel. My most unusual book, Leveled Up Love (co-written with Tao Wong), is a gamelit romantic comedy that could be interpreted as a Beauty and the Beast retelling.
For the Fairy Tale Adventures specifically, I had always wanted to write a fairy tale series but wasn’t sure it was something other people would want to read. Then I heard K.M. Shea speak on a podcast and realized there was a whole community of readers who loved fairy tales as much as I did. Five novels and many short stories later, the rest is history.
How does the theme of courage fit into your books, particularly your Beauty and the Beast retelling, Princess of Roses?
I think it fits in both expected and unexpected ways. Rosemary shows external courage in many of her actions. She takes on business challenges and protects her family. She agrees to live alone with a monster and faces down other physical threats (no spoilers here, but think of the end of the book for those who have read it). But she also shows courage in subtler ways. It takes a lot of courage for her to lower her guard and accept help. For Rosemary, trusting others is more an act of bravery than facing down a goblin, because she has to be vulnerable and admit that she can’t do everything herself. It doesn’t come naturally to her, but she has the courage to try and grow.
How has your own faith influenced your writing?
When I first told people at my church that I was writing a novel, they assumed that my work would be allegorical or specifically Christian. That isn’t my style at all. I have written specifically Christian plays for churches and schools to perform, but my faith’s influence on my novels is more subtle. I think it shows up more in the values of my characters and the content that I choose to include or leave out. I’m sure my faith influences my writing in other ways, but they aren’t intentional, so it is hard for me to point them out and say, “This part of this book is a direct influence of my faith.” It’s more the case that my books are a reflection of me, and my faith has shaped who I am.
My books are a reflection of me, and my faith has shaped who I am.A. G. Marshall
What do you want readers to take from your books?
I like to remind people that the world is beautiful and adventure is possible. It is so easy to get stuck in the mundane aspects of modern life and forget just how incredible life can be. I like to pull people out of their routines for a while and inspire them to find their own adventures. Personally, I see fun and possibilities for adventure everywhere I go. Kiara’s inner monologues from Lights, Camera, Ireland are pretty close to my own. I also love to make people laugh. I have a hard time reading a book without a sense of humor, and even my more serious works have lighter moments.
How did you develop the magic and the world in your series?
The magic in Fairy Tale Adventures is very diverse, and there are four different magic systems so far (light/shadow, mermaid, dwarf, and goblin). I wanted to show that different ways of doing magic could do more when used together. I’m a huge fan of diverse teams and seeking out multiple perspectives, so that belief is mirrored in the magic system. It grew as the series grew and introduced more places and people. To be perfectly honest, it got much bigger than I planned. I let it grow organically, and it grew into a sort of unwieldy garden where all the plants got so big that they tangled up together.
The world was developed more deliberately. I knew from the start that Myora would end up being a big world, so I created the map and sketched out all the countries before I started writing the story. I do a lot of worldbuilding for each book. I usually pick a country to use as an influence for the setting and then go from there. I watch documentaries, read a lot of nonfiction, and, if possible, travel to that place to get a feel for the scenery and culture and all the tiny things that you have to experience to understand.
Sometimes the travel happens after the fact. I did a lot of research on medieval merchant houses when working on Princess of Roses. How big are they? Where are the bedrooms located? What are they made of? A few years after that book launched, I was traveling in Ireland and toured a medieval merchant house. I was stunned. It felt so familiar, like I had stepped into the pages of the book and was visiting the Mercer household. I stood in the courtyard, getting wet from the drizzling rain, and stared at a bench in the corner that was in exactly the same place as Rosemary’s bench in her courtyard. It was a surreal experience and gave me a lot more confidence in my research abilities.
Do your travel adventures influence your writing?
Absolutely! In many ways, my travel adventures are essential to my writing. I worked on my first novel, Rook and Shadow, for ten years. I finished it in a few months after my first trip to Europe. Inspiration just flowed after I explored a new place. Sometimes I go looking for specific inspiration in specific places. The Prince and the Sea Witch was like that. I went to Hawaii and had a very specific list of activities I wanted to do to help me tap into the feel of the ocean. I took sailing lessons. I snorkeled alone for hours, watching tropical fish and soaking in the sounds of the ocean from underwater. I sat on the shore and watched waves roll in. I visited beautiful gardens.
