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.”
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:
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…
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
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