As the author of two fairytale retellings and a Victorian romance, indie fantasy author Chesney Infalt has a lot to say about writing, including her latest release, The Fox and the Briar (you can read my review here). I interviewed the author shortly before the Sleeping Beauty retelling debuted. Here’s what she had to say:
Your new Sleeping Beauty retelling, The Fox and the Briar, follows another, The Heart of the Sea. You’ve said you plan to write more fairytale retellings. Is there one particular fairytale you can’t wait to draw from?
I have a (long) planned list of fairytales I’m excited to write! Snow White is currently in the works, and I’m really looking forward to writing Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland.
As a nearly life-long Cheshire Cat fan, this may not be a question so much as a request. Can you tell me more about the Cheshire Cat and his role in Faerie?
In this series, the Cheshire Cat, although he is in everyone else’s business, keeps his secrets to himself. He seems to fancy himself as a sort of balance keeper for Faerie, adding just as much chaos as he does order. This is definitely not the last time you will see him—he enjoys annoying Toussaint far too much.
You’ve also written Victorian romance with A Different Kind of Magic. What about that era speaks to you?
I think I love the aesthetic—the clothing, the societal expectations, the dances and parties.
Do you think any of those Victorian sensibilities carry over into your romantic fairytale retellings?
I think so! Both stories mention the main characters having chaperones, and while the women in them are independent and strong-willed, society has expectations of them getting married to beneficial matches and starting families.
Are there other eras you’d like to set a fantasy novel in?
I’d love to do a more medieval setting. I had a high fantasy series I started but am rewriting, and that setting is a lot closer to that era. Honestly, I am open to writing whatever era speaks to me. If the story calls for it, I am willing!
As I’m writing this question, I’m more than two-thirds of the way through The Fox and the Briar. Can you tell me why I’m rooting for Tristan, who is set up as the villain, to get the girl?! And was this the reaction you were hoping for?
In the beginning, The Unseelie King was not meant to be likable at all—but it’s not fun if the villain isn’t interesting. I started fleshing him out and giving him a reason for wanting to curse Briar Rose, and that evolved into me writing chapters from his perspective. One of my critique partners (the marvelous L V Russell) suggested early on that I add a prologue from his perspective, showing the curse being cast, and from then on, I adored him! (He is my favorite character from this series so far…) As for the romance… I didn’t ever see Tristan and Briar Rose having a romantic connection, although I figured some might see it that way. I think they are drawn to one another, but not as lovers. I hope the readers see and appreciate the complexity of both Tristan’s character and his connection to Briar Rose.
Let’s talk crafting characters! I think Loren has such a Darcy-esque social unease and sweetness, but at the same time he is easily led by emotion. Tristan, meanwhile, is full of well-calculated plans and responses, yet has so much confidence and villain swagger! Did you always intend for the half-brothers to be such perfect opposites?
I love the way you described them! Their personalities developed as I wrote. Tristan was really easy for me to write, but one of my betas (the fantastic Katherine Macdonald) pointed out that Loren read a little flat at times, so I am grateful she helped me backtrack and flesh him out more. I like to find songs that remind me of my characters, and as soon as I realized that “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet perfectly captured Loren in my mind, he came alive to me in a whole new way. It was fascinating to see how these half-brothers deal with the sins of their parents and the roles they have been pressured into.
There are plenty of misunderstandings between Briar Rose and Loren early in The Fox and the Briar, plus an arranged marriage trope. What are your favorite tropes to write about?
A few of my favorites:
Arranged Marriage/Marriage of Convenience
You’ve shared on Instagram that you’re working on a Howl’s Moving Castle-inspired gothic fantasy. Can you tell me, I don’t know, everything about that?
I am so excited about that project! Howl’s Moving Castle has been a favorite of mine for a long time, so it really isn’t surprising that I got an idea inspired by it. I actually woke up from a nightmare, and instead of calming myself down and going back to sleep (it was 3 am!), the idea for a gothic romance began to form. I wasn’t done editing TFATB yet, so I didn’t let myself go further than jotting down notes and writing a blurb (and making a few moodboards) until after that was done.
I don’t want to say a ton about the project yet, but I’ll list a few things “The Magic Collector” will have:
Marriage of Convenience
Curses to break
A castle that doesn’t like to stay in the same place (or time!) for very long
Thanks for joining me today! As a final question, I’d like to issue a challenge: please write a short story in 10 words or less.
Using my three wishes bound me in servitude.