24 Jun 2014

Interview, review & giveaway: Desperately Ever After by Laura Kenyon

One part Sex and the City. Two parts Desperate Housewives.
Three parts Brothers Grimm.
Imagine what might happen if our most beloved fairy tale princesses were the best of friends and had the dreams, dilemmas, and libidos of the modern woman. How would their stories unfold after the wedding bells stopped ringing?
Set in a fictional realm based on New York City, DESPERATELY EVER AFTERsprinkles women’s fiction with elements of fantasy, and encourages readers to rethink everything they know about happy endings.
Years after turning her husband from beast back to man and becoming his queen, Belle finds out she’s finally going to have a child. But before she can announce the wondrous news, she catches him cheating and watches her “happily ever after” go up in flames.
Turning to her friends for the strength to land with grace, she realizes she’s not the only one at a crossroads:
v Cinderella, a mother of four drowning in royal duties, is facing her 30th birthday and questioning everything she’s done (or hasn’t) with her life.
v Rapunzel, a sex-crazed socialite and one-woman powerhouse, is on a self-destructive quest to make up for 20 years locked away in a tower.
v Penelopea, an outsider with a mother-in-law from hell, is harboring a secret that could ruin everything at any moment.

One part Sex and the City, two parts Desperate Housewives, and three parts Brothers Grimm, DESPERATELY EVER AFTER picks up where the original tales left off—and reimagines them a la Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.
With the wit of authors like Jennifer Weiner and the vision of ABC’s Once Upon a Time, the women of DESPERATELY EVER AFTER rescue each other from life’s trials with laughter, wine, and a scandalous new take on happily ever after.
DESPERATELY EVER AFTER is available in both print and as an e-book at Amazon US and Amazon (UK)

2014 National Indie Excellence Awards Chick-Lit Finalist!

Amazon Top 100 seller for both Women’s Fiction Fantasy and Humor!

“Laura Kenyon makes happily ever after desperately delicious!” ~ Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times bestselling author of Big Girl Panties

“At times laugh-out-loud funny, and at times very touching, Desperately Ever After is the debut of a real talent.” ~ Elizabeth Blackwell, author of While Beauty Slept and The Letter

“If you are looking for a fun and gossipy story to satisfy the holes left when Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives had their series finales (or even if you’re going through Once Upon a Time withdrawal come season finale time) look no further than Desperately Ever After.”
~ Chick Lit Central
"Kenyon's colorful imagery and often quick, lighthearted style makes it easy to keep flipping pages.”~ The New Canaan Advertiser

"Laura Kenyon's Desperately Ever After is part Disney princess, part Sex in the City, and part TMZ Celebrity Gossip Site ... and it's fabulous!" ~ Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie, blogger at Keep Calm and Write On

"...this book is hilarious, sweet, and ingenious." ~ Whitney Reece, blogger at WordsWisdomWhitney

To be in with a chance of winning an ecopy of Desperately Ever After, leave a comment below telling me your favourite fairytale character. Don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact the winner!

The moment I read the synopsis of this book, I expected to completely fall in love with it. But, surprisingly, it actually took me a while to really get to grips with the story. I was confused by so many different characters (and some of them appeared to have alternative names too) as well as all the unusual place names of all the kingdoms. Having said that, once I got into the story, I found myself quite enjoying it.
As a lover of all things to do with fairytales (Cinderella was my all time favourite character as a kid), I was intrigued by the author's interpretation of what happened after the ... 'and they lived happily ever' parts. Add to that a real chick lit vibe and some interesting modern day issues, and you've got a pretty good book. I just wish there had been a bit more to the ending. It happened way too fast, like the book had been chopped off in the middle of an important scene! However, reading on I realised this is merely book one in a series. A good start, for sure!

Author Interview
Do dreams ever inspire your writing? What did you last dream about?
Without a doubt! I dream more often than not, and whether they’re funny, scary, or romantic, they’re almost always vivid. I keep my cell phone right next to my bed and it’s not unusual for me to jot down notes at 2 a.m.—either tweaks to a story I’m already working on or a new idea entirely. My last notable dream reenacted the library scene from Monsters University, only it was with me and my family. It was a lot of fun!

When did you first start writing? And when were you first published?
I’ve been writing and reading for as long as I can remember. The oldest diary entry I can find was from March 1991, when I was eight years old. (I spelled communion dress “cumyunyin.”) I’ve been a published journalist since 2005—writing about everything from politics to weddings to gardening to pets—but Desperately Ever After is my first novel.

