At Wordfest 2017, three authors discussed their fairy tales, but with a twist — their stories are for adults.

 Heather O’Neill, the author of The Lonely Hearts Hotel, is one of the authors who said her book is for mature audiences.

“There is so much within my tales that would not be suitable for younger readers because there is a lot of sexuality and violence in it,” said O’Neill. She added she is also interested in the original versions of fairy tales because they are dark and have allusions into sexuality.

O’Neill’s work focuses on two characters — Pierrot and Rose — who try to create a circus together but are separated as teenagers while living in Montreal in the 1930s.  When they reunite, the pair tries to make that dream become a reality.

O’Neill uses the juxtaposition of dark and light elements in her stories. She uses the narrative framework of fairy tales to structure the light-hearted sides of her stories while incorporating darker themes and morals of the real world into the narrative.

“I find that clash of opposites to be very beautiful,” she said.

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Peter Unwin at the Oct. 11 Wordfest adult fairy tales event, talking with fans about his book, Searching For Petronius Totem. Photo by Shaunda Lamont

The Oct. 11 event also featured Peter Unwin discussing his story, Searching for Petronius Totem and Ron Sexsmith who authored Deer Life. Unwin’s tale follows Jack Vesoovian as he embarks on a road trip with his colleague, Petronius Totem who has broken up with his wife. Throughout their journey, the pair finds out the world’s overrun by a catering business and they try to escape the ensuing madness.

Deer Life follows Deryn Hedlight who went hunting but made a horrible mistake, which leads to a transformation. Wronged by sinister forces, the story focuses on a kind boy from the fictional town of Hinthoven and his loving mother as they overcome adversity.

Danielle Bernard attended the event and said regardless of the target audience, fairy tales are an enjoyable genre, whatever the age.

“With fairy tales, you can think of Disney princesses and magic so you can separate fairy tales from the fantasy and science fiction that has a stigma on it. There should not be a stigma on any genre of book,” said Bernard.

But O’Neill said stigma around fairy tales exists because the stories are associated with women and children and they are stories associated with a nursery. However, she says the stigma has lessened because of geniuses like Margaret Atwood who have delved into a more mature style of writing.

It is fascinating that authors have reclaimed fairy tales and turned them into complex bodies of work, said O’Neill.

Editor: Andrea Fulton |

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