I wasn’t a big fan of the story of Beauty and the Beast until the day I stumbled across Robin McKinley when I was 12. Although the first book of hers I devoured was The Blue Sword, it didn’t take me long to discover Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. Years later, as a married adult, I was delighted to discover that she’d revisited the story with the masterful Rose Daughter. It blew me away, not the least of which because she at least began to address one of my central dislikes with the whole store of Beauty and the Beast:
Now that the Beast had won Beauty’s love and regained his handsome human form, what kind of difficulties would Beauty have in adjusting to his new (to her) external appearance, especially in light of the fact that people would once again be willing to be in his company? Cynic that I am, I also wondered what, if anything, would keep him from regressing back into his former patterns of behavior.
Over the past couple of years, these questions — and my answers to them — have been gnawing at me. I don’t think the story is over when the evil curse/spell is lifted. In fact, based on my own experiences as a married man, I think that’s when the real story starts. Beauty and the Beast don’t really know each other under the stresses of ordinary life, and there are sure to be some bumps and major potholes along the way. I like a happy ending as much as the next person, but the odds are pretty steep. Let’s also not forget the person who cast the original spell on the Beast; clearly, they’re a major magician. These people don’t go away. They’re going to be coming back to check out the results of their handiwork; will they like what they see? (And who is this magician, and what’s their real beef with the Beast? The standard answers never satisfied me. That’s some hella major mojo to toss on someone, even if they are being a completely stuck-up prat.)
I finally realized who the perfect viewpoint person for this extended story would be — the magician. Just to keep things interesting, my unconscious mind tossed out some other interesting connections and observations, and pretty soon I had the makings of a solid story on my hands. A couple weekends ago, the last major plot piece fell in place, so now I’m going to have to spend at least some of my personal time writing it out. Unlike some of the other novels I have running around in my head, this one feels like it is ready to come out, so here I go. Since it starts the day after the spell is broken, it will recover the familiar territory in a new way. The only problem is the title. My current working title is The Next Day. I honestly prefer After, but that’s too close to a certain Drew Barrymore movie.