In many ways, my travel adventures are essential to my writing.A. G. Marshall
But sometimes I simply go to a place and wander around to see what I can discover. I am always up for a castle or hiking through beautiful scenery. Even if I travel to a place that seems to have nothing to do with my current project, I will come away with something. I hiked part of the Camino de Santiago a few years ago. It’s a medieval pilgrimage route that starts in France and ends at a cathedral in Spain. I studied the architecture of the cathedral in college and wanted to see it, but I decided it would be more meaningful to see it after I walked the pilgrimage. I wasn’t looking for specific inspiration on that trip, but the experience of walking that far made me realize how much I had underestimated all the travel by foot that my characters do. When you have been walking for a week, a bike is a miracle. A car is incomprehensible. That sort of perspective shift can’t help but influence storytelling, although I haven’t worked it into a specific story yet.
Tell us about your fluffy writing companions.
I have two fluffy co-writers. Copper is an Australian Shepherd-Corgi mix and every bit as much of a teddy bear as that combination sounds. He loves food and snuggles. He’ll come stare at me and sigh if he feels that he hasn’t had enough snuggles for the day. Bandit is a Schipperke-Poodle mix. A lot of people aren’t familiar with Schipperkes. We certainly weren’t when we adopted him and Copper from the shelter. They’re a Belgian breed and very cute, although Bandit has some trauma from before we adopted him and isn’t cuddly with most people. However, he’ll often curl up on my lap when I’m working. Which makes Copper (who is much bigger) feel that he should be allowed on the lap as well. Which derails writing progress for a while. When I really need to focus, I’ll sneak away to the castle in my backyard and work there. (Yes, the backyard castle is real, but that’s a story for another day.)
What fairytale do you really want to retell but haven’t yet?
Rapunzel! I tried multiple times to work that one into the Fairy tale Adventures, but it just wouldn’t fit. I have also tried a few ideas for a short Rapunzel retelling for the Once Upon a Short Story series, but they haven’t worked out either. This one has eluded me so far.
What trick or tool has helped you the most with your writing?
From a technology perspective, Scrivener was a game changer. It took me from a very unwieldy Microsoft Word document and multiple paper notebooks to a single organized interface. I tend to have a lot of notes for every project, as ideas come to me in bits and pieces that I fit together later, so having a way to organize all those scraps of information is very helpful.
From a process perspective, I have done a lot of Clifton Strength development to figure out the best way to do things for me. I have also embraced my intuitive writing process, which ties into several of my Strengths. I don’t always know where I’m going. I write more from my subconscious. It would be crazy if it didn’t work so extremely well. When I was working on Princess of Mirrors (book 5 in the Fairy Tale Adventures series), I got stuck at the end of the book and couldn’t figure out how to wrap it up. I went back and read the first four books to look for ideas and found that I had somehow laid clues and foreshadowed everything that I needed to bring Mirrors to a satisfying conclusion years before I started writing that book.
I have also embraced my intuitive writing processA. G. Marshall
What can readers expect next from you?
I just launched a book (Princess of Mirrors ), so it will be a while before I have anything new. Book six in the Fairy Tale Adventures is my next major planned project. That will be a retelling of Swan Lake and the last book in the series. I am also working on a few rough sketches of other projects, but nothing that’s ready to announce publicly yet. I enjoy writing novellas and short stories, so some of those may pop up before the next novel.
A.G. Marshall loves fairy tales and has been writing stories since she could hold a pencil. She perfected her storytelling by entertaining her cousins at sleepovers and writing college papers about music (which is more similar to magic than you might think).
She fills each book she writes with magic, adventure, romance, humor and other random things she loves. Her stories are designed to sweep you away to magical places and make you laugh on the journey.
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