What is it about the genre you write that appeals to you the most? Do you read other genres? 
I’ve always seen reading as a gateway—a way to have a fantastic adventure or hang out with some wacky and amazing new “friends” who live only in my imagination. Almost anything can catch my eye, but I tend to choose books that will amuse me, enlighten me, or make me smile. If I think its sole result will be depression and tears, I’ll pass.
Rather than trying to smash my tastes into certain genre boxes, I’ll just list some of my all-time favorites and you can decide where they fit: Stay (Larkin); Goodnight Nobody (Weiner); Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert); The Giver (Lowry); The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald); To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee); Pride and Prejudice (Austen); and the entire Harry Potter series (Rowling).

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
Desperately Ever After is the first book in a series I describe as Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City meets the Brothers Grimm. It’s a whimsical take on what happened after our most beloved fairy tale princesses had their grand weddings. I didn’t want it to be another modern retelling—where “Prince Charming” owns a Fortune 500 company, for example, and “Cinderella” works in the mail room. Instead, I wanted to continue the tales where they left off, and I wanted the characters to actually BE those princesses.
So I created a new world for them, the United Kingdoms of Marestam, and based it on New York City. Instead of boroughs, there are kingdoms. Instead of one supreme mayor, there’s a Prime Minister. And these women (some queens, one a princess, and one an infamous socialite) are the very best of friends—supporting each other, dealing with how their lives have turned out, and seeing each other through all of life's trials and triumphs. You can find it on Amazon, in both print and e-book.

What inspired you to write it?

Desperately Ever After is the result of a Disney-obsessed kid growing up. An active imagination and tendency to overanalyze everything also helped! I grew up on the happily-ever-after films, but always scrutinized how quickly the characters fell madly in love. The insinuation was that because they were physically attracted to each other, they were perfectly matched in every other way … and their lives were going to be filled with rainbows and butterflies and infinite happiness forever after.
But life just doesn’t work that way, and I wanted to know what really happened after “the end.” I wanted to know if Cinderella would still be happy ten years down the road. Would her iconic ball gown still fit? How many kids would she have? Would “true love” endure? And what about Beauty? How long would it take “Beast” to go right back to his old, wolfish ways after she broke his curse. Or Sleeping Beauty? The possibilities were endless!

Have you ever spotted anyone reading your books anywhere?
Not yet, but I’m hoping one day I’ll be walking along a beach and come upon someone in a lounge chair, nose-deep in Desperately Ever After. That would be a dream come true!

Who designs your covers?
Design for Writers. I highly recommend them!

If your latest book was made into a film, who would you cast?
I love this question, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Chick Lit Central had some good suggestions in early May—particularly Melissa McCarthy as Ruby (the feisty, older fairy godmother who just can’t handle when things don’t go her way). It’s tough because there are so many characters in the series as a whole, but for just Desperately Ever After, here’s my latest list:

The girls:
Photo credit: The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas via photopin cc
Belle – Emmy Rossum
Cinderella – Kristen Bell
Rapunzel – Mila Kunis
Penny – Frieda Pinto
Dawn – Natalie Dormer

The guys:
Donner – Chris Hemsworth
Ethan – Eric Dane
Aaron – Justin Hartley or Josh Duhamel

What's your favourite book that made it to the big screen?

I loved the 1994 film version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women—the one with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. I’m a huge Newsies fan, so to me those were his best years (though I know every non-Newsies fan would disagree). The casting was fantastic (with the exception of Friedrich), and I still cry out when Amy throws Jo’s manuscript in the fire. As a writer, it’s devastating.

What were the last two books you read?
Why Can’t I Be You, by Allie Larkin, and The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker

Name one female author who you think deserves to be better known.
Gosh that’s tough. I host an interview series on my blog every Wednesday featuring both traditionally published and indie authors, and there are so many to choose from! Allie Larkin is one of my favorite new authors, but Hazel Gaynor has a fantastic indie-to-big-five story. She is living the dream, and I think everyone should give her a try.

Where do you write?
I’m lucky enough to work from home as an author and freelance journalist. My office is slathered with orange because I read it increases creativity, but then I painted the nook around my desk with a more tranquil aqua and plastered the walls with all sorts of inspirational pictures. The most important part of my writing space is my dog (a huge, happy, Labrador retriever) who lounges at my feet and forces me get up every couple hours to take him for a walk or play fetch. When I’m stuck, it’s usually during those moments that everything clears up. I consider him my in-house writing coach.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? And did you follow the dream?
I wanted to be all sorts of things: An actress, an Olympic swimmer, a Broadway musical singer, an investigative journalist, a mermaid, a space princess. Haha. I think that means I wanted to fit into whatever world I’d most recently read about or seen on TV. My imagination always drew me toward writing fiction. It just took me a while to realize it!

