Today I’m pleased to welcome Charlotte Babb to Off the Page, chatting about her new book Maven Fairy Godmother.
Charlotte Babb began writing when she could hold a piece of chalk and scribble her name–although she sometimes mistook “Chocolate” for “Charlotte” on the sign at the drug store ice cream counter.
When her third-grade teacher allowed her access to the fiction room at the school library, Charlotte discovered Louisa Alcott and Robert Heinlein, an odd marriage of the minds. These two authors have had the most influence on her desire to share her point of view with the world and to explore how the world might be made better.rlotte Babb began writing when she could hold a piece of chalk and scribble her name–although she sometimes mistook “Chocolate” for “Charlotte” on the sign at the drug store ice cream counter.
In the meantime, Charlotte has fallen prey to steampunk and the gears are turning…corset, bustle and magic, oh my! She brings to any project a number of experiences, including work as a technical writer, gasket inspector, cloth store associate, girl Friday, and telephone psychic.
She has studied the folk stories of many cultures and wonders what happened to ours. Where the stories are for people over 20 who have survived marriage, divorce, child-rearing, education, bankruptcy, and widowhood? Here. Charlotte loves Fractured Fairy Tales and writes them for your enjoyment.
Tell a little about yourself, what you do when you’re not writing, what are your aspirations for the future?
I live between Mundane and Cyberspace, working as a web designer for one college and teaching freshman comp for another college online. If I don’t have a keyboard in front of me, I must be on Netflix.
I love to watch movies, and my latest passion is steampunk. I’m just so hot in my red bustle dress, black corset, tea up fascinator, and mono-goggle. I’ve been designing fascinators and “thrallware” frippery for the donor who wants to remain discreet among the living. That gives my non-verbal artist some air time, and lets me buy fabulous junk at yard sales and the Goodwill store to deconstruct and recycle.
I am working on getting ready to retire in four years or so, and then I plan to write full time, traveling to science fiction and fantasy cons and perhaps teaching some writing classes on the side.
When and why did you start writing?
I started writing stories when I learned how to write, but when I first read the Little Women series by Louisa Alcott, in third grade, I fell in love with Jo March, and wanted to become a writer then. I was also reading Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, and every other science fiction writer in our elementary school library. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with it as she did, and ventured into teaching English (NOT good training for writers), painting crafts, and other pursuits. I began writing more seriously at 45, when my second husband died, and I got that “DO IT NOW” wakeup call.
If you could only read one book over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
I would probably read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I think it should be required reading, or maybe banned somewhere so people would actually read it. Heinlein certainly pegged the direction of our culture and where it is today. I think it’s as much the Great American Novel of the 20th century in the way that Huckleberry Finn is for the 19th century. I have noticed that none of the great filmmakers have had the intestinal fortitude to make Stranger into a blockbuster movie. That would certainly get protested and boycotted. It tells the truth.
Give us some backstory about Maven Fairy Godmother: Through The Veil, where and when did you write it?
I started writing this story when I developed a crush on a co-worker, who very kindly did not report me for harassment. I started to write stories about him as a wizard and me as a fairy godmother. Even in the stories, we never got together—romance is apparently not in my cards—but the stories were funny, and we both enjoyed them.
I wanted to write some fractured fairy tales, and I thought seeing them from the fairy godmother’s point of view would be funnier, since she was not quite as involved in the story as the other characters. If I had gotten the story written faster, I might have been the first to work this vein. Now I hope to ride the coattails of better-known writers, such as Mercedes Lackey, who have their own fairy godmother stories.
The primary difference between my stories and theirs is that my character is not a young woman, but a middle-aged one. The feelings don’t change with experience—you just recognize the mistake when you make it again. Boomer women make up the largest, wealthiest, and most invisible demographic in America. Why aren’t there any stories for us, and if there are, like the TV show Harry’s Law, they get cancelled.
What inspired your story?
I’ve always wanted to step through the Veil and escape reality. In fact, I told myself a story when I was a little girl, that if I crawled through a certain bush in my front yard, that I would come out in Faery. I never tried it, not so much because I was afraid it wouldn’t work, but because I was afraid I could not get back. I’ve never been very comfortable in Reality.
The idea of writing as a fairy godmother came to me when I said something about having a classroom full of toads and frogs who needed to be transformed into princes and princesses—I wished I could wave my magic wand and let them see who they could be.
What was your favorite part of Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil to write?
A scene from the Twilight Lounge is my favorite: Maven is already in a bit of trouble, and she’s trying to do what she was told, to sit in the Twilight and listen through her wand to her clients. She wants to have a bit of fun, and so transforms herself into a biker chick persona. The Lounge provides a Harley for her to use as a bar stool, but just as she gets settled in to practice this new skill, someone in persona as a Handsome Prince starts hitting on her. When she offers to turn him into a frog, he transforms himself in to a Frog Prince and says, “So you are into amphibians.”
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I have several projects in various stages. There’s the outtakes from the first manuscript that will probably be book four—no title as yet. The sequel, working title That Darn Maven, is plotted out, and I have copious notes for a third book, After Midnight. I have another set of stories to work on set in a science fiction world, but have only some world-building notes for that. I would like to play in the steampunk sandbox, and I’ve been doing historical research for that.
Are you a Pantser or Plotter? Why?
I aspire to be a plotter. Pantsing just takes too long. I am struggling a bit to know how to use the plot outline I have developed, but I’m still plugging away, when I’m not working on promotion. There’s a balance of knowing what to write, and letting the story come to me. I can always change the outline.
Do you have any tricks to your trade, bottomless coffee, a magic pen, a special muse?
I have a wonderful brainstorming partner in my daughter. She has wonderful ideas and can ask great questions about the ideas I describe to her. She is moving out of the house this month, however, to go to the far West to pursue her dream to be a freelance illustrator. I will have to keep up the minutes on our phones or get a lot better at texting.
Thank you Charlotte. Be sure to check out her book Maven Fairy Godmother:
Broke, busted and despairing over the mess her life has turned out to be, middle-aged Maven Morrigan is offered a job as a fairy godmother, a one-time-only last chance to make something of herself and make the world a better place.
Not knowing who to trust: her boss, her slithery familiar, or her own Bump of Direction, she has to find her personal power by relying on herself, her real world failures, and her sense of the absurd, to survive in this imaginary garden with real trolls in it so that her clients get their happily ever after.