So This Is Love: Interview with Disney Twisted Tales Author Elizabeth Lim

Magic. Hope. Love.

These three themes radiate in Elizabeth Lim’s So This Is Love and challenge Cinderella to chart her own course beyond the fairytale ending we know from Disney’s Cinderella

So This is Love Disney book

So This is Love is the ninth book in Disney’s Twisted Tales series and the second book in the series written by Elizabeth Lim. The stories answer critical “what if” questions that change the course of famous Disney films.

What if Cinderella never tried on the glass slipper? 

Powerless to prove that she’s the missing princess and determined to resist Lady Tremaine’s plans for her, Cinderella attempts a fresh start and is given work as a seamstress at the palace. But when the Grand Duke appoints her to serve under the Duchess of Orlanne, Cinderella becomes witness to a grand conspiracy to overthrow the King and his son, Prince Charles, and to cement longstanding prejudices against fairies – including Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.  

Elizabeth Lim’s So This is Love and Reflection (based on Mulan) take classic Disney heroines and project them into new situations. They are given an unprecedented voice and the opportunity to grow and develop into multidimensional, active female leads appealing to old and new audiences.

With content like this, who wouldn’t be excited to chat to Elizabeth about her Disney heroine explorations? Check out our chat with the talented author and musical composer(!) below!

Elizabeth, thank you for chatting with us at The Disney Blog!

Thank you for having me! I’m excited to talk to you about the Twisted Tales ☺ 

You have had a wonderfully creative career! From film and video game composition to music composition; to novel writing and teaming up with Disney Publishing, tell us a bit about how you got to this point in your career and what you have learnt along the way.

Thank you! So I actually never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would become an author. My dream as a kid was always to become a composer, but I always LOVED writing stories, and I often wrote short stories to accompany the songs I was working on. Eventually I realized that I loved writing stories even more than composing music, and while in grad school, I decided to try pursuing publication. It took a long time, but I was lucky enough to sign with my agent, and when she told me about an opportunity to work with Disney on their Twisted Tales series, I jumped on the chance! 

Have you always been a Disney fan?

Absolutely!! I got into both music and reading because of Disney. I hated practicing piano until my mom bought me a Disney songbook (some of my first songs were “Whistle While You Work” and “So This is Love” (!)), and I read my Disney storybooks over and over again until the pages were wrinkled while wearing my princess and Minnie Mouse nightgowns. Now that I have a daughter, one of the things I’m most excited about is imparting that same love to her. I’m very proud that she already has a Minnie Mouse plush and hugs it every day.

Elizabeth Lim
Author Elizabeth Lim

You are the talented author behind the Maia Tamarin series as well as Twisted Tales Reflection and So This is Love. What do you consider to be the most appropriate description for your Twisted Tales? Do you think of them as new versions of Disney stories; adaptations, remakes or something else? How do you describe them?

Hmm, I think of them as expanded alternate universes. In Reflection, Shang is injured instead of Mulan during their battle against the Huns, and this completely changes the course of Mulan’s story as she goes into the Underworld to save him. It was an opportunity to dig deeper into her past and character arc and is a bit more like an episode contained within the movie. Most of So This is Love, however, would take place after where the film ends, since the “twist” takes place rather late in the film’s plot. In So This is Love, Cinderella is trapped in the attic and isn’t freed by her mice friends so she never gets to try on the slipper. In this alternate universe, she has to figure out a way to achieve her happily ever after on her own, rather than try on the slipper and be recognized as the girl from the ball that way. 

We love the course your Cinderella story takes. 

Your stories pay homage to the classic Disney tales we know and love while simultaneously writing old characters into new adventures, as well as introducing us to new characters. How do you strike the balance between “out with the old and in with the new”?

That’s a tricky part! One of the things I love about the Twisted Tales is the twist itself. Because I’m not retelling the film per se, the characters go on a new journey and experience new arcs. There are new characters introduced in both Reflection and So This is Love, and of course familiar faces as well. For instance, in So This is Love, Cinderella spends most of her time outside her family chateau and has to find work in the palace to survive. This new environment makes her grow as a character as well as reflect on her years of being a servant for her stepmother and stepsisters, and I absolutely loved exploring the vulnerabilities from her past as well as strengths she brings with her as she confronts her uncertain future.

We love what you have done with the characters in this book, including the Grand Duke; Cinderella’s friend, Louisa, the Duchess of Orlanne, Genevieve and even Bruno the dog! Tell us about the process for developing your characters in your story and what choices you had to make about and for them along the way.

Thank you! I’m a big outliner, so I try to plan a lot in advance. I also wanted to give Cinderella a trusted friend and mentor (aside from the fairy godmother) since she doesn’t have those figures in the film, and a villain aside from Lady Tremaine. With those characters in mind, it was a lot of fun developing Louisa, a seamstress who becomes Cinderella’s confidante in the palace, Genevieve—who I won’t say too much about because of spoilers!, and the Grand Duke. 

