- Fairytale retellings have become very popular in recent years, particularly in YA literature; what do you think makes these stories so compelling?
Like all folklore, fairy tales have been passed down between the generations for centuries. The details of each story may evolve in the telling over time, but the essence of each tale persists — a poor girl goes to the ball and wins a prince; a beauty falls in love with a scary beast. These tales are in our blood!
But as readers, we also respond differently as we ourselves evolve out of childhood and into adulthood. There are infinite new ways to look at these classic stories, which is what writers find so irresistible. And fortunately, it seems like readers are just as eager to come along for the ride!
You’ve written a couple adult books as well as having been a film critic and a columnist, what made you decide to make Beast a YA novel?
Beast was originally written as an adult novel. But an editor at Candlewick, the fabulous Kaylan Adair, fell in love with the book and bought it for her YA line. We had some tweaking to do over the long editing process, but I think it’s a stronger book now. My original take on the story also had to evolve in subtle ways as I began to view it from a YA perspective.
Your book tackles some important issues (e.g. sexual assault), what do you think the responsibility of authors (particularly of YA and children’s books) is to talk about these controversial topics?
In Beast, I wanted to focus on the profound effect of assault on my heroine, as she grapples with feelings of shame, despair, and finally, rage. (That’s the “Revenge” part of the story.) She has to learn that she’s not responsible for what was done to her, and that it also lies within her power to seize control of her own life again and grow stronger. That’s the journey she is on, just as Beast is on a journey to find his place in a human world. They both must tap into their inner humanity.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors about writing and publishing their stories?
Read everything you can! Especially by authors you love! (Although, back when I was an occasional book reviewer for the SF Chronicle, I found it was almost as useful to learn what not to do from books that I didn’t think worked!) Write all the time, even if it’s just in your own private journal that no one will ever see, to teach yourself to shape language. Then write the story that’s in your heart — nobody else can tell that story in the same way as you. And Never. Ever. Give. Up!
Some authors have said that they write the books they needed when they were kids, do you feel this is true of yours?
No, I wrote this book for the person I am now — someone who loves Beauty and the Beast, but thinks the noble Beast deserves to be the hero of the story, not the prince!
Do you have any plans for future books?