Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-nine authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!
About Bridget Hodder
Bridget Hodder has always been fascinated by the power of words. She taught herself Spanish as a child by watching telenovelas, and pretended not to understand Italian so she could listen in on her mother and grandmother’s “secret” conversations. Later, she became an archaeologist, specializing in the writing of the ancient Aztec and working in locations throughout Mexico and Central America. (If you’ve ever wondered who discovered the Nahuatl word for “speech scroll” and a hidden system of slavery in ancient Aztec society…well…) She then switched careers to help schools, families and young people who struggle with autism. The Rat Prince, coming August 23, 2016 from Macmillan/FSG, is her debut novel.
I was driving from San Pedro Sula to the ancient Maya site of Copan, Honduras, with a very sick man in the passenger seat (Dave – an archaeology grad student, like myself). Then suddenly, I saw some guys in green camo fatigues at the side of the road. They were pointing large assault rifles at my car and waving at me to stop.
I wasn’t sure what to do.
I briefly considered attempting the “duck and drive” escape I’d seen so many times in action movies. However, with the mental clarity you get in an emergency, I realized in a split second that I didn’t know if this were a thing you could, you know, actually do. It might be the equivalent of trying to leap off a tall building in a single bound and fly away. Not a good risk. I wasn’t about to place my life (and Dave’s) into the hands of Hollywood. (Note to car manufacturers: Viewing-ports under the dashboard. You’re welcome.)
So I pulled over.
One guy opened the car door and another leapt into the seat behind me, the tip of his gun somewhere in the region behind my head. He told me in Spanish I was going to drive him somewhere.
I answered in Spanish with a big smile: okay, awesome, hi, welcome, yay!
Then Gun Guy caught sight of the swollen, pustule-and scab-covered Dave, reclining haplessly in the passenger seat. “What’s wrong with him?”
Now, here’s where I failed as a fictionist. I obviously should have said “He’s got a highly communicable disease that covers you in scabs and then makes your man-parts drop off.” But I was too scared to think clearly. So I told the truth: Dave had a really dangerous case of the adult chickenpox.
Gun Guy relaxed. Because he’d already had the chickenpox, and thus was immune.
Do something, do something, do something. I thought, as I started driving again and followed Gun Guy’s directions. Make him see you as a human being. If you can connect with him on some level, you and Dave might not end up in a box…as in, the box on a news magazine page with a heart-rending photo of two grad students who were victims of violence in Honduras.
I bet you’ve been wondering where the heck Scheherazade comes into this story. Cue her music now…
She’s a legendary Persian woman of great coolness and bravery, who volunteered to wed a King who was sequentially marrying, then murdering, all the nice young women in the kingdom.
The brilliant Scheherazade’s plan was to tell the King a story on the first night of their marriage, but break off at a cliffhanger in the middle of the tale, thus obliging her scary new husband to keep her alive until the next night, to hear the ending. Then she would begin another tale, ending on another cliffhanger…and so on. It worked. And she kept on doing it for the famous 1001 nights of the legend, until the King realized she was a lovable human being, and he’d been doing a Very Bad Thing with all those murders.
Leaving aside the many problematic parts of her story, Scheherazade has always been inspirational to me. I’ve learned in many contexts throughout life that she had her priorities straight: you can do big things tomorrow, but not unless you survive today.
So go ahead, all those who are oppressed, enslaved, endangered: speak fiction to power. Particularly when it’s holding a gun (or a scimitar).
As I drove through Honduras that hot afternoon with Dave and Gun Guy, I thought of Scheherazade. And I started to talk. I asked Gun Guy if he’d seen the latest episodes of a very popular Mexican romantic TV series (a telenovela) airing at the time. He hadn’t, but he knew and liked the show.
Cue my own Scheherazade music.
I explained the most recent developments in the show’s romance, the star-crossed lovers’ challenges, the dastardly efforts of the villain, the spectacular death in a fiery car crash of the villainess…and on and on and on. Gun Guy started to smile, he laughed, he told me about his favorite show, and we traded tales. I confess, I couldn’t always process the things he said, but I kept laughing and came back with more stories of my own. Dave joined in.
Readers, by the end of that car trip, Gun Guy directed me to a little pharmacy in the middle of nowhere, where he went inside and purchased a chickenpox remedy for Dave (with my money, of course).
I dropped him off just a little further down the road.
He waved goodbye with his M-16.
Title The Rat Prince
Author Bridget Hodder
Pages 272 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Fantasy, Fairytale, Re-Telling
To Be Published August 23rd, 2016 by Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Cinderella thinks she must work alone to save her noble family from the ruin and disgrace her stepmother has brought to Lancastyr Manor. She has an ailing father, a sweet, innocent little stepsister and dependent servants to protect from the wicked Wilhemina – and no way to call attention to their plight unless she figures out how to attend the royal ball.
But Cinderella knows nothing of the ancient pact between the House of Lancastyr and the rats who live within the walls of her ancestral home.
Nor is she aware that the sleek black rat she thinks is her pet is actually The Rat Prince…and she is not alone.