In So This is Love, you use all the tools given to you by Disney’s Cinderella – from the famous glass slipper, to the green beads Drizella rips away from Cinderella the night of the ball, and even the portrait hall that we catch a glimpse of in the film – and embellish them in a creative, thoughtful and inviting way. What are some of your favorite tidbits from Cinderella that you chose to include as part of the story you wanted to tell in So This is Love and why?

I loved exploring why the magic ends at midnight! That was always one of my questions from the fairytale, so it was really fun for me to flesh out the role of magic in Cinderella’s world and why the fairy godmother insisted she leave at midnight. I also loved exploring Cinderella’s mother more – one of my favorite scenes from the movie was always when the mice reconstruct Cinderella’s mother’s dress, and it was important to me to bring out their mother daughter relationship and how else Cinderella might have honored her mother’s memory.

So This is Love is a traditional love story peppered with modern-day independence and drive. “Magic can only set you on the path to happiness” and “I cannot always depend on someone to save me” are two of my favorite quotes. We also love the down-to-earth, Ever-After feeling we get as we learn more about the Prince. Which themes were important to you such that you felt compelled to include them?

The prince doesn’t get a lot of dialogue in the film (though “So This is Love” is one of my very favorite Disney songs!) so I definitely wanted to flesh out his character more. I also wanted to deflect from the “love at first sight” trope and take more time with the romance between Cinderella and the prince, as well as explore Cinderella’s doubts about her future. It was important for me to have Cinderella make her own informed decisions, to be capable of succeeding on her own and not simply fall in love with the first handsome stranger she met and then live happily ever after.  

We love that. We also love that this is largely a female-led fairytale. From Cinderella’s relationship with her stepmother and stepsisters, to her relationship with her fairy godmother, Louisa and Genevieve – there are so many great personalities and dynamics in this story. Did you have this objective from the outset or was it something that manifested as your story planning unfolded?

Yes, this was a goal from the start! Even in the film, Cinderella has great moments of spunk and rebellion and I wanted to bring these out more through strong female characters. 

In addition to graduating from Harvard with an A.B. in music and a secondary in East Asian studies, you also obtained a doctorate in music composition. How have your studies influenced your writing, if at all?

I think studying music taught me to be a writer. It helped me listen closely and pay attention to the rhythm and flow of my words. My secondary in East Asian Studies also helped me gain a broader understanding of East Asia’s history (particularly of the Silk Road, which is so central to the interaction of ideas and culture between the East and West), and as I often draw upon fairytales from my childhood, it’s been fascinating to see and draw connections between stories across the world.

What resources beyond the Disney films do you look to for inspiration for your Twisted Tales?

I love turning to the original source of the tales. For Mulan, I grew up with various version of the Chinese legend (dramas, movies, novelizations) and I loved returning to those sources for my research. For Cinderella, I turned to similar resources – there’s one version of Cinderella that I love where there are three balls instead of one, and I tried to incorporate a hint of that into So This is Love ☺ 

Who is your favorite character from your stories and why?

I love both Mulan and Cinderella tremendously, so they’re obviously favorites. Non-Disneywise, I’d say Maia Tamarin from Spin the Dawn is the most like me, since she’s a craftsperson (I think of composing and writing as crafts!) and believes strongly in the rewards of hard work and effort, but my favorite character is from a book that has not been announced yet! Her name is Shiori and she is mentioned briefly in Unravel the Dusk; she’s the main character in my next series and is so bold and spirited – she’s a joy to write and explore. 

What challenges did you face writing your books?

I’ve learned to outline pretty heavily, and I’ve found that helps me refine my plot and structure at an early stage. What has been challenging in the Twisted Tales series is finding a way to make the characters my own while also staying true to their voices in the films. While working on the Twisted Tales I’d often read script versions of the films to really get the dialogue into my head so I’d hear and feel the characters’ voices and personalities more deeply. 

What have been your favorite parts of writing your Twisted Tales?

Gosh, I love it all. Simply being able to take the characters that I love and that were such a huge part of my childhood and bringing them on new adventures is probably my favorite part. 

What advice would you give other authors wanting to write Twisted Tales?

Aside from knowing and loving the Disney film and characters of their choice, I think my advice would be more general writing advice: to read as much as you can, to listen to what you like and don’t like in a book so you develop a critical eye and ear, and to be prepared to work hard. At the same time, unleash your imagination and have fun with it. 

What is next for Elizabeth Lim?

I have a new series that will be announced soon! It’s set in the same world as Spin the Dawn and is inspired by some of my very favorite fairytales so I’m very excited. 

What do you ultimately hope readers get out of So This is Love?

So This is Love takes the Cinderella we know and love from the film and explores the magic and dreams behind it. I’m hoping readers will see new sides of old and familiar faces, learn more about the history and lore behind Cinderella’s fairy godmother, and spend more time with the prince as Cinderella chases the wishes deep in her heart, makes new friends, and learns what it means to truly fall in love.

So This is Love is available for preorder on Amazon and will be released on April 7, 2020.

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