Out of the Ashes has gone through many revisions to become the story it is now. Originally, I wanted to weave in one of the Icelandic Sagas; it never felt right, so those elements were removed (but many of them will appear in a prequel story!). It’s gone through point-of-view changes, structural changes, and characters have been added, removed, and re-named.
The most significant development came when I was working on the point-of-view changes, and realized I had never quite decided whose story I was really telling. Out of the Ashes is loosely based on The Wonderful Birch, which is an early version of the Cinderella story. Most tales of this type focus on the Cinderella/Princess character, and her “Happily Ever After” with her Prince. While a version of “Happily Ever After” does happen in Out of the Ashes, the real story I became interested in was the relationship between the sisters (The Wonderful Birch has only one half/step-sister character, not the two usually found in Cinderella). Once I fully decided the story primarily belonged to the two sisters, everything else quickly fell into place.
Without giving too many spoilers, here is a little “sneak peek” into the characters of the sisters in Out of the Ashes.
Ástríðr (nicknamed Ásta) is the “Cinderella/Princess” character. Physically, she’s fairly typical for her Nordic culture; blonde, blue-eyed, average build. Nothing extraordinary there! But she’s resilient and spirited, and is extremely loyal to the people she loves. She quickly puts herself in the role of protector to her sister, and would do anything she can to keep her safe – including marrying a man she just met.
Brynja is the “step-sister” character. In most versions of Cinderella, the step-sister is a junior version of the stepmother – ugly and cruel. Not so, here! Brynja is almost ethereally beautiful, and a quick learner, but can’t see her own value. She’s timid and easily frightened – but then who wouldn’t be, if her mother was an evil witch? She isn’t sure she can trust Ásta – or anyone, for that matter – and even when she comes to see her sister as an ally, she still can’t fully relax and tell her all of her secrets. She constantly spins with her drop spindle, both to please her mother with her diligence, and as a nervous habit.
Although they make their first appearance in Out of the Ashes, it’s not their last – their stories will continue in future re-tellings of other fairy tales. I hope you will enjoy reading their stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them!
Photo by Bekah Russom