This week I’d like to welcome author and book coach Andrea Lundgren, who is sharing with us an excerpt from her wonderfully funny book, But Kisses Never Hurt Me: A Retelling of Sleeping Beauty. (I just read this book recently, and can personally recommend it as a summer reading list must-have!)
What if Briar Rose and Aurora were two different people, one the princess, the other her decoy…
And what if the prince loved no one but himself…
In this retelling of the tale of Sleeping Beauty, a kingdom is on the verge of a coup, and it will take a journalist and the son of a con-man to save them from the evil treachery of the princess’ aunt…and to save the princess from the curse of a swift and memorable death.
All they have to do is make sure the real princess never pricks her finger on a spindle…how hard could that be?
Enjoy this excerpt from But Kisses Never Hurt Me:
“How shall I start?” he asked, taking a seat in one of the best chairs in the office—my boss had sent it over especially for him.
“Well, you could start with your name and occupation, and then just state the major events of your life.” I wasn’t sure why this fellow had been sent in. Usually, historical documentation interviewees were older men and women who reminisced their way through their lives…and usually, they were already significant, historically speaking: leaders in industry or agriculture, notable nobles, that sort of thing.
“Right,” Mr. Collier said, leaning back in his chair. He stared out the window at the busy marketplace below us and began. “Let’s see. Well, you know my name already, and my occupation is…well, I’m not sure what you’d call it. I kind of do whatever happens to come my way.”
I looked up in alarm. Her highness had sent a wandering vagabond in for an interview? I cleared my throat. “Well, what makes you different from other people? Where did you grow up? Who were your parents?”
“Oh, my father is actually a very notable citizen. You see, once upon a time…”
“This isn’t a fairy tale, Mr. Collier, this is a historical piece. Could you be a little more specific?”
“I’m sure you can add the pertinent historical details in an appendix or something. I’d have to look up the dates anyways…it would have been about twenty years ago or so? No, longer…the princess is twenty now. Anyways, once upon a time, in our fair kingdom, our king and queen were in need of an heir.”
“Technically, that isn’t true. There is always an heir to the throne.”
“Okay, they were in need of a direct heir to the throne. Better?”
I just sighed and dipped my quill in the ink again…and hoped I had enough patience to make it through this interview.
“Just pretend you are telling the story of your life to a group of children,” my gopher neighbor said, his head popping around the corner this time.
“Thank you, but I believe I have everything under control here,” I said.
Ignoring me, he added, “The beginning is always my trouble, too.”
“Thanks for the tip…”
“Digby, sir. Benjamin Digby.”
“Could we return to the interview?” I asked, wishing I had an office with soundproof walls and a door.
“Sure. Okay…tell it like I’m talking to a group of children.”
I didn’t appreciate the implication to me or to our readers, but he just closed his eyes in thought and said, “Once upon a time, the king and queen had no children. They tried everything to have a child, which is where my father comes in.” I noticed he was still facing Mr. Digby; apparently the sight of paper and quill were too much for him. Fine. As long as we got through this.
Mr. Collier continued. “My father was a brilliant salesman. My mother says he could find a way to sell a broken fence for a profit. Anyway, he saw this as a great opportunity to make some money and help his monarchs. When word got out that the king and queen were looking for means to help them have a child, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly. He researched the matter, working with apothecaries, and he came up with all kinds of potions, lotions, relics and other ‘fertility enhancers.’ However, he knew that if he came in with all of them at once, he’d be expected to recommend one, and if that recommendation produced no results, their majesties wouldn’t buy any more of them—not to mention the possibility of being imprisoned for false advertising. So he came up with an alternative marketing scheme. He would disguise himself, go to the court, persuade the king and queen that his product was infallible, and then sell it to them. If and when that particular product didn’t work, he’d come up with another disguise, go back to court, and extol the virtues of an entirely different product. The system worked beautifully, and, in the end, they both got what they wanted: he made a fortune, and they had a child—a fine, healthy baby girl.”
“You realize that, by your own statement, your father is guilty of extortion and fraud, not to mention operating at least one business under a false name?” I asked.
“No accusations were ever made, and their majesties were pleased with his services to the kingdom. They needed something to believe in, and my father provided it. Besides, this way they ended up supporting a local businessman instead of a bunch of international salesmen with imported products. As I said, everyone got what they wanted.”
“Technically, most royal families don’t want a baby girl, but after not having any children for so long, I’m sure they were happy with anything,” Digby said.
