Young adult author Kathryn Berla weaves a classic fairy tale into a sweet romance with her new title, Beau & Bett. She kindly answered our questions about the book.
Mary Sullivan: Why did you choose to do a retelling of Beauty and the Beast?
Kathryn Berla: I love the concept of applying a fairy tale world to a contemporary (non-magic) setting, and Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorites. I think the original purpose of most fairy tales was to instruct children about life—whether to inspire or to instill fear. These stories date back many hundreds of years. Since we apply our own contemporary mindset to a fairy tale, we personalize a story that may have been interpreted in an entirely different way when it was originally written (or popularized in an oral tradition). So that’s basically what I wanted to do with Beauty and the Beast. Make it my own and apply it to a modern world.
MS: What challenges did you overcome when converting a classic tale into a modern YA? How did you balance the source material with a new story?
KB: I’ve read (but can’t confirm because nobody really knows) that the original French fairy tale was written as a way to make young girls more comfortable with arranged marriages. Obviously, that’s a repugnant concept in this day so I sought to balance that possibility with a story line that empowers young women to stand up for themselves, even if they have to stand alone.
MS: Tell us about the setting. It’s in California, but with all the Cajuns involved, I originally thought it was Louisiana. How did you choose it? How does it impact the story?
KB: The setting is my own setting. I live in the part of California where avocados and grapes grow, and I hope that my love for the setting comes through to the readers. I’ve spent some time in Louisiana and I love Cajun food and Cajun music. I needed a French name for Beau and so….
MS: There was a low-key #metoo element to the story. What made you add in this topic?
KB: The #metoo movement is one near and dear to my heart. I feel it was a turning point in our society that will make a huge difference in the lives of young girls growing up today, and I wish that movement had been in place when I was younger. As I mentioned earlier, there is an ugliness (if true) to the original roots of the French fairy tale that I wanted to counter-balance.
MS: Many of our readers are aspiring writers. We’d love to hear about your path to publication!
KB: Beau & Bett is my sixth published novel (I’ve had a seventh since it came out) so my path to publication was fairly simple—writing it and hoping that my publisher loved it as much as I did. Fortunately, that turned out to be true. But I’ve learned so much from my first manuscript (which was never published) to this point. It has truly been a matter of “learn as you go” and I wish I’d had someone to guide me through my numerous initial mistakes. I’m always available to any of your readers, should they have a specific question I can answer. Send me a message (Instagram is best @AuthorKathrynB) or email me at BerlaBooks@gmail.com and I’ll try my best to be helpful.
Kathryn Berla can be found at www.kathrynberlabooks.com