Sunday, July 4, 2010

Interview: Carol Hassler

I'm delighted to have published Carol Hassler's first story! "GIngerbread Man" is an eerily delicious tale that shares some similarities with Charlotte Stein's "The Return." There is something about a man who is more than what he seems that is incredibly appealing. Carol's contribution to Fairy Tale Lust demonstrates the power of love... and desire.

What inspired you to retell this particular fairy tale?

A few years ago I had a very vivid dream and when I woke, I scribbled it down in the journal beside my bed.  Many of the elements of Gingerbread Man are still true to that dream: a grieving widow, a spice-choked kitchen and swift, desperate sex.  I knew I had to tell it eventually.  But how?  Dream logic almost never works in a sharable story. 

When I thought about turning my dream into something usable, I turned to the old stories of the gingerbread man.  In the children's story, the gingerbread man runs from each pursuer taunting, "you can't catch me," until he is finally defeated by a wily fox and a frightening river.  The story format was far too short for a fox-like enemy (and I wanted a happy ending), but the destructive threat that water posed caught at me and ultimately became both enemy and savior.

Beyond the gingerbread man (who was created, chased, then met his end in the river), I also nabbed elements from other fairy tales.  The most obvious is Pinocchio, where the character must do something unselfish to become real.  (In my story, husband David braves the rain to save his wife Emily from death by car.)  Anyone who's read any small number of fairy tales will also recognize the kiss as magical instrument, when Emily wakes her husband-sculpture with a kiss.

Are there any other fairy tales you’d like to see retold?  Why?

Twelve dancing princesses.  I have always loved this story about a band of sisters sneaking off and dancing every night in a mysterious subterranean kingdom. There's so much creative room in that tale.

If this is your first published story, share your path to publication.

I used to be dreadful about finishing stories.  Like many people, my hard drive and notebooks are littered with story fragments.  But recently I hit a crisis point.  I'd been talking a lot about wanting to write but not actually writing much of anything at all.  Around the time I saw the call for submissions to Fairy Tale Lust, I knew two things.  1) If I was going to seriously write, I had to write and send in a story for this anthology.  NO excuses. Otherwise, I decided, I was just a poser who needed to move on.  And 2) sexiness and gingerbread men were unforgettably intermingled after that dream I had and I knew that Fairy Tale Lust would be a terrific home for my story.

What authors have inspired, influenced or mentored you?

I have recently started reading Emma Holly's fabulous Demon books.  I'm a fan of Meg Cabot's flirty dialogue and Julia Quinn's Very Nice characters.  I love finding unique takes on the common supernatural, like the werewolves in Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia.  I even admire (in the astonished round-eyed way) Susanna Clarke's dissertation-like approach to storytelling in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  I'm always on the lookout for inspiration.

What is your writing routine like?

I light a candle, fill a glass of wine.  Turn on some music.  And then I'm ready to write.
Just kidding.

I'm busy and, as nice as it sounds, a routine has not yet happened.  Instead, I carry a variety of small to tiny moleskin notebooks everywhere I go and I cuddle up with my computer in the garden or in coffee shops after I have set down a basic story outline.  I write where I can, when I can.  I've learned that a break in a story can come at any time and if I don't write it down, it's lost. The biggest change I made since I set my personal ultimatum about a year ago is that once the story is outlined, I set myself a deadline to write and edit it, and then I send it out somewhere right away.

Do you write to music?  Did you have a song or soundtrack for your Fairy Tale Lust story?

If I do listen to music, it's usually because I need to jump start a writing session.  I begin with the same music I use to run.  My heart pumps and my fingers jump.  More importantly, the adrenaline kills my strong critique reflex.  I rock out until I get absorbed into the story, at which point the sound gets knocked down to nearly inaudible until the next writing lull.  Then up goes the volume ...

Why do you think erotic fairy tales are so popular right now?

I have adored myth and fairy tale for my entire life.  I see fairy tale references everywhere across genres so I'm more inclined to say that there are more erotic fairy tales because there is more erotica in general. 

What do you enjoy reading? Favorite authors? Favorite genres? Recommendations?

I love fantasy, science fiction, romance, pop-science and history books, and just about everything else.  I love authors who paint rich, strange worlds with a dose of humor, like Neil Gaiman.  Or who craft finely tuned, analytical tales, like Rosemary Kirstein.  I adore Laura Kinsale's romances, and any other romance that rolls off the usual track.  This week I finished reading the fascinating pop-science Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer.  It was fabulous!

Thanks, Carol!

You can follow Carol's thoughts on her Twitter stream at


  1. Carol, you're in luck! I have a erotic story based on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" coming out in The Mammoth Book of Threesomes and Moresomes! :-)

  2. Way to make that personal ultimatum work! Congratulations.

  3. Thanks, Jeremy! And thanks for the story mention, Dayle. I'll have to look for that one :)

  4. Hi Carol

    I love what you say about music and the way it kills your critique reflex. It sounds like a great way to let the story flow onto the page. Look forward to reading your story. :-)