Anthea Sharp writes fairy tale retellings, Victorian steampunk, fantasy romance, and has combined the Realm of Faerie with immersive gaming in her Feyland series. Once Upon a Quest is the third volume in the Once Upon anthology series.
Once Upon a Quest
Once Upon a Quest is a collection of fifteen tales of adventure, all brand new fairytale twists from bestselling and award-winning authors. With inspirations ranging from The Ugly Duckling to Snow White, and everything in between (including trips to Camelot and Oz), these fabulous tales are full of adventure, magic, and a touch of romance.
Elly took me out and set me gently on the floor. The stone was cold beneath my paws. I walked forward until I was a short leap from the throne. The fetid smell of ogre sweat pinched my nose, and I could hear the breath rasping in and out of his throat. One of his hands was big enough to crush me, should he so choose.
“Your eminence.” I made the ogre a bow. “My name is Mistress Bootsi, and I have come to look upon your might.”
“A talking cat?” He laughed, a harsh, nasty sound. “If you thought I’d be impressed, I’m not. I have no use for you.”
The ogre stood and, in a wink, transformed to a huge lion. He roared, and I shivered in fear. My instincts clamored for me to run, run! It took all my courage to stand my ground, and I hoped that Elly had the sense to do the same. Being breakfast for a lion was not part of my plan.
– from “Mistress Bootsi” by Anthea Sharp
How did the ‘Once Upon’ anthology series get started?
A group of author friends and I started kicking around the idea of dark fairytale retellings. Everyone got excited to do the project, and I offered to manage the details, since I have experience running multi-author projects and anthologies. The fabulous Christine Pope offered her graphics skills, and Once Upon A Curse was born! It sold very well, and we decided to make this a yearly project. Quest is the third collection, after Curse (2016) and Kiss (2017).
How did you come up with the ‘quest’ theme?
We needed something to match the other titles. Curse (dark tales), Kiss (romantic tales)… and then Quest, featuring adventurous tales. We’re thinking about getting a little wild next year, and doing SF-set stories with Once Upon A Quark…
After that, who knows? 🙂
What do you find compelling about fairy tales?
The archetypal plots and characters of fairy tales still resonate today, though all the authors are having fun putting modern twists on the stories!
Your own story in the collection, “Mistress Bootsi,” was inspired by the the fairytale “Puss in Boots” (also known as “The Master Cat”). Why did you pick this particular fairytale as the basis for your story?
When thinking of quests and adventure, “Puss in Boots” just stood out to me as a classic tale full of magic and adventure. Plus, we have a new kitty in the house, so felines are on my mind these days!
Your Feyland series is also based in part on fairy tales. What aspects of fairy folklore have you used in that series, and what inspired you to combine that with gaming?
I grew up on collections of fairy tales and also singing some of the classic old fairy ballads. I’ve always loved the story of “Tam Lin”, where the maiden saves her knight (in fact, we have a “Tam Lin” retelling in Once Upon a Quest).
I’ve also played computer games since, well, Zork, and then more recently lots of MMOs. I got to thinking one day (in 2010) about the parallels between being in-game and the descriptions of humans sucked into the Realm of Faerie: time moves strangely, everything feels intense, you emerge dazed and feeling like you’ve been somewhere magical and not-of-this-world…
And Feyland was the result – a series where a computer game is the gateway to Faerie. It’s not a new idea, and portal fantasy has a long, wonderful tradition (I suppose there’s a bit of my love for Narnia in the books as well) but I think my gaming experience put a new, different twist on the theme. I’m delighted to say that the Feyland books have found a wide audience, and I still have two more books planned in the series! The prequel is free, and the first book, The Dark Realm, is just .99 cents at all ebook retailers, for those who are interested in diving in.
You play the Irish fiddle! Tell us about the kind of music you play – and about your band, Fiddlehead.
I’m classically trained, but discovered Irish music in college, and never looked back. I love playing the fiddle, and my band, Fiddlehead, has three CDs out (find them on cdbaby.com). I also love putting music into my stories, and have released a short story anthology called Tales of Music & Magic that combines my love of magic, music, and short tales.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?
I’m currently working on another fairytale retelling series, complete with a dark, enchanted forest, elves, and two sisters who must fight on opposite sides of an epic battle. Hoping to get those books out in 2019!
Growing up on fairy tales and computer games, Anthea Sharp has melded the two in her award-winning, bestselling Feyland series, which has sold over 150k copies worldwide.
In addition to the fae fantasy/cyberpunk mashup of Feyland, she also writes Victorian Spacepunk, and fantasy romance. Her books have won awards and topped bestseller lists, and garnered over a million reads at Wattpad. She’s frequently found hanging out on Amazon’s Top 100 Fantasy/SF author list. Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction River, DAW anthologies, The Future Chronicles, and Beyond The Stars: At Galaxy’s edge, as well as many other publications.
Anthea lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she writes, hangs out in virtual worlds, plays the fiddle with her Celtic band Fiddlehead, and spends time with her small-but-good family.