Mike had just graduated from college for the second time and we were looking for work. We were broke. I'd just finished When Demons Walk and hadn't started The Hob's Bargain yet. I thought, I'll write a short story. It'll just take a couple of days and it might bring in a few quick dollars. Yeah, right. Anyway, I wrote "Wishing Well" about an albino tea maker and an elf who was a merchant. A couple of years later, I got a call from my agent Virginia Kidd -- did I base this story on a fairy tale? Ellen Datlow was interested in it for one of the retold fairy tale anthologies that she and Terry Windling do. If I had a fairy tale I could retroactively base it on, Ellen was interested in buying it. Ellen Datlow was interested in one of my stories?
Sadly search as I might, I could not find a fairy tale with tea brewing albinos or merchant elves. So, I thought, while Ellen still remembers my name -- I'll write one. I started off trying to retell my favorite stories, but I couldn't find things I wanted to change in them to make them my own. Once I realized I wasn't looking for my favorite story -- but my least favorite story: It was easy.
I have hated "Rumplestiltskin" ever since I first heard it, long before I could read. So much of it wasn't fair. Usually if if something bad happens to characters in a fairy tale, it is, somehow, the main character's fault. The princesss in "The Golden Ball" makes a promise she doesn't intend to keep. Or else, after all their troubles, they are rewarded -- like Snow White, who sufferes and dies, but then finds true love. In "Rumplestiltskin" the poor girl's reward is to marry the guy who threatened to kill her. Ick. So I wrote my version, "The Price".
I thought it interesting that both "Wishing Well" and "The Price" written almost two years apart, appeared the same month. "Wishing Well" in Adventures in Sword and Sorcery #6. The anthology Silver Birch, Blood Moon went on to win the 2000 World Fantasy Award for best anthology.