Today, as part of our series on The Snow Queen and the theme of loyalty, we have an interview with author S. R. Nulton.
Tell us about your fairytale retellings and why you chose to write in this genre:
I have loved fairy tales for a long time, and at some point, I began to wonder if a bunch of them started as the same story. Two girls being rescued from comas by a kiss can’t be a coincidence! That concept started germinating in my mind and grew out of proportion. That’s really when I started mashing stories together. My main series is called “Refurbished Fairy Tales” because I think of it like I’m cleaning up an old piece of furniture and making it relevant again, adding in bits of other stories to make something new and hopefully unique. Honestly, it wasn’t until I read KM Shea’s retellings that I even realized I could tell these kinds of stories, that there were others who wanted to read them. The nice thing about fairy tales is that there are so many ways to interpret them, something that goes back to their origins and will continue, I believe, long into the future.
“The nice thing about fairy tales is that there are so many ways to interpret them, something that goes back to their origins and will continue, I believe, long into the future.”
How does the theme of loyalty fit into your books?
A lot of my characters have loyalty as a large part of their personality. That loyalty can be for family, friends, nation, or even species. I’ve found that loyalty is often tied to your feeling of identity. How do you see yourself? Where do you put your trust? Since fairy tales are often about trust being betrayed or misplaced, loyalty is a common theme, if not always the primary one. The best example I have is actually my Snow Queen retelling.
Tell us about your Snow Queen retelling. Why did you choose this fairytale and what makes your adaptation unique?
In my retelling, The Snow Queen, Gerda has just defeated her cousin, the Snow Queen character, and is now traveling the country on a coronation tour. It is a rite that must be performed, but she is using it not only to right the wrongs her cousin perpetrated but also to find the man she loved. Kai was taken by Gerda’s cousin when she was banished, and she wants to find him.
I think a few things make this rendition unique. Firstly, I played with the concept of the Snow Queen never really appearing in the original story by having her killed before this story even begins. Instead of making her the main character or a non-entity, she is a very present force that pervades without actually being an active character anymore. Secondly—and these next few points involve some spoilers—Kai is not the kind, sweet love interest from most versions. In fact, I give Gerda a completely different love interest. Thirdly, that love interest is not the focus of the story. Neither man is. The focus of my story—and the original, in my opinion—is Gerda’s loyalty. In Anderson’s tale, the characters frequently talked about how pure Gerda’s love for Kai was, but that was represented through her loyalty. In my tale, her loyalty at first seems divided. She is the new leader of her people, a people who were horribly hurt by her cousin and who desperately needed her. That is where her first loyalty should lie, with her people, but she feels the need to locate and save Kai first before completely taking that mantle of leadership. Love is not on her mind, protecting those she cares for is what matters.
You are also an artist. Do you include any of your artwork in your storytelling?
Well, thanks! I don’t always think of myself as an artist, but I suppose I am. I do, actually, include artwork with my books. I have little drawings for each section break, and they change depending on the book. I also photograph and make my book covers myself (which is really obvious if you’ve seen some of my earliest versions), and I created the maps for my books as well. Both the drawings and the maps are available for download on my website.
Why do you think stories are important?
Stories allow us to think from other perspectives, to see ourselves and our situation more clearly. An introvert can live as an extrovert for a bit. A seeing person can experience what it might feel like to lose their sight. An outcast is given the opportunity to understand the pressures that a popular student goes through or visa versa. That is huge. It is easy to overlook those experiences when a person you don’t know shares them. It is much harder to do so when you read a story and feel a bit of what that situation would be like. At that point, we are given the opportunity to see ourselves through a new lens. Am I really the hero/heroine of the story? Or, have I been the villain to someone?
Secondly, stories allow us to escape from our reality and just feel. You may not be off hunting monsters with your crush or chasing down a rogue fairy, but who cares? The situation isn’t the important part. The emotions are. Excitement, sadness, joy, awkwardness, and so many more are at your fingertips, all giving you the catharsis you may not be able to achieve in normal life.
