The first novel-length retelling of a fairy tale I ever read was Robin McKinley’s Beauty. I was nine or ten at the time, and had already announced some five years earlier that I was going to be an author when I grew up. I was already a fairy tale fanatic, a die-hard Disney’s Little Mermaid junkie with a tendency to wander around the house with the soundtrack playing on my little Fischer-Price tape recorder and singing into its plastic microphone. (Take the little girls who just want to be Elsa, give them red hair, and have them sing “Part of Your World” instead of “Let It Go,” and you’ve got a pretty good snapshot of my childhood.)
Still, I wasn’t prepared for how McKinley’s version of Beauty and the Beast would hit me.
I was captivated by the idea that the same simple story from my books and the movies could be so artfully shaped and layered into such a beautifully complex novel. From that moment on, I gobbled up every fairy tale novel I could, from authors like Tanith Lee, Juliet Marillier, and Edith Pattou. I knew Beauty and the Beast was the tale I most wanted to explore, back even then, at the tender age of ten-ish, I felt I had to wait until I had something original to add to the story. So I tucked it away, back in the recesses of my mind, to wait until I felt ready.
The story of getting from that moment to this one, as I watch my Beauty and the Beast novel go out into the world, is rather convoluted. The short version: I’ve actually been re-writing Beauty and the Beast for most of my life. In the picture books I drew as a child, in my imagination growing up, in the fanfiction I wrote in high school, in the first play I wrote in college. But it wasn’t until I was living in Melbourne, and had just finished writing my debut novel—a story, incidentally, about a girl who enters a magical world and encounters a boy with a wild, monstrous, perhaps even beastly nature (sorry not sorry)—that Hunted suddenly showed up on my mental doorstep.
Why it took living in Australia, dying in the 40 degree summer in an un-air-conditioned house and battling an addiction to caramel slice and double-coated Tim-Tams, for the story of a huntress surviving in the dead of a Slavic winter to show up in my head, I’ll likely never know. Perhaps it has to do with shucking the life I’d lived up until then in order to live someplace new, to have an adventure, to travel past the horizon.
There are endless little fragments of my time there in the story. Doe-Eyes, my Beauty’s faithful canine companion, is the fictional mirror of the dog that would come lie on my feet while I wrote, even on the most sweltering days. The devotion and love and support of Yeva’s sisters—well, I was living with my best friend and soon-to-be co-author, Amie Kaufman, at the time. And the Beast? Well, the Beast has been with me for a long time. I can’t blame Australia for that one.
(But that’s another story.)
I knew Beauty and the Beast was the tale I most wanted to explore, back even then, at the tender age of ten-ish, I felt I had to wait until I had something original to add to the story.
I had to put Hunted away almost as soon as I started it, because my first book turned into three books, which turned into three more books with Amie. It remained the first third of a novel for half a decade, until I had the opportunity to finish it. It’s a book I began writing before I was ever published, and finished after I’d sold eleven books. It’s a story about the first five years of my career as an author, and how I changed and grew—it’s a story about longing, about dreams, and about that double-edged curse in the guise of a blessing: May you get everything you wish for.
But mostly, it’s a story about Beauty and the Beast. And yes, there’s a library. (But don’t worry, guys; the furniture doesn’t sing.)
Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones and in her blood. She knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. But Yeva’s grown up far from her father’s old lodge, raised to be part of the city’s highest caste of artistocrats. Still, she’s never forgotten the feel of a bow in her hands, and she’s spent a lifetime longing for the freedom of the hunt.
So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas . . . or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman....