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Genre: YA Fantasy
Twisted: The Girl Who Uncovered Rumpelstiltskin’s Name
Bonnie M Hennessy
Genre: YA Fantasy
Date of Publication: November 19, 2016
Number of pages: 306
Word Count: 75,000
Cover Artist: Andreea Vraciu
An old tale tells the story of how a little man named Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold and tricked a desperate girl into trading away her baby. But that’s not exactly how it happened.
The real story began with a drunken father who kept throwing money away on alcohol and women, while his daughter, Aoife, ran the family farm on her own. When he gambled away everything they owned to the Duke, it was up to her to spin straw into gold to win it all back.
With her wits and the help of a magical guardian, she outsmarted the Duke and saved the day.
Her guardian suddenly turned on Aoife and sent her on a quest to find his name, the clues to which were hidden deep in the woods, a moldy dungeon, and a dead woman’s chamber.
This is not the tale of a damsel in distress, but a tenacious, young woman who solved a mystery so great that not even the enchanted man who spun straw into gold could figure it out.
Not until Aoife came along.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/3SDfW7PY3wY
Interview With the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
I grew up enjoying writing and from about middle school on, I knew I was good at it. I wasn’t a great student, so this was my one way of shining with very little effort. As an adult, I became a high school teacher and teaching was my focus for many years. However, in the background in between grading papers, I was always writing novels. Most of them were bad, and it is a good thing I have kept them in boxes and never showed them to many people. I think I had to write all those ‘practice’ novels to get to Twisted and all the books that are waiting for me to write. I don’t know if there was any specific moment that made me declare myself a writer. It’s just something I’ve always done. Runners run. Chefs cook. Lumberjacks chop wood. And I write books.
How did you decide to make the move into being a published author?
As I said before, I had written plenty of bad novels and received many rejections from agents. With Twisted, I just knew that I had written something good, something that I finally wanted to share with people. I kept rereading passages and instead of cringing that they didn’t sound the way I wanted them to, I smiled, wishing I could show the book to my friends. Many people are afraid of getting older, but I feel like as I look forward to 40, there’s this incredible sense of confidence and intuition that has grown in me over the years of trials, joys, accomplishments and, yes, failures that told me that this was my moment to see my greatest wish of becoming a published author come true. It also helps that I have an amazingly supportive husband beside me who thinks I walk on water! He was the one who gave me the final nudge I needed to make the move.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I want them to realize that we are all walking contradictions and that we are all only who we are at any given moment. Today I’m an author, wife, and mother who yelled at her son a little too harshly. Tomorrow I will take my kids to the indoor trampoline metropolis of the world with five friends and I will be the greatest mom ever. But I am neither the worst nor the best mother. I’m just a woman doing the best I can at any given moment. I think if we could look past people’s short comings, the way Aoife looks past her father’s alcoholism, Maeve’s career as the Madam of a brothel, and even her mother’s abusive cruelty, then maybe we could gain a better understanding of each other. I look at the political landscape, the cultural divides, the religious extremities and realize that we don’t see each other as imperfect humans, but as caricatures of stereotypes that have been sold to us by the media and the societies we live in. I think what made me fall in love with Aoife was her ability to accept the flaws of others and still shake their hands. That’s a lesson I’m still working on cultivating in myself!
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love feeling like I’ve let go of myself and let inspiration in. I don’t think I ever experienced that until Twisted. The first time it happened was when I was writing the scene where Aoife goes back to Rumpelstiltskin’s house for the first time. I had it all planned out in my head as to what would happen in the chapter and even the whole outer frame of the story. Then suddenly, the story turned. The characters did not and would not do what I had planned for them. After a reluctant moment, I took a breath and stopped thinking about what I had planned and let the scene between them unfold, allowing them to write their own dialogue, describe their emotions, and choreograph their movements. When I finished, I knew something special had just happened. I remember telling my husband, “Now I know I’m a writer because I didn’t write that chapter by myself.”
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Time and leg cramps. There never seems to be enough time to write. And when there is plenty, my eyes and brain eventually give out before I’m ready to quit. And who what writer doesn’t lament leg cramps and a sore butt! I know it’s not the intellectual answer readers may expect and it’s not as cliché as discussing the very frightening reality of writer’s block, but leg cramps and a sore butt are definitely some of my biggest challenges. Maybe I should start writing from a treadmill.