In the movie of your life, who would play you?
Photo credit: gdcgraphics via photopin cc
Amy Adams. She has the right hair color and the ability to switch from sweet and oblivious to crazy, don’t-even-start-with-me stressed out.

Speed Round...
Top drink to make you tipsy? 
I love the look of those colorful drinks in impossible-to-balance glasses, but I’m a beer girl at heart—especially craft wheats and IPAs. (Though margaritas always do me in!)
Shopaholic or shopadon't?  Shopaholic online. Shopadon’t in stores!
Sky high heels or closer to the ground? Closer to the ground. I’m all about comfort.
E.L. James or Jilly Cooper? Jilly Cooper
Cry baby or tough cookie? Tough cookie with an emotional breakdown every three months or so
Exotic beach or enchanted forest?  While I do love a good beach day (warm sun, crashing waves, good book), how could I possibly turn down the chance to explore an enchanted forest?!

Chapter Two
Cinderella sucked in and squirmed through the crystal tunnel, grasping for the surface as if her life depended on it. Lacking the breath to form actual words, she forced a silent pep talk. Just a few more inches. The triumph will be worth the pain. Come on, Cindy. Burrow.
She pressed on, praying her head would burst from the darkness before her heart pinched out her throat. Don’t breathe in. Air is the enemy here. Her mind ran wild with visions of front page jabs, of her husband’s once-adoring face bowed in disgust, of all her admirers and endorsements turning away for somebody younger … tighter … less mentally cluttered.
If she couldn’t fit into the ball gown that ten years ago elevated her from cinders to chiffon, she needed no further proof that her fairy tale was coming to an end. She’d probably turn into a sitcom travesty. “Fallen Royals: Where Are They Now?”
Suck it in, Cindy. Just a few more—
The snap shot through her bones. She gasped. Her chest sprung out like a slashed canister of crescent rolls. The roar was unmistakable. But rather than whip up and lament the fact that her iconic ball gown had just torn open, Cinderella froze for so long and in such an awkward position that Time itself must have admired her steadfast denial. Alas, the inlaid clock on her mantel clicked forward.
“Crackling snapdragons!” she shrieked, releasing her contorted spine and twirling around to make sure she was alone. Cursing didn’t befit a queen—even one with four kids and an eponymous social metaphor based on her life.
Just when she thought the coast was clear, a tap sounded on the door, followed by the voice of her youngest attendant.
“Is everything all right in there, miss?” Delia’s words sailed clearly though the doors separating the royal apartments from the rest of the castle.
She sighed. Perhaps life in a castle was luxurious in other kingdoms, but Carpale was the star of Marestam in every way—its central location, its bustling streets, its financial prowess, its grand train station, and its iconic castle (which was supposed to prove Parliament and local monarchies could cohabit as well as coexist). Life here was crowded and far too exposed. She couldn’t even sneeze without someone showing up with a cart full of tissues.
“Can I get you something?” Delia repeated from the hall.
Cindy stifled a laugh and glared at the gilded doors. Could she request her pre-motherhood waistline back? Or the last ten years of her life? “I’m fine,” she said, taking a calming breath. “But would you mind getting some of that special tea Rapunzel sent over?”
“The metabolism tea? Of course,” Delia sang. “It’ll go great with some of those chocolate biscuits and—”
“Don’t you dare!” The words splattered over her lips like Rapunzel’s third martini on a Wednesday. She shuddered. “Sorry—I mean—just the tea, please.”
If Delia acknowledged the apology, Cindy didn’t hear it as she freed herself from five layers of chiffon, extricated her heel from the underlying web of tulle, and dove into a far more reasonable ensemble: a velour tracksuit with “Royalty” (a gift from her eldest daughter, Sophie, who had a matching set) spelled out in gemstones. Dropping into her favorite armchair with the grace of an out-of-practice acrobat, she sighed and gazed into the plaster sky overhead. She really needed to get a grip.
For as long as she could remember, Cindy had faced obstacles with the perfect combination of strength and grace. From losing both her parents by age twelve to becoming her stepmother’s maid, she neither caved in nor lashed out during tough times. Even back then, she didn’t see the point in throwing unsightly hissy fits or steamrolling over innocent bystanders simply because her life wasn’t going well. It seemed far more effective to conceal all but a pinhole of resentment, complete her assigned tasks with the expected degree of care, and escape to her crawlspace at the end of the day to quietly plot her escape. Cindy believed it was this attitude (much more defining, she hoped, than her marriage alone) that prompted the Marestam Mirror to name her Woman of the Year five times in the last decade.
