Deborah Underwood has let us in on the inspiration behind her new book Interstellar Cinderella.
Interstellar Cinderella was not born out of some grand desire to reinvent a fairy tale; it sprang from word play. A friend was visiting me, we were being silly, and I heard the words “Interstellar Cinderella” come out of my mouth. I immediately ran to the big sheet of idea paper I had tacked on my door and scribbled the words down. What a great title that would make, I thought.
In fact, it seemed like such a great title that I assumed someone else would have already written a picture book with that name. But I checked just to be sure, and couldn’t believe my luck—the title was free! Then it just became a question of writing the manuscript.
That’s the short answer to the question of where Interstellar Cinderella came from. But there were other influences at work, too.
One of my favourite things when I was growing up was going to the planetarium with my dad. Dad was a maths professor, and his astronomy colleague did planetarium shows several times a year. I loved the domed ceiling, I loved the silhouette of our town that lined the walls, I loved the way the lights came down gradually so our eyes would have time to adjust, and I loved the distinctive timbre of the astronomer’s voice as she guided us through the heavens. So the idea of a fairy tale set in space delighted me.
I also wanted Cinderella to have more agency than she does in the traditional story. The princesses I read about when I was little weren’t exactly the drivers of their own fates. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are not just sleeping, but comatose during critical parts of their stories. Cinderella is stuck at home waiting for her prince to rescue her. The girls I know are smart, strong, and courageous. It seemed to me they deserved the option of reading about a smart, strong, courageous fairy tale protagonist.
When I was a kid, I was interested in mechanical things (again in large part due to my father, who, in my eyes, was able to fix anything). So I made Cinderella a mechanically-inclined girl who dreams of repairing rocket ships. And I decided that her main motivation wouldn’t be to go to a ball, but to go see the ships in the Royal Space Parade. If the prince’s ship happened to break down and she was able to rescue him? All the better!
I hope kids enjoy reading Interstellar Cinderella as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope it inspires a new generation of mechanics, rocket pilots, and astronomers—male and female.
Interstellar Cinderella is available NOW from all good bookshops and online through our website.