The bestselling author of The School for Good and Evil will be releasing a retelling of a classic fairytale this September 2021. Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other.
Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is an enchanting and haunting compilation of tales as old as time. We chat with Soman about his previous works, creative process, and what readers can expect from his lastest book Beasts and Beauty.
The School for Good and Evil is being adapted into a movie for Netflix. What can we expect from the adaptation?
It really is the book come to life! It’s grand, ambitious, clever, funny… The director Paul Feig has crafted a thoroughly original fantasy epic. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. And the cast is just phenomenal – Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Sofia Wylie, Sophie Anne Caruso, Kit Young… I couldn’t have imagined a better group of actors to make this dream come true. It is a movie for everyone, young or old, boy or girl, Good or Evil.
What was the experience of having your novel adapted for a different medium like? How involved were you in making the movie?
It’s all been so fun and fulfilling. I’ve been pretty involved since the beginning and Paul has been ultra-collaborative. I spent a few weeks on set, as well, getting to know the cast and crew. But Paul is such a brilliant director that I’m happy to just kick back and watch him work, because he always makes the right choices.
How did you find your voice as a writer? At what point did you realize that you were going to primarily write middle grade fantasy and fiction?
I was always a writer, even in middle school, working on stories that never saw the light of day. I think it’s how I could express all my angst, and in those days, there was plenty of angst. I never actively chose to wrote middle grade – I just wrote the stories I loved and they turned out to be most fulfilling for that age group.
How did you come up with the idea for Beasts and Beauty? Can you share a little about your creative process as you were writing this book?
Beasts and Beauty came out of my frustration with the pandemic and being cooped up for months after finishing the School for Good and Evil series and really wanting to try something different. I was hoping to take a year off to travel but the world had other things in mind. So I decided to go deep in the Woods and write a book that was dark, edgy, and intense – a new look at fairy tales. I wanted to surprise readers with the other tricks in my bag. As for the process, I wrote the stories in the order they’re presented in the book. I wrote the stories while in lockdown, so they were my jailbreak from loneliness.
Fairy tale retellings have been emerging as popular genre for the last few years. What do you think readers find appealing about retellings of old stories?
These are primal stories. Fundamental building blocks not just to our culture, but to our understanding of storytelling. They will never go away. But we need to reinvent them! That’s what this book is. An attempt to rewrite them in a way that will make them useful to us. A new survival guide to life.
The cover of the book is stunning! What was your involvement in the creation like?
Oh that’s all Julie Iredale, our brilliant artist! She read the first three stories and presented that concept and I nearly fell out of my chair. She is a total genius.
What do you think is the most important part of being a writer?
A love for diving into your own imagination. I never tire of exploring the layers of my consciousness. I think you have to love self-investigation and the alchemy of turning that into pure storytelling.
What are three books you recommend for middle grade readers?
The Westing Game
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Last of the Whangdoodles
What is your advice to aspiring young writers?
It comes down to whether you’re mimicking books that are already out there or are you generating a unique story that only you can tell. That’s the only important piece of advice I can give – ask the question of whether the story you want to tell can be written by anyone else. If it can… then you’re setting yourself up for a difficult challenge. If it can’t, if it’s wholly, specifically you, then the story is meant to be told.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a best-selling author and how did this change your life as a writer?
Don’t get caught up in the outcome. Life is long. There will be times where you’re on top of the game and time where you’re buried under everyone else. The process is everything. You have to enjoy the good times and the bad.