Dr. David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. He received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.
Dr. Meredith reached out to me to review his audiobook The Reflections of Queen Snow White. Now that I have finished listening to the novel, he has been so kind as to answer some questions I have.
What got you interested in retellings of classic fairytales?
The original versions of most fairy tales were pretty brutal, (especially compared to the highly sterilized Disney versions that most people are used to). However, despite the fantastical elements, they invariably contain, they are at their root, very real. They speak to our deepest desires, darkest fears, and greatest flaws, but they are also aspirational. They provide us with examples, regardless of how improbable, of how we might overcome desperate circumstances to achieve greatness and contentment in a world where such things often seem rarified and elusive. They give us hope that everything really will work out in the end. The best of them leave you with a sense, on some level, the story really could have happened. I think it was this that led me to choose a fairytale retelling as the vehicle for this particular story
Now, the other part of the inspiration, the real world part, was personal. In the space of about three or four months back in 2006, both of my grandfathers died unexpectedly. As I observed how hard my grandmothers took their deaths, it led me to wonder on their behalf – “So… Now what?” They had both had wonderful, loving relationships – many long, happy years together (over 60). Suddenly, it was over. It made me wonder, “When your life has been so closely tied up with one other person for so long, what do you do when they are no longer a part of your life? How do you pick up the pieces and move forward?” That was the original kernel of the idea for The Reflections of Queen Snow White.
Do you think Alice in Wonderland is overrated in the fantasy community or do you think the original author left it open to other authors to take their interpretations of the story?
I think it’s important not to conflate the movies with the book. I’ll admit I haven’t been that impressed with any of the screen adaptations I’ve seen. I think what’s missing is the historical context. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in its day was a scathing piece of political satire. In an era when criticizing the British government was punishable with prison time, Lewis Carroll trashed the major political institutions of his day including the queen. A great part of the brilliance in the work is Carroll’s ability make it obvious what he felt were the farcical, hypocritical, and ridiculous realities of British politics and political figures, while skillfully cloaking it as a harmless children’s story. I don’t know that any of the film adaptations have effectively preserved that aspect of the original novel.
What was it like living in Japan? How does their culture influence your teachings and/or writings?
It was an eye-opening experience to live as a minority among people who believed very different things than I did myself. I’d say it made my world and my understanding of my place in it much broader and nuanced. I lived there for nearly a decade and two of my three children were born there, so yes, I’d say it has definitely had a significant impact. I think I am probably better at presenting an affable public face despite frustrations or irritation because of operating so long under their more stringent norms for appropriate public behavior. I also have come to recognize that the foundational “truths” we hold so dear are strongly a function of culture and experience. In regards to my writing, I specifically have a fantasy series based on medieval Japan and Japanese mythology that has been in the works for quite some time, but I haven’t released yet. I’m in the middle of finishing up a Young Adult Sci-Fi series, but as soon as that’s done, I’m planning on turning my attention back to the Japanese fantasy series.
Is Snow White your favorite Disney Princess? If not then who is?
I don’t know that “favorite” is necessarily the right word, but I did think she had the potential for a great deal of complexity that was not adequately explored in the Disney version. With Snow White, I saw a character who had the potential for some interesting darkness that was at the same time also really relatable. I also noticed, however, that fairy tale princesses, particularly of the Disney variety, despite horrible trauma and tragedy don’t appear to suffer the same lasting impact of those experiences as regular people. I felt like this distanced the character from the reader. One would think, that a character who had experienced as much tragedy as Snow White – the death of both parents at an early age, years of horrible abuse and neglect by a stepparent culminating with her attempted murder not once, but three times – would lead to some pretty serious emotional and psychological baggage. At the very least, I think most people can relate to depression. Most have either experienced it themselves or know someone dear to them who has. My approach I think more accurately examines the likely effects that a life of neglect and abuse, like the one Snow White, was forced to endure, would have in real life. It’s the sort of thing that really has the potential to scar a person, and I wanted to explore that emotional struggle more thoroughly.
Did you do any research regarding mental health for reference?
I did. I specifically looked up information about the effects of early childhood trauma on adult mental health, although as an educator by career, I’ve studied a good deal about it in my formal coursework as well.
Do you have any other plans to write other fairytale retellings in the future? Or do you just write as the stories come to you?
I’ve been asked by several people about that, some even going to far as to suggest a series of After-The-Happily-Ever-After novels or novellas, but I worry that might reduce the impact of the original work. There are certainly plenty of fairy tale princesses who experienced trauma, especially in the original versions of the stories, but I don’t want to just write basically the same story over and over again. I won’t say no, but if I do another fairy tale retelling, I’d want it to have a fresh and compelling approach and/or message. So I guess my answer is maybe, but not right now, although I do currently have a couple of other novels out in paperback and eBook on Amazon. I’m about to release book three of the Aaru Series, and that has been my biggest focus of late. Aaru is a near-future Young Adult Sci-Fi novel. You can read the synopsis here: David Meredith’s Amazon Page.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Mr. Meredith! You can read my review of The Reflections of Queen Snow White here.
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