This guest post is written by Sarah Street, author of A Curse of Salt.
I didn’t choose consciously to set out and write a retelling, but the story beats of Beauty and the Beast was a rhythm so familiar to me that I couldn’t resist wanting to write this tale as old as time into one of my own. Even now, I think the easiest way to parse out any new story is to follow the patterns set before us by lifetimes of oral, literary, and visual storytelling, so it made sense that a retelling was the first book I wrote that actually had legs of its own to stand on.
Beauty and the Beast was always my favourite fairy tale. I loved the Disney cartoon and the live action remake, then I read the 1756 tale by Jeanne-Marie de Beaumont (supposedly an abridged version of Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s 200-page story, which was rumoured to be a folktale told by a chambermaid while out at sea). Then the 2014 French film, and Beastly (2011), and even Beauty and the Beast the TV show (2012). I have seen this story in so many forms, and even at its worst and most modernised, there was that something that I loved. And, yes, that might mean it’s been overdone, but I think the story’s omnipresence within the world of storytelling is what spoke to me in the first place. In almost every iteration of Beauty and the Beast, there exists a profound sense of desire that speaks almost universally to readers. There’s the beast’s library, for one, and Belle’s craving for a bigger life, and the captivating undercurrent of magic, secrets to be revealed if only she can sit through a few slightly awkward dinners. Who among us could actually resist?
Really, though, A Curse of Salt is a tangle of retellings. The first draft was long and unwieldy and cluttered with everything my brain has collected over the years and refused to let go of. Pride & Prejudice, Sinbad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Moana, Phantom of the Opera, Jason Momoa, sea shanties, fanfiction, libraries, escapism, and Soldier, Poet, King by The Oh Hellos. Music is actually a huge inspiration for me, too. You can find the full A Curse of Salt playlist on my website, but let’s just say that all the spellbinding, swashbuckling vibes of the book were being injected directly into my ears on a pretty heavy rotation for about five years.
I could go on forever about how everything we write is just a retelling of something (or many things), so I’ll just say this: A Curse of Salt is an homage to Beauty and the Beast, to storytelling in general, and to the sea.
today was the first day of my debut month & my final copies arrived!!! I’m feeling so fortunate and grateful to have so many amazing people making my dreams come true just look at these beauties!!! @teambkmrk @NaomsGreenwood
(s/o to my brother for the perfect prop) pic.twitter.com/RJdjvy0A8R
— Sarah Street (updates) 🌊 (@sarahastreet) May 1, 2023
If you’re like me and you crave the magic of fairy tales but want to experience something completely new, I have some top-tier reads to fulfill all your retelling needs:
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
The magic of storytelling oozes from every word of this book. It’s a retelling of The Little Goose Girl, and while I didn’t know anything about the original tale when I read it, the writing captured me in its thrall and didn’t let go (ever). It has one of the most relatable, unlikeable, lovable protagonists I’ve ever read, nuanced explorations of trauma, free will and friendship, and all-round enchanting prose. I absolutely adore this book; I cannot recommend it enough.
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
This Cinderella reimagining is perfect for anyone, but especially younger teen readers and queer kids who want to see themselves reflected in a story that’s been retold for centuries without them. This story is so empowering, with a sweet sapphic romance that doesn’t overpower the plot, and it was such a fast and engaging read; I don’t think I put it down once, and I was rooting for the main character, Sophia, the entire time.
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
This book is just exquisite. It was one of the first ‘romantasy’ books I read as a teen, and I totally fell in love with its characters and Ahdieh’s writing. It definitely had an influence on my own writing and is a One Thousand and One Nights retelling with a delicious enemies-to-lovers twist, not to mention a smart and headstrong female protagonist.
The Wilderwood Duology by Hannah Whitten
This is probably my favourite duology of all time. For the Wolf is an Adult Fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, perfect for older readers looking for a lush and immersive fairy tale to dive into. It’s swoony, spellbinding and slightly mystifying. The same can be said for its sequel, For the Throne, which is a dark and equally enriching Snow White retelling. I love Hannah Whitten.
Of course, my favourite retelling has to be my own, because I’m completely biased and I did have a very specific audience in mind (myself). So, if you’d like to see Beauty and the Beast blended with the marauding and magical world of pirates, grab yourself a copy of my debut novel A Curse of Salt from May 25th!
Now, read on for an extract from A Curse of Salt.Extract cover_merged