AWARD-winning author Elizabeth Hopkinson is best known for historical fantasy, with a number of books under her belt including the much-praised Silver Hands and a range of short fantasy stories and original fairy tales.

She is now making a name for herself with a new book, Asexual Fairy Tales - reworkings of classic stories in which, inspired and aided by her own asexuality, she approaches age-old tales in a different way.

“What I’ve done in this book is to introduce readers to stories that - for me - have asexual themes or motifs,” she explains. “For example, The Glass Coffin from Grimms’ Fairy Tales, in which a girl wishes to live all her life with her brother in a kind of sexless marriage. When she resists the advances of an enchanter, he puts her in a glass coffin until she ends up being rescued by a tailor.

“I’ve enhanced those asexual elements to make them more obvious, and sometimes to make the tales more positive about asexuality. For example, in Grimms’ version of The Glass Coffin the girl marries the tailor but in other versions the girl, brother and tailor just live together as friends and that’s the ending I’ve gone with.”

Bradford-born, Elizabeth, who lives in Clayton, has been writing ever since primary school, when she used to make books out of scrap paper at playtime, when bad weather kept the children indoors.

“I always wanted to be an author and when I was a teenager I began making submissions to publishers,” she says. “I was really keen and worked very hard. I was working on alternative versions of fairy tales even then. In one Cinderella was a coyote and in another Little Red Riding Hood was bad and the wolf was gentle. I also wrote a tale in which you could explore other people’s dreams.”

Elizabeth attended Rhodesway Upper School, now Dixons Allerton Academy, before studying English language and literature at the University of Leeds.

She had a break of about ten years from writing after feeling discouraged, devoting herself to other creative pursuits like music and composing. It was after seeing the first Lord of the Rings film that she once again picked up her pen.

“I began writing fan (fantasy) fiction and placing it on Lord of the Rings fan sites - the positive feedback boosted my confidence.”

She then attended Ilkley Literature Festival and had a one-to-one meeting with an author who encouraged her. “After that I decided to write more fantasy and began to write short stories. I first had one published in 2004.”

Describing her work as ‘seeing the magical in the ordinary’, she went on to have further stories - not all asexual - published in magazines including Fables and New Fairy Tales.

“I wrote a themed collection of short stories and one of them, The Ivory Maid, is included in Asexual Fairy Tales.”

Inspired by Medieval romances, The Ivory Maid tells the tale of a woman who lives in a marble castle with 12 young men behind glass mirrors, who she simply looks at. “They are symbolic stories,” adds Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was for a long time confused about her asexual feelings. “In the 1990s no one talked about things like that, and there was no internet,” she says. “I did not apply the word to myself until 2011 when I was 37, and after reading books by Robin Hobb. Her characters helped me to sort out what was inside me.”

Elizabeth’s sexuality manifests itself through fairytale symbolism. “Glass coffins, ivory towers, marble statues. Sometimes I include what I call my ‘asexual icons’ - Sir Galahad and the Virgin Mary: they both appear in Asexual Fairy Tales.”

She adds: “I’m fascinated by parthenogenesis and the strange ideas our ancestors had about spontaneous generation, for example that you could get pregnant by looking at a picture, or Mary Toft, who in the early 18th century claimed to have given birth to 17 rabbits. I’ve written about this a lot on my blog.

“I’m also fascinated by the castrato singers of the 18th century. For several years, I’ve been working on a novel trilogy in which one of the main characters is a castrato. He is a romantic asexual, but it’s not that I think all castrati were asexual - they were as varied as anyone else. It’s also about their lives and the strange status they had in society: neither male nor female, adored but ridiculed.”

Elizabeth’s daughter Anna - who is studying illustration at the University of Huddersfield - has illustrated Asexual fairy Tales, which will be on sale in autumn.

With more than 90 short stories published and prizes including the James White Award, Jane Austen Short Story Award and the Historic House contest, Elizabeth has spoken at Swanwick Writers' Summer School, Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe and University of Leeds Careers Expo.

Her favourite fairy story is Beauty and the Beast. “I will read or watch any version or reimagining - I was a huge fan of the 80’s TV show,” she says.

Elizabeth suffers from the painful condition fibromyalgia which affects her energy levels and sleep.

“But thankfully I’m one of those writers who can write anywhere - I’ve taken my writing with me to the launderette and even the supermarket. I’ve done a lot of writing in Waterstones café in town - I call it my office. I do a lot of my work on my iPad using a stylus, so it’s very portable. I get the advantages of a computer with the feeling of a pen in my hand.”

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