We all know the story of the twelve dancing princesses. But what if what we know isn’t the REAL story? That’s where The Thirteenth Princess by indie author Nina Clare comes in. In the kingdom of Cataluna, order and symmetry are everything. To the residents of Cataluna, twelve is a orderly, perfectly symmetric number. But unfortunately, our heroine was born princess number thirteen. The kingdom prayed for the Queen to give birth to a fourteen child, which would make the number of royal children symmetric. However, she died before this could happen, so our heroine is treated like a mishap or anomaly. In fact, they didn’t even bother giving her a name. She is simply known as, Princess.
What I loved about this book is that it celebrates your differences. Princess is unapologetically unlike any of her twelve sisters and is treated like an outsider, yet she never questions her self worth or wishes she were any different. When their uncle resorts to dark magic in an attempt to keep the throne, it’s up to Princess to pave the way in saving herself and her sisters.
For today’s post, I chat with Nina about The Thirteenth Princess, fairytales, music, and what inspires her as an author.
I’ve read many retellings of twelve dancing princesses but your novel stands out the most because the concept of a thirteenth princess hidden in the mix has ever been done before. What made you decide to choose this fairytale in particular to retell?
NC: I chose this fairy tale because it was the one that I loved best as a child. I was always intrigued by it because there were so many unanswered questions in the story, such as who were the princes? Why were they there? Did the princesses love them? Were the princesses sad when they couldn’t go back to the underground world and dance with them? How did the princesses find the underground world? What exactly was this world? So writing The Thirteenth Princess was my way of exploring all these questions.
Which authors are your biggest inspirations?
NC: I have so many favourite authors that have inspired me since childhood. Enid Blyton was the first author I fell in love with at age 7. Her books made me want to be a writer when I grew up. For fantasy writing I’ve been inspired by C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. For writing about characters and romance I am most inspired by Jane Austen and Eva Ibbotsen’s YA romances. The first author that inspired me to want to write fairy tales is Robin Mckinley.
Fairytales are my absolute favorite book genre, but sadly, few authors choose to write in the fairytale niche. What made you decide to pick fairytales as your genre of choice?
NC: I felt drawn to writing fairy tales because I love all things medieval and magical. I’ve tried writing contemporary stories, and historical fiction without any magical elements, and I found I couldn’t do it - fairy tales characters kept walking onto the page and changing my stories! There’s something about the fantasy genre that allows the writer and reader to explore ideas about things that transcend realism. Fairy tales are rich in symbolism and metaphor, and so they speak to our imaginations in a special way.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?
NC: I listen to music when I’m walking my dogs, and I’m often thinking about my stories at the same time. The song that most makes me think of The Thirteenth Princess is ‘Beyond the Blue’ by Josh Garrells. Also, ‘Shine On’ by Needtobreathe. The part of the story when Sunny tells Princess he has to go away, while she’s also grieving for Beryl, who is slipping away from her, reminds me of ‘Don’t Leave Just Yet’ by Needtobreathe.
I absolutely adored the Thirteenth Princess and I’m not quite ready to leave that world behind just yet. Is there any chance of a sequel or spinoff in the future? If not, do you have any other upcoming projects planned?
NC: I’d love to return to the world of The Thirteenth Princess, and I may well write a spin-off story, though I haven’t planned it yet. I have some ideas about following the adventures of Diamond’s daughter, who was blessed by Beryl before she passed on. I think Beryl gave the baby her fairy gifting before she left, so that would make for an interesting childhood!
What are your top five favorite books that inspire you?
NC: My top 5 favourite books that have inspired me to write fairy tales are: Till We Have Faces by C.S Lewis, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Beauty by Robin Mckinley, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark.
There is one passage in the Thirteenth Princess that stood out to me:
“It is beautiful,” I said. “Your cutting has made it beautiful.”
“It is not the cut that makes the beauty. It is the light within the stone. The light is already there. The cut merely allows it to be seen.”
I love how this book not only promotes inner beauty, but also celebrates individuality because none of the twelve princesses are anything like one another. What is the defining message you want people to take from this book?
NC: You have pinpointed exactly what the heart of the story was, Fifi! It is about inner beauty and our uniqueness as human beings. I was inspired by a quote from Oswald Chambers, a Scottish poet, artist and preacher who died during WWI, who said: ‘Each of us has a particular possession of light that no one else can have.’ I used that quote in the story.
The Thirteen Princess is now available for purchase on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.
Have any of you read or are planning to read the Thirteenth Princess? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!