How Beauty and the Beast Influenced Me
Do you ever stop to wonder at some of the reasons you are the way you are? Like what sort of things influenced you, made you like a certain movie but hate others, or only want to read one sort of book?
It's not just me, right?
In less than two months, I'm going to turn...well, a year older. Maybe that's why I've been thinking about this stuff so much lately. I mean, I'm pretty clear on why I only read romance books: I need my HEA, people. You have no idea. Between The Time Traveler's Wife, the ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and The Song of Ice and Fire Series, I cannot lose any more characters I've grown emotionally attached to.
Then there's my love of Star Wars that started before I was old enough to even understand what it was or why it was so important to not just me, my life, and my creativity, but to the entire world.
Wait. Why am I talking about Star Wars on a paranormal romance blog, that clearly states in the title of the post that it's supposed to be about Beauty and the Beast? Because I'm here to talk about what Han Solo and the Beast have in common as characters, and how that commonality influenced not just my life, but my entire career as well.
First off, let's just establish what we know of Eden's favorite things in the world, shall we? (I originally wrote favorite things in romance books, but then I thought about it, and it really applies to all aspects of my life.)
1. Grumpy heroes/antiheroes.
3. Bigger than average (size, personality, ego)
4. Soft spot for a woman in danger.
7. Big, scary, grumpy hero and sweet, feisty heroine.
8. Fantasy worlds.
Do you see now, where I'm going with this?
I think it all started with Star Wars. Then the first book I ever remember reading, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe introduced a love of fantasy. Follow that with movies like The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Willow...and throw in some of Disney's Beauty and the Beast and I was never going to be the same. Not that I realized it at the time.
I didn't even realize until a few months ago that almost all of my reading choices were affected by my early love of fantasy and Beauty and the Beast. I couldn't read enough grumpy, larger-than-life heroes and the smaller (usually much smaller) heroine who comes out of nowhere to knock him on his backside.
When I realized how much Han Solo and the Beast had influenced me, I started to look at my writing and my characters from a critical standpoint. Someone had asked me once why all my heroines are so small compared the the giant (usually literally) sized heroes I write. I answered that because I'm only 5', and my husband is a full foot taller than me, which was one of the things I was first attracted to with him, it was what I knew. But that answer wasn't satisfying enough for me. Maybe it was because of where I was at in my life at the time, I let it go, but I wanted a better answer. So I did what I normally do when I'm stressed out and wanting to write a blog post about it, but not sure where to start.
I went to Facebook, asking for books with the Beauty and the Beast trope. And there, I had the absolute best conversation with a new-to-me author that I could remember having in...ever:
Eden: **ROMANCE AUTHORS/ ROMANCE READERS** I need a few romance books (any subgenre as long as it has a HEA) that have a Beauty and the Beast theme.
Right now, I've got:
*Beauty and The Beefcake by Pippa Grant
*Worked Up by Tessa Bailey
*The Vixen and The Vet by Katy Regenery
*Ransom by Julie Garwood
Emma Hamm: I'll throw my name in the hat! Heart of the Fae: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling
Eden: Emma! Thank you! Would you mind telling me why you chose that theme for this book?
EH: Batb was the very first story that made me want to write! When I was suuuper little (probably 6 or 7) I used to run up the stairs after watching it to "act out" how it should have gone in my room. I used to get so frustrated with BATB! I wanted to make a beast who was actually ugly, cursed for a reason that wasn't under his control, and a beauty who wasn't was a ballbuster.
I also think Batb is such an open ended fairytale at this point! It's influenced so many people that smart can be beautiful. That kindness isn't a weakness. And that what's on the outside doesn't define a person.
Eden: OMG, YOU'RE IN MY HEAD. This is exactly why I started writing dragons. I wanted to write about the terrifying "bad" guys who were actually the heroes of the world. And heroines who could be sweet and kind and nerdy, without having to be bitchy, and who would go to war for their men because they deserve to be fought for, too.
