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