Basically? Stories help us connect to ourselves and others. They help us connect to what it is to be human.
When you’re not writing, you are…?
Wait, there’s an or‽ Since when? All jokes aside, I’m usually either reading or writing. I like going line dancing—which I can’t right now because I broke my toe!—and paddle boarding when it gets warmer. I also have a day job, which can take a lot of my energy, depending on the day.
You say you love making pies. Tell us about that.
Up until a year ago, I didn’t like cake. I love pie because the flavors are much more vibrant. Cake has always tasted like either sugar or nothing. Pies though? So much better! I celebrate Pi Day with pies and usually make pies for my birthdays. My favorites are lime meringue with blackberry compote and peanut butter silk pie. Now with that being said, I have been getting into baking cakes lately, but that is because it isn’t American baking. It’s Korean. The cakes are much less sweet, the frosting is usually a whipped cream base, and the flavors are more prominent because the sugar isn’t playing first fiddle.
“…most of my characters involve me exploring aspects of myself that I don’t normally isolate and look at.”
Which of your main characters do you most identify with?
Probably no surprise here, but I identify most with my character from Not A Leading Lady. Emily is heavily based on me, something I have not shied away from sharing. A lot of her experiences are based on my own, the same with her reactions. As far as the fairy tales go? I’m not sure. I think most of my characters involve me exploring aspects of myself that I don’t normally isolate and look at. They are just a small part of who I am. For example, Pearl is a very active person and character. While writing her stories, I was in the midst of realizing that I actually am quite active, despite what I’d previously believed about myself. Amy is very soft and feminine. People think she is weak for it—both other characters and readers—but accepting that she likes what she likes is part of her strength and something I was learning at the time. I think because I try to make my characters distinct and different, it has given me the opportunity to explore who I am to a greater degree. They aren’t me, but they give me a chance to put a magnifying glass on that bit of myself and really take a moment to look at it.
What’s your favorite fairytale movie adaptation and why?
Hmmm… There are so many! Let’s see, Ever After is definitely up there. They did a pretty good job of putting Cinderella in a very definite time frame, and it was so beautifully shot. My absolute favorite, however, is actually a mini-series called “The 10th Kingdom,” and isn’t really a single fairy tale. It’s all of them. It takes place after the golden age of fairy tales (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) and involves the grandson of Snow White bringing a young woman and her father from New York City back to his kingdom after he gets turned into a dog by his evil stepmother. There are so many lovely nods to classic fairy tales, and it actually delved into some of the more gruesome elements that get overlooked. The way the various tales were woven together to create a massive world just fascinated me and still does.
“I have other stories in mind, and some of those involve telling fairy tales in a completely different way.”
What’s next in store for you?
Finishing this dang book! RFT 11 is currently nicknamed Monstro because it is massive. I’m also getting ready to release Belle Lied in paperback form and the third in a flash fiction anthology series, something my writer’s group and I have put together. In general, though, I plan on finishing the Refurbished Fairy Tales and Leading Lady Chronicles in the next two or three years, depending, of course, on mental breakdowns and such. After that? I have other stories in mind, and some of those involve telling fairy tales in a completely different way. I’ve learned and grown as an author throughout this series, but it has been a beast and grown much larger than I expected at the beginning. Coming at some of the stories from a different direction might be a lot of fun. I enjoy trying new things when it comes to writing, and I just hope that my readers will enjoy it too.
S. R. Nulton has a love of fairy tales, paddle boarding, and puns. In addition to writing, she has a degree in music from Cal Poly. In addition to being a total homebody, she is a voracious reader, a decent line dancer, and a chocolate enthusiast. Her family collects people that share the same name, so she goes by Sarah Rose to avoid confusion. Do not confuse her with the other Sarahs. They are numerous. Lastly, she feels weird writing about herself in the third person, so she had a friend do it for her and is very happy with how it turned out.