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Jun 04

Set in Stone by Kae Elle Wheeler

IMG_8486I’m happy to welcome Kae Elle Wheeler as my guest today.

Great to be here, Anna.

Writing the Prequel, after the fact, means keep your details straight.

The Alsace region of France is located on the eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland.  You might find this an odd spot to set a story, but I was dealing with several factors already created and established in my Cinderella Series of which only three books were planned, written, and now, released.  (I’m sure no one besides me has faced this issue!)

Factor number one: Since the series was basically “fairy tale” in nature, I felt as if I had more freedom in playing with some of the actualities. I needed a location that felt magical and isolated since the kingdom itself was imaginary. So I decided on “someplace” in the Pyrenees Mountains for the original three books. That allowed a tangible reference for snarky remarks like: “Her scream could likely be heard in Spain;” or in a kidnapping situation, “if the blackguard made it to Toulouse, all would be lost should they make it to the Mediterranean.” Setting an actual place helped in grounding the three stories for readers and for me.

Then I was asked to write a fourth. The story of Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother. I’d long since named the woman “Hilda.” But now I was reaching into a historical setting of my own making and forced to go further back in time.

Factor number two: The name “Hilda” is German which means “battle stronghold.” Something I didn’t realize in writing the first three books. Somehow the name just fit the evil stepmother to a “T.”

Alsace

Alsace

So here I was with this odd Germanic name, in a fairy tale series, pre-regency ensconced in the Pyrenees believing I’d completed my work. Somehow I had to make the story work with the information already established in the other three books (and by established information, I mean a Prequel). One that is not a fairy tale at all.  I began researching areas of France. Specifically along the Rhine to give credence to my leading character’s background. Germany, in the mid 18th century, was laid out more like territories or states if you will, located between, or part of, Prussia and northeastern France. Based on my timeline Hilda, or rather, Lady Hildegard Marit Benegoir, was the daughter of a Baron.

I wanted a setting that reflected several things. Her name, of course. But also, the people she grew up around. Some of the questions I asked myself were that of climate; surrounding nobility; education level. You see, her character in the original story was that she played down her daughter’s intelligence, but this fact plays a significant part in her background because she didn’t like studying. This played a significant part in the situation in which she finds herself. During this time period famine and poverty were rampant. The area was very poor, and her father used it to advantage. He was big dog. A truly cruel man.

But things were brightening up in 1763. Peace of Paris ended The Seven Years’ War and Hilda had fallen in love—with a completely unsuitable man. Infuriated, her father forces her in marriage to a man older than himself. (Ugh!)

This puts Hilda on a path of destruction through the next decade as her new husband is much like her father. (I feel obligated to let you know, that the evil stepmother’s story is not a happy one.) So while the story starts in the Alsace Region, it migrates to southern France near Avignon which today is well-renowned wine country. This issue involves:

Alsace life

Alsace Life

Factor number three: Somehow Hilda must end up in Prince Charming’s kingdom of Chalmers, you know, that little made up place in the Pyrenees? And logically getting her there has been s a huge challenge as she will live most of her married life in or around the southern portion of France.  Alas, that said, things are working out. For me, at least. After all, Hilda is Cinderella’s evil stepmother…Fine art photo of a woman in beauty scenery in black and white

Writers: All this being said, how do you determine your setting?

Readers: All this being said, does it matter to you where the story takes place?

Happy reading! ~~~ Kae Elle Wheeler

Website: http://kathylwheeler.com

Email: kathy@klwheeler.com

Currently available:
The Wronged Princess – book i
The Unlikely Heroine – book ii
The Surprising Enchantress – book iii

Coming September, 2014
The Price of Scorn – book iv, Cinderella’s evil stepmother

20 comments

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  1. Nancy Morse

    Hi Kae, I loved your post and always find it interesting to see how other writers get their stories to where they want them to go. I have never written a prequel, but I just completed the 2nd book in a series and that, in itself, was a challenge. I often choose my settings based on big events. War is always a biggie – the Revolutionary War, the French & Indian Wars, the War of 1812, the Crimean War, the Plains Indian Wars. As a reader, it matters to me where the story takes place, whether it’s a made-up place or a real one, as long as it’s not my own backyard.

    1. Kae Elle

      Thank you so much, Nancy. It is a challenge for sure.

  2. Ann Greenfield

    Very interesting Kathy. As a reader it doesn’t make a difference where the story is set as long as it fits the story and is believable. As a writer I want to ensure I have all the details and facts straight before I write so the characters are grounded in a place. Your Cinderella series is ‘magical’ and the characters come to life. We have all visited or seen pictures of Castles and know Europe had kings and queens, princesses and servants and evil step mothers. It’s not too far a jump to connect the dots, but in your series you make it east to do so by keeping the details straight. Looking forward to your next book. Annie

  3. Pamela S Thibodeaux

    Great post Kathy!

    I so admire folks who do this kind of research, of which I am NOT a fan.

    Good luck and God’s blessings
    PamT

    1. Kae Elle

      Thank you Pam. Hope you are doing well!

  4. Kae Elle

    Thanks Anne. You are always encouraging. Pioneers Rock!!!

  5. Melissa Keir

    It is hard when you go back and have to add to a setting that you already had done… I loved the post and it made me think about my own settings. I have a series written in my own hometown. I am vague about the timing so that I could play with some things but I wanted to be very specific about the hometown so that it tugged at the memories of readers.

    I wish we could just make things up at times but everything has to be grounded in our world building to make a good story.

    1. Kae Elle

      It is soooo true, Melissa. At first, I had them going to Switzerland, but once I started looking at the logistics in getting to the Pyrenees, I ran into problems, hence, the “southern portion of France”! In the end, it’s the characters who sell the story. But they can’t travel 300 miles in one day by carriage either.

  6. Diane Burton

    I am fascinated by your locale. My family is from there–about 4 generations back. I’ll have to read your book to learn more. :) Best wishes.

    1. Kae Elle

      Thanks, Diane. I’ll keep you posted. (September!!!)

  7. Jo Smith

    Good Job!

    1. Kae

      Thank you, Jo. Good to hear from you!

  8. Alicia Dean

    Hi Kae!!! Sorry I’m late responding. I meant to pop over yesterday, I promise I did. Wow…I’m your critique partner and even I didn’t realize what all went into your research for this story. Very impressive! I’ve never tried to write a prequel, but I can imagine it would be extremely difficult. I love the idea for this story, and love what I’ve read so far. Indeed, it is NOT a fairy tale. Best of luck, friend!

    1. Kae

      Thank you Alicia!!! It’s a LOT of work. Those book bibles big timers talk about? Yeah, I need one. Well, I do have my handy little spreadsheets.

  9. susan coryell

    Kae: Thanks for an interesting/informative blog. I am working on a series, too and find it difficult to know how much to refer back to and yet make the second book stand-alone. I cannot IMAGINE the difficulty of writing a prequel! But you’ve made it sound not only do-able but fascinating. Good luck with all your writing.

    1. Kae

      Thank you Susan. I agree on the series/stand alone thing. I have a second book in my Bloomintong Contemporary series, that just doesn’t quite fly as a stand alone. But it’s all a learning process. I appreciate your kind comments.

  10. Rose Gorham

    I love learning something new…thanks for sharing.

  11. Kae

    Thank you Rose.

  12. Reggi

    Hi Kae, So interesting to know the thought process of a writer and see how choices are made. Thanks.

    1. Kae

      Thanks for stopping by, Reggi.

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