What would happen if Rapunzel’s mother drank the essence of Moondrop flower rather than the Sundrop flower? That’s the question posed in the latest book in Disney’s Twisted Tales Series, What Once Was Mine, written by Liz Braswell. This enchanting adventure story explores a new and darker twist on the well-loved tale and we sat down to talk with Liz all about it!
Nerds and Beyond: First off I want to say congratulations on another amazing addition to the Twisted Tales Series! Tangled is a personal favorite and I loved how fresh and unpredictable this book really is.
Liz Braswell: Thank you!
Nerds and Beyond: In this retelling, Rapunzel has powers of the Moondrop flower instead of the Sundrop flower. Now, the Sundrop flower was straightforward in its abilities but the Moondrop is much more complex. How much research did you have to do into moon phases and where did you get the ideas for the unique abilities of her hair?
Liz Braswell: Funny you should ask…my dad was a scientist and is an amateur astronomer, so moons and stars are always sort of in the back of my mind. The “puzzle” in the wildflowers at the ancient circle of stones is based on constellations he taught me as a kid (along with the magnitude of the objects, which were of course unnecessary in a fairy tale). I did have to double check on how long each “official” moon phase lasts and at what time it might rise in central/eastern Europe! The idea for her hair’s changing abilities just flowed naturally from the fact that they come from the moon, which changes…
Nerds and Beyond: This story of Rapunzel comes with another interspersed story of a brother telling his sister this new version while she gets chemo treatments at Sloan Kettering. Tell us a little about where that idea came from and what it meant to you to write it.
Liz Braswell: As I say in my author’s note at the end of the book, my “baby” sister had cancer. She was in her thirties so not technically a baby, but she will always be my little sister. I went to most of her chemo sessions and we tried to make it as lighthearted as possible, with movies, special guests, a rotating cast of friends, etc. She lost her hair from all the treatments…and hair is obviously such an important part of Rapunzel! Again, the whole thing flowed naturally — and made for a good reason for the twist this time.
Nerds and Beyond: We meet several new characters like Gina, an up and coming adventurer. Where did the inspiration to include her on Rapunzel’s journey come from? Why not stick to just Rapunzel and Flynn?
Liz Braswell: Because third wheels are always fun? Seriously: since I’m not telling the exact same story as the movie, it’s good to have another character for the two to relate to and play off of.
Nerds and Beyond: Opposite that, we also get to see lots of favorites from the original film. Did you know right away who you wanted to bring back for the story?
Liz Braswell: Well Maximus and Pascal, obviously! And I wanted to spend time with the king and queen…they deserved a little more of their own stories told.
Nerds and Beyond: You also take a turn into real historical lore with the Countess Bathory making an appearance. I love how you rooted some of the story in real lore. Are you a history/lore fan as well?
Liz Braswell: I mean, I majored in Egyptology…took nine years of Latin…yeah, I’m a history fan! But also a long time ago I was hardcore goth and into vampires. Obviously the Lady isn’t a real one, but the legends!
Nerds and Beyond: Without giving away spoilers of course, did you have a favorite moment or element when you were writing?
Liz Braswell: Actually, my favorite bit isn’t a spoiler at all: it’s when her feet touch grass for the first time. The scene sort of mirrors the one in the movie, but with more explanation of her thoughts and feelings. Feeling her joy through my words was amazing. Oh, also I really enjoyed the running joke of how she doesn’t know the right names for animals, having only grown up with stylized, illuminated books. I wonder how many readers will realize that the “deadly bear” begging her for food is actually a fox…
Nerds and Beyond: What do you hope readers will take away from What Once Was Mine?
Liz Braswell: Rapunzel is a complicated story: what is it like to be coddled like a princess–but imprisoned your whole life? Can you be materially rich and privileged, but suffer real pain? How does someone emerge from nearly 20 years confinement relatively sane and with an optimistic view of the world? What is a “real” mother? I think if the reader comes away pondering these things, I’ll have done my job.
Nerd and Beyond: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you would like to shout out?
Liz Braswell: A secret Twisted Tale project! Also more from my series Stuffed, which is about how monsters are real and your stuffed animals really do protect you from them at night. If you’ve ever slept with a Stuffy, you need to read these books!
What Once Was Mine hits shelves September 7.