Today Skylar Cates is joining us to tell us what she has learned about literature and the deep appeal of the myth of Sleeping Beauty. I have to admit, I never thought about it in quite this fashion before, but she really makes a strong case for why this particular story resonates with so many of us! Welcome, Skylar!
When I was in college, I took a class about Sleeping Beauty and literature. The professor insisted that every great work of literature could be broken down into the elements of Sleeping Beauty. At the time, I thought he was a little bit nuts: he was that classic absentminded professor covered in coffee stains and chalk dust, oblivious to anything but his books. However, I soon really enjoyed his class. According to the Sleeping Beauty theory, the main character “awakens” due to the arrival of the other, and there is a battle of for change. Unlike the Disney version, thank goodness, Sleeping Beauty is not always perfect or passive. She often fights to wake up.
The relationship with this “other” is not always romantic, nor is the ending always a happy fairy tale, but it always forces the main character to transform. The idea is that familiarity, good or bad, breeds complacency, whereas an outside force can trigger true external and internal change. I can’t remember all of the novels that we read that semester, but one of them was The Left Hand of Darkness. If you’ve never read this book, it’s an amazing novel by Ursula Le Guin. I had never considered myself (and still don’t consider myself) an avid reader of science fiction, but the androgynous people of Gethen fascinated me, and I devoured every detail of Ai’s and Estraven’s amazing trek across the ice.
In real life, too, I like to think back on those moments where something outside of my sense of “normal” woke me up: my first sexual encounter, the first time I fell in love, my visiting another country, the birth of my child, the unexpected death of my parent. I don’t really regret going through any of those times, even the painful ones. If anything, I regret my vanilla times more—the times where I seem to be sleeping through my life. The times where I’m going through the daily grind, and feeling like I’m not living at all…
When I began my novel, Exposed, I wanted the characters to “wake” each other up. On the surface, they appear opposites. There are class differences. Their backgrounds and life experiences are different. After struggling to get away from his past, Rafe is flawed and emotional. Daniel, meanwhile, is trying to live up to being “perfect.” And yet, they both need an outside force, an “other,” to jolt them awake, to make them take a risk.
When I met my husband, I felt this connection, this moment of recognition, very quickly. Call me a sap, but I believe in that moment. It’s not instant love; it’s intuitive seeing. These days, my husband might “see” a little too many of my flaws and vice versa, but I can still appreciate that feeling of being known.
Writing Exposed, I was transported into my characters’ worlds. I got to eat, sleep, and breathe their triumphs and tragedies. It’s really a magical process. It’s one of the main reasons that I write and will keep on writing. Whatever happens from here on out, I’m grateful for the journey the characters took me on. I’m grateful to anybody who reads the novel and enjoys it. I’m grateful to be feeling awake. I’m ready for my next Sleeping Beauty trek.
Thanks for hosting me today!
You can find Skylar online at her website.
Skylar M. Cates loves a good romance. She is quite happy to drink some coffee, curl up with a good book, and not move all day. Most days, however, Skylar is chasing after her husband, her kids, and her giant dog, Wasabi.