Intro: What is your name, what do you write, where can readers find you on social media, and where can readers find your book? And just for fun, if you could be any mythical being or creature, who or what would you be?
Hi! I’m Kyle Robert Shultz, and I write snarky fairytale fantasy in an alternate 1920’s world. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. My first book, The Beast of Talesend, is available on Amazon and other ebook markets.
Hmm, any mythical creature…dragon is very tempting, but I’d probably go with centaur for sheer practicality. Ease of transportation without high gasoline bills, and no loss of opposable thumbs. Groceries and housing might present a problem, however. XD
- Beast of Talesend is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This is a popular fairytale to retell and it has been the inspiration for many authors. What drew you to the story and which version appeals to you the most, Grimm, or Disney?
There’s a ton of storytelling and character potential packed into Beauty and the Beast. I think that’s why it’s been so popular over the years. You can twist the format around in many ways to create intriguing and powerful stories. The Disney version is my favorite–both Disney versions. I wish I could take elements of each one and smush them together into a single, perfect adaptation. Each film has its strengths and weaknesses.
2. How is Beast of Talesend different from other Beauty and the Beast stories?
What sets my book apart is that it’s not a retelling in the strict sense. It’s more of an answer to the question, “What happened after the original story?” That being said, there is a retelling of the original tale included in the text, and it’s a story I may expand on in the future. Watch this space. 😀 Also, I’ve set the book in a unique alternate reality that blends 1920’s London with magic and fantasy. I don’t think anyone’s done that before…then again, at this point, I’m used to finding out that even my wackiest ideas are already taken.
2. There are a lot of fun Easter eggs in Beast of Talesend that allude to other previously famous fairytales? Which was the most fun to twist?
Even though it’s been done many, many times before, I enjoyed mixing up the tale of Snow White. There’s so much scary and cool stuff you can do with mirrors. It was fun to create a deeper mythology behind that story that fits into the wider scope of my fictional universe. The Snow-White-related themes in The Beast of Talesend will be explored further in a future book that’s more centered around that particular fairy tale.
3. Do you find there are central themes or elements that are unique to your books? (For example, are you drawn to anti-heroes, antagonists, certain settings etc.) Why do those things stand out to you?
Villains and anti-heroes are my favorite characters. They’re the most interesting to write, in my opinion. (This is why Cordelia is sort of an ex-villain.) I also like to mix up “modern” themes with magic. Most fantasy books fall into either medieval or contemporary time periods. I like to pick times and settings that are more atypical. Beast is basically urban fantasy in the 1920’s. Future books, however, will go to a variety of other settings.
4. One of the things that really stood out to me in this book was the snappy dialogue. It was so funny and engaging, but also managed to propel the story forward. What advice would you give to other writers to help improve their own dialogue?
First off, thanks! Very kind of you to say. 🙂 The key to good dialogue is to have fully fleshed-out characters. If your characters don’t have distinctive personalities, backgrounds, accents, etc., then their dialogue will come out stilted and unnatural. Develop your characters in detail and try to get into their heads as you write their conversations. If they all sound the same, then you have a problem. Think of them as people, and they won’t just be robots parroting the information you need to get onto the page. A good way to practice is to try throwing your characters into a variety of different situations and free-writing their reactions. It will help you to find their distinctive voices.
5. What character would you say you relate to the most?
Nick. His sarcasm and his tendency to overthink things are very me. I would hope that I’m a little less uptight than him, however.
6. Give us your best behind the scenes story from writing the book.
I workshopped the book on Scribophile (an online critique community) before I got around to publishing it. At first, I really struggled to get it off the ground. I think I wrote about five different versions of the first chapter, all of which got politely tepid responses from the people on that site. I was trying way, way too hard, and it showed. Finally, I gave up. I stopped trying to make it absolutely amazingly perfect and tried having fun with it instead. The line “I’m sorry, Miss Hogarth, but I’m afraid this toad is not your fiancée” popped into my head. The rest is history. Very recent history, but history all the same. XD
7. Madame Levesque and Lord Whitlock reminded me quite a lot of the famous voodoo queen or New Orleans legend Marie Laveau and Rumpelstiltskin respectively. Were either of these people used as inspiration and if not, who was?
I suppose Rumpelstiltskin did have some influence on Whitlock’s brash, gleefully evil personality. My main inspiration for his character, however, was a figure from the works of P.G. Wodehouse–Major Plank, an “empire-building” British explorer of the old school. Very proper, very overconfident. The Master from Doctor Who informed some of Whitlock’s darker qualities (the Geoffrey Beevers and Alex MacQueen incarnations, specifically). As for Levesque, while there’s definitely a name similarity, she doesn’t really have any connection to Laveau. Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice was my model for her character. (I mean, think about it. Lady Catherine with magical powers. How scary is that?)
8. Nick as a beast and the other beastly characters look quite different in my mind despite being victims of the same curse. Can you shed some light as to why that is?
The in-story explanation is that Nick didn’t get the “full blast,” as it were, when he was cursed. His enchantment is a toned-down version of the original Beast spell. The reason for this narrative choice on my part was that I wanted a balance between scary and funny in the story. The Disney version of the Beast has been criticized by some for toning down the horror of the original fairytale. I don’t really have a problem with that, hence Nick’s more Disney-esque appearance, but I also wanted there to be genuinely frightening monsters. I really don’t think people would have been drawn to a main character as creepy as the fully-transformed Beasts depicted in the book. Nick’s better off as an intimidating-yet-not-utterly-horrifying gargoyle/minotaur. XD
9 . What can you tell us about book two of the series? Any behind the scenes secrets?
The Tomb of the Sea Witch gives The Little Mermaid the Beaumont and Beasley treatment. There are surprising twists on the original story and a few nods to the Disney version as well. The book also features Nick, Cordelia, and Crispin going undercover in a Hogwarts-like school, which was loads of fun to write. 😀 I can tease that The Little Mermaid isn’t the only classic ocean-related story that gets referenced, and that there’s a huge twist near the middle of the book that will turn everything upside down.
10. What is/are one or two pieces of advice that you learned while revising the first draft that you wish you had known before you started?
One thing I didn’t do when revising Book 1, and which has been very helpful in working on Book 2, is to convert the draft into an ebook and try reading it on my Kindle in order to spot errors. That method brings things to light which are easy to miss when reading from a Word or Scrivener document. On the other hand, I also wish I hadn’t overstressed quite so much about the revisions for Book 1. When people spotted a few embarrassing typos after I’d published it, I was mortified. But it turned out that I was far more worried about it than they were. The whole thing blew over, and it didn’t affect the book’s success at all. Finally, I wish I’d known about onestopforwriters.com…VERY helpful site.
11. This is random but fun one, if you could pick any time period to live in, when would you live and why?
The Old West. Untamed wilderness, horses as the primary means of transportation, the occasional showdown with desperadoes…I could live with that. XD
12. What is one book you think every YA writer should read at least once?
Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. The worst thing any author can do is to fall into the trap of thinking there’s only one right way to write a book. James’ book frees writers from that philosophy. You may not agree with him on everything, but you’ll at least find yourself able to relax more about the craft.
As always, keep making magic, word weavers!