A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Circe by Madeleine Miller
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
You probably recognize these books, may have even read a few! And so I ask, what do they have in common? Yep, you got it—they’re all retellings of myths. And true! Look at you, smarty-pants—they were all published within the last ten years. So, why is this particular genre of fiction, myth and fairytale retellings, so hot right now?
Well, if you ask us, it all comes down to accessibility and inclusion. These retellings are an opportunity to include those voices and perspectives that were sidelined in the original mythos. They’re often written in a way that’s digestible, certainly more so than the original tales they’re based upon. In fact, you really don’t even need prior knowledge of the original myth to read these books! These retellings are actively filling a major gap in the book world, and that’s why they’re important.
Maybe you’d like to have a go at writing your own retelling. From a publisher’s perspective, here’s our advice to you:
Research, research, research!
Perhaps the source material isn’t totally crucial when reading a mythological retelling, but if you’re writing one, you better brush up! You’ll have to know all the characters and the parts they play to check off the next items on our list.
Find a voice you want to amplify.
We recommend looking for a lesser-known character in the original myth to give you some wiggle room when creating the plot of your retelling, and here’s why. We listed Ariadne at the top of this post, and while the character of Ariadne may not be at the very forefront of classic Greek mythology, she is a relatively well-known character, and therefore, Saint’s retelling ends up staying pretty close to Ariadne’s original tale. If you pick a lesser-known character, though, you’ll have more opportunity to get creative with how that character’s story comes together. To us, that just sounds like a better time for you and for your readers!
Figure out what you want to contribute to the overall narrative.
This is so, so important. After all, if you’re not adding something new and fresh to the conversation, why retell the story? It’s great that you’re exploring the perspective of a character the world hasn’t read much about, but how does that perspective impact the larger narrative of this myth and beyond? How does the perspective you’re highlighting relate to our world now? Answering these questions before you put pen to paper will focus your story and help you find your purpose.
Myths have always appealed to us, and why wouldn’t they? They’re epic tales that touch on questions and issues humans have been dealing with for thousands of years. It’s hard to believe that we’re just now, finally, getting the stories of those human characters—women and people of color—that were glossed over by the “classics.” But here we are. It’s incredibly exciting and long overdue.
And, hey, if you decide to try your hand at writing your own mythological retelling, send it our way. We’d love to see what you’ve come up with.
by Grace Ball