by Erin Hamilton
Roxy and Jones, The Great Fairytale Cover-Up by Angela Woolfe is a fun new twist on fairytales and favourite characters. Cinderalla Jones, a rebel with a cause meets Roxy Humperdinck, sister to Gretal. On the hunt for lost relics, they make an unusual pair. I adore twisted tales, and re-imaginings of traditional tales. Can’t wait for more from Angela, Roxy and Jones! Being able to ask questions of Angela Woolfe was so much fun and her answers are amazing.
Can you describe your story in a sentence?
Two new and somewhat unlikely friends go on a funny, fantastical adventure to find a magical stone in a modern world where (sssh!) fairytales are actually real.
How important do you feel fairytales are in children’s literature?
Can I say FUNDAMENTAL in very big letters?! Not sure I really realised how important they are until I had my own daughter; it made me realise that fairytales are visceral, they seep into our minds even before we understand what stories really are, and if we’re lucky and read great books (and make up our own stories and imaginary games) then aspects of them keep trickling through throughout your childhood. I know a lot of fairytales get a bad rap as all our sensibilities have changed, but I still feel like the stories themselves are part of our DNA. If we treat some of the less-savoury aspects of them (helpless princesses needing to be rescued by handsome princes, just for example) as almost like historical documents, recognising that they were written/told in VERY different times, I think we should be able to relish the gorgeously-familiar narratives without getting hung up on some of the dodgy detail. And of course we can all re-write them, if we want, and muck about with the bits we can’t stomach!
Were fairytales a big part of your childhood?
Yes, a huge part – I knew my favourites inside out and never tired of reading fairytale spin-offs like M M Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess, one of my favourite books ever. But my daughter (her again) is the one who really seized upon fairytales to a colossal degree, and after two solid years (yes, that’s twenty-four solid months) of playing Cinderella and Rapunzel with her EVERY SINGLE DAY (and never getting the starring roles myself, though I do make a terrific evil witch, I’ll have you know) I decided it was time to shake things up and write my own version.
Modern re-telling and re-imaginings of fairytales are incredibly popular, especially when the female characters are leading the way, not waiting for the Prince. Was it challenging to write a modern fairytale?
The biggest challenge was creating the world in which these fairytales have all once existed… it was all too easy to slip into a kind of Middle-Ages, I-plight-thee-my-troth kind of world by accident, and I wanted to make sure this world is recognisably just like the world we know. Creating the characters was less of a challenge, Jones in particular, as she kept popping into my head with smart things to say without too much trouble! And when I listen to my daughter and her friends, I can see quite clearly that they’re NEVER going to sit around waiting for a Prince, so that aspect was nice and easy to nail down!
How did you decide which fairytale elements to keep and ones to twist?
I felt like there had to be at least one dropped-shoe moment – it’s Cinderella, it’s non-negotiable! I also thought there should be as little change as possible in the backstory with Jones’s step-mum and step-sisters, as it’s partly their nastiness, in the original version and in this one, that keeps us rooting for her. I wanted to twist things like the pumpkin carriage and the fairy godmother because I just thought it would be the most enormous fun to write! I hope it’s as much fun to read…!
Do you have a favourite fairytale?
Though I tend to need to read it from behind my hands (I really find it SO SCARY), I’d probably have to say Hansel and Gretel. (Similarly I also have a weird fascination with the Pied Piper of Hamelin.)
Is there more to come from Roxy and Jones?
There is! They have more ancient artifacts of the Cursed Kingdom to find, of course, and more Diabolical baddies to thwart. Not to mention more magic…
What are you currently reading?
Several things, because I read to and with my daughter as well as my own reading! (And we’re on lockdown, of course, so we are reading A LOT) I’m currently (sloooooowly) reading the third part in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy and my daughter is laughing about how many more pages there are for me to go… TO my daughter I’m reading from Roger Lancelyn Green’s King Arthur stories and Katharine Rundell’s The Good Thieves (not at the same time…) and WITH my daughter I’m reading Sam Copeland’s Charlie Changes Into A Chicken (she’s reading it herself but it’s so funny she sometimes reads out bits and then I have to dip in myself and read more!) We’ve also started up a family poetry club (did I mention we’re on lockdown?!) so I’m reading lots of fabulous poems, from Roger McGough and Michael Rosen to WB Yeats and Harold Munro!
Roxy and Jones was published by Walker Books on 7th May 2020.
The opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.