Writing Charm by Sarah Pinborough


We know you guys loved Poison by Sarah Pinborough, and this week we are proud to be publishing the second of Sarah’s brilliant fairy tales for adults. Charm is the story of Cinderella, and here Sarah explains how she got to grips with the character and her story, to reanimate them. Don’t forget you can read the first chapter here and there’s a chance to win some signed copies. Enjoy!

‘A little Charm can go a long way . . .’

After the fun of writing Poison, filled as the story of Snow White is with deception, attempted murder and magic, my next of the three tales to tackle was Cinderella, coming out this week as Charm. Now, anyone who’s read Poison will know by now that my view of romance is a -I like to think healthy – blend of cynicism, a hope for true love, and plenty of sexual attraction. Sex is a fundamental part of love, temporary, true or otherwise.

Cinderella is perhaps the most traditionally romantic of all the fairy tales. Poor girl meets handsome prince and lives happily ever after.  What’s not to like? The problem I was faced with when approaching Cinderella is that I realised I didn’t really like her very much. Her whole ambition in life was to get a couple of pretty dresses, marry a rich man and live in a big house with nice things and an easy life. I mean, really? That’s it? I’m over-simplifying obviously. She clearly came from an unhappy home, the step-mother and ‘ugly’ sisters, the weak father… but underneath it all, Cinders has always struck me as somewhat… vanilla. She didn’t even go out and snare her prince herself, but stayed at home and whined about it until a fairy godmother rocked up and sorted her problems out for her. Hmm. Not my kind of girl at all. Something about that was going to have to change in Charm. But how was I going to do it?

When finding my way into my re-telling of Snow White, my hook was ‘what kind of man falls in love with a girl in a glass box?’ and for Cinderella it came in ‘What kind of girl falls in love with a man who claims to love her but only recognises her because a glass slipper fits her?’

A young girl, was my answer. An emotionally naïve one. The kind of girl who these days would scream at One Direction and keep pictures of them on her wall and fantasise about a life together based on only a presented image. A girl who craved a lifestyle rather than a life – like so many of those terrible auditionees on shows like the X-Factor. Someone who maybe didn’t really see the world around her as it actually was. A girl, who it would take getting herself into a bit of a pickle and having to get herself out of, before she really grew up.

I realised that I didn’t have to like Cinderella at the beginning. I just had to make sure I loved her by the end. And it wasn’t difficult – she’s quite charming underneath it all, all she needed was to grow up. So, Charm is the story of a woman who grows up, emotionally and sexually and learns a lot about her world on the way. As well as my own quirky additions, Charm of course has all the tropes of the original fairy tale – the fairy godmother, the ugly sisters, the wicked stepmother, the footman mouse, and the handsome prince. But this is my version – it has my tongue-in-cheek cynicism. After all, no one grants wishes without wanting something in return.  If a fairy godmother can disguise you, then she can disguise herself. What happens when the magical slippers come off? Love can’t be bought by deception and trickery. If you think it needs it, then it’s not love at all.

But sometimes of course – and beneath my cynicism it’s what I like to believe –  love just happens. Unexpectedly All by itself.

And that, indeed, is the true magic.

For more information follow the lovely @SarahPinborough on twitter! Charm is out where all good books are sold on Thursday July 18th 2013.