After working as both a children’s minister and a children’s librarian, Chanda Hahn saw a clear need for a certain type of book. Parents wanted young adult novels that would offer fantasy, action, and romance without worrying that the content could be inappropriate or too adult. To fill that need, Hahn took on a Nanowrimo project in 2010—when aspiring writers make the commitment to complete a full novel in the month of November—and the result was UnEnchanted,transplanting Grimm’s fairy tales into a modern high school world. The self-published success launched Hahn’s Unfortunate Fairy Taleseries, which would eventually end up on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Today, with multiple bestselling series including the Iron Butterflyand the Neverwood Chronicles,Hahn continues to forge a path for YA literature in the world of self-publishing.
What inspired you to revisit the stories and characters from classic fairy tales?
I’ve always been fascinated with Grimm’s fairy tales. I love reading “Cinderella” or “Red Riding Hood” and then diving into foreign retellings like Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China, or The Irish Cinderlad: A Genderswapped Cinderella.It's interesting to see how a familiar tale changes based on the culture and the audience.
Could you tell me about your experience with the Nanowrimo project and how it helped you get started?
One day, while looking at photos on Flickr for inspiration, I saw a photo of a girl in a red hooded jacket, by photographer Jorge Wiegand. This single photo birthed the whole Unfortunate Fairy Tale series in my head. It wasn’t in my writing schedule, but I couldn’t shake the idea. So I used Nanowrimo to write UnEnchanted and begged the photographer to let me use his photo for my book cover.
What makes you gravitate toward children’s and young adult literature?
There’s something innocent about children’s and young adult literature where the struggles are real but the content is lighthearted.
What do you think sets your books apart from other YA fiction?
There’s a vast amount of phenomenal YA books, and thanks to Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, many of these YA readers are adults. Many upper YA books, because of controversial or inappropriate content, are banned from school libraries. I write for the school system and keep the content clean. The books I write focus on love, plenty of action, and a moving story to captivate a reader but are appropriate for all ages. I aim to write a classic story that can withstand the test of time.
Are there any particular challenges specific to self-publishing in the YA field?
I think self-publishing, in general, is challenging, but writing for a market that is over half adult and half teens makes pleasing everyone a challenge. Never underestimate the power of teachers, librarians, family, and other young readers. If they love the book, they will tell everyone they know. This is another reason why clean fiction sells.
What do you like about self-publishing your work?
The freedom of being my own boss, following my characters’ every whim, and working with my brother-in-law, Steve Hahn, who designs all of my covers.
What is the current series you’re working on, and can you tell us about your next release?
Lost Shadow, Book 3 in the Neverwood Chronicles. A contemporary twist on Peter Pan, where Neverland is a corporation on a hidden island that does secret experiments on kids. When the boys escape, they develop powers and fight the shadows that hunt the innocent in the streets. You can start the series and pick up Lost Girl and Lost Boy now, and look for Lost Shadow this fall.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator living in Paris.