So someone who read Bed of Flowers might wonder how I can claim it's inspired by Beauty and the Beast when there's nothing 'beastly' about my hero, Baron Orson Loel.
I started writing Bed of Flowers last year, while the new Disney live-action Beauty and the Beast was in theaters, the one with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. I didn't see the movie until much later but I did catch a tweet--it's been so long I'd never be able to find the original, so I don't remember who wrote it or the exact words--but it said something like, "I'm not seeing this movie, I'm done with stories about privileged white guys getting second chances."
It was still in the early stages of plotting out my book and this comment really stuck with me. The more I thought about it, the more central it became to the way I imagined my Beast. Most modernizations I know focus on finding a real-world parallel for Beast's physical transformation. They generally link his isolation to his appearance. This can be done thoughtfully--I loved both Suleikha Snyder's Bollywood and the Beast and Tessa Dare's The Duchess Deal, two romances where Beast's challenge is to deal with trauma that's left psychological as well as physical scars. These Beasts do battle with their own demons and the victory they need, the key to the happily ever after, is the resolution of an invisible, internal battle.
But I was still thinking to myself: what if all the people who hate Beast have a point? What if they don't want to forgive him? Maybe they shouldn't have to.
And that's why I didn't write about a Beast unfairly rejected by the world--I wrote about the arrogant prince who failed a test of character. A man who's life has been blighted as a consequence of his own actions, and who accepts those consequences without resentment or complaint.
I won't spoil the details of how it all came to be, but Bed of Flowers is set in the small seaside town of New Quay and every single person who lives there loathes Loel. The heroine's family most of all; like in the original tales, Bonny Reed--my Beauty--is the daughter of a once-wealthy merchant who's fallen on hard times.
The townsfolk of New Quay are not the problem here. Loel has no right to their forgiveness. He is not owed any second chances by anyone. The fact that he gets one from Bonny is a miracle, and he knows it.
Bonny's goodness, her ability to see the wonderful man that Loel has become, drives the novel's conflict. Bonny is a good girl, through and through. She lives to make other people happy. She's not naturally inclined to rebellion or defiance. In the first chapter of Bed of Flowers, she happily accepts a proposal of marriage from a local bachelor. He's young, handsome, wealthy, from a prominent family; he's exactly the sort of person she's supposed to marry. Her parents support the match. It doesn't even occur to her to say no.
Not until it's too late, anyhow.