Q&A with Shonna Slayton

by Shonna Slayton

Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: June 3rd 2014
Pages: 340
ISBN: 1622663403


Being seventeen during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dress is even tougher.
Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.


Interview with Shonna Slayton
Author of Cinderella's Dress

What made you want to write this story? What inspired you?

There were two story sparks for Cinderella’s Dress. One was for the dress; the other was for the 1940’s time period.

Browsing through the pictures books with my (then) young daughter, I saw a book by the same name, Cinderella’s Dress, and was drawn in by the cover illustration by Jane Dyer. It’s a drawing of a girl in a ball gown sliding down a banister. I immediately had the idea that Cinderella kept her dress and passed it down as a family heirloom. (The picture book is actually about the animals making the dress.)

The 1940s setting came from this quote from Service and Style by Jan Whitaker:

“Until the personnel shortage of World War II, department store window display staff were all male.”

This quote caught my eye because when I was in high school I worked in a sportswear store and had the opportunity to create a few window displays. It was so much fun, so why were women kept from doing this until the WWII era? *more fun research* It turns out there were several reasons, and I wanted to explore this time in history.

Mix those two ideas together in my brain, and out pops a YA novel, Cinderella’s Dress.

What was your favourite fairy tale growing up?

Confession time. I never read a lot of fairy tales when I was younger. I was a big mystery girl (Nancy Drew, and others.) I rediscovered fairy tales as an adult through the writings of Gail Carson Levine. I picked up a copy of one of her Princess Tales titles, and when I got to her retelling of the Princess and the Pea, I was hooked.

I think the most iconic part of Cinderella is the glass slipper, so why did you choose to focus on her dresses?

I’ve always wondered why the glass slippers didn’t disappear. I guess it bothered me that all the other magical items went *poof*, but not the slippers. What selective magic is this? And if the slippers could endure, why not the dress?

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Aunt Elsie was pretty demanding. She was originally going to be part of the Prologue, and then pass away during the trip to America, leaving poor Uncle Adalbert with the responsibility of explaining everything to my main character, Kate. As it turns out, Elsie was very much alive when I went to write the scene where Kate meets her uncle. I couldn’t believe it when I saw her standing in the hallway! So I rolled with it and wrote her in. She is dear to me, now. (I posted that original Prologue to a secret place on my website. Newsletter subscribers are given the password. Tempted?? You can subscribe here: http://shonnaslayton.com)

How much research went into this book?

Too much! LOL. It is so easy to get pulled into historical rabbit trails. The hardest part was reading all these tragic and heroic tales of WWII, and finding a balance of writing a more light-hearted American home-front story. But if you are reading along and wonder: Is this true? Or Is this a real thing? It probably is (outside of the obvious fairy-tale bits.) I keep several boards on Pinterest (Pinterest.com/shonnaslayton/) to help me keep my research straight. 1940s Homefront, 1940s New York, Poland, and of course, a Cinderella board.

If you could pick anyone, whom would you cast in a movie adaptation of Cinderella’s Dress?

I would like a cast of amazing unknowns! We debuts need to stick together.

I adored the strong family aspect of this book. Was that always your intention when writing this story?

Actually, when I first started writing, the story was going to parallel the traditional Cinderella tale a lot more—complete with evil stepmother and nasty stepsisters for Kate. But I had just finished a fairy-tale binge read and wanted to do something different. So as I was writing, I completely changed course. The more I wrote, the more the story became its own entity.

What’s the most challenging part of the writing process for you?

The first draft. Ugh. I’m so happy once that is over. It hurts my brain.

Why did you choose to write for YA?

I started out writing for YA (magazine articles) and then when I became a mom, my reading level went down to picture books, then chapter books. When my kids became more independent, I had time to write again, and started writing middle grade because I was surrounded by it. But then, when the Cinderella’s Dress idea hit, I was finding it difficult to keep it at the middle grade level. The content and voice kept creeping up into YA. So, I guess I’m back where I started.

 Lastly, what are you working on at the moment?

The sequel! (Likely titled Cinderella’s Shoes, out Fall 2015.) I did leave some threads hanging in case I would get a chance to write the rest of the story. This novel will have the characters going to post WWII Europe. In my mind, the two books are all part of one big thought. I’m excited to show my readers the full idea and I hope they think it’s as cool as I do!

About Shonna

Shonna Slayton finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. While writing Cinderella’s Dress she reflected on her days as a high-school senior in British Columbia when she convinced her supervisors at a sportswear store to let her design a few windows—it was glorious fun while it lasted. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona. You can visit her website at shonnaslayton.com

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