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Monday, October 7, 2013

QUEEN OF THIEVES by Alethea Kontis

Into everyone's life must come a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel...and not the sexy kind.
Male or female, this innately selfish, borderline (or fully) psychopathic person is placed into our sphere by the universe because we need to learn a lesson the hard way. With luck, you've moved on and this person is no longer in your life, but what you learned will stay with you forever.

My Dirty Rotten Scoundrel taught me how to steal.

He was a writer, this jerkface, and a year of my own productivity was sacrificed to editing page after page of his drivel-filled documents. So blinded was I by the grand delusion of true love that I thought every phrase the pillock uttered was pure genius...despite the fact that he ultimately seemed to be telling the same tale again and again. I cherished the way he snuck in lines from his favorite songs or references to his favorite authors, some long since dead and gone and some not. My blissfully ignorant heart was sure he left them all in for me, these secret coded messages of our love scattered like breadcrumbs between the lines.

In reality, he was just stealing all this stuff and making it his own. Because he could. And his publishers never said a word.

One of the biggest challenges I faced when starting out as a baby-writer (literally--I was eight) was coming up with ideas that were NEW, stories that had never been told before. I never had any formal creative writing education, so I was not aware that there was no such thing as a "new" story, just my unique interpretation of events. I spent the first twenty-something years of my life forcing myself to think so far outside the box that I was in a different galaxy.

What I should have been doing was learning how to steal. Because the line between "plagiarism" and "homage" is a fine one...and one you need to become familiar with if you want to make writing your profession.

Many baby-writers start out writing fan fiction. I think this is a really great exercise that gives the writer a chance to find his/her voice without having to spend excess amounts of energy also creating a new universe.  Eventually, the writer learns enough to know what elements to change to separate it from the original intellectual property...or it organically changes so much on its own that it no longer resembles the Game of Twilight Wars universe on which it was originally based.

Coming at this line from the opposite direction is a lot more difficult because it feels SO MUCH LIKE STEALING. It leaves you feeling immoral and unjust and with the desperate need to take a hot shower and report yourself to the authorities. But you must force yourself to become comfortable enough inside your hand-me-downs to make them your own.

In my first published book, I retold the alphabet.

(If you're gonna start somewhere, go big or go home, right?)

In my teen novels, I retell the classic Grimm and Andersen (and a few others') fairy tales. I don't regurgitate the exact same sequence of events--though as they're public domain, I suppose I could. I prefer, instead, to fill in the blanks I feel the original authors left. Who was Henry, the beloved manservant of The Frog Prince? Where did Snow White obtain those iron shoes? Was Cinderella truly despised by her stepfamily, or was she just a lazy slob who refused to clean her room?

This is not plagiarism. These are my stories...new stories told to a new audience in a new millennium...but they are not original. They are the stolen bits I have collected to create my found art objects. I love them for what they are made of, and I love them for what they have become.

And, really, I owe it all to some no-count bastard.

Thanks, slimeball.

Bio: New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a goddess, a force of nature, and a mess. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, turning garden gnomes into mad scientists, and making sense out of fairy tales.

Alethea is the co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and penned the AlphaOops series of picture books. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines. She has done multiple collaborations with Eisner winning artist J.K. Lee, including The Wonderland Alphabet and Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome. Her debut YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and was nominated for both the Andre Norton Award and the Audie Award in 2013. Hero, the sequel to Enchanted, released on October 1st. 
Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea now lives in Northern Virginia with her Fairy Godfamily. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.
You can find Princess Alethea online at: www.aletheakontis.com.
How to pronounce "Alethea Kontis: -- http://www.teachingbooks.net/pronounce.cgi?aid=18395



Isabella Norse said...

I am one of the "baby writers" that got my start writing fan fiction. It was a perfect way for me to tell my stories without having to do any world-building. The positive feedback that I received from readers is what gave me the confidence to begin writing "original" stories.

However, the ideas for many of my original stories still have their roots in the fantasy and sci-fi video games that I love!

Asa Maria Bradley said...

Love this sentence!

"I thought every phrase the pillock uttered was pure genius..."

May steal it. ;-)