If, in the fall of 2017, you happened to be in a Los Angeles bookstore, and wondered why two adults — specifically Isabel Galupo ’14 and Daniel Haack ’10 — were reading through a stack of children’s picture books, the answer is simple: Research.
Haack, who last year published a children’s fairytale book called “Prince & Knight,” had asked Galupo to be a co-author with him for his next project, “Maiden & Princess” which would tell the story a fairytale romance that develops between a fierce warrior maiden and a royal princess at a ball thrown, ironically, to find a wife for a prince.
Galupo, who was selected as a Lambda Literary Fellow in 2015, brought a valuable, and necessary, perspective to the book. “I had the experience of being a queer female in a lesbian relationship,” she said. “Dan recognized that, which shows what kind of a male ally he is.”
By immersing themselves in the canon of children’s fairy tales, the pair were able to clear an important first step: decide which themes needed to be discarded, and which ones needed to be explored.
“I really wanted this book to move beyond the typical tropes we see in female fairy tale characters — such as the damsel in distress or the old woman,” Galupo said. “And a female warrior character is typically lacking in the literature we read.”
Another thing the pair wanted to do was to make one of the protagonists a person of color. “I’m multi-racial,” said Galupo. “And you don’t often see that reflected in literature, which was a reality I wanted to see.”
Deciding which individual would be a person of color took some discussion. “We talked about the implications of choosing each of them, and ultimately settled on making the royal family one of color,” Galupo said.
With those key decisions made, the pair focused on the story, which follows the nervous maiden warrior as she prepares for, and attends, a royal ball hosted by the prince’s family.
“Because it’s being held to find him a wife, she’s getting a lot of attention, but also pressure to dance with the prince,” Galupo said. “She doesn’t want to, so she goes outside to take a break from everything, meets a woman, and sparks fly. It just so happens that the woman is the princess.”
The collaboration continued throughout the writing process, as Galupo and Haack alternated writing chunks of the text and reading those sections out loud to each other. “It was important that both our voices were heard throughout the text,” she said.