Fractured Fairytales

A guest post by the lovely and hilarious Karen Booth! Follow her on Twitter—I double-dog dare you!

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When I was a little girl, I loved to draw pictures of myself as a princess. You know, the cone-shaped hat with the scarf draping from the point, poofy skirt with the crisscross ribbons on the bodice? If I was sure of anything, it was that I would look amazing in that get-up. I even liked the idea of the prince charging in on his trusty steed and doing mysterious things that involved ripping said bodice, but the other stuff…the way princesses got to their Happily Ever After? Much of that seemed like bunk.

I think that’s why I found Fractured Fairytales on Saturday morning cartoons to be so completely awesome. For you young-uns, there was a time when there were only seven television stations and kids’ programming was limited to one three-hour block a week. You can look it up on Wikipedia.


Fractured Fairytales were goofy, twisted versions of the classics like Cinderella and Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. I loved Rapunzel as an airhead with a singing voice only a mother could love, or the Frog Prince as a prince who thought being handsome was stupid. He really just wanted to be a frog.

Several decades after my days of eating cereal in front of the TV (okay, I still do that on occasion), I got the idea for my first novel, Bring Me Back. In my head, I saw Claire, a struggling music journalist and single mom. After years of token assignments, she lands a career-defining interview with Christopher Penman, the dangerously charming British rock star she was obsessed with in high school. It would be a modern-day fairytale; the stuff born of nights spent practicing make-out techniques with the pillow.

From the start, I was surprised by the way the story was coming out, but I went with it because I figured forward momentum was good. Claire was excited by the romantic idea of meeting Christopher, but the reality of the situation didn’t have her jumping up and down. There was no squee-filled phone call to her sister, no bragging about it to her fellow writers. She was facing this opportunity with pangs of inferiority, butterflies and dread. This was not princess behavior. I liked it.

As I continued to write, I learned one of those writing lessons you have to figure out on your own—let the characters do what they will, let them be who they are. I accepted and embraced Claire’s cynicism and stubbornness and she rewarded me for it. My fingers couldn’t type fast enough. From Claire came the story, a fractured and imperfect fairytale.

And so, yes, my princess is on the brink of forty, a single mom by accident but also by choice—her daughter’s dad was never Prince Charming in the first place. She’s not afraid to shush her drop-dead gorgeous prince in bed, even if he is a dream come true. She can’t help it. She doesn’t like sex talk. Hell, she doesn’t even get into that bed without some serious time spent wondering where exactly his penis has been all these years. It’s a legitimate question. And it doesn’t mean they can’t have their Happily Ever After.

Bring Me Back

BMB_KBooth_MDMusic critic Claire Abby is a single mom dreading her daughter’s departure for college and worried that turning forty will leave her career running on fumes. She’s floored when she lands a Rolling Stone cover story on 80s British rock legend Christopher Penman. She spent her teenage years fantasizing he was her boyfriend.

In person, Christopher is everything Claire feared he’d be—charming, witty and unwilling to address the rumors he’s dodged for a decade. Still, she contains her adolescent fantasies and manages to earn his trust, unearthing the truth and the devastating secret behind it. His blockbuster story is her first priority when she returns home, a nearly impossible task when Christopher starts calling and flirting. She knows she should maintain a professional distance. She knows she should focus on the story. She knows it would be best to simply walk away. But how can she say “no” to the man she could never forget?

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Inspired By Movies

So today on Wonkomance I am going to say things like this because I am being an official announcer! I am announcing that we have a guest here, who I have long admired and enjoyed all the books of. In fact, back when I was too scared to submit to anyone ever, I dreamt of one day being Bonnie Dee.

Or at least, being as good as Bonnie Dee. Her stories are so passionate, and I connect with them on lots of levels. Sometimes I wondered why that might be, other than her amazing talent. But now I can wonder no longer, because after reading her excellent post I realise that she has a similar process to me to do the writings!

