Disney Hyperion reveals today its fall launch of The Mirror, a young adult fairy tale series featuring a quartet of authors, locales, and historical eras. Centering on an intricate family curse—and a magical mirror—the multi-generational series starts up in October with Julie C. Dao’s Broken Wish, set in 1800s Germany. Following a nine-month publishing plan, The Mirror will continue with Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton (July 2021), unfolding in 1920s New Orleans; Fractured Path by J.C. Cervantes (Apr. 2022), which transports readers to San Francisco in the 1960s; and L.L. McKinney’s Splintered Magic (Jan. 2023), set in New York City during the early 2000s.
“Obviously, Disney is in the business of fairy tales,” said Brittany Rubiano, editor on Disney Hyperion’s IP team, who is spearheading The Mirror. “Our team started thinking of building on fairy tale motifs and tropes, turning them on their heads, and putting them in modern settings. And then the idea emerged of doing that across four books, with settings and eras that have common ground in that they are socially, politically, and artistically charged, but have their own distinct, feel and energy—and The Mirror was born.”
After she and her team “outlined loose plot and character ideas and developed an intricate family tree with many branches,” Rubiano explained that she approached the four authors, none of whom she had previously worked with. “I greatly admire every one of them, and I knew that they’ve all have experience with mythology and creating new worlds and characters,” she said. “And I believed that this series would give them the freedom to put their own spin on the story arc.”
The editor was delighted when all four signed on to the project—and even more so when each selected a different installment as her first choice. “Everything lined up perfectly,” Rubiano recalled. “It was kismet.” PW asked each author to share what drew them to The Mirror, what inspired their choice of epoch, and what it was like to build this story arc with the others.
Julie C. Dao:
Fairy tales were literally the foundation of how I started writing my first full-length novel at the age of eight. So, it felt like coming full circle when Disney asked me to write the first book in this series, and I had a blast incorporating classic fairy tale themes with my own twist. Hanau, Germany is none other than the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, and as a lover of dark fairy tales, I felt that there was no setting more perfect for me to explore. My book takes place during a time when rural villages would still have clung to superstition and prejudice, and that gave me an excellent springboard for this book about a woman who has never quite fit in and longs for love and friendship.
I’m lucky that I got to kick off the whole series and had a blank slate to explore. But because the four of us are all writing about different branches of the same family, there was a need for consistency and communication. I checked in with the other authors from time to time about themes, patterns, or magical items that would get carried down through the generations.
I’ve always loved all things fairy tales ever since I was a little girl. But I never saw myself in them. This provided an opportunity to remix fairy tale elements with characters and backstories that mirrored—no pun intended!—my own. I love all things vintage—except the racism. So, when writing about the late 1920s was an option, I jumped at it. The icing on the cake was the New Orleans setting. I have always had a special affinity for that city. It haunts me. I tackled my research by going to New Orleans several times to visit the archives, the museums, walk the streets that my characters would have, and conduct interviews.
The synergy with the other authors was instant. We have so much creative chemistry and we were never truly alone in the writing trenches. We spent a lot of time going back and forth with each other as we worked on our novels because we wanted them to feel cohesive and in conversation with each other. I have the privilege of calling these women my friends and am blown away by their genius.
I have always wanted to work on a fairy tale-esque book, one that I could put my own spin on, and I was absolutely enamored with the idea of a generational curse over four books. The 1960s was an iconic time in American history, with so much political and cultural upheaval, and yet it was also an era of pivotal change in music, fashion, art, science, and more. It must have been incredible to witness the decade first-hand, which of course made researching this period all the more fascinating. Contributing to this series was a singular experience. I appreciated having my colleagues as a sounding board and feeling like we were all in this together. From day one, we created our little bubble of support.
I found the series’ storyline intriguing. We get to follow a mystical object through generations of this magically gifted family, trying to see how the story twists and turns and ends. I wanted to do the 2003 era because that was my era as a teen. I lived it, and I love writing for my teenage self as much as I love writing for today’s kids. Working with the others has been great—we brainstorm with each other, bounce ideas back and forth, and talk each other down when things get rough. We also tell jokes and laugh with each other. It really has become a sort of sisterhood.
Looking Through the Mirror—and Ahead
The Disney IP team recently initiated a social media teaser campaign to build buzz about The Mirror. Spearheaded by digital marketing manager Andrew Sansone, the initiative involved each author, in turn, posting the moment when she opened a mysterious package that suddenly appeared at her door, a box that is revealed to contain a large, ornate mirror featuring the warning, “Promises will be broken.” In the coming weeks, the authors will reveal additional information about their novels on Instagram, using #themirrornovels.
The enchanted mirror, alas, does not predict the future. Will The Mirror extend beyond the four debut installments? “Anything is possible,” Rubiano reflected. “Obviously this family story could keep going, in novels involving similar patterns but new heroes, new loves, new twists. There are many more fun eras we can play with. Anything could happen—it’s magic after all. And we all could use a bit of magic right now.”