Thrilled to have Christina Rosso on the blog this week to chat about her short fiction collection, She Is a Beast
Author Name: Christina Rosso
Book Title: She Is a Beast
Book Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 2, 2020
Publisher: APEP Publications
Welcome Christina! Please tell us a bit about She Is a Beast.
She is a Beast follows various familiar fairy tale heroines, including a couple of new faces, who fight against the patriarchy to find their own version of happily ever after.
What sparked the idea for your story collection?
I didn’t originally plan for these stories to be a collection actually! The last story in the book, “Becoming a Beast,” was the first one I wrote (about four years ago). It was the first time I felt I had really hit the mark with the kind of stories I wanted to tell. The first line goes, “I was raised to become a maiden, yet I dreamed of becoming a beast.” I think this sums up what I try to accomplish by re-imagining fairy tales: reshaping the prescribed roles to allow humanity and individuality to shine through. From there, I continued to twist traditional tellings with my own. About two years ago, I realized I had a book full of powerful, brave women and I thought it was the perfect debut of my work.
How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do have to do any research?
I wrote the six stories in the collection over three years. Since I wasn’t planning to write a book, I was writing them as they came to me.
A lot of research went into this book. In 2016, I graduated from Arcadia University with an MFA in Creative Writing and a Master’s in Literature. In my first semester of graduate school, I discovered Angela Carter during a research project on Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates. Then I went down the rabbit hole. I devoured Carter’s collection of feminist fairy tales The Bloody Chamber. I found other contemporary authors re-imagining fairy tales such as Emma Donoghue and Daniel M. Lavery. I spent the rest of my time in school researching and writing feminist fairy tales. This book wouldn’t be possible without those years or the work of Angela Carter. I’ve continued to research these stories and to read as many retellings as I can get my hands on ever since.
What drew you to the short story genre?
Growing up, I told everyone I was going to be a novelist. I was so sure of it! But then I got to grad school and I was supposed to write a novel-length manuscript for my thesis. And I just couldn’t find my footing. After a couple of months, I threw out the manuscript I was working on and focused on short stories instead. I think this is in part due to my writing process. I don’t like to plan too much before sitting down to write. It can take the magic out of it for me. I also think it works really well for the types of stories I like to tell. The stories in She is a Beast, for instance, contain violence and abuse, and because of this, I think a shorter form works better and is less intense for the reader. The reader can always set down the book and take a break if need be or move onto a different story with a completely different protagonist and situation.
Where do you get ideas for your books?
I get most of my book ideas from fairy tales, mythology, and folklore.
She is a Beast was heavily inspired by Angela Carter’s masterpiece The Bloody Chamber and the research I started at Arcadia.
My forthcoming book, Creole Conjure (Maudlin House, 2021), is inspired first and foremost by place: New Orleans, Louisiana. I felt an instant connection to that city when I first visited in Spring 2015 and I started writing the first story in the collection within weeks of coming home to Philadelphia. From there, I really let New Orleans guide me with its magic and folklore, and once again I leaned into my love of fairy tales and mythology.
For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?
For me, the hardest thing about writing is the big picture of a project. Often, I come up with a great concept or image to work from, but because I don’t like to plan too much before sitting down to write, I can get stuck on where the project is going. I’ve been working on a novel for the past two years and I had to force myself to be a bit more organized than my normal process so that there was a clear thread weaving its way through the book (and so I could actually finish it in a timely manner).
What do you love most about it?
I love the endless possibilities I, as a writer, have when I sit down at my desk. I can shape a story any way I want to (which is also one of the most daunting aspects of writing, too, of course). I love creating fresh, complicated characters and dropping them into interesting scenarios.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read She Is a Beast?
You should want to read She is a Beast because it is not just old tales in new skins but a gospel of female empowerment.
Yes, I love that! How does owning and operating a bookstore inform/inspire your writing?