Behold, her post, in which she talks about liking movies and TV and being inspired by bits of them to make books. One of my author heroes is just like me in some tiny way. Hooray!


New LifeInspired By Movies

Thanks for inviting me to Wonkomance today. Those who know my books have probably realized by now that I’m not a big fan of the take-charge, arrogant alpha male. My favorite theme is damaged people trying to get by in life as best they can, like Jason, the hero of my latest release New Life.

After surviving a car crash brought on by his own drunken carelessness, irreparable brain damage has forced Jason to relearn many skills and he’s reduced to working as a janitor due to his impairment. Enter the heroine, Anna, a young lawyer who, after fumbling her first court case, has a breakdown in a deserted hallway where Jason comes across her. Interesting “meet cute”, right?

A brain damaged janitor romance hero? How the hell did you come up with that? I hear you ask. Well… it’s because of my Joseph Gordon Levitt love. I’ve seen about every movie the actor has ever been in. When I caught The Lookout on the Independent Film Channel, I was riveted by this story of a brain damaged guy working as a night janitor who’s scammed into helping some bank robbers. Take out the suspense and murder and make it a romance instead, my brain clamored. So I did.

It’s not the first time I’ve been strongly inspired/influenced by something I’ve seen on the screen. Once, when re-watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I realized the only part I really care about in the film is the hot hot hot scene of the princess’s abduction by the thief in the desert and their passionate coming together.

Thief and the Desert FlowerSo, I wrote an entire story based on that part, The Thief and the Desert Flower. It’s not one of my more popular titles for some reason but I think it’s cute and fun as hell to watch the push-pull of their relationship as the abducted princess gets the upper hand by stealing the thief’s heart.

Bone Deep, one of my very first books, was inspired by Ralph Fiennes’ completely tattooed backside in Red Dragon, the sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Sure, the man’s a horrible serial killer, but in that scene he’s so very isolated and lonely my heart ached for him to have a happily ever after. Well, a serial killer hero is a bridge too far even for me (no matter how much I adore Dexter), so I dreamed up another way to have a hero with a full body tattoo. Traveling carnival? Check. War widow heroine with her own sorrows to overcome? Check. I knew the story must take place in a time when there were actually still traveling shows touring the country which is how it ended up set post WWII.

Finding Home is a direct outshoot of my love for the TV series, The OC. Okay, all right, yeah, The OC was soapy, campy ridiculousness but a lot of the fanfic I read (and wrote) around that time was much deeper and more angsty than the show ever dreamed of being.  We went places our show never would. There were some great writers in that fandom who weren’t afraid to seriously explore the “outsider” theme. I approached a friend, Lauren Baker, and said “Let’s write a novel and try to get it published”. That was the day I moved away from fanfic writing and never looked back. OC fans might see a kernel of the Ryan character in Mouth/Sean, but he’s pretty much our own creation.

Captive BrideOne book I want people to know I did not crib from the movie Thousand Pieces of Gold is Captive BrideI swear I had the idea independently and only watched the movie later, but the similarities are ridiculous: Chinese woman comes to America thinking she’s going to be a bride and ends up sold into slavery. The hero in the movie is even a Civil War vet who suffered through Andersonville prison just like my hero. Damn! That still pisses me off. But it’s a great romantic movie. You should watch it (and read my book for a comparison).

I don’t always glean my ideas off of movies or TV shows. I do have some stories that pop into my head independently of seeming anything. But a strong visual starting point is always really helpful and that’s something movies can give a writer. Or plays. After going to see Rent on stage, I thought about how strange it would be to be part of a touring company, a different city every night and only really the members of the company to hang with. You’d either love or hate these people by the end. That thought sparked The Final Act, a stage romance featuring three couples.

Bone DeepSo, the spark of a new idea can come from any little thing a writer sees or hears or experiences throughout the day. Since I’m apparently a TV/movie addict, it’s not surprising that my influences lie in that direction.

