Cathy O’Neill was one of those kids who opened every wardrobe expecting to find Narnia. She grew up and became an attorney, but then her own kids brought make-believe back into her life and she found the inspiration to write UNRAVELED, an action packed, fun-filled, fantasy series for 8-to-12-year-olds.
Cathy is originally from Dublin, Ireland. She now lives in Austin with her husband and four daughters. Before she started writing about magic and fairy tales and middle schoolers, Cathy co-authored the bestselling self-help book Babyproofing Your Marriage and gave relationship advice on The Today Show, Sky News and the BBC. She thinks that talking to kids about fairy tales is much more fun.
Some interesting things about me:
- I’m not the only author in my family. My sister Ellie O’Neill is a bestselling novelist in Australia. Ellie writes beautiful, funny books with a slice of magic on the side. My dad, Brendan O’Neill, has self-published a historical fiction novel set during World War 2.
- My daughter Maeve was the inspiration for the UNRAVELED series. When she was 13, she kept worrying about whether or not she was getting enough sleep and every night would say “what if I can’t fall asleep?” and that question got stuck in my head. And then “what if I can’t fall asleep” turned into “what if I don’t need to sleep” and then I had a hook, I had a what-if … what if there was a thirteen-year-old girl who no longer needed to sleep? Imagining this girl made me think about the story of Sleeping Beauty and the princess who couldn’t stay awake and then I was off … thinking about fairy tales and my mind started fizzing and jumping with possibilities.
- When I was a kid, I planted jelly beans in our back garden hoping that a beanstalk would grow (so that I could climb up to a giant’s castle in the clouds, obviously) And I didn’t just open wardrobes looking for Narnia, I sat in one for hours, peeking out the door every now and again to see if I’d made it there.
- I didn’t learn to drive until I was 26. (I know that’s not that crazy in Europe but in America most people think that that is very, very weird.)
As I was writing UNRAVELED, I learned some interesting things about fairy tales. Here are some of them:
- There are seven hundred versions of Cinderella. There are Cinderella stories from China, Africa, Russia, Iran and all over Europe.
- Fairy tales are not hundreds, but thousands of years old. For example, the Beauty and the Beast story is about 6,000 years old.
- The fairy tales that we tell today are not as gruesome (or as interesting) as their earlier versions.
- Some academics believe that many fairy tales are based on true stories.
- Walt Disney loved fairy and folk tales and he visited Ireland in the 1950s looking for a leprechaun. (I bet the locals there had a lot of fun with that!) As far as we know he didn’t find one.