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Author Sarah Mlynowski answers our questions about her Whatever After series, the first Special Edition Abby in Wonderland, and how her daughters inspired the feminist twists in the books.

Audible: Whatever After is a perfect blend of fairy tale and “real life” where regular kids fall into a fairy tale and become part of the story. What is it about this melding of fantasy and realism that appeals to you as a writer?
Sarah Mlynowski:
Thank you! I have always loved fairy tales and magic. Growing up, my favorite story was “Cinderella” and my favorite movies were The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. But I was always interested in how magic could affect the real world. I tried to use “The Force” to open and close my blinds. I clicked my heels together three times and made wishes. And I wondered what I would do if they actually came true. The first stories I wrote were about regular girls who could fly, or who had magic forks that turned vegetables into chocolate. Whatever After is about a regular girl who happens to find a magic mirror in her basement that takes her into fairy tales. I think all novels are inspired by the question: what if? My “what if” just usually involves magic.

A: Your fractured fairy tales definitely emphasize girl power more than the original stories do. Why is it important to you that your version of the tale has a feminist twist?
I have two daughters. And when I started reading them fairy tales—the fairy tales I loved as a kid and still find magical—the endings gave me pause. Snow White needs a guy to bring her back to life, a prince is Cinderella’s only way out of a horrible living situation, and the Little Mermaid literally gives up her tail, her tongue, her home, her family, and ultimately her LIFE for a guy...who doesn’t even choose her! So I decided to give the princesses new happy endings. Sometimes they get married. Sometimes they open a bakery, earn their own money, move out of their stepmom’s dusty attic, and rent their own apartment.

A: You read all of your books to your daughter before they are published. What part of Abby in Wonderland got the strongest reaction from her?
The pig baby. Definitely the pig baby. My daughter Chloe—like Abby—was totally freaked out by the pig baby.

A: We love Emily Eiden’s performance as your long-standing series narrator. Were you involved in her casting?
She’s amazing. I can take no credit for casting her! She recently came to one of my events in Los Angeles. I was super-self-conscious about reading with her in the audience because she is so much better at it than I am! Emily brings so much hilarity and warmth to the series and I am lucky that she has been a part of Whatever After since the beginning.

Will there be other Special Editions set in other stories? Can you give us any clues about what stories to look forward to next?
Yes! Nothing is set in stone, but I have ideas for Oz and Neverland.

A: What books meant the most to you as a child and why?
I worshiped everything Judy Blume wrote. Superfudge was comedy gold, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was the first book I read that told me that the female experience—my experience—was worth writing about. But reading This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall was life-changing for me. The author, Gordon Korman, is Canadian like me! Plus MacDonald Hall was published when he was fourteen, and Gordon came to my school to talk about it. That’s when I realized that authors were real people, and that I could maybe, if I was lucky, be one too.

A: What books are you and your daughters loving these days?
My eight-year-old loves the Anna Banana series by Anica Mrose Rissi. The books are super-cute friendship stories that are perfect for second and third graders. My four-year-old is obsessed with the Dragons Love Tacos books. She laughs hysterically at every reading. Plus, the books inspired her to try tacos! (She is the world’s pickiest eater so this was a huge achievement.) I’m in the middle of Alan Gratz’s middle-grade novel Refugee—it’s heartbreaking, brilliant, and un-put-downable.