The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross + exclusive Q&A with author Leife Shallcross

Release Date: May 2018
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette, Australia)

“I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both. I am the Beast. The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time. My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded. My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again. And now I might lose her forever.”

Firstly, we would like to give our special thanks to Hachette Publishers: Date A Book Team for an Advanced Review Copy we received at their exclusive Blogger Nighte and to author Leife Shallcross for being part of our personal read along journey and taking part in our exclusive blog interview. Such an exciting experience as we engaged in a read along with 2 amazing bloggers “Sydney Editor 1” and “Tien’s Blurb” who are also dear friends of ours and the author, Leife Shallcross herself! (Now a dear friend to us all) A lot of fun as we communicated spoiler free updates to each other and Leife sharing her writing experience and inspirations with us as we read along.

Our Thoughts
This was so beautifully written, I felt like I was reading a classical, melodic, fairytale with all the feels that really came to life in my mind!!! An amazing story that developed beautifully, fantastically well-defined characters, the author did such a great job in reimagining the tale that’s old as time and really took us deep into the heart of the beast. This is a story no one has heard before and a must read now. Beautiful writing and language, amazing characters you grow to love and a beast who I just want to hug!  Oh.. the love.. the feels.. for a first time in a very long time, I found this to be a book I needed to take a moment of silence for right at the end, it was that beautiful.
– Annie

This book is so beautifully written, you’ll feel the magic, the intricate storytelling, the love, all the feels that you can expect from a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I love that it’s set around about the 17th-century era, the restraint, the language and politeness all add to the charming storytelling. I love the characters, my fav has to be Marie. I’m also totally in love the Beast too as you’ll see everything from his perspective! This is a wonderful, magical and a timeless book and retelling. I only wish it came in hard copy as I feel I would be re-reading this book anytime I need to escape reality. There are so many parts that hit me right in the heart.
– NJ

Exclusive Q&A with author Leife Shallcross

What is the title of your debut novel and what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved fairy tales (I use them a lot in my writing), and I particularly love Beauty and the Beast because the two protagonists actually get to spend time falling in love. But one of the big story problems for me was always the question of how you make a romantic hero out of a man who has done something so awful that someone was compelled to put him under a curse for 100 years. So I wanted to explore that. I also wanted to create a fairy tale world I could just sink into and lose myself. My novel is The Beast’s Heart, and will be published by Hodder & Stoughton (Hachette) in May 2018. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s perspective.

What sort of research goes into writing a book like this and how did you come up with the characters for your story? Were you reading other books or going online to search how one may dress at a particular time?
I did a fair bit of research into the historical details. There were so many little bits and pieces that I had to tweak to make them accurate! For example, in France in the 17th Century, people were usually married on the steps of the church, rather than inside at the altar (I didn’t know that before I started!) I did a lot of my research online, but obviously this means I had to be a bit careful about using reliable sources. Contemporary paintings are a great resource for things like food, clothes and table settings, but I had to bear in mind these were usually painted to hang in the houses of the rich and convey a sense of their wealth. I used original sources where I could (like church registers for names – it’s surprising how many are available on the net). My characters are mostly the ones you find in the usual B&B fairy tale, but I have tried to give them their own personalities, motivations and story arcs. I’ve added a few extra ones of my own devising, though!

If your book became a film adaptation, who would you cast to play your characters?
Such a tricky question! Perhaps Aidan Turner for the Beast. Or Theo James. And maybe Maisie Williams or Lily Collins for my heroine. I think you’d need someone very striking to play the Fairy. Perhaps Tilda Swinton or Eva Green?

Are you a reader yourself? What is your favourite genre and your favourite book?
Of course! I read a lot of fantasy and sci fi, and predictably I particularly love fairy tale retellings. I subscribe to the belief that before you can be a good writer, you have to be a devoted reader. But how am I supposed to choose a favourite book???? Argh! All time favourites include Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne-Jones, Beauty, by Robin McKinley and Red As Blood by Tanith Lee. Recent faves are Uprooted by Naomi Novik and the Shades of Magic series by V E Schwab. I could go on forever…

If you had the chance to create a soundtrack for “The Beast’s Heart” what would the track list look like?
Here’s a few:
-Green, by Alex Lloyd
-1000 Oceans, by Tori Amos
-Heartlines, by Florence & the Machine
-Photograph, by Ed Sheeran
-If Time is All I Have, by James Blunt.

During your writing journey, what was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Find your writing community (and it can’t just be any old writing community, it has to be the right one. Your writing community. Your tribe. People who are going to get what you’re trying to write.) Writing can be a very lonely business, and it’s not just about being a good writer. You have to know about the industry and how to be professional about your craft. I’ve learned so much invaluable stuff from the wonderful, generous people in my writing community (the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild). I don’t think I’d be here today without them.

Advertisements

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

A beautiful middle grade steampunk fantasy adventure story…

This story is set in the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. An institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music.

For the innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only the number 13 etched on a medallion around his neck and does not have a name, this place is the only home he has ever known but unexpected courage leads him to an unexpected friendship and the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives him two amazing gifts: a real name “Arthur” like the good king in the old stories and friendship. From here, they embark on an excitingly scary adventure that will take them out into the wider world and down the path of Arthur’s true destiny.

This was such a wonderful book to read. So beautifully written and just so heartwarming. It brought back memories of my childhood when I embraced The Chronicles of Narnia – the friendships formed in the “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” as well as the characters and adventure. This is a middle grade fantasy fiction story however an adult can really enjoy this. A fantastic tale of courage, friendship and adventure with amazing illustrations that really brings the story to life. It’s one collectable you will want to keep on your shelf forever and a story you will want to read over and over again.

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

To simply call this a fairytale retelling would do this story an injustice.. This is a uniquely, magical story in its own right…

This would be one of the best books I have read this year… A story of mystery, identity, magical betrayal and intrigue.. A story of one crown – two women: Mina, whose heart is made of glass.. Lynet, who is made of snow.. both brought to life by a magician the kingdom is taught to fear..

A step-mother/step-daughter relationship based in a kingdom in need of only one queen. At sixteen years of age, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees their king for the first time, Mina makes it her mission to win the king’s heart through her beauty to become queen and finally know what love is. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother to Lynet, who at aged fifteen, is the  splitting image of her late mother but one day Lynet discovers why… A magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order but rather than filling the shoes of her late mother, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. What started as a bond between step-mother and step-daughter may soon become a fight to the death for the crown…

 I gave this book a standing ovation. This story takes you into a whole new world of twists, turns and mystery whicht left me gaping, page turning and confused as to which character had my allegiance. This story had fantastic world building and was mildly paced so it allowed me to immerse myself into this new world as well as the character development but the suspensful plot got the heart pumping and captivated me to the very end!!! Such an amazing story and I highly recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings (although I find this book is more than that) and fans of YA Fantasy Fiction… This is on the shelf as one of the best of 2017!!!

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me a Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

One by Sarah Crossan

This is a must read for YA fans… I read this book in one sitting!!!

A moving and beautifully crafted story about identity, sisterhood and a love that ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

“One” is a story about Grace and Tippi, who are twins – conjoined twins and it follows their lives in high school as they have to decide whether or not to have the operation which will physical separate them.

I have always struggled to enjoy poetry but this book did the impossible. It made me love the poetry style with which this story is told. This story, and the poetry prose through which it was told, was a raw, personal story which had me feeling every emotion.

I loved this book and could not stop hugging this book after I finished the story.
-Amanda

 

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

As the founder of a major network of readers, I can say I can relate to this book. When living in a crazy world, going through hardships of your own, finding friendship with avid readers through a bond which is our love for reading truly is refreshing. Personally I’m more of a YA reader however I really enjoyed this book for adult readers given the themes covered in this book and the setting. It’s said to suit those who loved “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” and “The Thorn Birds.”

This book is set in the Northern Territory during the 1970’s at a time of calamity – Cyclone Tracy almost wiped Darwin off the map and telecommunications have yet to be revived. A bomb exploded outside of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney killing 3 people and Former Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies dies.

