Picture This: A Visit With Elizabeth Blackwell

Today’s post by author Elizabeth Blackwell | @eblackwellbooks

We have a copy of Elizabeth’s novel, WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT, up for grabs today. See the entry form below for details.

Elizabeth Blackwell: photo credit Heidi Jo Brady

Elizabeth Blackwell: photo credit Heidi Jo Brady

Any parent of a daughter has at some point gotten dragged into the Princesses Debate: what message does it send when we glorify heroines in ball gowns who sing about waiting for their prince to come?

You can breathe a sigh of relief, because I’m not going to get into any of that. What I will do is make a proud stand in defense of Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty, which was the inspiration for my novel While Beauty Slept. Poor Princess Aurora is not on the royal A-list—she’s usually pushed off to the side in any Disney Princess lineup—and the movie she starred in was a flop when it was released in 1959. But it has a striking visual style, one that I found absolutely compelling as I watched the movie over and over with my young daughter. (It was her favorite Disney film for a while, which is not a choice most four-year-girls make—so I guess I owe her some thanks as well.)

Sleeping Beauty doesn’t look like your typical Disney movie. There are a lot of shadows and angular lines, and the villain, Maleficent, has a wonderfully creepy kind of magnetism. You can feel the damp stone of the castle walls and the eerie drama of that moment when Maleficent utters her curse. One day, I decided to sit through a making-of documentary at the end of the video, which explained that the artist who created the movie’s backgrounds and overall look, Eyvald Earle, had been inspired by medieval tapestries. An idea struck me: what if the whole story had been woven into a tapestry to commemorate events that really happened?

What if the whole story were true?

As I wrote While Beauty Slept, I wanted readers to have the same feeling I’d had while watching the movie: a combination of awe and unease, set in a castle that was both glamorous and terrifying. While my take on the Sleeping Beauty story is very different from the Disney version—and definitely isn’t meant for kids—the movie’s style and mood were a huge influence. Without Earle’s artistic vision, I never would have written this book.

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While Beauty Slept coverHistorical fiction at its best — The Brothers Grimm meets The Thirteenth Tale 

I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told. And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale.

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Elizabeth Blackwell, author of While Beauty Slept, holds a B.A. in History from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The Wall Street JournalLadies’ Home JournalParentingChicago magazine, and the Chicago Tribune, and she is also the author of Frommer’s Chicago guidebook. She spent four years as an editor at North Shore, a lifestyle magazine for the Chicago suburbs, and wrote a weekly small-business column for www.TheStreet.com. In 2006, she won Harlequin’s “Everlasting Love” writing competition, and her first novel, The Letter, was published by Harlequin in 2007, followed by The House of Secrets (Harlequin, 2009).

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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20 Responses to Picture This: A Visit With Elizabeth Blackwell

  1. Anna February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    So stink in’ excited for when this one comes up in my to-read queue!

  2. Denise February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This may need to be my next book club pick.

  3. Rhonda February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Top of my wish list!!

  4. Normandie February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What fun!

  5. Lana February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    She sounds like a good writer!

  6. glynis February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I always loved Sleeping Beauty best! Looks like a great read!

  7. Paula Dolin February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Would love to read this book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  8. Katherine Jones February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I enjoyed this enchanting novel and recommend it!

  9. Jennifer Huelsebusch February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds great!!!

  10. Nancy February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    “The truth is no fairy tale.” What a great quote. I’d love to read this. I’ve always had a fondness for Sleeping Beauty, the original fairy tale, the Disney version, Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End. The narrative voice is intriguing and seductive. Top of the TBR!

  11. Kathleen Basi February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    That sounds like a great book. Count me in!

  12. Judie McDonald February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What an interesting story about the Sleeping Beauty movie and it’s inspiration for your book.

  13. Christine L. February 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’m looking forward to reading this retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales (more so even than to the release of “Maleficent” in May 2014). Thank you for sharing the inspiration behind the novel.

  14. Susan Gruener February 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I always get amazed at how authors choose the titles for their books. I love this title and the excerpt was intriguing. I’d love to win this book! Is their anything more enjoyable than getting into a good book… um, nope!
    Thanks!

  15. Sandra February 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I didnt realize Sleeping Beauty was a flop when it came out but it is not surprising because it is a totally different look for much of the movie. I love seeing old stories from a different angle so this should be fun.

  16. Gwyn February 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This book sounds interesting, I am looking forward to reading it.

  17. Janet R February 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Ooooh! This sounds like one I’ll have to read! Thanks for your generous giveaways!

  18. Bonnie K. February 25, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love how Elizabeth Blackwell came up with the idea for While Beauty Slept. I’m adding to my to-read list.

  19. josey bozzo February 25, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    oooh, love this concept! Can’t wait to read it.

  20. Marie March 1, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Fun! I love this idea.

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