The Next Big Thing: My Work in Progress

My lovely friend/family/ninja-librarian-author Claire tagged me in “The Next Big Thing” meme about my NaNoWriMo WIP (Work In Progress). I’ll blog more about my AcWriMo goals (one academic book chapter, one article) a little later.

1) What is the working title of your book?

Scarlet and the Beast.

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?

My bookshelves and e-readers are stuffed to the gills with fairy tales… and fantasy almanacs… and literary criticism of fairy tale and folklore development. This is an interest that started in childhood and followed me into nerdy academia-land. I read articles about the symbolism of thread and spindles for fun. I kid you not.

About thirteen years ago, I started writing the Beast’s side of the Beauty and the Beast story. I wanted to explore the psychological effect of trying to keep your humanity when your biological instincts were screaming to be an animal. But there were a few problems: 1) Donna Jo Napoli did a similar thing in Beast, 2) this leaves Beauty’s part in the story really small and unsatisfying, and 3) it’s really depressing. And (gasp!) a little boring.

So early last year, I was thinking about Little Red Riding Hood and its narrative potential. Hashing it out with Claire, I realized it would dovetail well with what I’d conceptualized about the Beast story. And there you have it: enter Scarlet into the Beast narrative!

3) What genre does your book fall under? 

YA fantasy.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Whew, this takes some thought! Here goes…

Emma Watson as Scarlet

James McAvoy as Beast / the Baron’s son

Maisie Williams as Mouse, Scarlet’s little sister  (fierce and adorable!)

Liam Neeson as Scarlet’s Grandfather (a master hunter and a wee bit scary)

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When her merchant father dies in bankruptcy, Scarlet must partner with a Beast to protect her little sister Mouse as they cross a western landscape of warring baronies to find her Grandfather.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be seeking an agent.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve just finished outlining the plot and have started the first draft. Planning to get the majority of this draft done during NaNoWriMo.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Robin McKinley’s Deerskin is a similarly serious exploration of the human consequences of a twisted fairy tale plot. McKinley’s work in general is successful at making fairy tale characters real, accessible, plausible. The setting is reminiscent of Kazu Kibuishi’s western graphic novel Daisy Kutter, though with a medieval feudalistic flavor in place of Daisy’s Kutter‘s steampunky robot flavor.

 9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted to know what happened before Beauty showed up. Did the Beast give in to his animal nature for a while? What did he eat? Why did he decide to act like a human, even though he didn’t look like one? Did hunters try to track him down?

Then when the trailers for the 2011 Red Riding Hood film came out, I started imagining the movie I’d actually like to see about that story. Something in a different setting than your usual beautiful-but-hum-drum European fairytale forest. I thought about how growing up in the Texas hill country, that landscape was very different than what I read in fairy tales… and then the story kind of exploded from there.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story is set in a society that’s a blend of the American Old West and the medieval European system of feudalistic baronies. There are rifles, but no trains (sorry, steampunk fans!). There are knights on horseback, but their armor is leather and they carry spears and rifles in place of swords. There’s no central system of government–regions are ruled by barons who employ vassals to serve as counselors, physics, guards, or knights, and who have serf-like peasants raise their livestock and farm their land. These baronies are fiercely competitive over land and scarce water sources. It’s through this treacherous landscape that Scarlet, a merchant’s daughter from a more civilized coastal town, must make her way to find her Grandfather. When she reaches her Grandfather’s hunting cabin, however, she finds Beast there instead… My, what big teeth you have! 

And now back to writing, with my bluegrass-plus-Firefly-soundtrack playlist on!

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