Hontas and Cinders

I was never a normal little girl. I played with cars and Ninja Turtles just as much as my dolls, and I watched my father (who was in his early twenties at the time) and his friends use my toys to make short stop motion films. But just because I was a bit odd didn’t mean that I still didn’t love my Disney princesses and fairy tales.

Just as so many other children, I was sucked into the notion of an unknown Prince Charming battling for my safety and love. Once he rescued me, we would, of course, ride off into the sunset and live out our happily ever after.

I realized pretty quickly after reaching my early twenties that my life was not going to be a fairy tale. After numerous failed relationships I sought solace in the original morbid fairy tales as opposed to Disney’s happily ever after fantasy.

Despite the recent change in my luck and my plunge into married life and motherhood, which oddly enough resembles a fairy tale/romantic comedy, I still tend towards the dark and gloomy.

So I was ecstatic to discover V.M. Sawh! He takes fairy tales and twists them into new and unique versions. There’s action, intrigue, heartache, and just the tiniest bit of romance that somehow binds it all together.

Despite their dark atmosphere, both Hontas and Cinders are charming adaptions of the original stories, and I highly recommend that you read them! And check out Sawh's website:

As always, I’ve provided bio information with the author’s permission, but this time, I’ve thrown in a new twist for you! A special Question and Answer time with the author!

Some Bio Information

It all began with Alan Moore’s “The Anatomy Lesson”.

When I was far too young to be reading such things, I picked up a small, dirty, plastic-wrapped comic digest from my local library. The first and featured story was a piece by Alan Moore which started with the line: “It’s raining in Washington tonight.”

It tells the story of a mad doctor who is awaiting the resurrection of a character whose name I won’t reveal here.

Suffice it to say, I was both horrified and intrigued. My young mind had never encountered such a dark and twisted tale, whose ending at the time shocked me. I remember being transfixed by the power of Alan Moore’s imagery and the depth of his narrative. That story still haunts me to this day.

I first picked up the pencil at age 6 to start creating a few stories of my own. Haven’t stopped since. My first trilogy was completed by age 16. Despite the urging of my Writer’s Craft professor, I never published it. At that time, I found the entire publication industry far more frightening than anything I had ever read.

I graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Degree in Psychology and Sociology and a minor in English which included extensive coursework on Short Story Writing, Novel Writing, Cinema Studies and Poetry.

It was my pleasure to attend the Ontario Writer’s Conference in May 2013.


Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

I find it my stories are necessary distractions. I used to doodle little scenes and plot lines (and lyrics) in the corners of my agenda in high school, just anything to keep me from falling asleep out of boredom. Picture it, I'm sitting in Algebra class, eyes glazed over with the mist of quadratic equations when I stare out the window and see a leaf fall from a tree. Suddenly I imagine there's an invisible alien perched in that tree that only I could see. The admittedly nonsensical equations on the chalkboard begin to swirl and drift together as the chalk molecules sweep together to spell out a message only I can see: W-E-S-E-E-Y-O-U-T-O-O. So, of course, I ask to go to the bathroom, knowing I'm not only going to fail the inevitable pop quiz, but also that the school is probably under imminent attack from aliens. So I bolt out to the hall just in time to see the lights go dark. There's a stomach-dropping pulse that kills the sound in my ears. I shake my head. Something's not right. Everything is floating... me included. 

See, remember those Calvin & Hobbes comics? Yeah, that was me. *coughs* Short answer for today: I'm always looking for the extraordinary.

Why fairy tales?

I wanted to take something with cultural currency and twist it on its head. The roots of these fairy tales are wide and varied, yet they originally served as cautionary tales for 100s of years. Transforming lessons into narratives helps with cohesion and comprehension. Plus, I was always interested in the other side of the stories. Interpretations will vary, but the DNA of the stories stay the same. There's a reason for that.

Are you attempting to take modern fairy tales back to their morbid roots? 

Not necessarily, I think that the original tales are quite morbid, but that their cultural cache allows us to examine issues with new lenses. Most modern television is designed to kill brain cells, but the really thought-provoking series force you to look at issues in a different way. In my opinion, a good story should make you discover something about yourself, if not inspire you to look at something in a different way. With the rash of PG-13 and YA releases on fairytales, I wanted to create works that honoured the tales as I knew them. Unflinchingly brutal, pure and undiluted by marketing considerations. If you tell a good story, I believe it will find its audience eventually.

Why do you choose to write short stories as opposed to full length novels?

I've always liked short stories because they allow me to boil the essence of the tale down to its barest elements. Take away all the fluff and side characters and sub-plots and diversions through mountains and singing ~ what do you have? Is the core still good? I work from an elevator pitch. If this story could be told in 1 sentence, what would it be? 

For me personally, I don't always have the time or patience to go through as many novels as I like, but if a writer can pull off a good short story, I am willing to give their longer works a chance. With short stories, you have to be a ruthless editor, you don't have the page count for selfish diversions. I say, grab your reader by the heart and go for a drive ~ but take it at 100 MPH.

If you could write any book and have it be a phenomenal success (equal to the success of Harry Potter and Hunger Games) what would it be about?

I do have a trilogy in the works, based off of a trilogy of novels I wrote in my teens, so I'd like that to be a success, as it's been my life's work:

Descent ~ An arrogant, successful corporate hotshot thinks he has it all until he suffers a near-fatal car accident. He's rescued by a member of a secret underground race and finds out he's destined to become merged with powerful, ageless entity. First he must survive a series of dangerous transformations, as the entity prepares him to face the host of the coming apocalypse.

"Good Tales For Bad Dreams" will continue. There are about 6-8 more stories planned, which I plan to collect in 2 volumes. My hope is that they find their audience, as there will be something for fans of every genre. I keep my PinterestFacebook and Goodreads updated frequently with new stuff.

Can you describe your methodology in writing?

  • Step 1: Remove cat from keyboard
  • Step 2: Find playlist
  • Step 3: Put away laundry
  • Step 4: LOL at Buzzfeed articles
  • Step 5: Create Story-appropriate playlist
  • Step 6: Double-check research articles for story at hand. Yes. Lots of them.
  • Step 7: Write something.
  • Step 8: Give up. Cry. Believe self failure. Drown tears in cat.
  • Step 9: Okay, I only have 20 minutes, I might as well read what I have so far.
  • Step 10: ....33 minutes later, I'm typing away because I-just-need-to-finish-this-one-scene!

If you could write anywhere (tropical beach, ice hotel, next to a large fireplace on a comfy bearskin rug, etc) where would it be? 

I have created a wonderous man-cave and a behemoth of a computer which I assembled by hand. I must use them. Though I shake my fist and roll my eyes at the Starbucks clans who congregate with their lattes and Macbooks, a good chunk of "Hontas" was in fact written in a cozy Starbucks attic. No, I won't tell you where ~ I already have to fight several hipsters with lightsabers and live polar bears just to get a seat. Yes, that's how we roll in Canada. THOU DOST NOT TAKETH THE CORNER COUCH!

Finally, what's one piece of advice you would give to aspiring or new indie authors? 

You think you suck don't you? Well you do. Keep writing till you don't.