In this episode we hear from author Georgina Warren who has just written “Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers,” which is a collection of fairytales featuring stepmothers who achieve greatness and overcome adversity. What’s different about these short inspiring stories, is that they redefine the role of stepmothers and dispel the fairytale stereotype of the stepmother as the villain. In our chat we cover what motivated her to write the book, some common misconceptions that she wanted to address through the stories, and the practical advice and Insights readers can gain from the book.
Georgina Warren (00:00): What I would like to do is to offer support for all the good stepmothers who want to know if they’re doing everything right in their marriage and raising their children.
Laura Jenkins (00:10): In The Blend is a podcast series that helps parents navigate life within a blended family. Join me as I speak with experts and guests to get practical advice on how to have a harmonious, blended family life. This series dives deep into the unique dynamics, logistics, and challenges of raising a blended family. From new partners to juggling mixed finances, we will help guide you through it.
(00:38): Welcome back to In The Blend, the podcast that delves into the unique and beautiful world of blended families. I’m your host Laura Jenkins, and for those who don’t know me, I’m pretty passionate about blended families having grown up in one myself, and now a decade into raising one of my own. As we kick off the fourth season with this episode, I have the very good fortune of chatting with author Georgina Warren, who has just written Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers, which is a collection of fairytales featuring stepmothers who achieve greatness and overcome adversity. What’s different about these short inspiring stories is that they redefine the role of stepmothers and dispel the fairytale stereotype of the stepmother as the villain. Instead, they illuminate the wonderful impact that stepmothers have on their step children’s lives. In our chat, we cover what motivated her to write the book, some common misconceptions that she wanted to address through the stories and the practical advice and insights that readers can gain. So get ready for something a little different with this one. Let’s dive in. Well, Georgina, thank you so much for your time today. I am very much looking forward to our conversation.
Georgina Warren (01:54): Thank you for having me today, Laura. It’s a pleasure to be on the show, and I’m excited to tell everyone more about my new book, Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers.
Laura Jenkins (02:05): Yes. Amazing. I am very much looking forward to learning more about it, uh, and lots of questions for you. So first up, I’d love to know, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers?
Georgina Warren (02:22): Well, I spent my early childhood in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I was homeschooled until the age of 15 when my parents separated. Uh, my older sister and I primarily lived with our mother. She was the full-time parent while we only saw my dad and my stepmom for weekends and holidays. But that arrangement changed when I turned 15 and the custody arrangements had been adjusted. Then I transitioned to living with my father and stepmother for the later part of my life. I got enrolled in high school and I had experience of a world that I didn’t know, and the three of us experienced some growing pains while we were adjusting to life together as a family. I had not come around to fully accept my stepmother as a member of the family yet, in part because I had followed the traditional fairytales like Cinderella and Snow White. I had not yet learned that some stepmothers can actually be very good parents, and that those traditional stories were written in a time when, um, it was more common for mothers to die in childbirth. And the divisions between men and women and the rich class and the poor class were more sharply defined.
Laura Jenkins (03:41):The topic of the book is virtuous stepmothers or tales of virtuous stepmothers. What motivated you to focus on the concept of virtuous stepmothers in the book?
Georgina Warren (03:51):Once I got to that point where I had achieved a personal reconciliation with my stepmother, we developed a very supportive and loving relationship. We have shared many traditions, holidays and birthdays where we have cooked meals, exchanged gifts. We’ve traveled to foreign countries, and we used to have a family boat that we would take for little voyages out on the Potomac River. We had the most lovely time watching the monuments and taking our friends out for picnics and watching fireworks on the 4th of July. And so how I felt that when I looked around at the range of books that had been written about stepmothers, I thought to myself that, you know, I need some fairytales that feature good stepmothers because I have learned that there are many families that have blended relatives. Sometimes you have two parents get together and each parent has children from a previous marriage. And so it occurred to me that there are many people across the country and all around the world that feel a sense of frustration that their lives together are not accurately portrayed in, in most works of fiction. And so I thought I would compose a new collection of classical fairytales. Some of them take elements from traditional stories, but with a more modern twist.
Laura Jenkins (05:22): Very good. I’m really interested to work my way through the book Georgina, I’d I’ve touched on the first and second chapters so far, but um, just wanna take a minute to commend you for your writing style as well, which is, uh, extremely engaging and I found it very inspiring from what I’ve read so far. In your research that you may have done going into the book or, or based on your own personal experiences, what qualities or actions do you think define a virtuous stepmother and how do they contribute to building that positive blended family dynamic?
Georgina Warren (06:01): When I consider the qualities of my stepmother, the words that first come to mind are, um, innovative, courageous, compassionate, and humorous. And I feel that there are many stepmothers who have those qualities, but the traditional stories have left a stigma attached to the title of stepmother. It is a curse that has affected families for many generations. I wrote this book to end that curse. And so I wanted to show that there are many stepmothers in the world who can, who are good people, and they can be good parents. I will admit that sometimes every family is different and sometimes there are people who do not have an easy relationship with their stepmothers, and I can respect that. But what I would like to do is to offer support for all the good stepmothers who want to know if they’re doing everything right in their marriage and raising their children.