“Exactly. Besides, the king’s much younger sister, Malia the Magnificent…”
“As she styles herself…”
“Right, as she styles herself—I certainly don’t think she’s magnificent—was the next heir, and everyone was delighted to put some distance between her and the throne.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” the head of office inventory said as he walked into my cubicle, his arms full of paper. He plopped a stack on my desk, saying, “Thought you might need some more.”
“Thank you.” I held my quill suspended over the inkstand, waiting for him to leave.
He didn’t. Instead, he sat on the edge of my desk and said, “I remember when Malia was born. At the time, we didn’t know what we’d got, so everyone rejoiced. That was before she tried to poison her brother’s oatmeal at the age of seven. Of course, we never printed that story: we hushed it up as best we could. Did your father get to attend the royal christening ceremony?”
“He did, actually. As one of the guests, he was there when all the nobles came to present their gifts to the princess.”
“Actually, quite a few nobles didn’t come,” I said, hoping to get the man to be more accurate and also remember he was talking to me.
“Yes, but they sent presents in their stead, which, depending on the noble, was sometimes considered a double blessing…”
“Oh, so true,” said the head of inventory.
Mr. Collier continued. “The fairies of the kingdom came, along with the king’s council members, and King Roderigo, the ruler of…where’s he from again?”
“Hobarth?” Digby suggested.
“Actually, it’s the Sovereign Nation of Southern Rentaria,” I muttered to myself. Northern Rentaria was a separate nation ever since King Paulo had divided the neighboring country between his two sons three generations back.
“Anyway, rumor has it that this was when he arranged for our new princess to marry his son and heir, young Alfred, and eventually unite the two kingdoms…once King Roderigo and our own king die.”
“What exactly did happened at the palace that day?” the head of inventory asked. “No news journalists were allowed there except for our editor. The king said journalists were as bad as paparazzi and made him nervous.”
Before Mr. Collier could answer him, I asked, “Does this really pertain to our interview? We’re supposed to record the events of your life…and unless I much mistake the matter, you aren’t that much older than the princess…”
“Eight years difference, actually. And, yes, this has to do with my life. It has a lot to do with my life…because it greatly affected the princess’ life.”
At this rate, he could argue that as a subject of the king and queen, everything about them and the Princess Aurora affected his life. “Really, Mr. Collier, I fail to see…”
“Bear with me, Briswold; I’ll come to me eventually.” Turning back to the other fellow, he said, “To answer your question, Mr. …”
“Connors, sir. Just Connors.”
“Alright. To answer your question, Connors, that day each guest came forward and presented the princess with a gift—thankfully, the child slept though the entire ordeal—I mean ceremony. Prince Alfred presented the child with a beautiful gold and jeweled ring, which had apparently been his mother’s. Never mind that the princess couldn’t wear it until recently, even if she wanted to…”
“It was the thought that counted,” Digby volunteered.
“Right. Finally, the fairyhood began to bestow their gifts upon the child. Now at that time, the kingdom had about thirteen resident fairies, but only four of them came. The other nine were unavailable.”
“Three were on a pilgrimage, four were engaged as guest lecturers at Great Fairy College, and the last two were otherwise occupied,” I said.
“I have it on good report that those last two were in the middle of a fairy-style argument,” Mr. Collier said. “And what with their wands and special powers, those can go on for days—and woe to the person who tries to speak to them when they are arguing. So the four fairies, after much deliberation over who should give what, came forward to present their gifts to the princess. The first fairy gave her beauty beyond that of her peers, the next gave her a lovely singing voice, and the third grace in movement and dance. The last one was just about to give her gift when Malia the Magnificent deigned to bestow—I should say inflict—her youthful presence upon the company.”
“And that was when the threat to the kingdom was pronounced,” I said, desperate to get some summarization going. My first quill was starting to crack, and he hadn’t even introduced himself in his story.
I started writing books about eight years ago after failing to find a particular type of story on the shelves of my library—stories with adventure, romance, and humor, with a touch of a classical vocabulary. Since then, I have written historical fiction and science fiction/fantasy novels (I’m just beginning the search for a publisher). But Kisses Never Hurt Me is the first of my eBook novellas and my first published work.
I live in Washington State with my husband and our two sons, and I enjoy discussing all things writing, including its philosophy, creation, and editing, along with reading a good book and gardening. You can connect with me at my website www.andrealundgren.wordpress.com, or through my Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts, or by using the Contact Me page.