If you’re a stepparent, you need to know about the new book My Fairy Stepmother by Marni and Jason Prince and illustrated by Susan Tegelaar. This children’s book reveals a stepmother’s nurturing qualities that help make a house a home. We recently caught up with co-author Marni, and dug in to find out what inspired her to write this groundbreaking children’s book. Surprising fact: there are VERY few children’s books written to support the relationship between child and stepmom.
What is your blended family story?
Jason and I met 6 years ago at and have been married for 3 years. I met his daughter 6 months after we started dating. Jason wanted to make sure we were serious before introducing me to his daughter, which I had a lot of respect for. My Stepdaughter is now 11 and we have a great relationship. I do not have any children of my own, so it is just the three of us.
Have you always been aware that there is a negative bias against stepmoms in our society, or is that a recent realization?
It was not something that really occurred to me until I became a stepmom. I remember after my husband and I got married, whenever I would say “I’m her stepmom,” I almost always wanted to qualify it and say, “But we get along great!” I also recall hearing my stepdaughter talking to her friends. They would immediately assume she did not like me and she always had to tell them “She’s really nice though.” It made me sad that on top of my stepdaughter dealing with her parents divorce and a new family dynamic, she also had to deal with this negativity around having a “stepmom.”
Do you remember having a negative viewpoint toward stepmothers in the past?
I don’t recall anything specific, but I think that the negative stereotype is so deeply ingrained in our society that it can have an effect on most everyone, whether they’re aware of it or not. And that’s something we hope our book goes a little ways towards changing. The more voices there are counteracting the negative stereotypes, the better! When kids say “I’m going to have a stepmom,” we hope the reply is “That’s great. You’re so lucky!”
Did anything in particular trigger you to write your book?
As pretty much any stepmother can tell you, being a stepparent is not all sunshine and smiles. I feel particularly fortunate that my stepdaughter accepted me into her life so readily; but for many stepparents, their role can be fraught with challenges. So when I thought about how fairytales and the media often portray stepmothers as wicked, it felt like a slap in the face to the many stepmothers who take on this challenging role, and it inspired me and my husband to do something about it.
When we began looking at some of the children’s books available for blended families, we noticed that while many of them try to paint stepparents in a positive light, they could sometimes come across as didactic or preachy. Books can also implicitly draw a line between “normal” families and stepfamilies, and unfortunately, that’s something which young readers pick up on. When we set out to write My Fairy Stepmother, we wanted to erase that line while still drawing positive attention to blended families.
When did you begin writing your book, and what was the process like to get it published?
We began writing the book a little over a year ago. The story part took about 4 months to finalize. It was the illustrations that took longer. Good illustrations can go a long way toward drawing a reader into the story, so we hired a very talented artist, Susan Tegelaar, who painted each of the pages by hand. We did a lot of research and found that traditional publishers have a lot of control especially when it comes to children’s books and the illustrations. Since we are both graphic artists, we felt strongly we could not compromise on the illustrations and wanted full control of both the illustrations and story. In addition, traditional publishers require a higher percentage of the royalties, so we decided to publish it ourselves.
What specific feedback have you gotten from families who have read the book?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many blended families agree there are so few books like this and it is really refreshing to see stepmoms portrayed in a positive light. The book has been well received by children too. One woman told me: “My daughter walked around the house “reading” the book, changing the characters names in the book to those of herself, stepmom, cat, Dad and special bear!”
Have you received any negative reactions?
Not on the final draft, but when we first wrote the story, we were hoping to touch upon some of the tension that can sometimes occur between the two households that children of divorced parents live in. This proved to be challenging as we received feedback that we were not casting the bio-mom in the most positive light. We wanted to make sure we did not alienate any audience, so In the end, we made some changes that kept the story more simple and positive.
Have you written other books, and/or do you have other books planned? Have you considered writing a stepparent-related book aimed at young male readers?
This is our first book, and if it performs well, we would definitely like to do something in the same vein for stepfathers and step-siblings. Or maybe even a series of books that covers most blended family scenarios. In fact, we already have the title for one picked out, but we’ll keep it under wraps for now.