The Organised Author

The Rose Queen

The Rose Queen by Alison McBain

I'm happy to host an awesome author and a great friend, Alison McBain. Her lovely book, The Rose Queen, is a retelling of Beauty and The Beast with some amazing twists.


The Beast doesn't always wait for Beauty. Sometimes, Beauty is the Beast.
Princess Mirabella is betrothed to a repulsive old man a year after her mother's death. She refuses the marriage, only to find out her betrothed is a sorcerer as well. He takes his revenge by transforming her into a savage and frightening beast, giving her an ultimatum: she has three years to solve the mystery of her curseor die.
Exiled to her mother's estate to hide the scandal, Mirabella learns that the sorcerer was not alone in keeping secrets. Her grandfather was murdered before Mirabella was born, and her mother's death is looking less and less as if it came from natural causes. The only point in common to all their ruined lives: her father, the king.

Faced with a conflict between saving her family and saving her own life, the choices Mirabella makes will change the future of the kingdom—and magic—forever.

My review

Five stars for this lovely, fresh, and clever re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. Princess Mirabella is cursed and turned into a hideous beast. Cast away from her home, she lives with her loyal nursemaid and confidante Brina. Together, the two women work to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and find a way to block the curse while Mira discovers the meaning of love.
The main character’s development and her relationship with Brina are the main story lines of the novel. It’s not a romance book, which makes the story even more fresh compared to other Beauty and the Beast re-tellings.
Highly recommend it.    
When she was sixteen, Mirabella attended the last ball her mother, the queen, would organize. Although Mira’s beauty was maturing, she was not yet done with the plumpness of youth. Between now and her eighteenth year, she would grow five more inches. At eighteen, she would be the tallest of all the women and taller than a number of the men of court. She would come eye-to-eye with the king, although his stature was greater simply due to the height of his crown.
But at sixteen, something about her was not yet complete.
It was attractive, that unfinished quality in her. At her mother’s ball, one could tell where the princess stood merely by the number of suitors hovering around one spot. Overwhelmed by the crowd, she had learned by that time to smile coyly and say little. She donned indifference like armor, and without intending it, her distant and cool demeanor became her trademark. What would they all say if they knew she felt shriveled up inside under the constant attention?
Because she didn’t say much, Mira listened. Since childhood, she’d had the knack of paying attention to multiple conversations at the same time. She could be at a crowded gathering like this ballroom, and still distinguish each voice around her. Even as she smiled at her companions, she was mostly paying attention to the conversation now taking place behind her.
Him? What would the king want with him?”
“Called him from there, you know. The queen said—”
“Country buffoon. Did you know that when he made his bow, he neglected to—”
“Not surprising. What do you expect, letting in riffraff? And look at those clothes—”
She couldn’t help but turn to look for the subject of the conversation.
The person they spoke of seemed alone despite the hordes of people who swirled around him, like a pebble untouched in a stream. His clothes were a touch less elegant, less polished, as if he had spent money frugally and been cheated of the finest materials. It aped the latest style, but was not quite the thing. There was something about him, though, that spoke to her.
His features were forgettable, but his eyes—they were dark and miserable in the crowd.

She managed an introduction and, a touch belatedly it seemed, he asked to escort her around the ballroom. She glanced to each side, at the bodies of suitors piled up around her, and raised one perfect eyebrow at him in conspiracy. “Thank you, sir,” she replied and was granted his smile.
She heard a ripple of whispers after them, but it was unlikely she would ever see this country lord again, and so she didn’t worry about what impression she might be making. For a moment, she breathed more easily in the man’s ostracized presence. He said almost nothing, and it was a definite improvement over the ceaseless prattle of the admirers left behind.
And for a moment, she felt… not alone. Or if alone, it was a shared aloneness. She could be a solitary creature and take comfort with another’s pain in the midst of the crowd.
When the man made his final bow, she felt she had done a good service to rescue him and keep him company. Maybe someone might do the same for her someday.


Alison McBain grew up in California and received her B.A. in African history and classical literature at U.C. Santa Cruz. After her nomadic twenties, she settled in Connecticut, where she is raising three girls. She is an award-winning author with nearly a hundred short works published, including poetry and fiction in Litro, Abyss & Apex and On-Spec. She has one novel under her belt as an author (The Rose Queen), a forthcoming short story collection (Enchantress of Books and other stories), one anthology under her belt as lead editor (When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology), and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry. When not writing, she puts on her Book Reviews Editor hat for the magazine Bewildering Stories or draws the weekly web comic Toddler Times.

