Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fairytales: not just kid stuff

I have to admit that when I talked about my manuscript for The Eye of the Beholder, I was kind of embarrassed to tell people what it was about.  Lately, I've been a lot more open about my writing and have asked friends and family to read manuscripts and give feedback, but in the past my writing was kind of my secret.  When people did find out I'd written something, their first question would always be, "What's it about?"  This question never failed to fill me with dread.

This is partially because I was anxious about how people would react.  I understand that not everyone is going to be in love with the genre I've chosen, and that's fine.  But it's always awkward to be put into a situation where I'm talking about something that has so much of my heart and soul in it because I'm afraid the other person might not be interested but will be forced, for the sake of being politely social, to pretend like they are interested.  Sometimes I think people are more interested in the idea of someone writing a book than they are in the actual reality of the book, and that's fine.  As with anything in life, though, it's hard when something that's meaningful to you doesn't seem like such a big deal to other people, particularly when those people are important to you.

The other reason why this question fills me with dread is because it's very hard to boil down the essence of your novel into just a few words.  My fellow writers know what I'm talking about.  The thing that stressed me out the most about ABNA was writing my pitch.  When I published The Eye, I was more wigged out by trying to write the novel's description than I was by writing the actual novel.  It's very difficult to make things sound snappy and interesting without giving too much away and in only a few hundred words.  Anyone who's ever picked up a book and not made it all the way through the flap description will understand what a skill it is to write copy that's attention-grabbing.

Now, take all of this and imagine that the book you just wrote is about a fairytale.  I will temporarily go all geeky on you and say that fairytales weren't originally for children, they were for adults.  They were often used as a way to talk of forbidden or subversive things (like how much the king sucked) while still being able to claim innocence.  Don't believe me?  Pick up a copy of Grimm and/or Andersen and read just one of the tales there.  I guarantee they're nothing like the Disney versions--not that I'm knocking Disney because I very much dig their fairytale movies.  My point here is that using a fairytale to tell a story offers a means to tell a tale through a familiar lens while trying to put your own unique spin on it.

Of all the fairytales, the Beauty and the Beast tale has always been my favorite.  There are two reasons for this: I love its theme of redemption and I love the message that love goes far beyond the merely physical.  Beauty learns to look past Beast's appearance and love him for who he is while Beast has to become a better version of himself in order to be worthy of her love.  This is meaningful to me because I think the best kind of love is the love that inspires you to be more than you are.  I am definitely not talking about a relationship where you have to lose weight because your boyfriend tells you to lose weight.  That's not love at all.  What I'm talking about is the relationship where you feel like your partner loves you warts and all and also helps highlight your best traits.  Real love should bring out the best in you.

This is why I chose to do a retelling of the tale.  I'm the kind of writer who thinks a lot about my characters and what motivates them.  This is partially a reflection of my personality.  Not only do I tend to think about why people do the things they do, I think a lot about what motivates me to do what I do.  I think self awareness is a very good thing, as long as you don't take it too far, which I sometimes tend to do.  I can be my own worst critic, and I think that's reflected in the character of Lysander, who has a tendency to be his own worst enemy.

Writing the novel was very challenging at times because it is difficult to take a character like Lysander, who is initially so unrepentant, but who ends up genuinely wanting to change.  Mira wasn't without her challenges either, as I wanted her to be very strong-willed but, yet, she had to somehow fall in love with someone who, let's face it, isn't very nice in the beginning.  This often made me feel like I was walking a tightrope, but hopefully I pulled it off.

The Eye of the Beholder is available in the Kindle store and can also be borrowed from the Kindle Owner's Lending Library for those of you who are Prime members.  Happy reading and stay tuned--for my next trick I will try tackling women's lit!