Monday, January 26, 2015

Interview Feature: Shonna Slayton

Dear Imps, you are all perfectly aware of how much we love fairy tales around here, particularly Cinderella! So you will understand my enthusiasm when I bid you welcome a new fairy tale novelist into our midst! Please meet . . .

SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novels Cinderella's Dress (Summer 2014) and Cinderella's Shoes (Fall 2015) with Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang sound a lot like teenagers today. While writing Cinderella's Dress, she reflected on her days as a high-school senior in British Columbia when she convinced her supervisors at a sportswear store to let her design a few windows--it was glorious fun while it lasted. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.

About the Book: Being a teenager during World War II is tough. Find out you're the next keeper of the real Cinderella's dress is even tougher.
Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds Cinderella's dress, life gets complicated.
Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it's too late.
After all, the descendents of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

Shonna has generously offered a print copy of Cinderella's Dress in a giveaway (USA only, please), so be certain to enter your name down below! But first, enjoy learning about Shonna and her work:


Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?

Shonna: Thanks for having me on your blog. I’m a fan, so it’s fun to be invited to contribute! As a homeschool mom to a busy teen and pre-teen, I spend a lot of time driving around to co-ops and clubs, which means I also spend a lot of time waiting. Those waiting times are when I write. For example, right now I’m sitting on a little yellow chair in a Sunday School classroom while a Spanish class goes on next door. If I had been better prepared, I would also have a dirty chai latte at my side (chai tea mixed with coffee). 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? How did you get into publishing?
 Shonna: As a child, I was too shy to be a storyteller, but after my fifth-grade teacher read amazing books like The Hobbit and Watership Down aloud to the class, I was bursting to try my hand at writing. So, I wrote fanfiction of Watership Down. It’s still in a file box somewhere in the garage. My path to getting a novel published took the long way—down the rabbit trail of magazine and technical writing. Glad the road eventually got here! 

Tell us a little about your work! Cinderella’s Dress is your debut novel, am I right? How did this story come about? 

Shonna: Yes, Cinderella's Dress is my debut novel. Set in the 1940’s, it’s about a girl who finds out her family has been hiding the real Cinderella dress for centuries, and now it is her turn. The novel is the merging of two seemingly unrelated story sparks. One was a picture book of the same title, showing a modern-looking girl sliding down a banister in a ball gown. When I saw that image, I immediately thought it was a story about Cinderella’s grandchildren playing in her dress. (It wasn’t!) The second story spark was a line in a nonfiction book about the history of department stores. Apparently, until the 1940’s, window dressers in those large stores were all men. During the war years, window dressing was one of the new careers that opened up for women. This fascinated me, and I was determined to figure out a way to get Cinderella’s Dress into a department store window. Fortunately, history was kind to me and it turns out the late 40’s were also a pivotal time for fashion, and this helped me with my ending. 

This story is a historical fiction with a fantasy twist. What a wonderful premise! How else does your story differ from other Cinderella retellings?

Shonna: Cinderella’s Dress is more of a spin-off than a retelling. I do have my own version of the Cinderella story in the back of my mind, and it informs this novel, and (even more) its companion novel, Cinderella’s Shoes (Fall 2015). My novels involve the descendants of Cinderella, the stepsisters, and my own creation, Cinderella’s servant. There was a role back in medieval times called Keeper of the Wardrobe. My main character, Kate, comes from the line of Keepers who are charged with protecting the magical dress. 

Can you pick a favorite character from this novel?

Shonna: Aunt Elsie is my go-to favorite character. She surprised me the most because she was supposed to stay in the back story—in fact, in my original plan, she died on the ship as she and her husband were escaping WWII Europe with the dress. But when she survived the trip over and was knocking on Kate’s door, I knew I was in for an adventure with her. 

What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?

Shonna: Inspiration is everywhere, but I particularly enjoy history. Heritage buildings. Antiques. Old photos are amazing—they set my imagination on fire. (Hence, my love of Pinterest.)

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

Shonna: My favorite stage is the research and brainstorming. Oh, the possibilities when you come up with a new idea! But I struggle with first drafts. I write “short” which means I have to return to the manuscript, slow down the camera in my mind, and give the details that make a scene come alive. 

If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?

Shonna: L. M. Montgomery. (When you pick a deceased author, you don’t have to feel guilty about choosing one favorite author over another.) 

What are you actively writing right now?

Shonna: Trick question. I’m working through my editor’s first-pass edit notes on Cinderella’s Shoes, and I’m also expanding the outline on what I would do for an actual Cinderella retelling if I were to write a prequel to the duology. So, I’m editing and outlining, but not technically writing. 

Would you share a short snippet from Cinderella’s Dress?

Shonna: Sure. This is where the main character, Kate, meets her future love interest. She is at an audition for a movie role that she doesn't really want, and is about to terribly embarrass herself . . . but I'll stop the snippet just shy of that:

Excerpt from

“Next, girls, we’d like to see you jitterbug.” He snapped his fingers twice, and a teen-age boy walked out to the center of the room. Oh no. The boy had been at the back of the room the whole time. He’d seen her moving the props around. As he drew closer, the other girls whispered eagerly to each other.

He was tall with flipped-back dark-brown hair, wearing blue jeans and a button-down shirt with the top button open and a white T-shirt underneath. Kate had no idea who he was, but based on the reactions of the older girls, they did.
He smiled at each of the hopefuls, and when he looked at Kate, her ears burned like the New York asphalt outside.
The man closest to the record player leaned over and switched it on. Out blasted the Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
Kate smiled in relief. She’d danced a hundred times to this old song. It would be a cinch after all.
The boy grabbed Sadie’s hand, and the two jitterbugged in front of the casting table. Working his way from girl to girl, he finally reached Kate. He grinned and held out his hand to her. “Care to dance?”
When Kate made eye contact, her stomach did a jitterbug of its own. She didn’t expect his eyes to be so Frank Sinatra blue. Blue like the early-morning sky. She shyly ducked her chin, forgetting for a moment this was an audition.
Without warning, he yanked her in front of the three men and their clipboards and swung her around like she was a teen-age Shirley Temple. He pulled her close and whispered, “Relax, doll, you’re doing swell.”
His warm breath tickled her ear, and she leaned into him. Girl Next Door might be an okay role after all.


 Thank you so much for being here with us today, Shonna! It's so much fun to learn about yet another fantastic take on this timeless story.

I hope all of you readers are now intrigued to read more of Cinderella's Dress. Be certain to enter your names in the giveaway! (Again, US only this time). Or you can purchase the story on your Kindle. Remember, every time you buy a book, you help to support an author! Every purchase makes a difference.

Happy reading!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sarah said...

Sounds like an exciting adventure! :)

Unknown said...

How cool! I love the setting, Ms. Shonna. How much research did this novel need? Thanks! : )

Renee S said...

Sounds like a wonderful addition to the fairy tale!

Raechel said...

I love fairy-tale retellings/spin-offs, and after reading that snippet, I want to read more!

Anonymous said...

Wow, it looks really interesting, love the original plot!

Nicole N. said...

I entered the giveaway but I totally missed that it was a US-only giveaway and I'm from Canada. Sorry about that!

Grace said...

This looks like an interesting book! I enjoyed the little preview. -)

Meredith said...

Congratulations, Ms. Shana. Sounds like a very interesting book, and I love that you focused on the home front during World War II. Do you know if there's a possibility the book might be available in audio format sometime? Keep up the outstanding work.

Also, I've seen your Cinderella Interviews on YouTube. Thanks for those as well. I located The Stepsister's Tale, by Tracy Barrett, because of them, and it was a great story. Also enjoyed your feature for Five Glass Slippers, which is phenomenal, too.

Amelia said...

I am so excited to read this book! It sounds great! I have always been a huge history fan so the 1940's setting rocks!

Anonymous said...

Fairytales and historical fiction? I would totally read Cineralla's Dress. Also, The Hobbit and Watership Down are brilliant books, and they've definitely been an inspiration in my writing as well.

Ryebrynn said...

oOOH! This book sounds really good!

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!


BJM said...

I want to read this book now. I already know who will get it for her birthday.

Shonna Slayton said...

Thanks again, Anne Elisabeth for inviting me to your blog. I've had a very warm welcome from your readers :) Let's see if I can answer some of these questions...@Allison: A lot of research! Which is fine by me, because it was so much fun to learn about these times. I'm kind of addicted now--I buy old magazines and diaries on ebay when I can @Nichole, I'm a fellow Canadian...maybe I should do a Canadian giveaway when I visit this summer. *Grrr postage* @Meredith no audio on the horizon just yet, but my publisher is working through their list. Hope they get to me soon :) And I'll let Tracy know you liked her book! And @Ryebrynn, @Ana,@Amelia, @Grace, @Anonymous, @Raechel, @Renee, and @Sarah Three cheers for historical fairy tales!

Unknown said...

How thrilling!! It sounds like an adventure not to be missed. Thank you for sharing with us, Shonna!

Anonymous said...

I've always loved the fairy tale settings! These are the titles of books that snatch my attention on the library shelf. Looking forward to reading it through!

Tracey Dyck said...

Ooh, now THIS looks deliciously original! :) Too bad the giveaway doesn't include Canadians this time.

Tracey Dyck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shantelle Mary said...

Cinderella's Dress sounds fascinating!! I love the idea! I also really enjoy books set during the World War II era; so yeah... I'm really exited to read your book, Shonna! :)

Beautiful cover too!

Garnet said...

This sounds wonderful. I love stories based on fairy tales and can't wait to get a copy.