Eric A. Kimmel, author ofLittle Red Hot, discusses how Texas and hot sauce inspired his latest twist on a well-known classic tale.
I've wanted to do a modern version of Little Red Riding Hood for a long time. The challenge in retelling such a well-known story is, What can I add to make it new? If I'm only going to tell a story that everybody knows, what's the point? I needed to think of some kind of twist to make the story interesting.
The first thing I did was take the story down to Texas. Although I live in Oregon, I have lots of friends in Texas. I love going there because Texans do such interesting things with language. They have a way of talking that you just don't find anywhere else. I saw Little Red Hot as a Texas cowgirl. She's plenty smart and not afraid of anything.
But how was she going to fool Señor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf? That's when I got the idea for hot sauce and chili peppers. I remembered visiting a store in New Orleans that sold hot sauces from all over Louisiana. I asked which was the hottest sauce they had. The clerk didn't want to sell it to me at first. "You don't really want that, do you?" When I insisted I did—just out of curiosity—she went into the back room and brought out a little bottle. "This is the hottest sauce we have, but you have to be careful with it. I'm not kidding. This sauce was made for chili cook-offs; big contests where people make huge amounts of chili in large kettles. It's dangerous if you're not careful with it. Use no more than eight drops for 35 gallons."
Eight drops for 35 gallons of chili!
I still have that bottle. I'm afraid to open it. But I'll bet Little Red Hot wouldn't blink an eye. She'd pour it on her hot pepper pie like Tabasco sauce and eat it all up.
That was the key to the story. Little Red Hot would make a hot pepper pie using the hottest sauces and peppers. Watch out, Señor Lobo! The rest was easy once I had that piece. I just sat down and wrote it.
And Laura Beith created perfect illustrations that captured all the fun of the story.
Do I like to eat hot chili peppers? Definitely not! Hot, spicy foods don't agree with me at all. I stay away from them. That's the best part of writing. Learn to use your imagination.