Interview with author Georgina Warren, "Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers"
Thrilled to share with you that Suddenly Stepmom friend Georgina Warren has written a book of fairytales based on stepmoms! As a stepchild herself, Georgina felt called to write stories that embraced the notion of noble and good stepmoms to contradict those old fairytale concepts of wicked stepmothers. Geared towards middle grade readers and older, this book is the first in a planned series of three books developed towards helping change the stigma attached to stepmoms and stepfamilies.
1) Why did you decide to write a book about stepmoms?
I first started work on Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers as a high school student in 2007-2008. It was a gradual process over the course of 12 years, and I composed the short stories while completing my education and working different jobs until I eventually got hired at the Library of Congress. Over time it became apparent that traditional fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White did not reflect the experiences of real stepmothers and their families in modern life, because they were not modern stories. Like many children, I experienced growing pains with my stepmother and struggled with the “wicked stepmother” myth. Nowadays, however, we have developed a strong and loving relationship. I created this book to celebrate my relationship with her and to provide other blended families with new fairy tales that are entertaining and inspiring.
2) Tell us about your own relationship with your stepmother and where that relationship stands now.
When my father and stepmother first got together, my mother had custody of me and my older sister. We only saw our father and later our stepmother for weekends and holidays. Later my sister grew up and moved away to start a new life. I was three years shy of my 18th birthday when the custody arrangement changed, and I relocated to DC to live with my father and stepmother. We had some growing pains at the beginning of the relationship, but we also had professional support from a counselor and a strong network of friends in our local community. Developing a consistent routine helped me to foster a stronger bond with my stepmother. She has been a steadfast presence as I completed high school, college and my early days as a working professional. Now we share a supportive and loving relationship based on many years of sharing traditions, holidays and responsibilities.
3) What’s the premise of the book? What age group is the preferred readership? What inspired you to write it?
Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers is a collection of 12 original illustrated fairy tales. These short stories depict many types of stepmothers-queens, scholars, warriors, travelers and entrepreneurs. Unlike the traditional stories that codified the “wicked stepmother” these stepmothers are more heroic, protecting their families from adversity. Some of these stepmothers have different challenges to overcome so they can achieve justice, true love, survival or prosperity. The target reading group for this book is middle grade (9-12 years) but older readers are welcome as well. I designed all my stories to appeal to the young and young at heart. I gained inspiration for the book from my own experience with my stepmother and each story contains a piece of our family’s heritage. You will find them when you read the book.
4) What’s your favorite story in the book?
One favorite story I enjoyed writing is Princess Sanspied. The plot features a princess born without feet. But with help from her royal stepmother and her pet pig Clementine, Sanspied becomes a scholar and an athletic prodigy before she undertakes a heroic quest. Here I will share a brief excerpt from that story:
“Sanspied’s stepmother soon noticed that the princess’s attire was ill suited to her new active lifestyle. One time, when the princess stood on her hands, the skirt of her dress fell over her face. After the servants set her upright, Sanspied’s stepmother declared that her stepdaughter needed a new wardrobe.
“These dresses are not supposed to be worn upside down. The princess will fall and break her back if she can’t see where she’s going. Sanspied must have clothes that do not impede her mobility. But make the garments look elegant. I won’t have her exposing her bloomers to the entire court!””
5) Do you have plans for more books in the same genre?
Yes, Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers is only the first book in a set of three volumes yet to be completed. Afterwards, I plan to write fiction novels for adult readers. Being older than my target audience of young readers, sometimes I must remove “the P.G. rating filter” I wear for composing children’s stories and switch to writing adult stories so that I can exercise my “grownup” creativity.
6) Do you have any specific advice for stepmothers from a stepchild’s point of view?
Consistency is everything! When you first start building family relationships there are many unspoken elements that need to be managed when parents and children are developing a new life in separate places. Children often feel unsettled when they experience changes in the family after a death or divorce and they often ponder the same question, “When will my life ever be normal again?” Establishing a consistent routine for daily chores and recreational activities will help everyone feel more centered. It’s a long and often challenging journey but good stepmothers need to make sure that all their children continue to eat healthy meals and finish their homework while they grow into responsible adults. Also, having access to a network of trustworthy mentors like colleagues, neighbors, teachers and counselors can make a big difference. Some stepmothers put too much energy into becoming a “super parent,” but the biggest mistake is to assume that parents are supposed to have all the right answers. Stepmothers can’t be afraid to ask for help, establish healthy boundaries or practice self-care when it is needed. Given time, the children will learn how to grow with these changes and develop stronger family bonds.