Beastly Author Alix Flinn Talks Teenybopper Movies, Video Games, and Mary-Kate Olsen

Categories: Books, Film and TV
Somebody needs a shave.
Beastly, the latest take on classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast, opens at theaters across the country tomorrow and has all the makings of being this year's first teenybopper mega hit - hunky dude (who gets ugly), a High School Musical Star (Vanessa Hudgens), and even an Olsen twin. Ordinarily, Cultist might steer clear of such fare - other than blasting Neil Patrick Harris for playing some blind dude in the flick - but the homer inside us can't help but root for success of the film because the book it was based was written by local author Alix Flinn. Read on for a Q&A with the author.

The Palmetto Bay resident specializes in taking fairytales and putting them in modern times and real settings, and if Beastly takes off like we expect it will, Flinn's other work could be headed to the sliver screen. Cultist got Flinn to answer some questions but she stopped short of badmouthing Mary-Kate Olsen, who plays a witch in the flick. "I was happy with the casting. People really shouldn't underestimate Mary-Kate Olsen," she says.

The witch can act, apparently.
New Times: What is it about the Beauty and the Beast story that resonates with people? Why did you decide to "retell" this story in your book?

Alix Flinn: Beauty and the Beast is one of the oldest stories there is, dating back to Cupid and Psyche. I think people like the idea that looks aren't important or that it is possible to overcome one's appearance. It's sort of the opposite of love at first sight.

I wanted to retell this story because I was fascinated with the idea of the Beast and his loneliness. Most versions of the story focus on Beauty, and how she is trapped, but the Beast has been trapped for way longer. He has no one, no way out. I pictured him as being abandoned by his family, who are ashamed of his beastliness. In a way, the Beauty character is also abandoned because her father lets her go and live with the Beast. I thought, in this way, it is really the story of two abandoned kids who find each-other. That's how I set out to write it as a book, and indeed, that is the essence of what the movie portrays.

How involved were you with turning your book into a screenplay, if at all?

Not at all. I read the screenplay, but that's it. That said, I was pleased with the end result. I've seen some movies that destroyed the plot or theme of the book. This isn't that movie. It was the story I wanted to tell, only condensed.

Were you ever on set? If so, how was that experience?

Yes, I did get to go to the set. I saw them filming two scenes on two different days. The first scene was a sort of time-lapse scene where they are reading poetry and the seasons change behind them. It was pretty cool. The second was a scene near the end of the movie, which I won't spoil here. We met Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens at the filming. Neil Patrick Harris was also there, but he had on special contact lenses that actually blinded him (His character is blind), so we didn't get to meet him, but I did meet him at the premiere. We're huge fans.

Filming was very slow and mostly at night. The producer told me they get about two minutes of usable film a day, and I believe it.

According to the film's website, there is now a video game based on the movie, and by extension, your book. Did you ever imagine the words you were writing would find themselves connected to a Wii or XBox? How do you feel about that?

I never imagined it, but hey, I like video games. I have a sort of addictive personality for them, used to spend a lot of time playing Super PacMan in high school and Spider Solitaire as an adult (I've tried to parlay this passion into hours of WiiFit, but frankly, it's not challenging enough). So, if it works, it works.

Your books are for young adults/teens, how do you keep their voices fresh/real in your prose? Do you hang out at the mall, or join chat rooms? Do you use your daughters as inspiration?

I do all of the above (except using my own kids -- I don't do autobiography). I also travel and visit a lot of schools, so that helps.

Have you seen the film? What do you think?

I really loved it. I would love it even if I hadn't written it. I've seen it twice and will be seeing it again Saturday at an event some friends are having. I actually can't wait to see it again. It is the type of movie I would have watched over and over as a teen, like Some Kind of Wonderful, very sweet and romantic, which is what young girls like, but I think the humor is enough that their boyfriends will enjoy it too.

What are your current projects? A year ago, our post said you were working on a story or two based in Miami? What's the progress been on that?

My new book, Cloaked, which came out two weeks ago, is set in South Beach and the Keys. It's about a guy who works at a shoe repair at a South Beach hotel, who gets sent on a quest by a princess, across the Florida Keys.

Do you still write first drafts longhand? Does that process aid in your writing? And do your wrists/fingers get tired ?

Yes, I do. I like writing longhand. I once had a boring summer job and spent most of my time practicing my handwriting. People compliment me on it. Writing longhand slows me down and makes me think. Then, when I retype the manuscript, I think again.

Beastly opens at theaters tomorrow. Check out the film's website.

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