As I was writing The Twins, I was aware that it could be seen as an interpretation of a fairy tale, complete with a cottage deep among pine trees and a dark tower without a door. And of course there’s witchcraft and magic woven into the plot, with a ghost dog prowling just out of sight.
There are other similarities too. I like the dark hearts of fairy tales; they don’t shy away from revealing the cruelty in the world. The dying rabbit and ill-fated baby goat are in the book because you encounter such things in the country; but they could also be seen metaphorically as part of the lesson the girls learn about the sacrifices which life demands. Tokens are given in fairy tales and fables – symbols imbued with meaning – like Viola’s pebble, which stands for a love that’s as enduring as the stone itself.
One of the central drives of The Twins is Isolte’s quest to find the lost boys in order to save her sister. The quest is a device used in many fairy tales: Sleeping Beauty and The Seven Ravens to name a couple. Although the genre takes us into magic places and introduces otherworldly beings, the acts of heroism needed during the quest renew our faith in humanity, leaving us with the knowledge that we have the power to change things through our bravery and love.
Children in fairy tales are typically cut free from adult protection and guidance – think of Babes In The Wood or Red Riding Hood. They must use their instinct and intelligence to pass tests in order to survive or to achieve their goal. In the twins’ case, this is getting rid of Frank, perceived as the ‘evil’ step-father. Of course, in the novel, it goes horribly wrong and a ‘happy ending’ seems impossible.
Although there are definitely parallels between The Twins and a fairy tale, such stories are populated by characters who (even if they slip into disguise,) tend to be clear representatives of good and evil, whereas I hope that The Twins offers a more realistic look at the way we are all a blend of conflicting qualities, both ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ Ultimately, the characters in my book must strive to find their way back – not out of a literal forest – but out of the dark and tangled past. Their glittering prize isn’t a crown or the hand of the prince, but a chance to forgive and be forgiven.