Christmassy :: Q&A with Leife Shallcross

December 11, 2018

In the lead up to Christmas I'm sharing some mini-interviews with authors about some of their festive faves. Today Canberra author Leife Shallcross was kind enough to talk books, writing and Christmas with me! Read on below to see what she said =)

Your debut novel, The Beast's Heart, came out in 2018 (yay!). Can you please tell us a little bit about your book, and what inspired you to write it?
It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, told from the perspective of the Beast. I’m a total fairy tale tragic, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales because it’s a story where the two people falling in love actually get to spend time getting to know each other. I confess the main reason I started writing it was because I just wanted to lose myself in the fairy tale and the world of the Beast’s magical castle and gardens. I like working out problems and tackling tricky questions, and Beauty and the Beast has some problematic elements. One of the questions that really interested me was about how you can rehabilitate the Beast into a romantic hero after he’s done something so terrible that a fairy was moved to curse him into solitary confinement for 100 years. I mean, what is that about? If you’ve done something that bad, how can you possibly come back from that to become a proper Prince Charming?

Do you like to read seasonal books, and do you have a favourite Christmas story or book?
I don’t mind a good seasonal story, but I honestly don’t know that I have a favourite. When I was very little, my mother used to read me The Night Before Christmas around this time of year. Rather than re-read a seasonal fave at Christmas (although I definitely have favourite books I do reread from time to time) I tend to use the Christmas break as an opportunity to knock another couple of books off my TBR.

Is there a particular book you'd love to find under your Christmas tree this year?
Oh God, so many. I have a huge list on my phone, which is only matched by the huge pile of books I have at home waiting to be read. I have yet to read Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver; I’m looking forward to getting hold of Stephanie Burgess’s Spellswept; and I’ve got Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey sitting on my shelf taunting me. So I guess technically that last one won’t end up under my tree, but I hope to find time to read it over the break.

Do you have a favourite book you've read this year that you'll be recommending (or giving as a Christmas present!) to everyone you know?
Oh yes! Two fantastic books I read this year are Mackenzi Lee’s Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and the Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. I listened to the audio books & bought the paper backs to give to my 16 year old daughter for Christmas. They are so much fun. The characters are fantastic and the stories racket along in fine style (and the narration in the audiobooks was excellent). Plus, in addition to being a fairy tale tragic, I’m also a history nerd, so I loved getting to hang out in 18th Century Europe.

Can you share a favourite Christmas tradition or memory?
This is corny as, but I love Christmas carols. As a family, we often put on the Carols by Candlelight specials that are on just before Christmas and eat Christmas treats & have something flash to drink and just sit around and yak.

I also love Christmas food and doing a big baking/pudding making session in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Pudding, brandy sauce, shortbread, mince pies, panetone, mmmmmmm...

Can you tell us a bit about what you are working on next?
A couple of things! I’m working on another standalone, fairy-tale themed YA novel. This one is based on Cinderella, but in my story she’s faked her father’s death to save him from the conniving of her wicked stepmother and foil a treasonous plot that threatens the crown. I’m also working on a series set in 18th Century London involving a cross-dressing runaway heiress and a dissolute viscount and magic and murder and general shenanigans. 

Thanks again SO MUCH to Leife for sharing a bit about your Christmas plans and traditions! And for adding a bunch of new books to my TBR - not least the ones you're working on which sound AMAZING!

You can find Leife online here and on Instagram @leife.shallcross 

Leife's debut novel, The Beast's Heart, is out now from Hachette.

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