Today marks the official release date for Grim, an anthology of fairy tale retellings edited by Christine Johnson and published by Harlequin Teen. The anthology includes stories by Sarah Rees-Brennan, Saundra Mitchell, Jon Skovron, and many more folks, including me! My story is titled “The Twelfth Girl” and is a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” I actually haven’t retold a fairy tale since Ash, so when Christine Johnson invited me to be part of this anthology I was pretty excited. I didn’t know precisely what story I wanted to tell at first, but I’d just been reading a bunch of Holly Black’s urban fantasy novels (her Modern Faerie Tales seris, Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside), and I was really drawn to the idea of retelling a fairy tale urban fantasy style. I don’t read too much urban fantasy, but I love watching it on TV! Buffy the Vampire Slayer obviously is one of my faves, but I’ve also spent many hours watching The Vampire Diaries (though I did give up on it last year) and of course, now I love Lost Girl.
So, urban fantasy! I then went to my trusty collection of fairy tales and read a bunch of them to see which stories might fit the feel that I wanted for my story. I was pretty familiar with “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” because a long time ago Robin McKinley retold it in The Door in the Hedge, but I hadn’t read it in awhile. When I reread it I knew that I could do an urban fantasy version, because in the original story the girls go dancing every night in a mysterious fairy realm. Hello, night club!
The question was, where would I get twelve girls together to go to a night club? In my mind, there was one obvious solution: a girls’ school. In the original fairy tale the twelve girls are all sisters, but I didn’t think that would work in modern setting. However, I went to a women’s college and I’ve always loved boarding school stories, so voilà: boarding school.
Thus, “The Twelfth Girl” is about twelve girls at an exclusive girls’ boarding school who go dancing every night. I do take some liberties with the original story (it's definitely a reinterpretation of the tale) but there are also several crossover details that people will be able to pick out if they know the original.
I’m very happy that Grim has gotten some great reviews so far, too. Here are a couple:
“Johnson (The Gathering Dark) brings together 17 authors in a collection of reimagined fairy tales that hark back to their dark, edgy roots. … Romantic elements are prominent, as are queer characters and themes, giving rise to unexpected, even radical interpretations. Standouts include Malinda Lo’s “The Twelfth Girl,” which sees “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” set at a boarding school; Jon Skovron’s “The Raven Princess,” which puts a charming twist on the story of a princess cursed to live as a bird; and Tessa Gratton’s “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, “Beast/Beast,” which gives the Beast a worthy adversary.” — Publishers Weekly
“Johnson’s anthology of retold fairy tales, most based on Grimm, should be wildly popular as the 17 authors include such well-known names as Ellen Hopkins, Julie Kagawa, Amanda Hocking, and Malinda Lo. … the diversity of tone and treatment should please most fans of the genre.” — Booklist
And now I’ll leave you with the video for a song that was on the playlist I listened to when writing “The Twelfth Girl”; it’s “Le Disko” by Shiny Toy Guns, which is set in an awesome gothic night club that looks a lot like the one in my story: