With the craziness that I went through last week, I didn't have the time to finish I Am Number Four, no matter how good a read it's turning out to be. Hence, I don't have a review yet for you today, dear read. Instead, Porter Grand, author of Little Women and Werewolves, who coincidentally was the author featured in my Author Interview series last week, sent over this great post on mash-ups. They've been really popular lately, so I turn over today's post to her.
TO MASH OR NOT TO MASH
When my agent first suggested I try writing a mash-up, being a librarian, I gasped aloud and said I wouldn’t do such a thing to a book or an author. While amused at the idea when I heard about the first mash-ups, and feeling this was a great way to awaken young people's interest in literature, I didn't want to be the one to rework a timeless classic. My agent asked I just continue to think about it, and I found that the idea, now planted, was holding firm. I realized I was mired in the quandary 'to mash or not to mash', so did the only thing a reference librarian could do in such a situation -- I began to research classic books and their authors. I found myself drifting back to Louisa May Alcott again and again, and the thought flashed through my mind that it was a shame someone had already written LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES because I had just finished writing a werewolf novel, and was still in full werewolf mode. But when I searched the Internet to take a look at the book, it didn't exist --hmmm! This felt as if I had somehow received cosmic permission for the project. Staying focused on Alcott led to the discovery that she had a taste for more “lurid” writing, did not want to write a sweet book for young girls, and only penned LITTLE WOMEN upon the suggestion of an editor. She did not particularly like the book, and neither did the editor, but his young niece loved it, and the rest of the story is literary history.
It had been a long time since I had read LITTLE WOMEN, so I was reading it through fresh eyes, and found myself greatly impressed at how much Alcott had to say about the sorry situation of women and the lower classes in her era. Being ahead of her time and open to darker literature, I felt Louisa May Alcott would not only mind, but would fully enjoy seeing werewolves added to her novel, especially since one theme in this work is that just because someone is a werewolf, it doesn't mean they're bad. The more I wrote LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES, the more I felt guided by Alcott. I have never before had such an exciting and strange writing experience. In return for her inspiration, I kept the integrity of the book intact and remained true to her plot, her characters, and, most importantly, her themes.
The book was finished and in the editing process when Harriet Reisen’s fascinating biography, LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, THE WOMAN BEHIND LITTLE WOMEN, came out. As I read the book, parallels between Alcott's life and my own kept jumping out at me: I am now the age at which Louisa May Alcott died, we both had our Little Women books accepted before they were finished and while submitting other works for publication, both of our mothers grew to be “angry every day” about their marriages and situations, we were both locked in incessant power struggles with our fathers, we were both born with a “gift for ornamentation”, our quick tongues often got us in trouble, we both held a taste for the lurid, and we both “experimented to be independent” in Boston.
One fact in Reisen’s book struck me with particular force. Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, was a staunch vegetarian who forbade his family to eat meat and preached that “without a flesh diet, there would be no blood-shedding war,” and that a vegetable diet provided sweet dreams, and a meat diet, nightmares. The family obliged Bronson in this, as they did in all things, but once Louisa May’s writing put her in a position of financial comfort, she ate a great deal of meat. It is quite fitting, then, that carnivorous werewolves have been added to the very novel which had put her in the situation to eat all the meat she craved.
I have not read any other mash-ups beyond scanning them, and did not use any as guides or examples to write this book; instead, I wrote it the way I thought Alcott might have if she had included werewolves in her story, and the amputees were added as a tribute to her service as a Civil War nurse. My work on this novel was done with the utmost care and deep respect for both Louisa May Alcott and LITTLE WOMEN, a book which delights and inspires today every bit as much as it did in 1868 -- and all the many years in between.