Valley of the Moon
By: Bronwyn Archer
Publisher: Bronarch Books
Publication Date: April 13th, 2016
There’s just one semester left at the Briar School for Girls in Sonoma, CA. But it will take more than straight As for Lana Goodwin to survive . . .
Senior year is not going well for 17-year-old Lana Goodwin. Her father’s vintage car business is about to crash and burn, the nicest (and cutest) teacher at school was fired under a cloud of scandal, and her hot sort-of boyfriend may or may not have something big to hide.
She’s also totally over being the class pauper. It’s bad enough her dad was briefly married to the head of the board—the rich, cruel, impeccably groomed Ramona Crawford. What’s worse is going to school with her vindictive ex-stepsister, who never misses an opportunity to make her life hell. Not ever.
It also happens to be the tenth anniversary of her mother’s suicide. No one knows why Annie Goodwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the day after Christmas. She didn’t leave a note. She wasn’t sick. Even Lana’s father can’t explain it. Ten years later, someone—or something—starts sending her clues about her mother’s past.
Before Lana can escape to college, she finds herself in a life-or-death race to uncover her mother’s long-buried secrets.
Can she claim her birthright before her future and her life are snatched away?
Valley of the Moon is a modern-day fairy tale with some intense themes.
A contemporary YA romantic mystery for ages 16 and up.
Did I hear someone say, “Not another fairy tale retelling!”? But wait! What if you find a way to incorporate certain “fairy tale” elements in a fun way? Where the “fairy tale” elements are carefully placed like little easter eggs that you discover as you read?
And after all, almost any book with a hero overcoming great odds to achieve his or her dreams can be traced back to the classic French and Grimm versions of Cinderella. Isn’t Harry Potter a classic Cinderella? He literally lives under the stairs with spiders as his only friends, then finds out he is actually rich and famous—and a wizard, of course.
I didn’t set out to write a Cinderella story. First, I stumbled onto the story of a reclusive American heiress named Huguette Clark. Huguette was the last of the Gilded Age heiresses, daughter of a young French trophy eife and her elderly, Copper Baron husband. She mysteriously abandoned her fabulous apartment to spend the last 20 years of her life in a tiny hospital room. When she died, she left behind empy mansions and huge apartments stuffed with priceless art and jewels—and no will.
When I read about her, I knew I needed to create a story around her. What if she had a distant relative who was her only heir? And this person never knew? What if this heir was a beautiful, smart young girl stuck in a life of torment?
And, boom! My real-life Cinderella story was born, starring seventeen-year-old Lana Goodwin.
Here are some of the classic fairy tale tropes I turned on their head as I crafted my tale:
A Non-Magical “Fairy Godmother”
Any good Cinderella tale needs a fairy godmother. But an actual fairy godmother with a magic wand wouold not do—I wasn’t writing a magical story. This godmother had to be “real.” Okay, ghosts may not be real, but hey, there’s no proof they don’t exist. Could a “ghost” be the fairy godmother without stretching the bounds of reality into magic? This is where Huguette Clark came in—she became my (spoiler alert) “ghost” godmother. French since the story was oringially french and huguette spoke French. I even found out AFTER the book was finished that Huguette Clark was called “Godmother” by a young girl she gave money to! #nailedit
A Realistic Evil Stepfamily
Another classic trope! But this was easy to make real. (Side note: I personally have experienced not one but two real-life stepmothers who tried to make my life miserable. And I think that cruel or at least pain-in-the-butt stepmothers are all too common these days.) I turned this one into an Ex-Stepmother, who Lana’s father wisely divorces after a few years. Unfortunately, Ramona Crawford, Lana’s former stepmother, now runs the elite all-girls school where Lana is now a senior, so there’s no escape. And yes, there are two stepsisters, but the younger one, Eden Crawford, is Lana’s friend and helper. The older sister Cressida is a nasty piece of work, so of course I had to make her the same age as my heroine and her tormentor at school. Perfect!
Sorry, no getting around this one. Two living parents really get in the way as you try to push your main character into all kinds of dangerous situations. So, I only killed off Lana’s mother.
A Fancy Ball
Yes, there’s a formal ball! It’s the Briar Ball, the graduation party for the graduating seniors of the Briar School for Girls. And yes, my heroine ends up fleeing the ball before midnight—not because her gown wll turn into rags, but because she is legit being chased by people who want to kill her.
Doves at the Grave
In the original Grimm story, there are living doves at Cinderella’s mother’s grave that help her, and even give her the famous ballgown. In my story, there is a non-magical dove who appears at the gravesite, but it’s not the kind of dove you think…careful readers will figure this one out!
A Non-Wussy Prince Charming
This book doesn’t have a true Prince Charming…at least not on the surface. Lana’s cute boyfriend Caleb has ex-girlfriend issues and Alexander, the rich, handsome young man with the fabulous “carriage” (a super fancy car), may or may not be her distant relative. Oh dear, what’s a girl to do! Rest assured that by the end of the second book, VALLEY OF FIRE, a true Prince may emerge.
Losing the Glass Slipper
After a disastrous prom night, Lana leaves one of her high heels behind in a blatant reference to Cinderella. Did you catch it?
A Real-World Fairy-Tale Setting
Sonoma, CA is really called the “Valley of the Moon,” and its magical beauty makes it the perfect setting for a fairy tale—especially the old, decaying cemetery in the woods where Lana’s mother is buried. I also used the actual Victorian names for the moon’s seas as chapter headings: “Ocean of Storms,” “Sea of Serpents.” Finding these was like a gift! Incredibly, there were just enough for each chapter of the novel. (Side note: the names for the moon’s lakes are even better, and I will be using those as the chapter headings in the second and final book, VALLEY OF FIRE.)
A “Rapunzel” Moment
If you catch it near the end, there is even a Rapunzel moment where the length of the main character’s hair nearly ends her life. Did you notice?
A Few Fairy Tale Elements Ain’t Nobody Got Time for
Tropes I didn’t use: talking animals, magic wands, pumpkins, heroines who don’t drive their own narratives forward, and too-chaste kissing scenes. I wanted a little more heat than that, and a right proper amount of blood and violence. People should suffer and die horrible deaths in fairy tales! At least, in the non-Disney versions. The Germans were not messing around with that. Although no birds pluck out anyone’s eyes, as in the original Cinderella story.
I hope you love reading VALLEY OF THE MOON as much as I loved writing it!
Bronwyn Archer is a young-adult author, digital media copywriter, and mother to several children, last time she counted.At her all-girls high school, Bronwyn discovered a love of writing and the importance of a good fake ID. The only sport she was good at was boogie-boarding, but she decided to hang up her board after a terrifying close encounter with a seven-foot blue shark in the Santa Monica Bay.She still gets nervous in black-bottomed swimming pools.After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in English and Art History, she moved to Paris, where she edited a magazine for expatriates. After failing to become the next Hemingway—despite putting in many hours at the Ritz Hotel’s Hemingway Bar—she moved back to the States, where she developed a semi-successful career in New York and Los Angeles as a copywriter for ad agencies and companies like HBO and Disney.Now Bronwyn writes fiction and raises children. She’s up to two rescue mutts and four kids, which makes her a semi-freak in this neck of the woods, but she’s learned that once you decide to live your life your way, everything else gets a little easier.Besides writing and expertly avoiding baskets of laundry that need folding, Bronwyn loves movies from the 80s, comedy, Disneyland (sorry WDW), the paintings of Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish, coffee, Paris, Oscar Wilde, hot sauce, the Christmas season, Thai street food, making things with felt, and the smell of freshly printed books.She is still searching for her own “signature fragrance,” which she’ll know when she finds it.Find the author:
If you like what you read above, please follow using one (or more) of the social media sites in the sidebar!
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, information, and more were provided by the Fantastic Flying Book Club.