What’s coming in 2013 from Bonnie Dee? A couple of books co-written with Summer Devon, which include a het romantic suspense (Fugitive Heart) and a gay historical (The Gentleman’s Keeper), and The Au Pair Affair, a gay contemporary I’m particularly fond of.

I’d like to thank the Wonkomance team once again for inviting me here today to ramble on about my books and the movies that inspired some of them.


Thank you so much, Bonnie, for being here with us! You can ramble here any time.


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One Hundred Years of Wonk

In an effort to avoid being tossed out of my book club on my head, I read A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the airplane over holiday break.

one hundred yearsI felt a solid wash of relief at being able to cross that book off my to-read list, where it has sat since high school. I’m sure now I’ll be able to do that much better on those Facebook quizzes about how many locations in the U.S./foods/great classics I’ve been remiss in encountering. I’ve increased my worth as a human being by one point.

I didn’t exactly like the book. I admired the book, and I was aware that it was a brilliant book that I ought to love, and that if I still knew as much about Latin American politics and history as I was taught in high school, I would love it. (If I were a romance heroine and you were my best friend, you would tell me that knowing you should love and loving are two very different things.)

What I love without reservation is how Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes about love. He missed his calling as a writer of wonky romance.

Here’s frustrated longing:

She went back to eating earth. The first time she did it almost out of curiosity, sure that the bad taste would be the best cure for the temptation. And, in fact, she could not bear the earth in her mouth. But she persevered, overcome by the growing anxiety, and little by little she was getting back her ancestral appetite, the taste of primary minerals, the unbridled satisfaction of what was the original food. She would put handfuls of earth in her pockets, and ate them in small bits without being seen, with a confused feeling of pleasure and rage, as she instructed her girlfriends in the most difficult needlepoint and spoke about other men, who did not deserve the sacrifice of having one eat the whitewash on the walls because of them. The handfuls of earth made the only man who deserved that show of degradation less remote and more certain, as if the ground that he walked on with his fine patent leather boots in another part of the world were transmitting to her the weight and the temperature of his blood in a mineral savor that left a harsh aftertaste in her mouth and a sediment of peace in her heart.

Oh, my God. She’s eating dirt. And it’s lovely. It’s overwhelming. It’s despair, degradation, harshness, anxiety, pleasure, rage, savor, sediment, peace.

I love when Marquez writes about things that are not-quite-real, right on the edge of being dreamlike or magical (the official name is magical realism), because it’s exactly how you feel when you’re in love, when you’re in the grip of lust. It’s not quite real and it’s all too real. It’s magical, ethereal, but it’s also so visceral it’s painful.

Marquez reminded me that we don’t have to be so literal. You can get at emotion by flirting with it, by winking at it, by adorning your whole literary world with it without ever explicitly pointing at it. The heroine could be ambivalent about love, or she could desperately want to and desperately not want to eat the handfuls of earth she’s stowed in her pocket.

You know the scene in the romance novel when the hero is thinking about all the reasons he loves the heroine? She’s beautiful, of course, and sexy—sexier than all other women because of her peculiar combination of innocence and passion only he can unleash. Also, she’s smart and funny in a way no other woman on earth is smart and funny.

Here’s that same passage, Marquez-style (different characters from the last passage, by the way—all the passages are different characters, lest you mistakenly suppose One Hundred Years of Solitude to in any way resemble romance):

The house became full of love. Aureliano expressed it in poetry that had no beginning or end. He would write it on the harsh pieces of parchment that Melquiades gave him, on the bathroom walls, on the skin of his arms, and in all of it Remedios would appear transfigured: Remedios in the soporific air of two in the afternoon, Remedios in the soft breath of the roses, Remedios in the water-clock secrets of the moths, Remedios in the steaming morning bread, Remedios everywhere and Remedios forever.

Or when the hero and heroine can’t eat and can’t sleep, they’re so far gone?