Laura Jenkins (07:08): I love it. I love it. It’s a good step towards removing that stigma that has existed in over time around stepmothers and, um, and I Yeah, I love that you are helping to rewrite that narrative. I wanted to ask, uh, and I mentioned I’ve read the first and started the second story in the book. In the book, uh, from what I’ve read, they’re very heartwarming and, and inspiring type stories. Could you perhaps share your favorite story with us or, or give us a brief overview of your favorite in the book?
Georgina Warren (07:43): I think this is always a difficult question because all of these stories have been special to me. Um, but I will mention that one of my favorite stories in the book is The Bird of Many Voices, the main character. Patois has a special talent. She can copy the songs of every bird that she hears. She undergoes a journey and she makes a few mistakes, gets connected with the wrong person. And her journey is essentially about reconciling her past while also trying to be a good influence for her children when she finally settles down with a husband.
Laura Jenkins (08:24): Was it fun, Georgina coming up with these different ideas?
Georgina Warren (08:28): Oh, it certainly was. You know, I have read traditional stories and I often ask the same question, what if we altered this element? Or what if we combined these two parts together and see what we get? Um, I have a very scientific mind when it comes to, um, composing stories and although, you know, most of my favorite stories have been fiction. But I also enjoy, uh, nonfiction works like biographies of famous people, historical events. And uh, so I try to incorporate as many real world elements as possible because I want people to enjoy the stories and get some educational value out of them.
Laura Jenkins (09:08): So I wanna talk a little bit about the step mother’s role and balancing her role with respect to the child’s relationship with their biological parent. And that can, from my own personal experience, I know that can at times be tricky. Do any of the stories in your book address that delicate balance?
Georgina Warren (09:29): Well, I will say this, um, most of the stories, it doesn’t really explore the tightrope that the stepmother must walk when navigating her role in the family in terms of any potential conflict between herself and the ex-wife. Because in most stories, the mother is usually dead before the stepmother joins the family. Because at the time I started writing the book, I was working through some personal, um, challenges that I wasn’t quite ready to express yet. Two of the stories in my collection, there is one that explores the potential conflict between a mother and stepmother in Aisimetra and the Manticore’s Eggs. We have a mother and stepmother from two separate families working together to protect each other’s, um, husbands and children. And the second story, The Prince Who Learned to Forgive features a mother that was estranged from her child for a long time and there is a reconciliation. But I am not going to leave you with any spoilers
Laura Jenkins (10:36): For listeners who might be stepmothers themselves, what practical advice or insights can they gain from your book to enhance their relationship with their stepchildren and perhaps help them to navigate the complexities of blended family life?
Georgina Warren (10:51): I think you’ll find that being a stepmother, you encounter a lot of challenges in the family. The most frequent ones that occur are alienation, estrangement, isolation, and imposter syndrome. Stepmothers want to be good wives and parents, but they sometimes feel like they’re falling short in spite of their best efforts. And so I will tell them that it is inevitable at times that stepmothers can fall into the role of being the “tough love parent” because sometimes the biological parents are not really, um, giving the children enough discipline in making sure that they do all the most important things they should do when they’re growing up. The stepmother often has to make sure that they are, um, that they finish all of their homework and that they eat healthy meals among other things. And so you can’t really be afraid
to enforce those, um, those rules even though there may be resistance from the children at first, they need to learn to listen and respect you so that they can then grow up into compassionate and responsible adults.
Laura Jenkins (12:00): Does that process take time in your own personal experience as well, Georgina?
Georgina Warren (12:06): Oh, it certainly does take time. Yes, it did take time for us to figure out how to navigate each other’s boundaries and personal preferences. And sometimes those differences, you can’t really reconcile them all, but it’s okay to just put some of them on the side table and then come back to them later when you’re ready to handle them.
Laura Jenkins (12:28): For sure. Is there anything else that you hope readers and listeners will take away from Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers? And I’d like to ask, what impact do you envision the book having on people understanding and appreciating the stepmother’s role in modern families?
Georgina Warren (12:48): I think that for the children, I want them to enjoy this collection of tales and show them that there are, that there are many different kinds of stepmothers and not everybody has a stepmother and not everybody will become a stepmother. But, um, even so this character does not deserve all of the backlash that she has had through the ages. And so I figure that, you know, children might feel less anxious about the topics of divorce and remarriage if they have a positive counterpoint to look to. ’cause they’re very impressionable. They take in all of the characters and the stories that they hear, and then that becomes the baseline upon which they develop their personalities. I feel that I do emulate some of the qualities of the characters that I’ve read. For the adults, I want to reach out to all of the stepmothers
who felt second best or have had challenges with connecting to their families and just tell them it’s okay. I know you didn’t have this book when you were a kid, but now someone knows about all of your contributions and sacrifices. You are a valuable person and the rest of the family will come around to understand why they need you.
