Welcome to “Let’s Get Lit!” on PureFandom.com. Here we will chat with an author about their work and their
favorite things in fandom! This edition of LGL will feature a romantic tale as old as time – with a twist! Leife Shallcross chats with us about her forthcoming novel, THE BEAST’S HEART!
Meg Bonney: Your novel THE BEAST’S HEART will be released soon! What can you tell us about it?
Leife Shallcross: It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, from the Beast’s perspective. But for my poor Beast, winning Beauty’s heart is only the first impossible step to breaking the curse. To truly free himself from his past, he has to unravel why he was cursed in the first place.
MB: What drew you to this fairytale?
LS: It’s always been one of my favorite fairy tales because Beauty and the Beast spend a lot of time together, growing their relationship. It’s not an insta-love story. I’m also a bit obsessed with secret gardens and I really love the idea of the Beast’s castle as this enchanted realm hidden at the heart of the forest.
MB: The Beast is far from the prince in shining armor – he is troubled and flawed. What were some of the challenges with writing a story from his perspective?
LS: The biggest challenge – and the one that really drew me to telling his story in the first place – was the problem of reconciling his past actions with him becoming the romantic hero of the piece. I mean, how do you rehabilitate someone who has done something so awful a fairy felt moved to lock them away from the rest of humanity for one hundred years, into a man that not just Beauty, but also readers, are going to fall in love with?
MB: Aside from Beauty and the Beast, what is your favorite fairytale or Disney movie?
LS: This is a terrible question. It’s like asking me to pick out a favorite child. Argh! I confess I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story. And there is a great Norweigan fairy tale called Tatterhood that I love. The heroine is a princess who slouches around in raggedy clothes, rides a goat and beats up trolls with a wooden spoon. My fave Disney fairy tale is definitely Tangled, though.
MB: We are super nerds here at Pure Fandom. What do you geek out over? (A book, movie or TV show)
LS: Urgh, so much. How long do you have? Watching Dr. Who is a key family bonding activity in my house. And my daughter and I have a regular Friday night date where we binge on shows like Steven Universe, Gravity Falls and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. And books, of course. So many books.
MB: Tell us a little about Isabeau, the “Belle” of this retelling.
LS: Well, she’s kind and determined and she loves her family, but she’s a bit lost. At the beginning of the story, her family is still struggling to come to terms with their change in circumstances – from living an affluent city lifestyle, to staving off poverty in the country. Isabeau has been doing what she can to keep her sisters from completely sinking into despair, but she’s barely holding it together herself. She’s also never really had to work out what she wants out of life, so that’s obviously something she’s forced to give a bit of thought to over the course of the story.
MB: The servants and the castle are a big part of the story in this fairytale. What can readers expect from the castle in THE BEAST’S HEART?
LS: Well… there’s no animated household items à la Cogsworth and Lumiere. But I’m a huge fan of stories where the world is really a character all on its own (think Hogwarts in Harry Potter, or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld). So I’ve tried to give the Beast’s castle life in a similar way. There are certainly points where (in its own way) it expresses opinions about the Beast’s choices and actions and takes a hand in steering him in the direction he needs to go. I would like to think my Beast’s chateau is the kind of place readers will enjoy losing themselves in.
MB: What was the last book you read?
LS: I have just finished reading Liesmith by Alis Franklin, which is an awesome, razor sharp urban fantasy involving old Norse gods making their way (and a certain amount of havoc) in the modern world. If you want to see Loki as a giant, feathered dinosaur-dragon, it might be your jam. I loved it. And I’m currently reading an advance copy of Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan, which is a kind of dystopian fantasy; super tense and fast-paced.
MB: What is your favorite romantic movie?
LS: I am completely torn three ways between Ever After, Tangled and Stardust. Why do you keep trying to make me choose? *sobs*
MB: Favorite romance novel?
LS: I’m gonna go old school and say Persuasion, by Jane Austen, but for something more contemporary, another fave is Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil. It’s a very sweet story about high school geeks in Melbourne, Australia. A little bit Rainbow Rowell. When I finished it I started over at the beginning again straight away, I loved it so much.
MB: Without giving anything major away, what is the biggest difference between THE BEAST’S HEART and the Disney version of this tale?
LS: Well, going by comments on Goodreads, there’s no Gaston. In fact there’s no real villain. The Beast is kind of his own worst enemy. And Isabeau has sisters, who get their own storylines.
MB: What can you tell us about your writing ritual?
LS: I still have a 9-5 day job, so it’s a matter of trying to fit it in when I can. I usually get up early on weekdays and try and write for an hour or so before the rest of my family get up. I also write in my lunch hour at work fairly regularly – and I try and take myself on a writing date to a café for lunch at least once a fortnight. And if I’m in the zone, I’ll write at night as well. Plus, I’ll try and get a couple of hours in each day on the weekend.
MB: What was the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?
LS: Find your writing tribe. It’s such a solitary profession, you really need to have a support network of other writers who get what you’re trying to do, and will read your stuff and give you honest, helpful critique, and who will let you read their stuff so you can learn from them. Hooking up with other writers is also an invaluable way to learn about the publishing industry – which you have to do if you are serious about it. The great thing is that if you aren’t lucky enough to live somewhere where there’s a good local crowd, there are plenty of great writing communities online.
MB: Remind our readers, when and where can they find your new novel, THE BEAST’S HEART?
LS: It comes out from Berkley/Act on February 12. You can pre-order it here!
Thanks for reading!