EH: YES. JEN. YES. That last bit ESPECIALLY. Men deserve to be fought for too. I've been trying to pull that apart a bit in my books, cause honestly, that's something that is so overlooked in romance novels.
We keep writing these awesome, strong women (and should) but in that process I think a lot of people have lost sight of fighting for our men too. They don't have to do all the fighting, and if we keep writing that, then that's what people in their real lives expect
Eden: EXACTLY. These might be larger-than-life heroes and sometimes immortal, but I love getting them to a point where they're done. The world's crushing them, they've been fighting for so long they're just exhausted, then putting these tiny, adorable women in their path who not only need them, but would tear the world apart to save them, too.
EH: Love it. yas queen, do that all the time and give me all the stories to read *grabby hands*
(We then went on to discuss New Girl for a minute after she posted a gif of Prince in an episode.)
Basically, Emma helped me put my feelings of why I write what I do into words. I want the big, terrifying hero who is just done with the world--the world he's been carrying on his shoulders either for longer than someone his age should even know about the horrors of the world (my poor Tyler, Hunter Undone) or since the literal beginning of the world (Daniel and Dallas, Dragon Lore). What if dragons were the heroes? What if demons and monsters and ghosts did exist, and those that battled them in the dark were forced to keep themselves in the shadows to protect humanity?
What would happen if, like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, this small, independent, sweet and capable girl was put in his path, just as determined to save the growling beast as the beast was to protect the world? That's what I want. That's what I want to read, and that's what I want to write. A hero at the end of his rope. One who'd never ask for help, let alone expect it or accept it, even from those he considers friends. Let alone from a woman too sweet and kind for her own good--a woman who can see the good parts he isn't even sure ever existed to begin with. A woman who would tear the world apart at the seams to save him--from himself, from the evil of the world, from whatever would threaten him or hurt him in any way.
A heroine who was just as determined to deserve him as he is to deserve her.
I have to admit, I've noticed that last part lacking in romance books more and more lately. Don't get me wrong, I love a strong, kick ass heroine capable of kicking as much ass physically as she is metaphorically. (Seriously, check out Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series. These girls range from human to angels, to harpies, to demon-possessed immortals, and they're all completely kick ass in different ways. But every single one fights for her mate as fiercely as he fights for her.) But I seem to keep running up with these authors who equate strong with bitchy, independent and feisty for shrill and unlikable.
I'm not talking sassy. I'm not talking a stubborn, independent streak masquerading as bitchiness because the hero has a savior fetish. I'm talking straight up bitchiness. Where no matter who speaks to her, even friends and close family (that they don't have an issue with) they get a nasty, defensive, shitty remark back. I'm talking so defensive and angry and nasty, I want to just shake the shit out of her and find someone less feral for the hot, patient hero.
Look. I get making the hero work for it a little. And I can understand building up walls over a lifetime and using bitchiness as a defense mechanism that the hero has to work to get past. I can understand suffering a trauma or experience that hardened their exterior and left them bitter. But, Jesus, explain that to your reader. Let them understand. Make us want to see the patient hero tackle her defenses one by one. Otherwise, this is not a "cute" trait. It doesn't make her a firecracker or strong. And just like the TSTL heroine who deliberately puts herself in dangerous situations without listening to the people who tell her not to, that there are safer solutions, this just makes me think the hero has an undiscovered masochistic side. (Again, I'm totally chill with that if so, but for the love of God, explain that.)
So here's my list of books that feed my BatB addiction. All of these I've read more than once, or twice, or even three times. I've read them countless times. The ones with an * after the title I haven't read, but other readers and authors have assured me they'd make me happy, so they're all on my TBR list.
So, dear reader, it's your turn. Is Beauty and the Beast your favorite trope to read in romance? If it is, what's your favorite book that features it? And if it's not, what trope do you love the best? Let me know in the comments!
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