Updated: Jun 10, 2019
When I decided to start my Reverse Fairy Tale Series off with Beauty and the Beast I did this for some solid reasons. [Note: First I had done some work on Jack and the Beanstalk and then The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but I put those aside for later] The main reasons were a) Everyone knows and loves the story of Beauty and the Beast unlike some of the other fairy tales I love, b) I had planned to set it in the Regency Period which is one of the most popular periods for historical romance, and the one I am most familiar with and c) I had inspiration and thought it would be fun. I never imagined that writing it would be as emotionally impactful as it was.
Eloise, the heroine, is a woman with facial scars living among the gentry in Regency England. This is a time and a class when beauty, wealth and character were what a woman was judged upon. Eloise has the opposite of beauty, for which she is treated as less than, which then drives her to develop a salty personality. Therefore when she gets married, it is only her money that recommends her as a bride. Eloise's journey in this book is essentially a journey to find a sense of self-worth, when every day she faces prejudice for her scars and unladylike temperament.
So I began the book thinking it would be a lark. I would find it a therapeutic escape from my woes and worries. Instead my own feelings of low self-confidence and low self-worth came bubbling up, and when I wrote certain scenes for Eloise, they felt deeply personal.
I had finished graduate school a year ago and had moved away from Columbus and my safe, fun, but dead end job to go back to the east coast and find a job closer to many of my family members. I had been applying to positions for seven months at that point, and while I had some second round interviews, I had no new career. I ended up working in a job that I was overqualified for, did not enjoy very much and paid less than my previous job in Ohio. I had barely any social network in town, was living in less than ideal conditions, no love life in site and I was not in the shape I wanted to be in. I have long struggled with shyness and insecurity. Over the years I made it my goal to break out of those self defeating emotions. I made progress in combating self-doubt, but suddenly at this juncture in my life I could not hold up one solid thing to say 'Hey this is going great in my life and validates my choices'. All I had to go on was hope that soon I would get that rewarding job, and then I would move to where it was located, start making friends, start cooking healthy, and start dating for serious. I put in application after application, but the months dragged on and no changes.
Part of the trouble was that I often pin my sense of self-worth on external things- making others happy, how cool do people think I am, my job, my hobbies. I was struggling with how do you still walk through life as a strong self-assured woman, when nothing is going particularly great? (I was feeling like Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, but wanting to be Lizzy). The thing is, if any of my friends were in the position I was in, I might worry for their happiness, but I would never think less of them. I would love them for being who they are. Why is it easier though to accept others than it is your self? How do you love yourself for being purely who you are? Don't you have to check certain boxes to feel self-worth? Smart -check, funny- check, do charity- check, recycle- check and so on. How can you love yourself for just being you? Is there even such a thing? Don't you exist as a series of choices, some of which give you self-worth points and some of which take them away?
I am still searching for the answers to those questions. I am in a better place, but still not at 100% love. I am still waiting for some of those outside forms of validation to make me feel better about myself, for example a job that will pay me enough to live like a real adult. I deserve that right? Of course I do, so does everyone! The two things I have to keep telling myself are a) yes, you are worth it and b) recognize and change negative thought patterns.
Part of what helped was writing Eloise. Here I had a character with everything going against her, a scarred face, a difficult personality, antisocial behaviors, neglectful childhood, prejudice, and I was convinced that she 100% deserved to be loved by the very handsome, very charming Allen. Suddenly I had a realization that if I were magically flung into my own story, I did not believe that I would deserve Allen's love. He is too handsome, to popular, too nice. So if I can't believe that I deserve the love of the hero, how can I expect Eloise to? Is she just stronger than me? Does it not matter because this is fiction? I realized that if I wanted to authentically write Eloise so that she believed Allen could love her, then I, with much more going for me, had to believe the same thing. And so I confronted an insecurity that has held me back for so long. Eloise's journey of healing was also partly mine.
Romance novels may be a bit (or a lot) silly sometimes. They don't necessarily reflect reality very clearly, but they do reflect our hopes and insecurities. The more depressed I am, the more romance novels I read, because they give me hope that I too can find love. Maybe this time I am the wallflower with glasses, or have the scandalous family, or a terrible fashion sense, but in the end I have the heart of a wonderful man. That, above all else, is what I want to give my readers. I want all of you to feel you deserve to be in a beautiful love story.
"The Beastly Bride" is going to be my first published novel. I am writing this post shortly before I am going to start shopping the book around. I don't have a background in writing, only a vivid imagination. This is yet another insecurity that I fight to keep at bay. Do I have what it takes to be an author? So to each reader out there who has read and enjoyed my work- thank you, you have helped me feel better about myself; someone liked my story- check.
1. Do you have a strong sense of self worth?
2. Do you have struggles to feel like you are worthy of certain things?
3. Do you feel like you deserve to be loved my an amazing partner?
4. What is your favorite fairy tale?