The Factory Girl and the Fey was never meant to be a fairy tale. The original idea was straight historical fiction, and I had done a lot of research on the era (19th century), location (Scotland), and the lives of the working class.
There’s a mysterious process that happens when we start to put a story down, however. In this case, two of the Fair Folk showed up in a dream: Gentle and Rain, now known as Flora and Coira. Before I knew it, there was a Queen, Donella, and a whole host of others who showed up once Flora and Coira had established their presence.
Flora and Coira are sisters, but they are a yin and yang sort, with the former a gentle, sweet woman, and the latter sarcastic with a hint of danger.
I tried ignoring them, preferring to write straight historical fiction. Over and over I tried. I knew nothing about fairy tales. Hadn’t read them since childhood. Hadn’t even watched a lot of Disney movies. I was clearly in over my head. But they wouldn’t leave. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t write the story without them.
There was only one solution: do more research. I started reading Neil Gaiman. I studied Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner. I found books that were retellings of fairy tales, such as Janet Yolen’s Briar Rose (sleeping beauty) and The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (The Twelve Princesses) by Genevieve Valentine. Day by day, I sought out those who could teach me what I needed to know. I found The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic and enrolled in some of their courses.
I had believed, mistakenly, that fairy tales were for children. The Factory Girl and the Fey is definitely not a children’s book, with some controversial topics in it. I wondered what adult would want to read my “weird little book.” Turns out, there’s a whole world of people who love all things Fey and Folklore.
Over time, I fell in love with the Fey. I am still learning, but I’ve learned enough to know that my story is oddly on track, despite my ignorance. Perhaps the fairy tales of my childhood were informing me, despite the decades in which they gathered dust in my brain. Or perhaps the storytelling aspect of fairy tales is hardwired within us, so it comes naturally once we allow our imaginations to carry us aloft.
Either way, I no longer try to shoo them away. They get to stay. And I suspect they have much more to tell me.