Since my goal was to retell a very well-known fairy tale, when I started thinking about how my version would be different, I knew I had to think outside the box. I was a student of anthropology at the time and was very interested in folklore. Much of the folklore I read centered on mischievous and potentially malevolent fairies — there were no tales about a benevolent fairy godmother. So I decided to make the fairy in my retelling a more traditional fairy, based in Irish folklore in particular. At the time, I didn't read much YA, so I had no idea that this was the new big thing! (As in the novels by Melissa Marr and Holly Black, etc.)
But changing the gender of the "prince" was not as well-planned. The first draft of Ash was not at all gay; Ash fell in love with a male prince. Then I sent the draft to a friend to read, and she told me she thought the prince was boring, but this other character (a woman) was very intriguing. I realized, then, that Ash was actually falling in love with this other female character. The idea of rewriting it into a "lesbian Cinderella" kind of blew me away at first. I had to really think hard about whether I was willing to go there (because I thought it might be detrimental to publication), but once I decided to do it, I went for it.
I have some ideas, yes, but nothing concrete yet.
If you mean the traditional Cinderella stories from different cultures ... I'm not sure. There is room for any Cinderella to be seen as strong-willed, but most traditional fairy tales did not emphasize her strong will, but rather her modesty and ability to work hard. These stories really did have a moral: work hard, obey your elders, and you will be rewarded. It basically rewarded those who did not have a strong will.
There is no sequel to Ash. I've always found the Cinderella story to be complete as it is; it's about , not living with it day after day. But I am writing a companion novel which is set in the same world as Ash, but several hundred years earlier. It's about that kingdom's very first huntress.