Erin-Claire Barrow is an author and illustrator originally from the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. She paints in watercolours to create whimsical scenes, storybook illustrations, and bring to life the strange creatures of fairy tales and folklore. Erin-Claire is always on the lookout for ways to combine her passions for art and equality, and is particularly interested in how art can be used to raise awareness of social justice issues.
In 2018, she spoke at TEDx Canberra on retelling fairy tales for our diverse, modern society to challenge stereotypes and encourage young people (and especially young women) to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories.
What inspired you to rewrite classic fairy tales with a feminist twist?
I have always loved fairy tales, but many of the traditional fairy tales I grew up with, from the Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen through to Disney don’t truly represent the society we live in today. The heroes of these stories are usually either expressly or implicitly straight, white, young, able-bodied, and conventionally beautiful. In addition, many of these fairy tales reinforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes, with women often rewarded for their beauty, obedience, and passivity, while men are rewarded for taking risks and being brave, clever, and active.
There are many wonderful authors who have retold fairy tales in novel form that inspire me, such as Kate Forsyth, Juliet Marillier, Naomi Novik, and Robin McKinley. Fantasy authors I read as a teenager also had a big influence, showing me that the female characters in fantasy and fairy tale novels could be diverse and have more agency than I had come to expect from traditional fairy tales.
Are your characters and the settings in your book based on your own life experiences?
I think my experiences have certainly shaped the way my characters overcome the challenges they face, but I am also constrained by keeping at least a nod to the original characters and setting of the fairy tales I retell.
What is your biggest motivation for writing?
I love telling stories, and also illustrating them. Part of my motivation for writing is certainly providing myself with the stories that I want to illustrate! A significant part of my motivation at the moment, with my current focus on fairy tales, is in retelling these stories to challenge stereotypes, demonstrate the values of today’s society – such as diversity and inclusivity – and to increase the representation of people who often might not see themselves in fairy tales.
How many books have you written?
I have written and illustrated one book, The Adventurous Princess and other feminist fairy tales, and I have illustrated two additional books: Cycling to Grandma’s House by JacTorres-Gomez and Stories to Read by Candlelight, by Jean Lorrain and translated by Patricia Worth.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
Retelling and illustrating nine traditional fairy tales for The Adventurous Princess and other feminist fairy tales is definitely one of the things I am most proud of! I also gave a TEDxtalk in Canberra in 2018 on retelling fairy tales for our diverse, modern society to challenge stereotypes and encourage young people (and especially young women) to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories.
What advice would you give a young writer trying to get published?
Keep practising and try different ways to approach the story you want to tell. Write with a voice that is authentically your own and tell stories that interest you most of all.
What inspires you when you hit writer’s block?
I am yet to experience the dreaded writer’s block, but I’m guessing that drawing a scene I’m struggling to write might help me overcome it.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Whimsical. Enchanting. Understated humour (I know, that’s a cheeky four!).
What if Beauty stood up to the Beast, the Princess never tried to sleep on the pea (and wouldn’t have noticed it if she had), and the Swan Maiden took her revenge on the hunter who kidnapped her?
The Adventurous Princess and other feminist fairy tales is a retelling of nine traditional fairy tales with a feminist twist.
Download a sample
▶️ The Adventurous Princess