I refer to this book as historical fiction due to the accurate reference to special events that took place in the 70’s. I enjoyed the intricate breakdown of each character that helped us get to know the character: Sybil, Sallyanne, Rita, Kate and Della at my own pace. What also kept me hanging to the end was how each of these women have their own hardships and stories to tell yet in a story of pain, there is the story of hope when friendships are formed over their love of books.

Highly recommended to fans of adult fiction set in Australia – not necessarily for just women. May also be of interest to those who lived in the 70’s.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

“What is really important in this life?”

A wonderful page turner… A story of hope among family, friendship with a hint of romance…
You will laugh, sigh and shed a
tear.. or two..

A story of three best friends who embark on a luxury cruise and long-held secrets that spill in the confines of a cruise ship

 

Release Date: September 2017

Before I read this novel, I read that this is the first time the author had written something that was not a rural romance as it is set in the city and on the coast so I was interested in giving this a go as I’m sure writing this story would have taken the author out of her comfort zone. I also don’t normally read adult contemporary fiction so this book really was a nice change of pace for me.. and I was not disappointed.

This story follows besties Abbie, Jess and Ricki who are about to set sail on a cruise ship as they did when they were still in school and without meaning to, their secrets are exposed while they’re on their voyage. As the story flows, it explores such deep issues that I didn’t expect to see in a story – issues that are common among adults that everyone seems to take for granted – things like domestic violence, terminal illness or on a smaller scale, how adults feel when they are stuck in ruts whether in their jobs or social spheres.

Set in Australia, the story was so beautifully written and for someone who doesn’t normally cry whilst reading fiction, this story felt real – it felt like I was listening to a conversation among my girlfriends. I would recommend this to readers of adult contemporary fiction and if you are a Fiona Palmer fan and are used to her normal style of writing, I am sure you would enjoy this one too.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy + the cute novelty beach chair in exchange for my honest review!

-Annie

 

Fabled Kingdom Volume 1+ Exclusive Q&A with its author/graphic artist Queenie Chan!!

This is a comics-prose story. It contains chapters 1-3 (of 21)*

Fabled Kingdom, Volume 1
What if Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother isn’t her real grandmother? What if her two trueborn grandmothers are both Queens – where one is good, and the other one is evil?

Celsia is a ‘Red Hood,’ a healer-in-training living with her grandmother in a small village deep in the woods. Life was ordinary and uneventful, until the fateful day a shocking truth is uncovered – Celsia’s grandmother isn’t her REAL grandmother. Forced to flee her village, Celsia is soon on a quest to seek her two TRUEBORN grandmothers – both powerful Queens of magical kingdoms.

Accompanied by her childhood friend Quillon and the cheeky faun Pylus, her first destination is the fabled kingdom of Fallinor, which was destroyed over 60 years ago… or was it?

Fabled Kingdom Volume 1 Review
Red Hooded Magic with an Intriguing Plot!!!
Red hooded cloak, a magically inclined basket and a girl on a mission to go to grandma’s house. Sounds like a normal red riding hood story, right? Whelp, stop there because Fabled Kingdom is anything but an ordinary story of red riding hood. Queenie takes the tale of red and weaves in her own twists in the form of werewolves, tricky fawns and magic that entices you to continue reading mixed with wonderful artwork and detail that’s your eyes a glued to the page.The characters are the highlight of the series. Our main character Celsia is a head strong heroine that made for some comedic moments. I enjoyed the secondary characters such as Quillon and the fawn that you meet on Celsia’s journey.I would recommend Fabled Kingdom to anyone who loves fairytale retellings, fantasy and beautifully crafted artwork.If I were to give it a rating, I would go 5/5 stars.
-Maisie

Exclusive Q&A by author/graphic artist: Queenie Chan
1. You have published quite a few graphic novels!! What is the name of your debut graphic novel and what titles have you published?
My first published work was a mystery-horror set in the Australian bush called “The Dreaming”, which was published with LA-based publisher TOKYOPOP in 2005. That got me some illustration work with authors Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas) and Kylie Chan (White Tiger), doing graphic novel prequels to their best-selling series. Apart from those books, I’ve also published my own collections of short ghost stories, webcomics and my fairytale YA fantasy “Fabled Kingdom.” I’m also currently moving into colour comics, so I’ve been doing a lot of short, home-made mini-comics about cute animals. I’m also planning my next graphic novel, which looks to be a standalone YA fantasy in colour.