Laura Jenkins (14:12): I love the idea of helping rewrite that narrative. And, uh, so from what I’m understanding, this is very much a kid’s book and an adult’s book.
Georgina Warren (14:22): Yes. I had planned for this book to have cross-generational appeal.
Laura Jenkins (14:26): Very good. I’m keen to read it to my own children, Georgina, I can tell you that. So I look forward to tossing away Cinderella and giving this one a go. <laugh>,
Georgina Warren (14:37): Yes, I think they would love to hear the stories of Benevoline and Sucrene and Fortuna.
Laura Jenkins (14:43): Where can listeners go to get a copy of the book Georgina?
Georgina Warren (14:46): So you can find Tales of Virtuous Stepmothers listed on Amazon and they can get it in paperback and ebook. I will be preparing an audio book version of the book as well, and, uh, details yet to be confirmed. And you can also find it listed on other book channels like Barnes and Noble and Bookshop.org if you wanted to support independent bookstores. You can find more book news on my Goodreads author page and also on my Instagram page. And so my hashtag name is Rebel Queen 2 4 9 with a three in place of the first E.
Laura Jenkins (15:27): Got it. Thank you. And we’ll make sure we link to all of that in the show notes. Well, before we wrap up, are there any final, final words of wisdom you’d like to leave us with or, or any favorite passages perhaps from the book that you would like to direct listeners to?
Georgina Warren (15:44): Yes. I would like to share a little passage, yes, from one of my favorite stories. It’s called Princess Sanspied. So the main character of this book, Sanspied is a princess that was born without feet. And so now you will learn a little more about her and her stepmother. A long time ago, a daughter was born to a king and queen of a far away kingdom. But there was something different about this princess, although she was otherwise well framed and possessed great beauty, she was born without feet. Her parents took their child to numerous positions and healers to cure her condition and make her feet grow. They rubbed the stumps of her legs with oils, powders, herbs, and other similar treatments, but it was to no avail. Her feet did not grow, and the princess remained footless. Her parents named the child Sanspied, which meant without feet Sanspied’s royal father resolved to give his daughter a good life.
(16:39): And after his first wife died, he took a second wife with two young sons. The youngest son was kind to the little girl, but the older son teased her without mercy, “You’ll never find a husband if you don’t have feet. No man wants a bride that can’t stand upright,” he said Sanspied’s, stepmother, who was an open- minded woman, told her stepdaughter, “Nevermind those words, somewhere there is a prince who will want you for a wife. Sanspied was encouraged by her kindness and spent her days hoping that she would find such a man. To compensate for her lack of feet, Sanspied was granted a sedan chair with four footmen to carry her around. But the young princess grew restless from the constant sitting and she would climb ou of the sedan using her arms and then crawling her hands and knees. The queen Sanspied’s stepmother did not wish to see Sanspied crawling on all fours like a beggar,
(17:28): not to mention the fact that crawling caused her clothes to get dirty, so she summoned an acrobat from a traveling circus to train Sanspied to walk on her hands. Sanspied wore gloves to keep her hands from getting dirty, and when the princess’s hands grew tired from the handstands, she would sit on a small the throne to rest. Eventually Sanspied’s parents found a little black pig that could carry her when she wasn’t using her arms. From that day, Sanspied could be seen riding her fat little pig around the grounds of the castle. The princess named her pig Clementine and fed her with fragrant rose water and wild mushrooms. Sanspied bathed the little pig with water infused with soap and lavender so that she would smell nice. Sanspied’s stepmother soon noticed that the princess’s attire was ill suited to her new active lifestyle. One time
when the princess stood in her hands, the skirt of her dress fell over her face. After the servants set her upright, Sanspied’s stepmother declared that her stepdaughter needed a new wardrobe. “These dresses are not supposed to be worn upside down. The princess will fall and break her back if she can’t see where she’s going. Sanspied must have clothes that do not impede her mobility. But make the garments look elegant. I won’t have her exposing her bloomers to the entire court!”
Laura Jenkins (18:40): Very Good. <laugh>. Oh, well I’ll have to finish that one off this evening. <laugh> with the little people. Um, well, Georgina, I’ve so enjoyed our chat. We look forward to seeing what you get up to next.
Georgina Warren (18:54): I do have something coming up next. In a month’s time, I will be featured as a guest speaker at the Manchester Community Library up in Vermont. So I will be speaking there on August 30th at 5:00 PM So anyone who’s up in the region is invited to come and hear my speech and receive a signed copy of my book.
Laura Jenkins (19:15): Very Good. Thanks so much for that, Georgina. We’ll add details of that as well, uh, on the website.
Georgina Warren (19:20): Thank you very much.
Laura Jenkins (19:22): Thanks for listening to the In the Blend podcast. The show notes for this episode are email@example.com au. And if you like what you heard, be sure to subscribe and please rate and review in your podcasting app. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.