Today I’m bringing a post that is a mix of an author interview with a new segment called Lost in Translation. I invited Brazilian author Solaine Chioro to talk a bit about her book, A Rosa de Isabela, an amazing diverse retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Brazil. This story is only available in Portuguese on Amazon, but I thought it’d be interesting to bring this here and remind us that stories don’t exist just in English.
Q1: How was the process of rewriting such an epic fairytale like Beauty and the Beast to a Brazilian scenery?
I started writing A ROSA DE ISABELA as a writing exercise. I was challenging myself to write a short short story a week and I used a list of themes for each one, and one of those themes was writing a retelling of a fairy tale. Before I even figured out what story I was going to adapt, I knew I would write a version that would happen in Brazil. Our culture is very rich and I knew I would have material to work on some fairy tale, not to mention that I really love to see stories with this cultural touch so close to my reality. It all sort of fit in, you know? When I was developing the plot, I realized that it would be perfect if this story happened in the interior of São Paulo (in a fictional city very similar to the one where my father was born). It was not just with the scenario, the approach of the slavery past or the fact that I was inspired by creatures of our folklore – like Caipora and Curipira – to build what it would be the witch of Beauty and the Beast … Everything came to me with a lot of clarity and I think giving this very Brazilian brand to history make it better.
Q2: How do you feel having your first story published?
Not sure if the penny has fallen. I have constantly forgot that I published my first work, and when I remember (or when I remember), I have this “wow, I posted my first work” moment. When someone tells me they read A ROSA DE ISABELA, that’s when I get full of feelings. Knowing that my story is out there gives me a delicious mix of anxiety, nervousness, pride, and joy, which I can not even start to describe!
Q3: Why did you decide to write this for an LGBT+ audience?
You know, I would not say I wrote to a LGBT + audience. It is a story with lesbian representation and of course I know how important this is to the group being represented, but when writing history with diversity, it is very important to think about how this story will reach the whole audience and that is a huge responsibility. As I said, I understand how much representative stories can be important and that was my main motivation. I am a heterosexual and I knew that it would be delicate to approach a reality that it was not mine; my biggest fear was to do some mistake in the construction of the romance (and for that I always count with incredible friends), but I knew how important it would be to have a very beloved classic story as this one with a representation still so lacking. I think literature still needs to increase its diversity, so that more and more people can see themselves in what they consume (and we know how important this is) and bring two girls – two black girls – falling in love in a such a well-known tale should be more recurrent. After all, we’ve seen so many versions of this story out there, but it’s always harder to find diverse retellings. I wanted A ROSA DE ISABELA to be there for some LGBT + girl (especially for some LGBT + black girl) when she thought “it would be nice to have a version of Beauty and the Beast that I could see myself in”. I hope I have done a good job with this.
Q4: Are there any LGBT+ books you can recommend?
Of course! In English, some of my favorites are: ‘Two Boys Kissing’ (David Levithan), ‘The Song of Achilles’ (Madeline Miller) and ‘The Melody of You and Me’ (Maria Hollis). From Brazil, I really, really like ‘Quinze Dias’ (Vitor Martins), ‘Entre Estantes’ (Olivia Pilar), ‘Eu e Ela’ (Maria Hollis) – and ‘Amora’ (Natalia Borges Polesso) that I didn’t read yet, but I’m dying to!
Q5: What does diversity in books and in the publishing world mean for you as a writer and a reader?
Today it means everything to me. Being a black woman and having spent my entire life consuming books with little – or none – representation in which I could see myself, I ended up spending a lot of time wanting to be white and feeling less because I was not a part of the stories I read. And this is real to many other people from marginalized groups. Over time I have been seeing the importance of diversity and how it can end up not only being a consolation for this heart ache, but also a motivation for acceptance and so on. I’m always interested in reading books with characters similar to me and similar to my friends, filled with this diversity that is our reality (and should be more exposed in fiction). And, of course, to have a good representation is always important to listen to this minority, so the publishing market needs to give space for these people tell their own stories. I think this is something that has been improving a little over the years, but still has a long way to go (especially here in Brazil).
Q6: Are you working on any new writing projects you can share with us?
Yes, I’m revising (for the thousandth time) my first novel, which will also feature LGBT+ protagonists (and it was inspired by a very popular song in Brazil). I still don’t know very well what will be of this novel, but I hope that other people can read it and love it as much as I do. I’m also working on something to publish on Amazon later this year.
Solaine Chioro, 24, São Paulo – Brazil. Graduated in Linguistics, Literature, and Latin (Letras) by FCLAr (UNESP). She loves writing about people falling in love. Her first work – A ROSA DE ISABELA – was published on Amazon independently. Visit her Blog.