"Beauty and the Beast" was always my favorite fairy tale. I loved that Beauty saw past the undesirable exterior of the Beast to the good heart within, and adored the literal take on the transformative power of love. What I didn’t like, however, was that Beauty was the only one who was required to look beneath the surface. I also didn’t care for how easily Beauty (in most versions of the fairy tale) accepted her fate. I thought a girl taken captive and isolated from everything she’d ever known should have a considerable amount of rage to work through before she could begin loving the creature who imprisoned her.
In OF BEAST AND BEAUTY I’ve flipped the script–having the princess, Isra, take the Beast captive instead of vice versa–and both my hero and heroine are required to look past the undesirable exterior of "the other" in order to love the person inside. Gem, my hero, has to deal with his anger at being held captive before he can begin to care for Isra, and both Isra and Gem are forced to reexamine the meaning of beauty and its place in their world.
2. How were you able to come up with the unique setting of Yuan, a domed city that makes human sacrifices for the sake of all? It’s almost like the Aztecs!
I did a lot of thinking about first world attitudes about beauty before creating the city of Yuan. It has always troubled me the way beautiful young girls are raised up to be goddesses in our culture, only to be just as eagerly torn down and vilified when they begin to age, gain weight, act out in a way unbefitting an object of adoration, or otherwise move beyond our society’s narrow definition of what makes an ideal, young beauty. We may not actually sacrifice these girls, but many are irrevocably damaged by their time as "princesses" of modern pop culture. It’s unhealthy not only for these girls, but for our culture as a whole. I tried to reflect that in the city of Yuan. (Yuan has some dirty secrets I can’t reveal without being spoiler-y.)
3. How will OF BEAST AND BEAUTY compare to your greatly loved JULIET IMMORTAL series?
OF BEAST AND BEAUTY is a love story, and one of my favorites that I’ve written, but it’s also about more than the love between a boy and a girl. It’s about loving the world and the people in it, and the decisions you make to show that love. For that reason, it was a book that, while I was writing, resonated on many levels for me. I hope it does the same for my readers!
4. I am a huge re-telling nut, which is one of the many reasons that I’m excited to read OF BEAST AND BEAUTY alongside many. If you had to write a re-telling for any other tale dear to your heart, what would it be and why?
If so many people hadn’t already done so, it would be fun to play with the Snow White myth. There are so many wrongs to right in that story, and I’d love to think of some crazy/fun way to reimagine the dwarves.
5. Did any obstacles present themselves while having so many narrators? I understand this story is told from Isra’s, Gem’s, and Bo’s perspectives.
The characters in this story were very real to me and had their own "voices" that spoke out when I sat down to write so having several narrators wasn’t difficult. It was actually nice. It allowed me to build suspense in ways you can’t always manage when experiencing a story through only one character’s point of view.
6. If your characters were to celebrate the summer solstice, how would they celebrate?
They would dance around a bonfire all night and greet the morning with an enormous picnic. And there would be cookies. Lots of cookies.
7. Have you ever celebrated the summer solstice?
I haven’t! I have celebrated winter solstice, but never its counterpart. I’m hoping to make it to a celebration this year.
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret…
In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.
Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.
As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.
Stacey Jay is a recovering workaholic (or at least working hard at recovering) with two small children, and a passion for playing pretend for a living. She’s been a full time mom-writer since 2005 and can’t think of anything she’d rather be doing. Her former careers include theatre performer, professional dancer, poorly paid C-movie actress, bartender, waiter, math tutor, and yoga instructor.
In her very limited spare time, Stacey enjoys cooking elaborate dinners and eating them very slowly, dressing up in costumes with her sons, and drinking wine with her husband. She loves to hear from readers and personally answers every single email she receives.