It’s all my daughter’s fault. When she was much younger, Disney’s Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs was the first movie with which she was truly obsessed. It was kind of funny because the first time she saw the scene where Snow runs through the dark, shadowy forest, it really scared the daylights of her. For as much as folks talk about how soft those Disney adaptations are, it’s easy to forget just how dark those early cartoons were. There are some pretty frightening scenes in the adaptations of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.
At any rate, my daughter developed a love for the movie and so we watched it . . . a lot. During one of those many viewings, I had this random thought . . . why should the curse end so easily? Wouldn’t it be far more wicked if the Prince’s kiss was merely a catalyst for something far worse. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Snow woke as a deranged zombie and bit the Prince?
Once I started from there, the book practically wrote itself. The personalities of the different dwarfs—who in my story live in a sort of commune for wayward adolescent dwarfs—blossomed onto the page. Their backstories came to life, and the tension kept on building. Of course, I soon realized that the full story went beyond seven dwarfs and an evil Queen. So was born The Scary Tales series.
I read the Grimm tales as a teen, the darkness inside them was startling and poetic, had you read these yourself? And if so how did they impact you and eventually your series?
I’d read some of the original Grimms’ tales during my college, and I loved all the powerful imagery and quirky turns and dark outcomes. They’re amazing stories and they greatly influenced the tone and feel of The Scary Tales.
Once I started working on That Risen Snow, I re-read a bunch of the old tales. Ultimately, I ended up buying a copy of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials series. Pullman’s versions of the classic tales are loyal to the original, plus they contain a bunch of helpful footnotes. It’s also an impressive book because it covers all of the more popular fairy tales, plus a lot of more obscure stories.
The great thing about these stories is that they have no owner, not even the Brothers Grimm. These fairy tales are universal yarns populated by archetypal characters that we are know on some deeper level. Fairy tales belong to everyone. I don’t have a problem with the stories being Disney-fied for younger audiences. Likewise, I would also hope other folks wouldn’t have a problem with me horrifying the stories.
If you’ll permit me to draw a parallel, these fairy tale characters are a lot like Batman. There is no “one true” version of Batman. He started as a very dark crime-fighting character in the 30’s and 40’s and was later reinvented as this very colorful campy do-gooder in the 50’s and 60’s and then in the 80’s got back to his darker roots, first in the comics and then in Tim Burton’s film. But depending who writes him, Batman can be a brooding detective, a wealthy ninja, James Bond in a bat-suit, or countless other interpretations. None of these characters are wrong or right, so long as the writing’s solid and in some way honors what has come before.
And that’s one thing I hope people understand about my series, that it isn’t mocking these fairy tales or passing judgment on other interpretations. The Scary Tales is all about honoring what has come before.
And are you hoping to help bring them back to something more akin to their darker beginnings?
I didn’t start this series with any kind of master plan to revive fairy tales’ more horrifying origins. Rather, I simply saw two moments that fit together: a Prince waking a cursed maiden, and the start of a zombie apocalypse. As the story progressed, I found more and more opportunities to mash-up traditional fairy tale characters with horror monsters.
When I was little, I loved the classic Universal Horror pictures, especially The Wolfman. Creatures like vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, and even invisible men fit in perfectly with the fairy tale world. So, if anything, The Scary Tales is an excuse to shuffle up and play with two timeless genres that I love. Believe me, the books so far have been a lot of fun to write. Based on the response I’m getting from readers, it sounds like at least some of that joy comes through on the page.
I’ve noticed a trend over the last several years in more authors following your suit with re-envisioning, fables, fairytales and moral shorts, any personal thoughts on why that is?? Do you think its a reflection of the violence of our times, or something else?
Fairy tales are populated by timeless characters. I think the trend is partly because there’s an audience that grew up with these stories and is hungry for more. Plus, I think each generation is going to want to put their own spin on these stories. Like I said, the themes in fairy tales are so universal and the imagery is so powerful, it’s an exciting genre to work in.
I’m not sure that reflects anything specific about our times, except that maybe we’re acknowledging that, gee, nothing is as simple as “happily ever after.” We instinctively know that life is more complex than fairy tales would have us believe, so it’s interesting to weave some of life’s real complexities into these deceptively simple stories.
For the unfamiliar, can you tell a bit about the series, how many stories are there in all, and where readers can find them?
So far, the first four books of The Scary Tales series have been released. That Risen Snow: A Scary Tale of Snow White & Zombies and That Wicked Apple: A Scary Tale of Snow White & Even More Zombies, the first and second books, are both available in ebook and paperback. The third and fourth installments, That Ravenous Moon: A Scary Tale of Red Riding Hood & Werewolves and That Malicious Storm: A Scary Tale of Beauty & the Phantom, are available in ebook, with paperback forthcoming. The fifth book, That Merciless Truth: A Scary Tale of Goldilocks & the Mummy, is due to be released this fall.
It’s all one epic dark fantasy adventure. That Risen Snow starts very small scale, with seven dwarfs trying to stop one zombie Snow White. It’s a very localized problem. As the books progress, the zombie curse grows all the more powerful. The zombies get harder to kill. The stakes get higher. And more and more fairy tale/horror mash-ups are introduced. The conflict quickly goes from local to regional to global.
All of the books can be purchased at the usual places online, Amazon, BN.com, GooglePlay, or iTunes. Right now, the ebook of That Risen Snow is on sale for free at all those sites I just mentioned. So, I’d encourage folks to give it a shot.
I still have five more books coming in The Scary Tales series, plus maybe a couple of novellas. By the time the ninth book in the series comes out, the story will have featured all of the major fairy tale characters and all of the classic Universal Pictures horror monsters. Plus, a few surprises, of course!
I’m also in the process of finishing a draft of a different book, which is more or less a sci-fi horror fantasy young adult tale. Without revealing too much, the tagline for this book would be something like: What’s more terrifying—the creatures that exist outside our world, or the monsters that lurk inside us? But it could well be years before this book sees the light of day. I’m still working out some plot points.
I want to tell you I’m a big fan of your cover work, as someone who grew up collecting books I’ve always seen them as art both inside and out... From the moment I saw your first in the series I was taken, just a gorgeous cover that immediately caught my imagination. Can you tell me a bit about the design process, and who’s behind it?
Thank you! I am so grateful to have such beautiful artwork to present my fiction to the world. The artist is named Cory Clubb, and I love his work. The design process usually goes something like this . . . I pass along some basic concept ideas to my publisher, Aaron Patterson at StoneGate Ink. Aaron then thinks of something better and asks Cory to take a stab at it. They bounce some drafts back and forth, and then I see a nearly final draft. My feedback is usually something like, “Can we have more blood?” Then Cory darkens things up a bit, and we have a finished product!
Outside of the series, do you have other works that fans can look for?
I’ve had short stories find homes in a variety of markets, including anthologies and magazines. A few years ago, one of my stories, “The Stink of Animosity,” was featured on the Pseudopod podcast, as well.
I’ve dabbled in horror, fantasy, literary fiction, and even sci-fi, but I’d classify most of my fiction as dark fantasy, which by my definition means something scary happens, something otherworldly happens, and maybe they happen at the same time. For a complete list of my short fiction with links, I’d recommend checking out the “Short Stories” page on my website, www.robboley.com.
And lastly where can readers keep up with Everything you?
My online home is www.robboley.com. It has all the info on me, my books, my stories, and upcoming events and appearances. While at my website, you can sign up for my REBolution email list. You’ll receive a free short story just for signing up. Plus, I send out messages each month and almost always include a giveaway for ebooks, paperbacks, or other prizes.
You can also check out my author page on Amazon for direct buy links for my Scary Tales books:
As well, I can be found on various social media sites, such as:
Thanks so much for taking the time Rob!
Thanks so much for having me, Heather. It was a pleasure to be here. I’m thrilled to be a citizen of The Horror Nation!