2. Your publications are not just illustrations – it’s part story part illustrations, what goes into the structure?
Do you illustrate then write or the other way around? I’ve tried it both ways, but I find that starting with a rough outline of a comic book page and then working backwards is a better way of doing “comics-prose” storytelling. Part of the reason is because when you convert comic panels into prose, it becomes embellishment of existing comic panels, and by extension, of the characters and story. The process is like layering a cake, which I find very satisfying. Conversely, when you start with prose and then convert part of it into comics, then the process becomes somewhat reductive. Complexity has to be reduced, and while some may argue that visual presentation brings its own form of complexity (which is true), the fact is that, in some ways, it makes things fuzzy rather than exacting. Editing is also harder when you start with prose, since you need to edit twice—both before AND after you lay down the panels on the page.

3. Do you like reading graphic novels yourself? What would be your favourite?
I consume a lot of media – prose fiction, comics, video games, animation, movies and music. I don’t read as much graphic novels as I used to (mostly because I believe a creater should look for inspiration outside their own industry, lest they start cannabalising what their colleagues are doing), and I mostly read manga these days anyway, due to my love of serialised fiction. I’m currently still reading “One Piece,” which is a manga series that I’ve been reading since my early twenties. I’ve fallen off the bandwagon a bit so I need to catch up, but it still remains an inventive and fun series despite having been running for 20 years. So it’s recommended from me!

4. Who have you collaborated with on your work and what is it like to collaborate, especially when drawing/writing graphic novels? I’ve worked with Dean Koontz and Kylie Chan on their respective series, and my relationship with Kylie is especially close since I was able to talk with her directly about what she envisions for her characters and world. In terms of Dean, he was easy to work with, but communication was difficult since I was only able to talk with him through his agents and editors. I should also count the comic writers (Fred Van Lente, Landry S. Walker) who adapted his stories into comic script format for me to work on, though unfortunately due to the publishing house production line, I wasn’t able to talk to these writers either. However, I still feel I learned a lot from them, which I’m grateful for. On the other hand, working with writers made me realise how sensitive prose authors are to having their writing altered in any way. I was surprised at first – writers can get very sore at having even a SINGLE word altered – but I understand why they get so worked up. I don’t have that feeling myself though, despite being a writer too, probably because words account for only a fraction of what I do.

5. As an author and graphic novel artist, what was the most exciting experience you have had eg: Supanova or Comic Con?
Meeting Dean Koontz at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2008! I was a fan of Dean when I was growing up – the first book I bought with my own money was a Dean Koontz omnibus featuring his earliest horror works. I fell off the book-reading wagon in my early 20s, but his series “Odd Thomas” got me back into reading, so it was great to meet him in person. He was very polite, funny and gracious, which was wonderful. It’s always exciting to meet famous authors who you’ve grown up reading.

6. For the aspiring graphic novel artists, what would be the best piece of advice you could give them?
The arts is a difficult place to earn a living, but I highly recommend comics as a form of creative expression! I think that no matter what you create or why, the most important thing is to ensure that you’re working on something you love and care about, and to FINISH it. A lot of people start drawing a comic but never finishes it, which results in online comic websites looking like a graveyard of unfinished work. This is not a good thing for any creator, because it makes you look unprofessional – like it or not, even when you do comics as a hobby, it reflects poorly on you when you don’t seem to care for your readers (no matter how many readers you have). Most people also only read a story when it’s finished – if you don’t finish your work, people can’t judge your level of writing, and therefore won’t care, or trust you as a creator. You may think this is unfair, but to be honest, in this day and age, people have too much competition for their attention to care about a creator’s unfinished work. That is my 2 cents 🙂

-Interivew compiled by Annie

Many thanks to Queenie Chan for spending this time with us!! We are big fans of your work and we hope we will see you again soon, keep up the awesomeness!!