Owning and operating a bookstore has expanded my writing community so much! It’s been incredible to meet and connect with so many other writers, whether it’s via in-person events (pre-March 2020) or virtual events or even just through social media. I find all of these people to be so inspiring; I love hearing about their writing journeys and hearing their work. I also find the bookstore to be a perfect space for getting writing done. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had the chance to do this in the past year with everything being so hectic, but in the past, I loved sitting in the bookstore on quieter days and writing. Being surrounded by so many books is very inspiring.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Outside of writing and reading, I love to spend time with my husband, Alex, and our dog, Atticus. Going on hikes, taking Atticus to the dog park, or just puppy cuddles are the best. I also love yoga and acupuncture. And true crime! I have always been fascinated by serial killers (one of my favorite TV shows is Hannibal).
Another interest of mine is witchcraft. I’ve been taking classes and practicing for about three years now. I have a regular tarot practice and do a lot of candle magic (primarily for manifesting abundance and creativity). Via the bookstore, I run a witch-focused book club and a monthly meetup called Witches’ Circle. Through these events, I’ve found a wonderful community of folx to connect with about all things witchy. (I also often take my knowledge of witchcraft and blend it with my writing).
Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.
As mentioned previously, I have been working on a novel for the past couple of years. It’s inspired by a nearly fifty-year-old cold case from Cape Cod, where the body of a woman was found with no hands at the sand dunes (She’s known as the Lady of the Dunes). I learned about this story during a tour at my bachelorette and knew I had to put my own spin on it. So, I started writing a novel about a man obsessed with creating mermaids. He doesn’t set out to hurt or kill anyone, yet his attempts to create these mermaids go horribly wrong, and a FBI agent is brought in from Boston to solve what becomes a string of murders. Essentially, this book blends all of my favorite things into one book.
I am currently working on the third draft and am hoping to begin querying agents this summer. Wish me luck!
How are you adjusting to promoting a book during a pandemic?
It’s certainly been an odd time for a book to come out, especially my first book. I had a big launch planned at the bookstore, as well as a mini tour. Of course, the pandemic had other plans. She is a Beast was originally set to be released on March 21, 2020. Fortunately, it was only pushed back until May 2nd. I took that extra time to try to schedule as many virtual events and interviews as possible to really push the new launch date. We hosted a virtual book release in May that went really well! So many friends and family tuned in to celebrate with me. And then I was fortunate enough to host an outdoor, socially distanced event at my favorite local restaurant Le Virtu in October. So far it’s the only in-person event I’ve been able to do for this book, which is one of the things I’m most sad about. I love the energy of being in a room full of people while reading my work and being able to see and hear the audience react to it. I’m so grateful to have virtual events, of course, but it’s not quite the same!
In terms of promotion, I figured there would be a big learning curve since this is my first book, though I didn’t imagine I would have to adapt my entire business while also trying to get people interested in my book. It’s been a lot to manage, but I believe I’ve done a really good job growing my online platform and that I’ve done about as many virtual events as humanly possible these past eight months.
My second book is slated for a fall release, and I am starting to think about what promoting that book will look like. I hope I will be able to do even one in-person event for it and that I can travel to the place that inspired the entire thing in the not too, too distant future.
I bet–we all miss in-person events! In the meantime, where can readers find you?
Readers can find me at christina-rosso.com, Instagram: @christinarossoschneider, and Twitter: @Rosso_Christina. I have two virtual readings coming up! The first is E-Verse Equinox Reading Series on Wednesday, March 10th 7pm ET. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/467507787593083/. The second is Through the Woods: An Evening of Fairy Tales on Friday, March 12th 7pm ET. More details at anovelideaphilly.com/events!
I have a single-session writing workshop on Tarot & Writing: The Wands on Monday, March 29th 7-9pm ET via A Novel Idea. More details will be up at anovelideaphilly.com/classes soon!
Thank you, Christina! She Is a Beast is OUT NOW.
She is a Beast is an illustrated collection of feminist fairy tales published by APEP Publications in May 2020. Some are re-imaginings of the classic tales we know, such as Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, while others are completely original. This collection is about women reclaiming their stories and finding agency by embracing their beastly natures and adopting monstrous appetites deemed inappropriate by society. In their wildness they find freedom. She is a Beast is available to order via A Novel Idea or APEP. Now also an ebook!