What advice would you give to people want to enter the field?
Now that I’m published, people are coming to me as if I know the path to the holy grail. It scares me that people think I know something about the business side of writing! However, the number one piece of advice I have after just these first few months is to remember that there is a difference between being a writer and selling books. Being a writer is fun and, hopefully, comes naturally. Enjoy it! For the creative people who want to publish, selling them is hard work! Remember, no matter how special that manuscript feels, it is just the first one. Assuming you are planning to keep writing, you need to look at each book you publish as a learning experience that will help you be even more successful with the next one, and the next one, and the next.
What ways can readers connect with you?
I have fought social media for a long time, but now that I’m in the business of selling books, there are oh-so many ways to connect with me. I am available through all the many channels, which I have listed below. I have this idea that I would also love to skype into people’s book club meetings. Drop me an email through my website or Facebook if your book club decides to read Twisted, and I will try to find a way to make the meeting!
My Website: https://www.bonniemhennessy.com
Chapter 1 Excerpt
The morning mist had almost lifted in the village of Stanishire, the farmers and fishermen were readying the market, women were shouting chores to sleepy children, and Aoife was on her way to collect her father from the town brothel, where the painted ladies entertained men’s nocturnal needs.
When she reached the main street, she dismounted and tied her horse to a hitching post. She walked around the corner of the brothel where no one could see her, adjusted her skirt, and ran her fingers through her hair. Practice had taught her how to jiggle the finicky latch so its reluctant grip released and granted her entrance. The back hallway was dark and quiet. Maggie, the young girl who helped cook and clean, was opening windows to release the sweat and perfume-laced air. Broken glass littered the floor, and cards from unfinished games lay scattered on tables.
“Maggie,” Aoife whispered.
Maggie turned into the dust motes in a sliver of daylight. Over the years, Aoife had learned to call her gently and not to sneak up on her lest she startle the young girl as she had done the first time they met here when Aoife was eleven and Maggie just nine.
“Eeeeef-uh!” Maggie’s eyes lit up as she called Aoife’s name. She had always over-enunciated each syllable in what sounded like a sigh of relief.
She took hold of Aoife’s hand, pulling her around the corner and into the kitchen, one of the only places in the residence that passed for a respectable room.
“Wait here,” Maggie said, kissing Aoife on the cheek. “I’ll be right back.”
Aoife looked around at the pots hanging on the wall that Maggie kept so shiny. A rolling pin on the counter was coated with flour and the smell of bread baking in the oven filled the dimly lit room. In the corner was Maggie’s chair with a basket of women’s stockings waiting to be darned. Aoife turned her back to the parlor door and everything that happened there, pretending her visits with Maggie by the fire were no different than a visit with any other village girl. The sight of Maggie humming as she patched up stockings always made Aoife think of her younger sister, Tara, lying under her heavy blankets, sewing away at some pattern their mother had her working on. Aoife felt that Tara and Maggie would have enjoyed chatting over their sewing, if only Tara were not stuck in bed with a perpetual cough and Maggie the progeny of a brothel.
“Aoife. You look quite bright and alive considering the early hour.”
Aoife jumped as Maeve strolled over and pulled a leaf from Aoife’s hair.
“I see you’ve been busy with your studies,” Maeve added.
Aoife touched her hair, searching for more debris. Maeve’s dressing gown exposed her cleavage and her long, dark curls draped over her bare shoulders without apology. Aoife had seen her dressed, powdered, and painted since she was a girl, and she admired the way her gaze, so piercing, seemed to command respect from everyone. But what had captivated Aoife the most was something more powerful and more impressive than Maeve’s beauty. Although crow’s feet now punctuated her eyes, and her waistline had thickened, the most powerful men deferred to her, bowing their heads in her direction when she traveled through the streets.
“I couldn’t resist the path through the woods,” Aoife replied, knowing she could hide nothing from her.
Maeve stared at her. The affection in her appraisal was always slightly distant, stopping just short of motherly.
“Seamus is taking care of things,” Maeve said with her usual calm.