She lost her mind over him. She could not sleep and she lost her appetite and sank so deeply into solitude that even her father became an annoyance. She worked out an intricate web of false dates to throw Fernanda off the track, lost sight of her girlfriends, leaped over conventions to be with Mauricio Babilonia at any time and at any place.

And that first time, overcome by love-disguised-by-lust:

At first his crudeness bothered her. The first time that they were alone on the deserted field behind the garage he pulled her mercilessly into an animal state that left her exhausted. It took her a time to realize that it was also a form of tenderness and it was then that she lost her calm and lived only for him, upset by the desire to sink into his stupefying odor of grease washed off by lye. … She surrendered to Mauricio Babilonia without resistance, without shyness, without formalities, and with a vocation that was so fluid and an intuition that was so wise that a more suspicious man than hers would have confused them with obvious experience.

Did you catch that? She was innocent and yet with that sensuality that only he could unleash—and understand.

For all that there’s no happily ever after in the book, I loved this description of enduring, mature love (don’t get excited; it’s doomed, too):

Actually, those who saw that man in his forties with careful habits, with the leash around his neck and his circus bicycle, would not have thought that he had made a pact of unbridled love with his wife and that they both gave in to the reciprocal drive in the least adequate of places and wherever the spirit moved them, as they had done since they had begun to keep company, and with a passion that the passage of time and the more and more unusual circumstances deepened and enriched. Gaston was not only a fierce lover, with endless wisdom and imagination, but he was also, perhaps, the first man in the history of the species who had made an emergency landing and had come close to killing himself and his sweetheart simply to make love in a field of violets.

The fact that Marquez writes so beautifully and compellingly about love makes it particularly hard to bear the fact that love (and lust) are the enemies in this book. They get people into trouble, cause them to behave badly, and ultimately, destroy them. The characters fight the inevitable over and over again, and over and over they succumb:

Aureliano smiled, picked her up by the waist with both hands like a pot of begonias, and dropped her on her back on the bed. With a brutal tug he pulled off her bathrobe before she had time to resist and he loomed over an abyss of newly washed nudity whose skin color, lines of fuzz, and hidden moles had all been imagined in the shadows of the other rooms. Amaranta Ursula defended herself sincerely with the astuteness of a wise woman, weaseling her slippery, flexible, and fragrant weasel’s body as she tried to knee him in the kidneys and scorpion his face with her nails, but without either of them giving a gasp that might not have been taken for the breathing of a person watching the meager April sunset through the open window. It was a fierce fight, a battle to the death, but it seemed to be without violence because it consisted of distorted attacks and ghostly evasions, slow, cautious, solemn, so that during it all there was time for the petunias to bloom and for Gaston to forget about his aviator’s dreams in the next room, as if they were two enemy lovers seeking reconciliation at the bottom of an aquarium. … Suddenly, almost playfully, like one more bit of mischief, Amaranta Ursula dropped her defense, and when she tried to recover, frightened by what she herself had made possible, it was too late. A great commotion immobilized her in her center of gravity, planted her in her place, and her defensive will was demolished by the irresistible anxiety to discover what the orange whistles and the invisible globes on the other side of death were like. She barely had time to reach out her hand and grope for the towel to put a gag between her teeth so that she would not let out the cat howls that were already tearing at her insides.

Nothing good comes of love in One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I must be a stubborn romantic, because even after twelve hours with my knees pulled up to my chest and my right hand going numb from clasping a saggy paperback, the only thing I learned from Marquez’s infinite grimness is that even love’s ugliness is divine. All those words Marquez put on the page to tell me that love kills, and what I got out of it is that love is multifaceted and transcendent. In a book clotted with fear and disaster, the moments that leap off the page are the ones where he writes about longing that connects the earth in Macondo with the tread of a lover’s boots on the other side of the world.

Sometimes when I am writing about sex or love, I fear that I will run out of beautiful or clever ways to describe sensations or emotions. This book reassured me that I never will.

All the words in the world can be brought into its service—a whole infinity of them. Infinite words in infinite combinations, little gems of beauty in the dust.



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