Guest blogger: Rowena Cherry

The myth made me do it….

There’s nothing new under the sun. What goes around comes around. If you live long enough, you can be original. Every story ever told has already been told (in other words, there are only two, or twenty, or thirty-six plots –depending on which plotters’ manual you prefer– and someone has already explored them.).

Fairy tales, the Arabian Nights, Arthurian legends and classical myths are popular inspirations for authors today (including me), just as they’ve always been since the days of the unknown author of Beowulf, and of Chaucer, and of Shakespeare.

By the way, one of my best friends is the niece of the late Sir Richard Burton (the adventurer and formidable swordsman who translated the Kama Sutra). She’s quite a bit older than I am.

“Fractured” fairy tales were the fashion when I was a schoolgirl. In those chaste days, the big surprise was that Red Riding Hood shot the bad wolf. Last year, fractured fairy tales were all the rage all over again in my daughter’s school. Now, Red Riding Hood is streetwise, and talks to all the animals… as in “Hoodwinked” (the cartoon).

Regency faery tales were hot (in more ways than one) fifteen to twenty years ago.

Moreover, these timeless tales of magic, morality and universal truths adapt very well to most genres of Romance fiction. Obviously, in Fantasy the faeries may or may not have wings, and the Elves may be tall and royal and very Legolas.

In Erotica the dragons may have the hots for smooth-skinned maidens, and the dungeons come with beds. In Paranormal and Goth and Dark the old morality of the fairy tales turns on its head, and the horrors become the heroes.

I was chatting on the radio with Cindy Spencer Pape last weekend, and I fastened with great tenacity and glee on a thorough modern twist she’d given to one of her werewolf heroes in “Curses”. He’d had a vasectomy, but there was a problem.

Oh, joy! I love that stuff. Biology is one of the three sciences. My idea of sci-fi romance embraces biology with enthusiasm…. that, and forensics. Cindy’s werewolf had preternatural powers of regeneration, so his body re-grew the vas deferens, and he became potent with alarming rapidity, and got someone into trouble.

To think I thought it was cooool when a vet (Josh Artemeier, “Pet Hates”) told me that werewolves can’t –or shouldn’t—eat chocolates! It isn’t good for their tempers or their irritable bowels.

And then, not last, and not least, (I haven’t touched Time Travel, or ghostly cowboys, or Wagon Train in outer space –ie Battlestar Galactica) there’s science fiction romance and futuristics, which is what I write.

Which myths have you retold, or seen used well?

The myths from which I’ve borrowed include The Abduction of Persephone (Forced Mate), Helen of Troy (Mating Net and also Knight’s Fork), Perseus and the Gorgon’s Head (Knight’s Fork), Perseus and Andromeda (Knight’s Fork), Tantalus (Knight’s Fork). There are more, of course.

As for which myth made me do what…?

Can you guess?

The operative myth was the legend of Helen of Troy. The problem with a Helen of Troy heroine is that New York Romance editors tend to frown on a happy ending for adulterers. How to get around that? She could have been entranced… but the Stockholm syndrome doesn’t make the hero look good. She could have been abused.

That has so been done!

So, I made her husband, the King, genetically incompatible, gave him really strange genitalia (but in the best possible taste), and obliged her to go after a specific public figure to ask him to be her sperm donor.

Imagine. Without putting names or faces to any particular world leader, just suppose the world’s paparazzi happened to be staking out the gentleman’s hotel room. Imagine the scandal…

Rowena Cherry

About Michelle Diener

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. To find out more about her and her novels, you can visit her website.
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36 Responses to Guest blogger: Rowena Cherry

  1. Michelle says:

    Rowena, I love the way you’ve used the myth of Helen of Troy in such a fresh new way! I love fairy tales, myself, and just wrote a fantasy based on an old Scandanavian fairy tale. To me, fairy tales are the exploration of the inner psyche, and really satisfying to use in my work.

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Rowena, that sounds like such a fun book! I love Michelle’s fairy tale book. I tried plotting a Puss N Boots story, but the plot didn’t work and I never wrote it.

    As for your question about myths used well, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter has a lot in common with Cinderella.

  3. Liz Kreger says:

    Terrific blog, Rowena and a thinker. I don’t think I consciously use fairy tales in my work … since I write sci fi/romance and tend to make things up as I go, but you are so right in that every tale has been told and re-told. I find it fascinating how each author can take a fairy tale and “make” it their own.

    Now that’s art. 😎

  4. Michelle,

    Thank you very much for your kind words. Ah, yes!!! The Scandinavian tales. I’ve always been fascinated by Thor, Odin, Loki, and runes, of course.

    I used rune-telling in Forced Mate. In one scene, influenced by the reprehensible behavior of the Roger Moore Bond in “Live and Let Die” I had the hero produce a complete set of Odin’s Runes, all showing the runic equivalent of “The Lovers” to trick the heroine.

    Whether the heroine was fooled… I leave for my readers to discover.

    However, I’ve never thought of Thor in quite the same way since learning a limerick about a lisping Thor.

    Thor the god of thunder
    Was riding on his filly.
    “I’m Thor!” he cried.
    The horse replied,
    “Then where’th your thaddle, thilly?”


    “If you’ve made up your mind to impale someone, do it with conviction.”
    ~Rhett, Knight’s Fork

  5. Edie,

    You are right. The Harry Potter books make excellent use of fairy tales. When I was young, I used to read school stories, too, such as Billy Bunter, the St.Trinians series, and also The Chalet School.

    Best wishes,

    Rowena Cherry

    “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”
    Thor-quentin, Knight’s Fork by Rowena Cherry

  6. Hi, Liz,

    Thank you for your kind words. SFR is such fun! I love the intellectual challenge of writing it, and also the virtue of not accidentally defaming anyone or their ancestor.

    Best wishes,

    Nice legs. Shame about the… morals.
    ~’Rhett about Electra, Knight’s Fork by Rowena Cherry

  7. Rebekah E. says:

    Thanks for the great blog. I love fairy tales. My favorite is the Tenth Kingdom. I love how they used all of the fairy tales and twisted them, making it one big story.

  8. Brenda ND says:

    I love fairy tales too. It’s nice to know people like you are still spinning them. Your books sound interesting. I’ll be adding them to my To-Read pile. Thanks.

  9. Rebekah E.

    Thank you for the tip. I’m not familiar with the Tenth Kingdom, but will look out for it. It sounds like a cool concept.

    Best wishes,

    Rowena Cherry
    “Your Majesty, would you mind faking an orgasm while I watch, so I know what to expect…?”
    ~’Rhett, Knight’s Fork by Rowena Cherry

  10. Raz Steel says:

    Rowena, that’s a very interesting idea. Helen has always fascinated me and somehow you do have to reach a happy ending. Even if the king obliged her to go after a donor, he surely didn’t expect her to fall in love with another man? I’ll be interested to read how you work around that. I’m sure it makes for a great story!

    Do you believe there are a limited number of plots or can you, or any author write an original?

  11. Thank you very much, Brenda ND.

    My goodness, I just clicked your link, having seen that it was a live one.

    What a great blog, and what a fantastic (and eclectic) taste you have in opening lines.

    My friend and colleague, Emily Bryan has quite a good one for her romance, “Distracting The Duchess”

    “I’m going to have to shorten his willy.”

    Knight’s Fork begins in a similar vein (groan) with “Carpe Scrotum. Seize life by the testicles.”

  12. spyscribbler says:

    Wow, that twisted my brain around! LOLOL! That’s great! I love the way your imagination works, Rowena!

  13. Hello, spyscribbler,

    Thank you for your very kind comment. Gosh, I hope you get some sleep soon. (I clicked your link and found your blog!)

    Since you adore cats, have you entered Jacquie Rogers’ pet pictures contest at ?
    Pets can be dogs, cats or equines. Not a lot of people seem to have pet horses, ponies, donkeys, mules.

    If you are in Canada, are you a member on ? If so, please befriend me!

    Thanks again for checking out my musings here today!

    Rowena Cherry

    Have you got ginger nuts, Sir?” Grievous asked.
    “You can see he hasn’t!” Thor-quentin sneered.

    Knight’s Fork by Rowena Cherry

  14. Hello, Raz,

    Congratulations on signing with Dorchester. Has anyone told you about the Forums, yet?

    There’s a place for every genre. Horror is by far the most popular, but sometimes the hard men of horror and thrillers stride purposefully onto the Romance discussions to stir things up with the ladies.

    It can be a lot of fun.

    Now… as for your question, which I’ve been saving, because it’s going to be fun to answer. I think Ronald Tobias has a point about there being only Twenty Master Plots.

    Master is the caveat. One can have infinite variations on a theme, and the possibilities multiply when you have a sub-plot or two, as well.

    Plot is another qualifier. There are endless possibilities depending on which characters you put in charge of the plot.

    Since you are a guy, I can make an auto-industry analogy.

    Say one American company has 10 brands. Each of the 10 brands may have 5 car lines (models). Each brand has a 2-door or 4-door model. 5 or 6 color options. Stick shift or automatic. Traction control. Cloth or Leather. Think of those options… right down to white wall tires, and towing option.

    My bottom line in reply to your two-part question is Yes! And, Yes!


    Rowena Cherry

    Unlike male porn stars, he did not need a goatee in his groin to trick the eye into thinking there was more of him than…met the eye.

    Rhett, Knight’s Fork by Rowena Cherry

  15. Fedora says:

    Hi, Rowena! Very fun to read your post today–I’ve always been a fan of mythology, and it’s a joy to read a well-written fresh take on a classic! My brain’s blanking on some grown-up stuff, but we recently enjoyed a kid-targeted story called The Wolf Who Cried Boy (Bob Hartman). It’s always good when everyone gets a good giggle 🙂

  16. Edie Ramer says:

    Rowena, I love all your fun lines from Knight’s Fork! Now I have to buy it. 🙂

  17. Belinda says:

    This is a really fun topic! I tend to use a lot of mythology and folklore to either plot, or just to get me started. I mostly write sci fi and fantasy, and love to incorporate mythology into most of my writing.

    In Soul Keeper, the premise of the series is that creatures of myth really do exist, and they hide in plain sight. Dorian is a Centaur, his race descended from Chiron. The heroine, Phaedre, is an Avian, an angelic, but potentially deadly species.

    Another character is revealed to be the son of Maui, the Hawaiian trickster god, and the Native American Deer Woman is referred to and will be used later in the series.

    And in my Black Planet series, I borrow heavily from Chinese Taoist mythos, one recurring character is thought to be hsien, or an immortal.

    World culture is just overflowing with great stories to inspire us. Neil Gaiman makes great use of folklore and mythology in several of his books, notably American Gods and Anansi Boys. And I can’t get away without mentioning Sherrilyn Kennyon’s Dark Hunters.

  18. Fedora!
    How lovely to hear from you. I do like the reversal of expections in the title of The Wolf Who Cried Boy!

    My favorite, witty, YA paranormal is “Dragon’s Bait” by Vivian Vande Valde.

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry

    “Here’s the problem. I am not the sexual equivalent of an espresso machine…..”
    Rhett to Electra, Knight’s Fork by Rowena Cherry

  19. Edie,

    I am glad my quotable quotes worked for you. Thank you so much for your support!

    Rowena Cherry

    “If you neglected to warn Djetth beforehand that you were going to shoot him down, Your Highness, he may consider you in breach of contract…”

    ~’Rhett, Insufficient Mating Material by Rowena Cherry

  20. Belinda,

    Thank you for your comment and for the recommendations. The idea of hiding in plain sight is brilliant in its simplicity, and we all know that it is plausible.

    Centaurs both intrigue and baffle me with the logistics of their love life. I think, if I were to do Centaurs (which I won’t) I’d make the front set of legs human, and only the back legs equine.

    Then, my Centaur could have two tally-whackers (experiment to see if I can get past the censorship bot) but if I did… I can quite see that it would not be a straight romance.

    Rowena Cherry

    “Sweetheart–” Djetth sighed. He was neither smooth nor a bastard. “I guess I know what you want me to say. Here’s the problem: I’d probably be lying.”

  21. Helen has nothing over Queen Electra-Djerroldina. But the real difference is the weak-willed Paris vs. the morally strong ‘Rhett. LOL. Paris would’ve donated his sperm and the war would have been entirely different. ‘Rhett, well, he wants more than to ejaculate into a bottle.

    Most of my stories come from myth, as that was my college (and growing up) field of study, along with poli sci–much the same thing. lol.

    When Mules Rush In (a short story published in Blue Moon Enchantment) is a take-off on the Merlin legend, where Merlin comes to the Old West in the form of a mule. Vivianna returns as DeborahAnne the Chicken.

    Faery Special Romances features ten stories about faeries and their quest for true love. I “borrowed” from so many faery tales that I couldn’t even begin to name them all, but the one consistency is that whatever bad is in our world or the faery world, can always be overcome with love.

    And, well, I threw a little bit of Zeus and Hera in there, just because they were such an interesting couple. hehehe.

  22. Hello, Jacquie,

    Thank you for your kind remarks about ‘Rhett and Electra.

    I suppose Paris had no choice about judging that most depraved and corrupt of all beauty contests between Hera, Athene, and Venus but he ought to have refused the prize.

    As for Zeus and Hera… don’t get me started on celebrity males who tomcat. I wonder what the modern day equivalent would be of a guy who thinks his wife won’t notice that he’s being unfaithful if he dresses up like a bull?

    Rowena Cherry

    “That’s exactly the sort of thing I want my enemies and future in-laws to know.”
    Djetth, Insufficient Mating Material by Rowena Cherry

  23. Belinda says:

    I just solved the centaur issue by making them shapeshifters. Cowboys, at that! The Avians are a little more tricky, they used clothing and charms to hide their wings, one intrepid female likes to go walking on the Vegas strip in full feather, wearing a bikini and heels. That’s how she gets her fun money!

  24. Cowboys!!! Now that is kinky. My word! A psychologist could have fun with that.


    Rowena Cherry

    “I think Rowena’s true skill is that she weaves this intricate world of aliens and sex just the same way J.K. Rowling weaves the world of Wizards.”
    ~Des DiFabio, bookclubqueen

  25. *snort*

    Ah, how you make me laugh. How clever!

    It’s funny that this comes up, as I’m dealing with the Persephone myth in my upcoming Dorchester series, and so every time I turn around it’s Myths, I see them in my sleep. And the GREAT thing is that you’re right, there’s nothing exactly ‘new’ BUT we can all use these basic stories and everyone comes out with something different!

    Now I can only hope I can do it as clever as you. *wink*

  26. Hi, Leanna,

    My next project is The Daughters of Demeter! I look forward to seeing what you do with Persephone.

    Great minds… as they say!

    Best wishes,

    Rowena Cherry

    “If you’ve made up your mind to impale someone, do it with conviction.”
    ~Rhett, Knight’s Fork

  27. LaDonna says:

    Hey Rowena, sorry I didn’t make it sooner but had puter woes today! So fun having you at Magical. I love fairy tales, and like Liz I don’t write them but sure enjoy a new twist to a fun plot! 🙂

  28. I love the article, Rowena. I use myth and legends in everything I write. I love shape shifters and when I was a kid the only ones I saw on TV or movies were werewolves or vampires turning into bats but it was always shown as a curse. I always thought it would be a wonderful thing to shape shift, not a curse at all so when I discovered it was seen as positive thing in Celtic mythology, I was thrilled. I used a selkie in Danger Is Sweet and also wrote a selkie short story and I plan to write more selkie stories. I drew on the Arthurian myth in Vixen Princess. In Druid Quest, my hero shape shifts to a deer and I also used the dragon myth. I love dragons. Who doesn’t love dragons and the symbol of Wales is the red dragon which is one of the reasons Wales is so cool. I have written several short stories using Celtic gods and goddess, one on Rhiannon, another on the Morrigan, and I’m working on a novella with the sea god Dylan. I love Celtic vampiric fairies and used the Isle of Man myth of the leanan sidhe, who dwell in sea caves where they keep a red cauldron filled with the blood of their human lovers for my funny vampire novella A Fine Cauldron of Fish. And I used the Scottish baobhan sith, the dancing vampires, in my erotica romance short story Vampire Dancer. Myths are ingrained in my writer’s voice so I could go on forever, everything I write draws on a myth. I love myth and magic.

  29. Hi Rowena!
    My story “The Shimmering Flame” published by Liquid Silver Books is grounded in ancient Celtic myths. The heroine, Brigid, was patterned after the goddess Brigid. Her father Dagda, is also, in many variations, Brigid’s father. His never-empty cauldron is based on the Dagda’s cauldron. Ethan, the present day hero, was inspired by Uaithne, Dagda’s harper and his magical harp. The elements that my Brigid control were also those associated with the pagan goddess. In “A Perfect Symmetry” the sequel coming out later this winter, the Celtic Tree calendar is used and various seasonal cycles set the time for the action.
    A novella, “A Song of the Sidhe” was rooted in myths of the sidhe/fairies of Ireland.
    I love legends and myths!
    Great post!

  30. Cornelia,

    Thank you for your kind words and fascinating comments. SITH, eh? Do you think the Scottish sith influenced Star Wars, at least in the naming of villains?

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry

    “What in the blue star-blazes did you see in Jason?” he asked, still forcefully but with his frustration and jealousy under better control.

    “For one thing, Djetth, he wasn’t trying to kill me!”

    (From Insufficient Mating Material)

  31. LaDonna,

    Thank you very much for your comment. I hope your computer woes are all resolved by now.

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry

  32. Jeanne,

    Thank you for sharing. I had no idea that the Celts were so popular… but now I recall how powerful America’s ties are with Ireland, I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Your stories sound great.

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry

    “Do you often have meaningless sex?” she asked him. It was a foolish thing to
    say. She knew it. It was also unpardonably rude.

    “Not recently,” he replied, sounding both rueful and amused…

  33. Thank you Rowena. Yes, I think you it’s easy to see the influence of Fairy Tales in Star Wars. And Yoda is a very fairy type character in everyway. Sidhe is basically another way of saying fey or fairy, and as many of the fairies have the same names as ancient gods, it seems that when traditional beliefs were trampled, people took the myths of the gods and goddess and transformed them, changed the human sized deities who crossed over from the otherworld to tiny magical people who lived Underhill so they could keep their beliefs because the fairies were not seen as a threat to Christianity the way the gods and goddesses were. Also the Celts believed in a power that flowed through all nature and connected everything in this world and the otherworld. Lucas may have drawn from that belief system for “the force” I don’t know but it’s possible.

  34. Cornelia,

    I think Lucas most definitely drew from the Earth Force … ley lines, vortexes, and so forth for his “force”.

    Best wishes,
    Rowena Cherry

  35. Patricia says:

    The myths make the world a little better. When things are bad you know that is a place you can go for a little bit. The best part is the unicorn and the dragons

  36. Patricia,

    I’ll certainly second the dragons!

    Best wishes,

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