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1.                  What is something unique/quirky about you?
My great-aunt Masako taught me origami when I was 6 years old, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Aside from writing, it’s the thing I’ve been doing the longest in my life. I can make almost any type of figure/animal, after a little bit of practice.

2.                  How much research have you done for this book?
I did a lot! Although set in a fantasy world, it’s loosely based on 14th to 16th century France. A lot of the customs, practices, buildings, healing herbs, food, and even the names highlighted in the book were taken from history.
3.                  What are some of your pet peeves?
Ha, I have a lot when it comes to writing/reading. Historical inaccuracy is one. An inconsistent magic system is another. I like to read (and hopefully write) stories that feel real. I want characters to come to life for the reader, and anything that pulls the reader out of the story – any authorial intrusion – is a no-no for me.
4.                  What do you do to unwind and relax?
I’m on a pool (billiards) league that plays competitively against other teams once a week. My friends like to joke that I’m a pool shark, but I’m actually the lowest-ranked player on the team. It’s a lot of fun, though!
5.                  Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Mom, creative, patient & impatient.
6.                  When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always written, but I don’t think I considered myself a Writer with a capital “W” until I got paid for something I wrote. Sometimes, I’m still not sure about it.
7.                  What inspired you to write your novel?
My grandmothers. My Japanese grandmother was a large part of my life growing up, and she always encouraged me. My father’s mom was a writer herself and published her first book at age 90. I always used to joke with her that I had 60 years left to publish my first book, but her advice was always the same: “Don’t wait!” And since she’s passed away, I haven’t waited. I only regret that neither one of these very strong and influential women in my life ever got to read any of my books or celebrate any of my writing successes with me. But I’m still doing it for them.
8.                  Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
All of them! Ha ha. I have a contemporary romance right now being shopped to publishers that takes place in a town suspiciously similar to the one I currently live in. I also have an epic sci-fi story based on apartheid South Africa that’s now in the editing stage. And, of course, my published novel The Rose Queen.
9.                  What did you enjoy most about writing your novel?
My favorite fairy tale has always been Beauty and the Beast. I’ve read every adaptation I could get my hands on since I was a kid, and I’ve watched every movie. But I felt there was always something more to add to the story. The ability to find that “more” and express it was amazing. To fill in the plot holes that I saw in the original story and really develop a character who acted as I felt a real person might act when faced with such an unbelievable situation.
10.              As a reader, what genre do you love?
Although I have a special fondness for fantasy, it really depends on my mood – I’ll enjoy anything, from romance to science fiction, from mystery to literary, from poetry to horror. I read it all and I write it all.
11.             Who’s your favourite author?
I have a LOT of writers I constantly return to, but a few of the top ones are: Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, Terry Pratchett, Langston Hughes, Guy Gavriel Kay, Margaret Atwood, Olivia Butler, and Kristin Higgins.

12.             If you were an X-woman, what power would you like to have?
Since I was 9 years old, I always had one large, natural white streak in my hair, so Rogue would be the obvious choice. But her power seems fairly lonely. I definitely wouldn’t want to read other peoples’ thoughts, like Professor X. So I might have to go with Storm. During the snowiest winters, I’d walk around with my own personal warm sunshine beaming down on me. (I’m honestly a California girl at heart, and winters can be looooonnnnnggg in Connecticut.)
13.             Do you believe in writer’s block?
I don’t think I believe in writer’s block the way I think most writers do. Is there ever a point where I can’t sit down and write SOMETHING? No. It might not be what I intended, but the words will always come out. But sometimes I might get stumped if trying to focus on a specific prompt and have to think about it for a while. The key, I find, is to just write. Don’t limit what you want to write – just write.
14.             Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Pantser all the way! Ha ha. I’ve tried outlining, and you know what? The story and characters just run away from me. So I let them do what they want. They know best, anyway.

15.             What’s the most effective way to promote a book in your opinion?
Word of mouth and putting yourself out there. I like to give back to the writing community as much as I’ve gotten out of it, and I feel both good writing and goodwill helps readers find your work. Writers these days are as much public figures as most professions that rely on “customers” to buy their products. So I am Kleenex; hear me roar! Ha.

          16.       Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank you very much for the interview, Barbara! You are an awesome author, and it’s been fantastic working with you on a number of writerly projects. I hope to continue to do so in the future. Thanks so much!

Thank you, Alison!