Aoife nodded and looked again at the shiny pots, trying to focus on anything but Seamus’ highly embarrassing ritual of waking her father, the fairly infamous Finnegan, from wherever he had ended his evening and saddling him on his horse. Maggie pulled a loaf of steaming bread from the oven and set out plates, knives, and a bowl of fresh butter. Each of them took their place around the table as Maggie generously portioned out the bread. Maeve let her shawl fall over the back of her chair and straightened up her shoulders, exposing even more of herself. Aoife flushed and bit quietly into her bread, savoring the flavor and the moment.
There was an honesty and warmth in this kitchen that she never felt in the presence of her own mother. Conversation and warm bread was what made coming to get her father for all these years worth the lashings she used to receive from her mother when she returned home.
“I hear that your latest suitor was seen heading out of town yesterday,” Maeve said. “I gather his hasty departure means that there will be no nuptials?”
Aoife shook her head and cast a quick smile at Maggie.
“I can’t imagine why you didn’t want to marry that one,” Maeve said. “Lots of gold, a manor house to the east with more land than you and your horse could ever discover, and handsome, too. What more could a girl want than a man with piles of gold and a good set of teeth?”
“A man who is blind and deaf and preferably feeble – with deep pockets, of course. Then I can live my life in peace and never have to worry about his teeth – or mine for that matter.”
Maggie giggled, and Maeve raised an appreciative eyebrow, offering her signature half-smile, half-smirk. Aoife grinned and took another bite of the steaming bread.
“And what do your parents say?” Maeve asked. Her features had softened, but her thoughts remained inscrutable. “I can’t imagine they find your refusals as entertaining as we do.”
Aoife fell silent. This was an unexpected detour in the script. They avoided direct references to Aoife’s family. It made breaking bread between them possible, since the money Maeve took from Aoife’s father by night was one of the greatest strains on her family’s resources, reputation, and love. The medicine that Tara often went without after her father’s reckless trips was reason enough for Aoife to despise Maeve, but she had learned to avoid dwelling on these realities. She needed Maeve enough to tolerate her father’s indiscretions, since rescuing him had now become a means of escaping her life. Discussing her family jeopardized everything.
“Well, no, they are not exactly pleased,” Aoife replied, her brashness fading.
Maeve wiped the corner of her mouth and cleared her throat. Something in the air had changed.
“You know, at some point, perhaps sooner than you might expect, they will stop coming. First, the young ones with stacks of gold and good teeth. They have the most fragile egos and will seek out friendlier pastures. Then eventually, even the wrinkly ones, with and without gold, will find calling on you not worth the effort,” Maeve paused. “The tales of your beauty will be replaced by tales of new faces with more welcoming smiles. The choices left to you will be slim.”
The bread balled up in Aoife’s throat. She could have had breakfast in her own home if she wanted this type of talk. She suddenly felt incensed that Madame Maeve dared to criticize her.
“My mother mires me in these traps daily,” Aoife dusted the crumbs from her hands. “She appreciates neither the risk to my reputation I take coming here nor the fact that I am the one who has run the farm for years now.”
“This is true. Your family would be in the poor house and your sister probably with God if not for your courage and your brains,” Maeve said. “But I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you and your future. You must understand that there are consequences for you, whether you say yes or no to the suitors who come your way.”
She raised an eyebrow, which seemed loaded with a warning left to Aoife to decipher. It had a familiar ring to it, like the warnings her mother made so often about the consequences of Aoife’s trips to Maeve’s house.
“No respectable man will ever want to marry a girl who consorts with vile women, not when he thinks he can pay a few coins for her instead,” her mother would say.
Her mother lived in such a dream world she did not recognize that Aoife was trying to protect the family’s reputation and as much of their finances as was possible. Her mother worried more about Aoife’s reputation than the food on the table and Tara’s medicine. And because of that, a chasm had grown between them too deep to ever cross.
“My choices are just as narrow as every other girl’s. I know that,” Aoife said standing up abruptly. Her shawl dropped to the floor, its power to protect her no match for the storm brewing in the kitchen. “But I’d never compromise myself – or give men control over my body for money like you do. Of that you can be sure.”
“I wasn’t suggesting that,” Maeve replied, completely unruffled. “But it’s interesting that you did. And, Aoife, no matter what choice you make – your husband’s house, my house, or the nunnery – you are exchanging control over your body for money. Of that you can be sure.”
