The recent success of the new Cinderella movie teaches us one crucial thing: everyone loves a fairy tale. But for adults, it’s not always easy to find a book that captures the magic and romance of those classic stories we grew up on while still appealing to a more mature audience. This is why we’re so drawn to Ellen Roth’s Ten Fingers Touching, a new book that combines love, adventure, and breathtaking illustrations.
Roth’s mature fairy tale tells the story of Martak and Marianna as they fall in love and fight the forces of Evil as he tries to defeat Good. Not only is it an epic tale, but the book is filled with lush, colorful drawings by John Blumen. It might sound like we’re describing a children’s book, but that’s the beauty of Roth’s story—it gives us the fun and magic while still delivering on the adult themes.
We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Roth about Ten Fingers Touching and the fairy tales that inspired it:
Booktrib: Ten Fingers Touching reads like a classic fairy tale, full of romance, adventure, and magic. What drew you to the fairy tale form in the first place?
Ellen Roth: As a child, I always loved fairy tales and spent countless hours reading and dreaming. Fairy tales sweep you out of the present and transport you into magical worlds where anything can happen. I wanted to write a multilayered romantic escape where adults could lose themselves in an imaginary place with the same pleasure they derived from reading fairy tales in their youths. Fairy tales are powerful and enduring stories because they give us hope and inspire us to believe in happy endings.
BT: The main couple, Marianna and Martak, are truly devoted to one another from the first moment they meet. Which of your top five favorite fairy tale/fantasy couples inspired the book and their story?
ER: There are many famous fairy tale couples, such as Cinderella and the Prince, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and Prince Charming, Minnie and Mickey Mouse and even Lady and Tramp. I can’t claim that any one of these couples in particular inspired my story, but rather perhaps all of them were inspirational to the extent that I wanted to write about true love and lovers who felt passionately about one another. From that perspective, I think I was drawn more to the young love shared by Romeo and Juliet who fell in love at first sight. But in addition to romance, a memorable fairy tale leaves the reader with deeper thoughts that linger beyond the story. I hope that Ten Fingers Touching causes the reader to think about the interaction of love and fate or the true nature of good and evil. One might even assert that while not romantically paired, good and evil are also a couple; each is defined by being the opposite of the other!
BT: In your book, Evil and Good are actual characters with genders, motivations, and personalities. Why did you choose to give such big concepts human characteristics?
ER: My book is multilayered and can be interpreted on many levels. Good is described as “a handsome woman with natural beauty etched by years of wise governing and maturity.” Good is portrayed symbolically as a woman, albeit with magical powers, because we can all recognize and identify what is good. Evil, however, appears in many forms. He “quickly morphed from a small, spiky reptile into one of his infinite incarnations―a fierce, 50-foot-tall dragon that reared on two legs….Just as suddenly the dragon twisted like a corkscrew…and then spiraled downward into a new form—a thin, angular man….” Evil further transforms himself throughout the story because symbolically Evil can be anywhere at any time. Evil is deceptive and we can’t always recognize its presence.
BT: It’s rare to see an adult book with such beautiful illustrations. How or why did you decide to include them in your story?
ER: Illustrations were a part of my vision for Ten Fingers Touching from the very beginning. My goal was to write a fairy tale for adults but have it beautifully illustrated like a children’s book. In other words, I wanted to create a story book for grown-ups! I was able to bring my dream to fruition by writing a romantic escape that engages an adult reader both in terms of content and aesthetics. The book is printed on high quality paper, the illustrations have tremendous luminosity, and the texture of the dust jacket is smooth and sensuous. Ten Fingers Touching is not just a book, it is a work of art!
BT: According to your bio, you have an eclectic background—from working as an art therapist to being named one of the Best 50 Women in Business in Pennsylvania. How do you think your unique experiences have informed your writing?
ER: I’ve always written. When I was a practicing art therapist I published professionally and as an entrepreneur and president of a company that relocates individuals, families and corporations to Pittsburgh. I have published many articles on the subject of relocation.
To be successful in business requires discipline, hard work and focus. Professional writing taught me to think clearly and to write concisely. Ten Fingers Touching is my first work of fiction but the same skills and temperament apply. You need discipline and focus to write. You also need time to immerse yourself in your story and to avoid distractions for long periods of time. Fortunately, I’m nocturnal and I write when the rest of the world is asleep, but I understand why writers go to Cape Cod to write the great American novel!
While professional writing is meaningful, writing fiction is a lot more fun. It enabled me to fantasize and to live inside an imaginary kingdom where I was in control of everything which is certainly not the case when you are in business in the real world!
BT: Are you planning on writing more fairy tales, or will your next writing project take a different approach?
ER: My next project is to write the screenplay for Ten Fingers Touching. I think it lends itself to the big screen. It’s very visual, and I initially pictured every scene in my mind’s eye. In fact, that’s how I write! Whereas many authors compose words that create images, I see images and then describe them in words.
Additionally, I have an idea for a children’s book but it’s not a fairy tale. I’m also considering writing a story where the main character is loosely based on my mother. She passed away seven years ago and I think about her all the time.
If you enjoyed this article you might enjoy watching Ellen talk about her new book.