Teatime Ten: Jessica Grey (Awake: A Fairytale)

Today, the Teatime Ten returns with an exclusive interview with Jessica Grey!  For those who may not know, Jessica is one-half of the brilliant team behind IndieJane.org (who've let me guest blog a time or two) and the lovely lady known as NarniaMum.

Now Jessica has published the first of her fairy tale retellings, "Awake: A Fairytale" - and was kind enough to join us here to tell us more about it!  Today's offering includes your choice of fully caffeinated Irish or English Breakfast tea and a Mardi Gras array of pancakes!

Welcome, Jessica!

Thanks so much for featuring me ;)

Tell us a little bit about "Awake."

Magic spells and enchanted beds are the last things on Alexandra Martin's mind when she sees Luke Reed on the first day of her summer internship. But when Alex finds a real Sleeping Beauty she discovers the truth hidden in fairytales and that a fae's ancient evil still holds power. Can Alex and her friends defeat the curse and finally realize it takes more than true love's kiss to bring you fully Awake?

To sum up: Magic. Gems. 850-Year-Old Princess. Hot guy. 
What drew you to the story of Sleeping Beauty?

Well, she is my favorite Disney Princess.  Actually, Prince Phillip is my favorite Disney Prince and I've written a whole treatise on why.  But even though I love the story, I hadn't given it much thought as something I might want to write. Then one day an image just dropped into my head - this amazing metal and gem bed with a sleeping person on it.  That image eventually became Awake.  While I didn't set out to write a Sleeping Beauty story, I was drawn question of whether we are powerless to affect our fate - it excited me to think of the roles being reversed - how fun it would be to have the heroine realize that she was more powerful than she knew.

Recently, we've had a slew of modernizations of fairy tales.  Why do you think this trend has caught on?  What do fairy tales tell us today? 

The fairy tale modernization trend seems to come around every decade or so with varying degrees of popularity.  I was lucky enough to read authors like Robin McKinley when I was young and now I am thrilled to see some of these stories once again getting the recognition they deserve.  It's either feast or famine, though, I can't believe there are two different Snow White movies coming out this year. It kind of boggles the mind, but I'm prepared to give them each a chance!  I think the t.v. shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time are both brilliant.  Although they are extremely different takes, I think they are both valid and well written and I'm thrilled they are both on at the same time! 

There is a reason that these stories have remained popular for so many centuries.  The serve to condense good and evil, along with every possibly human character trait, into easily identifiable and relatable stories.  We can understand them as children, and as adults we can see the subtleties that we may have missed when we were younger.  I do think that the popularity of fairy tales is cyclical, but I also think it has to do with uncertain times.  Fairy tales offer glimpses into the human condition but still allow us to have good and bad guys...even when the roles are reversed or tweaked in fun post-modern stories, they always seem to retain a measure of that battle of good versus evil.

What did you find was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel, and why?

Starting!  I usually get a really strong visual image of a specific scene and then build my whole story around that.  In this case, it was the image of Sleeping Beauty's bed, actually the scene I am including at the end of this post.  The image was so strong it was burned onto my brain and is described in the book just the way I saw it first, probably at least six years ago.  It sat in my head for years before I finally started working a bit on it in November 2010, but I didn't really get started writing the book until March of last year.  Things that kept me from working on it - working, doing infertility treatments, then having two babies within 14 months of each other and moving across country...basically life!  However, once I got started it poured out of me.  I was done with the first draft in about two and a half months.

What were five discoveries or surprises you made on the road to independent publication?

a)  The fact that most people think you chose to self-publish because your manuscript was rejected by everyone and their grandmother.  I've never even submitted a novel TO be rejected.  Self-pubishing was something that spoke to my annoyingly independent "I'll do it the hard way and reinvent the darn wheel if I want to" personality.

b)  How amazingly supportive the self-publishing and indie/small press publishing community really is!  We see examples of this all the time on IndieJane and it's fabulous.

c)  Knowing people who do stuff is really handy.  I already knew this, but honestly guys, make friends with other artists...graphic designers, musicians, etc.  It's enriching in general, and it honestly makes it easier to get stuff done when people around you know what they are talking about and share your passion!

d)  I'm not going to lie, sometimes there is a stigma attached to self-publishing.  I always thought it wouldn't bother me.  But whenever the issue is brought up, or someone says something derogatory about self-publishing, I have an instinctive, and luckily internal, defensive reaction.  I've learned to not beat myself up over the reaction, let myself have it, and then move on to being awesome and positive.  

e)  I already knew that I was kind of a control freak, and that I would rather do most things myself (any experience in college group projects will convince most decent students that doing it yourself is the way to go), but it is surprised me how much I've enjoyed it!  The resources are out there, putting out a quality product is easier than it ever has been before.  

You're a Mom, a blogger, an author, and a publisher!  How do you balance your home and literary life?  What suggestions do you have for other Moms?

Um...balance? Moi?  It can be really hard.  When I'm up to my eyeballs in potty-training disasters I sometimes wish I could just hide away in a  corner with a coffee and my laptop...and when I head out to the coffee shop to write and my two year old looks at me with huge, fat tears running down his face and says "Mama, don't go do writin!'" the mom guilt is overwhelming.  Luckily, I know he's fine after about three minutes so I don't have to wallow in the guilt (although some days I do!).  In a weird way, the fact that I can't write every day helps motivate me.  I can think over a scene in my brain for days while I'm at home (I find it is best if I actually leave to write), and then once I actually do get to sit down with it it flows better because I've thought it out so much.  It also helps me not waste a lot of my writing time, so I get a lot done in a short amount of time. 

My advice for other moms is: If you want to do it, do it!  You can't wait to "find the time" cause there will always be something else you can fill your time with.  You have to take the time, forcibly.  And sometimes that means letting something else go.  But even if you can only find an hour a week it is still an hour a week you weren't spending on writing, or whatever your chosen art form, before.  It's amazing what you can do when you are motivated....which I keep reminding myself when looking at my dusty workout dvds.
The Trailer for "Awake"
You may be best known for your work on IndieJane.  But "Awake" is not Austen paraliterature!  Would you say there's any overlap between the two genres?

It's kind of cool to think I'm "known" for anything at all!  My mother claims I'm best known for talking through movies, so it was fun to tell her "no, I'm known for Indie Jane, Emily said so."  I love working on IndieJane and I adore Austen paraliterature.  My next novel actually is Austenesque (although I have to put my own postmodern spin on it of course, too many watchings of The Princess Bride when I was young!), but I have always loved fairy tales  - both the originals and adaptations.  I do find that there is some overlap when writing something that is fantasy based and something that is Austen based because to me at least, they are BOTH fantasy!  Although, Austenesque novels are usually set in the Regency era, an actual historical time period, they are focused on a world that we are so far removed from that it might as well be magical.  The difference is, if you're writing your own fantasy world you make the rules, whereas in historical novels the rules are made for you.  Either way, it is important to honor the rules - to keep your world true to itself.

Let's say you're spending a night out with one of your favorite characters from "Awake.  Who is it and what do you do?

I'm going to have to cheat and pick two characters!  My heroine, Alex, is wonderful, but (at least at the start of the book) she might be a little bit too shy and reserved to really make for a fun "night out."  Her friend and fellow intern, Becca Ward, however, is spunky and a bit snarky.  I think they compliment each other well, and with Becca along Alex would definitely have a better time.

Would you care to give us a 2-3 paragraph sample from "Awake"?  Lead us into and out of the scene, please!

So our intrepid heroine has just arrived at the museum she interns at, looking for her advisor and the artifacts they are supposed to be  receiving.  She doesn't find her advisor, but she does find an amazing gem encrusted four poster bed that has just been uncrated...
A soft sound interrupted Alex’s rapid thoughts. She wasn’t alone. She had been so entranced by the bed itself that she hadn’t noticed there was someone actually on it—sleeping on it, in fact.
At first Alex thought the sleeping figure, like the bed, was covered with fine cobwebs. As she looked closer she saw that it wasn’t cobwebs draping over the figure but hair – foot after foot of sandy-colored hair streamed from the sleeper’s head and over its face and body, moving gently as the figure breathed in and out. The hair wasn’t growing just out of the sleeper’s head, but from the face as well–a beard that would have done Rip Van Winkle proud flowed down to well past the knees. And that is when Alex figured out that she didn’t have a sleeping beauty on her hands, but an enchanted sleeping man.
As Alex stared at the figure in shock, trying to calculate how long it would take for that much hair to grow, the sleeping man emitted a soft snore. Alex jumped back at the quiet sound, trying to stifle her slightly hysterical giggles. She may not know much about fairytales, but she was pretty sure that enchanted sleeping princes weren’t supposed to snore.
And coming out of the scene...she figures out who is on the bed! And it's someone she knows!

You can actually read a bit more of this scene on the site www.fairytaletrilogy.com.  I've got several samples from Awake available there.
What's next for Jessica Grey?

Hopefully quite a lot!  I am currently completing Attempting Elizabeth, a novel about a grad student who finds she can jump into characters in Pride and Prejudice.  I hope to have it out in September of this year.  I also am right in the middle of a sequel to Awake (although each book is stand alone) called Atone: A Fairytale, that features Becca Ward and is a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.  I hope to have that one out by this time next year.
Thanks so much for joining me!

Thanks so much for having me for your Tea Time Ten, Emily!
 Jessica Grey is the author of "Awake: A Fairytale" and the editrix of IndieJane.org.  You can learn more about her at her official site.

You can also connect with Jessica via Twitter and Facebook. "Awake" is available through Amazon.


  1. Emily, thank you so much for having me for your Tea Time Ten!

  2. I enjoyed the interview, Emily. Good luck with "Awake", Jessica!

  3. Thank you, Shannon!


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