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Interview: Leah Cypess on “Stepsister”

Leah CypessTell us a bit about “Stepsister.”

Stepsister is a retelling of Cinderella, told in the form of a sequel to the story that happens about five years later. The main character is a close friend of the prince Cinderella met at the ball.


What was this inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings — when I discovered my first book of “twisted fairy tales” as a teen, I thought it was the best idea ever and devoured that genre for a while. Ideas for fairy tale retellings come to me on a frequent basis. The original idea for this story was that it would be about a hard-bitten investigator looking into the events that led to Cinderella’s stepsister’s death. As you can see, the story ended up evolving a lot from that original idea…


What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story, and what was the most fun?

The most difficult aspect of it was figuring out what kind of story it was going to be. I was trying to think of ideas for middle grade retellings, and this clearly wasn’t going to work for that. Then I thought it might work as a YA book. Then I was talking to my friend Diana Peterfreund about it, and she said, “It sounds like a novella.” I immediately realized that she was right, and after that, writing the story was pretty easy! (It ended up being a novelette. Close enough.)


What are you working on now?

Believe it or not, I’m currently working on a middle grade retelling of the Cinderella story, told from the point of view of a stepsister! It’s a very different story from this one, although I’m discovering that they have some themes in common. I’m hoping it will be the second book in my series of middle grade fantasy retellings that I’m writing for Delacorte/Random House (kind of a dream contract for me). The first in the series, Thornwood, which is told from the point of view of Sleeping Beauty’s little sister, is scheduled to be published in Spring 2021.


“Stepsister” appears in the May/June 2020 issue of F&SF.

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