Q: What is the heroine's journey? How is it different from the hero's journey?
A: The hero has a male mentor like Merlin, a male ruling tyrant adversary like Darth Vader, and a magical sword. His goal is to topple the dark lord from his evil reign and become a newer, better, leader (this is a metaphor for growing into adulthood and becoming the new head of the household).
The heroine's adversary is the wicked stepmother or witch, the devourer of children (think Snow White). And often she's also the mentor (think Little Mermaid--those mentors are mean). The rarely has a sword, instead getting a wide variety of talismans. Most are tools of perception and wisdom like books, eyeglasses, and mirrors (like the Golden Compass and Amber Spyglass, or chalices and cauldrons that are symbols representing the life-giving womb and endless gifts (like Hermione's beaded bag or Lucy's healing cordial).
Lastly, the heroine's quest is generally a search for stolen loved ones as she struggles to reunite and protect her family (as with Inkheart, A Wrinkle in Time, or Twilight). This symbolizes her growing into adulthood as the female head of the family--the mother.
Q: You should write a children's collection of strong heroine stories. I know a lot of little girls who'd love it.
A: Maybe someday. The truth is, there are already a bunch of fantastic ones as picture books and chapter books. I recommend:
Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen
Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World
Wise Women: Folk and Fairy Tales from Around the World by Suzanne I. Barchers
The Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales from Around the World by Ethel Johnston Phelps
Changing Woman And Her Sisters: Stories of Goddesses from Around the World by Katrin Hyman Tchana and Trina Schart Hyman
Q: Is this only suitable for an academic audience?
A: Not at all. Like Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I expect it will get a great deal of interest from fans of fantasy and other wonderful books.
Q: What age would you recommend the book for?
A: This one's an adult book, dealing with "mature themes." Let's just say the myths get pretty uncensored. Maybe age 15 or older.
Q: How did you do your research?
A: I really just went and read thousands of fairy and folk tales, and thus got a very good idea what the pattern was. While researching, I preferred to find epics with female protagonists, and so I made an effort to read all of those I could find, plus most culture's holy books. These were dominated by heroes, but there were a few wonderful heroines.
Q: How authentic are your tales?
A: The epics are from many religions and cultures, often thousands of years old, all in reliable translations. The folklore collections are mostly gathered by anthropologists, local folklorists, and researchers from oral sources. Many of these collections are over a century old, and almost all of my stories came from multiple sources--while retelling I generally used the oldest forms with the best documentation. Most of these epics and short tales are well-known tales of gods and famous heroines. When I discovered stories in modern American retellings, I traced the individual story I liked back to its original sources. A full bibliography is available. In a few cases, I quote modern retellers from Shakespeare on, but those are all clearly identified.
Q: Why don't you differentiate between fairytales/folk tales/epics/myths/legends?
A: Because I see them as having the same basic plot. I feel I'm analyzing plot and archetype, not folklore as a study in itself. Campbell did the same, and used both "The Frog Prince" and The Descednt of Inanna in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, for instance. My early notes also use literature like Jane Eyre or The Handmaid's Tale and children's fantasy like Coraline or Inkheart. If you watch your favorite movies and epic television shows, you'll see this pattern.
Q: Where did you learn all these myths?
A: The usual places: college courses, online research, themed collections, collections by country. Mostly I just read an enormous amount of everything. Sacred-texts.com is a good place to look. And I have a reading list.
Q: Is the book in stores?
A: It seems stores are having trouble ordering this one. I recommend either Amazon and other online shops or purchasing a discounted signed copy from me. Independent bookstores are welcome to contact me about stocking some at the usual discount. There's also a cheaper Kindle version.