About a year ago I stumbled across a TED talk by Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability and I knew that I had stumbled upon someone who truly understood what I had been trying to do with my life. Like many before me, I grew up in a dysfunctional family and discovered that through my writing I could create characters and worlds I could share with people. As new age and mystical as this might sound, I learned pretty quickly in life that in order to grow, I could either repeat the cycle of dysfunction that my family had taught me or I could embrace vulnerability and become authentic and live a life of worthiness. Writing, for me, is an act of being vulnerable.
In Brown's latest book, she writes: "To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation–that's also vulnerability." I think many writers can identify with that. For me, I have spent my time writing what matters most to me: the journey of self-discovery and sharing my experiences with my readers. As a father to two children, I take my role as a parent seriously, knowing that raising children is the most awe-inspiring and humbling responsibility I will ever take on. Back in 2010, my daughter, only two at the time, began falling in love with all the Disney princesses and my heart broke a little. In graduate school I studied Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker, and seeing my daughter see Sleeping Beauty waiting for the prince to wake her just didn't sit right with me.
That's how I stumbled upon writing Cinderella's Secret Diary: Lost. I wanted to tell the story of what truly happened to Cinderella after she married the prince. My hope is that our daughter will grow up knowing that she is in control of her own destiny and does not need a man (or a woman) to save her. She can save herself.
I wrote the first book in the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series and realized that for the book to truly work I would need to be vulnerable and put my thoughts and emotions out there. The book is riddled with emotional conflict and, as unpopular as it might be in today's world for a man to show emotion and vulnerability, I wanted to embrace that to show my kids what I believe in. I took a risk and wrote what I believed would be an imaginative and somewhat dark book about Cinderella's journey after the classic fairy tale. When they are older, I hope both my son and daughter read my books and enjoy them.
Earlier this month, I successfully had published the second book in the series: Stolen: Cinderella's Secret Diaries. Cinderella's journey continues as she struggles against herself. Taking place ten years after the first book, Cinderella crosses paths with Queen Mab, the faerie queen, and Napoleon, but her greatest challenge is trying to let go of a failed love relationship. It is my hope that young women (and men) will be able to identify with some of the themes in my book. Cinderella struggles with that most human and difficult of emotions: Love. Pouring all her energy and strength into what she thinks is love, she's lost her way and has crossed the line, committing some not so nice actions–all in the name of love. Being wrapped up and consumed by love, she's lost sight of herself and who she is.
To make the first book and now this second one come to life, I dug deep and dredged up feelings I had had from my own past relationships, knowing that the only way these books would work is if I made them true. When I write Cinderella in my books, I almost felt as though I had channeled her and she came alive for me. The greatest compliment I have received from readers is that they have forgotten the author of the books is a man. What I worked hard on was to strip away all but the raw emotion of what Cinderella would be thinking and feeling. I tried my best to step back and allow her voice to come through. I'm happy to hear that my readers enjoy what I have written.
Now with second book out, I'm already planning the next. Cinderella's journey is not yet complete and it is my hope that readers will join me on the ride to have some fun but also to think about what it truly means to be ourselves. For me, that means taking a risk and being vulnerable in my writing, showing my readers some dark parts of my imagination as well as the broken parts. But through that sharing, I believe there is hope. By telling our stories, we can rise up and become more than we are now and not allow our emotional chains to hold us back. If we have a dream, then we can struggle toward it and embrace the journey. In my books, Cinderella never gives up. She keeps fighting for what she believes in. If there's any message in my work, it's the hope that my readers will also journey onward to learn more about who they are and take to heart this message of hope and embrace it.
Ron Vitale was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2011 he published Lost, the first book in the Cinderella’s Secret Diaries series. Currently, he is keeping himself busy by writing his blog, and on learning how to be a good father to his kids all while working on the next Cinderella’s Secret Diaries novel. Visit his blog at RonVitale.com, and click here to check out Stolen: Cinderella’s Secret Diaries!