Today I’m chatting with Shereen Vedam, author of A Beastly Scandal. The moment I read the summary for this book I knew I had to read it. I’m a big fan of fantasy, especially in romance, and Shereen doesn’t disappoint with this story with plays off the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. What a delight it was to learn that not only does Shereen writes interesting stories, but we also share a love of certain fantasy television shows. Enjoy!
Welcome to Coffee Time Romance, Shereen. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Since I was a child, I’ve always told stories in my head but I didn’t begin writing them down until I was well into my thirties. I love a complex story, so my romances always have mystery and magical elements woven in them. Several short stories were published by The Wild Rose Press (mainly fantasy romances), but this past spring saw the release of my first full-length novel from ImaJinn Books - a fairytale-inspired Regency romance called A Beastly Scandal.
Like I said, the synopsis of this immediately drew me in. Tell everyone about A Beastly Scandal.
This book tells a ghost story. The heroine is on her way to a haunted mansion in Cheshire, England, in November 1812 during a raging snowstorm. With a ghost roaming the corridors and a possible murder among the nearby village residents, this couple has their hands full coping, never mind their huge suspicions about each other’s motives. Love might be the furthest thing from either of their minds, but their bodies have other plans.
And their bodies definitely are aware of each other in this tale. Is this the first in a series? If so, what’s next?
It’s the first of four fairytale-inspired Regency romances. The next book out is called A Devilish Slumber, and was inspired by the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. This second novel also begins a new fantasy Regency series about The Rue Alliance. Our sleeping beauty, Lady Roselyn (Rose) Ravenstock, in a bid to uncover a murderer, will unwittingly open a door into a world of enchantment where people can mould their features like clay, fires are begun with a snap of fingers and objects move of their own accord. Should be grand fun.
Sign me up already! It sounds like this is going to be a great series. On your website you mention that A Beastly Scandal is loosely based on the fairytale Beauty and the Beast, what made you go in this direction?
I have always enjoyed Regency romances, but one I read years ago called Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevemer had a great impact on me. Ever since then, I have wanted to read Regency romances with magic in them but had the most difficult time finding such a story. So, not surprisingly, when I began to write my first Regency romance, I wanted to include fantasy elements into it. A natural way to do so seemed to be to incorporate fairytale themes, which is a close sister to fantasy and has been a staple of Regencies for decades. My immediate first choice was Beauty and the Beast simply because it is and always will be the most beloved of all fairytales.
It’s one of my favorites too! We have two things in common: the love of the show Merlin and stories mixed with fantasy. Does your love of fantasy influence all of your writing?
In one word, yes. And I loved the BBC TV show Merlin!
I could go in all day about Merlin, but this is about your book so I’ll focus. I liked Lady Belle the second she threw that snowball, is she based off of anyone you know or inspired by something specific?
Lady Belle is impulsive, good hearted, and naturally tends to meddle in the affairs of her friends. If she is similar to any character, it’s probably Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, with one vital difference. I believe one of Jane Austen’s purposes with her Emma was to show how spoilt and self-centered some high society women could become (intentionally or inadvertently). My purpose with Lady Belle was to show how alienated from high society a young woman could become if she strayed from the accepted behavior of her society.
Though Lady Belle and the beastly Lord Terrance start at odds with each other, they still fall in love and work together. What do you think it takes to show the development of love between two people who dislike each other?
I believe dislike stems from fears. And fears can be based on misconceptions or false assumptions. To get past that initial dislike of someone, we need to stare down our fears, put aside our false assumptions, and learn to see the other person’s true character. One way to do this is by paying attention to what the other person does, instead of just what they say.
My boss once told me that action speaks louder than words. I believe that to be true.
With Belle, this step of overcoming her dislike of Lord Terrance begins the moment she steps foot into his home. Despite Belle’s supposedly colluding with his grieving mother to lock him out of his home, despite her opposing his direct order to stay away from his family, what is one of the first things he does when she invades his home? He attends to her wounded owl. He has his game master take care of its broken wing without Belle having asked him to do so. All actions have consequences and whatever his motivation for seeing to that owl’s welfare, the consequence of him caring for a bird she rescued struck the first chink in Belle’s false perception of this supposed “beast’s” daunting character.
That’s how two characters that apparently dislike of each other, can end up falling in love. When a character pays attention to what the other person does instead of what they say, she or he will begin to see beneath the other person’s façade.
Love sprouts when we are able to see someone’s true self. And isn’t that at the heart of all Beauty and the Beast tales?
Yes! My heart definitely melted a little when he helped the owl. Do you have a favorite scene from your book? Which one and why?
My favorite scene has to be the one in Lord Terrance’s study, when this couple makes a deal to not argue with each other. In my mind, that scene sets the stage for every disaster and triumph in the rest of the book.
I know at times publishers make writers remove certain things. Is there anything you had to cut from the book that you wished could stay?
I cut two chapters from the opening. One involved a scene with Belle meeting a ghost at an inn who then entreats her to help Lady Terrance. The other was a scene with Belle meeting a group of villagers at that inn the next morning and learns that Lord Terrence might have murdered his father. Both scenes, though integral to the story, slowed the forward momentum of Belle and Lord Terrance meeting again. So, to improve the pace, they were both cut and any vital information brought into the story in other ways. I miss both of them.
It’s always hard to cut scenes. But even after doing that the story still makes sense and moves quickly. Now tell why should readers consider reading A Beastly Scandal?
If you enjoy a good mystery, like a bit of a ghostly scare and crave a sensual romance, this book has all that and more.
Outside of this series, are you writing anything else or have something new on the horizon?
I have finished two more Regencies, one of which was a finalist in the Terry Pratchett’s Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now, world-wide fantasy contest. I am also working on a Christmas novella related to this series that should come out later this year as part of an anthology by my publisher, ImaJinn Books.
You’re keeping busy! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Never give up.
I completely agree, great advice! Last fun question related to your book; if you discovered a ghost in your house what would you do?
I’d call a friend over (less scary if you’re with someone), and we’d burn sage and tell the ghost to go into the light.
A very sensible response to a ghost! Thanks for the interview, Shereen! For those who want to learn more about Shereen and her series you can find her in several places online.
Book Trailer for A Beastly Scandal
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