I’m welcoming Fiona Price to Book’d Out today to share with you her debut Let Down Your Hair, a novel with a very modern spin on the Rapunzel fairytale.
Fiona Price has a lifelong passion for words. She has studied multiple languages, talks too much, and spent her teens exchanging long letters with penfriends all over the world. After declaring she was going to be a writer, aged six, she began work on her first masterpieces: a novel about a wild pony and an incisive satirical song called ‘Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep’. Since then, she has attempted just about every form of writing, from bush verse and screenplays to elegies and academic articles. When not writing, Fiona uses her storytelling skills as a cross-cultural trainer and public speaker. She runs workshops on cultural diversity issues, is a member of Toastmasters, and was MC at the 2014 Chinese New Year Dinner for the Museum of Chinese-Australian History. Her non-fiction book Success with Asian Names was published in 2007, and she was a co-author for the HarperCollins International Student Survival Guide in 2014. Fiona is plotting further novels based on fairy tales, and is currently working on a fantasy trilogy for young adults. She has an Australian father and a Chinese mother, and she lives in Melbourne by the sea.
About Let Down Your Hair
At 22, Sage Rampion has led a strange and cloistered life. She’s been homeschooled, and she’s never owned a cell phone, watched TV or spoken to a man on her own. Everything she’s seen, read and watched has been vetted by her grandmother Andrea, Professor of Women’s Studies and hardline old school feminist.
When Sage and Andrea see Ryan modelling naked below their office window, Andrea marches out to charge him with indecent exposure. But he waves up at Sage, and his grin is the warmest thing she’s seen in her lonely existence. She rushes down to warn him, and as they grow close her sheltered world begins to unravel. Sage starts asking questions about the way she was brought up, and the beautiful teenage mother who abandoned her.
But answering those questions means confronting Andrea, and she’s not a good enemy to make. Taking her on brings Ryan and Sage more trouble than either of them could have imagined.
A timely re-telling of the Rapunzel fairytale in the era of selfies and smartphones.
My review of Let Down Your Hair can be seen HERE, in the meantime please enjoy this guest post from Fiona Price.
My first encounter with fairytale retelling was “Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes”. I was seven, and I thought Dahl’s rhyming twists on well-known tales were the funniest things I’d ever heard. Inspired by his gun-toting Little Red Riding Hood, I wrote a story called “Petrolella” for my next primary school assignment. I’m happy to say my teacher gave me a star for it!
The idea of retelling Rapunzel came to me many years later. My plan was to find crafty ways of adapting the tower and the hair for a modern-day setting. I toyed with a few ideas, but the one that grabbed me most came when I fell pregnant with my first child. For the first time, I found myself looking at the world as the place where I planned to raise a child. And the more I looked, the more scared I got about the prospect of having a daughter. How could I protect a girl from the message that Looking Hot is a girl’s most important duty? I figured there was no way to stop that message reaching her; I’d just have to arm her against it.
Then I got to thinking. If I did want to protect her from crippling sexist messages, what would I have to do? I’d have to home-school her, and vet everything from what she saw and read to the company she kept. No TV. No unsupervised internet. No commercial music. No contact with anyone who might leak that message through to her. I’d pretty much have to lock her away from the world… rather like the Witch in Rapunzel.
What sort of modern-day woman might bring up a child in so extreme a way? A feminist, obviously, but not an ordinary, sane feminist. A zealot. A purist. An unhinged hardliner with separatist leanings and a powerful need for control. A woman, in short, like Andrea Rampion, Professor of Womyn’s Studies.
Making my Wicked Witch a feminist professor was a risk, but it worked on so many levels. Not only could I milk the term “ivory tower”, I also got a strong link to hair. Because, of course, a woman like Andrea would emphatically reject the pressure on women to keep their bodies bald, brows groomed and head hair long and luscious. All I had to do was figure out how Rapunzel managed to grow hers so long while living under Andrea’s hairy thumb.
Turning a short fairytale into a novel means you have to take some liberties. In Let Down Your Hair, I added a second tower, and expanded the cast of five quite a bit. All the same, I tried to keep all of the key symbols and plot twists, including the gritty ones cut out by the Brothers Grimm. To my mind, if you’re retelling a fairytale, you need to do it properly!
The other thing I did was update the archetypes in the tale to familiar ones we see in the media today. The Humourless Man-Hating Feminist. The Blonde Alpha Girl. The Rich Guy Who Dates Blondes. The Ugly Duckling Who’s Really A Gorgeous Actress In Glasses. I wanted to take these tropes and turn them into real people with histories and inner worlds of their own.
‘Let Down Your Hair’ is my debut novel, and I’m really excited that it’s out. If all goes well, I’d like to tackle another fairytale soon, and I’ve already got my eye on Snow White…
Let Down Your Hair is available for purchase from