Alex Flinn: On Sorcery, Trickery, and General Beastliness

Alex Flinn is the author of nine young adult books, including Beastly, a novel published in 2007 that retells the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale from the Beast’s perspective — set in Manhattan. Her follow-up novel, Bewitching (which you can begin reading for a limited time on Figment here), takes the enchantress from Beastly and drops her into the life of Emma, a girl with something of an evil stepsister dilemma.

Alex was kind enough to stop by and offer us her thoughts on fairy tales, writing guides, and deliciously dark teen reads.

You got your start writing contemporary, realistic fiction. What prompted the shift to fairy tales and fantasy?

I became really obsessed with the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. I wanted to write his story. Why was he all alone? What happened to his family? How did he try to meet a girl before Beauty came along? Then, after I wrote one, I figured I had to write two, so I wrote A Kiss in Time.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?

I like a lot of fairy tales, but my favorites as a kid were Sleeping Beauty, which I used as the basis of my novel, A Kiss in Time, and Rapunzel.

Bewitching tells the story of Kendra, a witch that readers first met in Beastly. What made you want to give Kendra more of a voice?

Well, Kendra reminds me a lot of myself in high school, sort of an outsider girl, doesn’t really worry about what other people think of her. The main difference is, Kendra has magic powers. It was fun writing about her, and her quest to use her powers for good.

What’s the hardest part about basing a novel on a fairy tale? What’s the most fun part?

The hardest part is probably the fun part, finding that “something more” in a simple story.

Who are your favorite authors? Who do you consider your biggest influences?

I read a lot of authors. It’s hard to tell who’s influenced me, except that my reading as a teen was almost exclusively dark, running the gamut from Mary Higgins-Clark to Charlotte Bronte, from V.C. Andrews to Victor Hugo.

You’re a self-taught writer. How did you learn? Do you have any books or other resources you’d recommend aspiring young authors check out?

I learned by reading a lot, both books like I wanted to write and books about writing. I also took some workshops, but that was pretty late in the game. I really recommend attending conferences and workshops. Books I recommend are Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King, Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott, It’s a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World by Olga Litowinski, Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood and Invitations to the World by Richard Peck.

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