Lately, however—ever since “The Big Three-O” had wriggled within striking range—her good nature had fallen a bit askew. It started when she noticed that the upper left crease of her smile stopped flattening when she let her lips fall back down. Her first wrinkle. Then, when Sophie was fiddling with her hair one afternoon, she plucked out a “white wire” that was somehow entwined with the rest of her golden strands. When Cindy relayed these mortifying events to her husband, Aaron simply laughed, kissed her forehead, and said he knew a great colorist on State Street.
Thus began a month of anti-wrinkle treatments, crash diets, every exercise class known to man, and a dangerous, slightly masochistic journey through the memory trunk she kept in the back of her closet. In it, she found old love notes from Aaron; four baby blankets; a letter of Regal condolence honoring her mother (penned long before she became the author’s daughter-in-law); her father’s passport (last stamped on Cindy’s twelfth birthday, a week before he died); and a list of things she’d vowed to do before thirty, scrawled on the back of her stepmother’s list of “Chores and Punishments.”
Of all these bittersweet artifacts, it was the last piece that brought her to tears. This wasn’t because she’d come to terms with her mother’s death, or because she no longer missed hearing about her father’s overseas adventures. Nor was it because she still felt the stings of her stepmother’s curling iron. Rather, she fixated on the list because she knew how its teenage author would have considered her future self. Queen Cinderella, she would have thought, was not only a few breaths away from a casket, but also a complete and total bore.
Item One: Travel A LOT. Visit every realm in the world.
This had been her dream before she crashed Aaron’s marital ball (purely to spite her stepfamily) and fell idiotically in love with Carpale’s heir apparent. Aaron understood, bless his heart, and tried to ease the loss with two open tickets on a year-long honeymoon … but little Sophie slammed a wrench into that idea pretty fast. Instead of seeing the world, they’d skulked home when she was in the throes of first trimester nausea, and were quickly ushered onto her in-laws’ thrones. Since then, “the world” had come to mean a cluster of five crowded islands surrounded by ocean and bursting with monotony.
Item Two: Do something dangerous, daring, and scarier than sleeping in a cave full of bats.
Cindy had to chuckle over the youthful turn of phrase, then frown over its content. Walking into that ball wearing Ruby’s magical costume had been pretty intimidating. But scarier than a cave of bats? Not really. Then there was her shoeless sprint home after the spell wore off. Racing through the streets of downtown Carpale with bare feet was definitely painful … and sort of dangerous. But swarms of young women did it every weekend when the clubs let out. Her younger self had definitely envisioned something more monumental. Like skydiving, perhaps. Or spelunking.
Item Three: Create a breathtaking masterpiece.
Ahh. Her art phase. This obsession began when her father gave her an art book procured during his travels. For months, she fell asleep matching the masterpieces in each realm with the stamps in his passport. Soon, her bedroom was wallpapered three-layers deep with construction paper collages, paint-by-numbers, and drawings of every kind. Her shelves overflowed with chunks of clay that bore no resemblance to anything of this world. It was her first gallery and, as it turned out, her only. When her dad died, Cindy’s elder stepsister commandeered the room as her personal walk-in closet and used the artwork as a pedicure mat.
The list went on, but the song remained the same. Cindy didn’t know what bothered her more—the things on the list that she hadn’t done, or the things that were missing. Fall in love. Get married. Have babies too fast and far too often. Become the figurehead of all figureheads in a realm with a political identity crisis. She was blessed in ways so profound she couldn’t even have imagined them as a child. So why did this unfulfilled batch of adolescent daydreams make her feel so hollow?

To be in with a chance of winning an ecopy of Desperately Ever After, leave a comment below telling me your favourite fairytale character. Don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact the winner!

Laura Kenyon is an award-winning journalist and graduate of Boston College. Her stories and articles have appeared in Kiwi Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Just Labs, Serendipity, The Improper Bostonian, InD’tale Magazine, and Westchester/Hudson Valley Weddings, as well as in myriad newspapers and at PrickoftheSpindle.com. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and their silver Labrador retriever. DESPERATELY EVER AFTER is her first novel.
She loves connecting with readers on her blog (laurakenyon.com), Twitter (twitter.com/laura_kenyon), Facebook (facebook.com/LauraKenyonWrites), and Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/laurakenyon).
Representation: Michelle Brower
Folio Literary Management


  1. Thank you for reviewing as well as posting your interview and an excerpt Suzy.


  2. My favorite fairy tale character is Cinderella. Love that it's shoes that bring the man to her :-)

    Tamileepronske at gmail dot com

  3. Thank you for hosting me, Suzy. The interview was loads of fun!


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