“I have given half my life already to protecting my family. Everyday, whether I’m seeing that fields are reseeded and sheep are sheared or carting my father home from here, I am picking up the pieces of my family’s fortune that my father has broken apart,” Aoife said with less command of her voice than she would have liked. “And now, after I’ve done everything I can to save this family, they – and you – expect me to sell myself off to the next buyer, supposedly to protect them? I can’t do it.”
Aoife knew there was no way for a woman to survive in the world without the protection of a man, yet the security they offered was never guaranteed. Her father’s choices still chipped away at the pieces of what was once her mother, Bronagh. Still bedecked in the jewels of their courtship, she found her only solace and comfort in embroidering ornate and regal designs and patterns by the night fire, awaiting his return from Maeve’s as if her delicate hands could somehow stitch back together the girl he had unraveled and the lives he had torn apart at the seams. Bronagh would not even consider selling her tapestries or needlework to help support her family, for that would have been beneath a woman of her status. Aoife, however, was not built to sit and sew while their fortune and Tara’s health deteriorated at the hands of her father. She needed to be on her feet fixing the problem, not decorating the home they were sure to lose if no one intervened.
Bronagh had traded away her soul for a broken promise of safety and love, and she expected Aoife to do the same. But now Maeve, too? Her advice was nothing less than a betrayal.
“For women not made to curtsey obediently through life, there is no easy choice.” A subtle urgency belied Maeve’s calm. “However, refusing every suitor is not a means of controlling your life, but rather giving over control to whatever or whomever is left over.”
“So I should marry the next man who comes along or end up in a whore house like you?” Aoife said, wincing at her angry words.
She was angry that Maeve had taken her mother’s side, but she did not relish wounding the one person who had always been a source of strength and understanding. Despite her words, Maeve’s features revealed not even the slightest hint of hurt.
“What I am saying is that you ought to turn away any option which would leave you without hope of peace and contentment,” Maeve replied. “But do not fool yourself into waiting for a perfect choice to present itself, because it never will.”
Aoife felt her stomach lurch. She needed to get away from this house, this woman, and the truth. Turning around, she marched outside where her father was standing. She walked to her horse and looked to see if he needed assistance. The legacy of too much mead weighed on his haggard figure as Seamus helped him to his horse.
“I’m so sorry to have inconvenienced you this morning, my sweet Aoife,” her father’s worn voice eschewed sadly.
“I know, father,” she replied. “You’re always sorry.”
He swayed precariously in either direction and then took Aoife’s hand suddenly.
“You’re too good to me, Aoife,” he whispered. “You should be reaching for the–”
“Stars,” she finished. “I know, Father.”
He closed his eyes and pressed her hand between his.
“My hand’s grown since we spent our nights stargazing.”
He nodded and Aoife felt a pang of nostalgia sweep over her. She missed the way he used to pick her up from her mother’s side by the fire and take her out of doors to look at the moon and stars. The memory of the polished scent of him from her childhood came back over the stench of mead that clung to him now. He had been a good father once upon a time. She looked up, searching for any fragment of the man who tossed her high in the air as a little girl. The sparkle of a tear danced at the corner of his eye. There he was. She kissed his forehead tenderly and he sighed with the soft smile reserved only for Aoife. His favorite.
About the Author:
Bonnie grew up a shy, quiet girl who the teachers always seated next to the noisy boys because they knew she was too afraid to talk to anyone. She always had a lot she wanted to say but was too afraid to share it for fear she might die of embarrassment if people actually noticed her. Somewhere along the line, perhaps after she surprised her eighth grade class by standing up to a teacher who was belittling a fellow student, she realized that she had a voice and she didn’t burst into flames when her classmates stared at her in surprise.
Not long after that, she began spinning tales, some of which got her into trouble with her mom. Whether persuading her father to take her to the candy store as a little girl or convincing her parents to let her move from Los Angeles to Manhattan to pursue a career at eighteen as a ballet dancer with only $200 in her pocket, Bonnie has proven that she knows how to tell a compelling story.
Now she spends her time reading and making up stories for her two children at night. By day she is an English teacher who never puts the quiet girls next to the noisy boys and works hard to persuade her students that stories, whether they are the ones she teaches in class or the ones she tells to keep them from daydreaming, are better escapes than computers, phones, and social media.
Author website: http://www.bonniemhennessy.com/
3 copies of Twisted
2 $10 Amazon cards