I really loved Rita Stradling’s Ensnared and have been fangirling over it ever since I read it. I asked her a lot of questions and she was kind enough to answer them.
Can you tell us a little about Ensnared?
Ensnared is an adult, near-future retelling of Beauty and the Beast. In the year 2026, the world’s greatest inventor, Connor Murphy, creates the first humanoid AI robot to be the companion of Mr. Garbhan, a strange recluse who lets no human enter his tower home. The robot, Rose 76GF, refuses to go; she believes herself too important to submit to a life of servitude. As Connor Murphy has squandered the money he was paid for Rose and can neither produce the robot nor repay Mr. Garbhan, he faces a five year prison sentence for fraud. Connor’s only daughter, Alainn, disguises herself as Rose 76GF and goes to live in the tower with the understanding that she’ll be rescued in two weeks’ time. As you can probably guess, these plans go awry.
Did you like Beauty and the Beast as a child?
Definitely. I’d go so far as to say that Beauty and the Beast was a very fundamental part of my childhood. It actually was the first movie I remember seeing in the movie theater. I was six. I remember sitting beside my sister and father as the loud music filled the theater and the stained glass story of the old woman and the rose played across the screen. The memory is as clear in my mind as the Loma Prieta earthquake two years before this; as in to say, it’s ingrained forever. For better or for worse, I internalized that love could break a curse and heal a bitter heart. I really hope that’s actually true.
What do you think of retellings? What is your favorite fairy tale retelling?
I love retellings! While I try to read as many as I possibly can, I tend to enjoy the more serious ones rather than the comical retellings. I have several favorites.
My favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings are:
#1 Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
#2 Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
#3 A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
#4 Of Beauty and Beast by Stacey Jay
My favorite retellings of other fairy tales:
#1 The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
#2 Daughter of the Forrest by Juliet Marillier
#3 Entwined by Heather Dixon
I also love Marissa Meyer’s series, The Lunar Chronicles!
Why was there no Gaston in this book? 😉
A Gaston-like character would be a very fun personality to write! He’s so deliciously despicable! But, as he’s not in the original fairytale, he is the brainchild of Disney. As much as it was Disney that first incited my love for the Beauty and the Beast story, I made an effort to avoid rewriting the details that were solely in their version. Instead, I entwined many details from the original story that were not in the Disney version. Two of these details were the room full of enchanted monkeys and the repeated marriage proposals. I definitely considered adding in another love/hate interest for Alainn, though; but as the story progressed, I realized that it wasn’t in the cards for her.
If Ensnared were made into a movie, who would you like to play Alainn Murphy and Lorccan Garbhan?
Oooh . . . that’s a fun one to think about!
I might say Selena Gomez for Alainn. I’ve always thought of her as more of a singer, but she surprised the heck out of me in the movie The Fundamentals of Caring. She’s definitely got the sassy badass girl with an emotionally fragile core act down (though, Alainn is much more lighthearted than Gomez’s character Dot).
For Lorccan, I’d have to say Kit Harington. I think that Harington is strong and intense while being just a little bit awkward (in the best sort of way).
They both have a gritty edge to them, too, which is just so compelling as well.
How did you come up with the idea for Ensnared?
My father is truly an inventor, of sorts. He’s nothing like Connor Murphy in personality or habits, but he is working on the cutting edge technology for robots and AI. We were actually at Disneyland when he mentioned to me that by 2020 robots could very well take over a great deal of the customer service workforce. Also, he mentioned that AI is being developed and already existed in some forms. This caused a lengthy debate between us on whether these developments were good or bad for the world. He said not to be afraid of progress; I said some progress is very scary and ominous.
I returned home feeling terrified of these developments that the rest of the world seemed to be unaware of, save tech magazines and the odd article in the New York Times and Forbes.
The Beauty and the Beast based plotline formed soon thereafter. Thankfully, my father doesn’t hold it against me that I disagree with him and wrote a story that basically screams, ‘think this AI thing over, World!’ He actually pretty much designed most of the robotics in this book (the exhaustion system, the organic battery system, the charging system, etc.); I wanted the technology to be believable to those in the know.
Do you let your characters decide the flow of the story or do you hold the reins?
For this book, it was a combination. On the one hand, I followed the basic story of Beauty and the Beast and added in details from the original tale (as in the enchanted monkeys). Yet, at the same time I wanted to let Alainn and Lorccan fall in love naturally, so I allowed them to take their time. Colby basically chose his own character and sculpted the course of this book in a direction I hadn’t originally foreseen. I also initially imagined a very different personality for Shelly, an archetypical mean-girl and user, but when I wrote her, it wasn’t to be.
Tell us about your unpublished works. Will they ever be published?
Well, I actually do have a few unpublished books that are well and truly buried in the manuscript graveyard. The first book I ever wrote was a middle grade fantasy story about a girl who lost all of her color and lived a life travelling through paintings, invisible to all but a few. Unfortunately, that book, its sequel, and a couple others have been long abandoned. But, I’m working on two books right now that I hope to have out within the next few months. The books I’m working on are: Princep, Dakota Kekoa book three, and Waltzing into Damnation, The Deception Dance book three. Hopefully, they’ll both release in the next few months or so.
If you could have dinner with any one of the characters from Ensnared, who would it be? Why?
Colby. And, why? Because, I just love him so much. Often when I write a character I get a really good feel for their personality from the start, but Colby surprised me. The other characters consider him to have a lack of feelings because he is coldly logical and has a very hard time expressing his thoughts and feelings, but in the end he shows that he would do anything for those he loves (in a very logical sort of way ;). No sequels have been planned for Ensnared, yet; but if I did write a sequel, Colby would play a big role in it.
A Near Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast
Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.
Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.
To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.
Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.
Expected publication: December 18th 2017
[Related: Book review of Ensnared on This is Lit – 4 stars!]
Rita lives with her husband and son in Northern California. Her seven year old son wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.
She has an insatiable novel addiction and mostly reads young adult and adult: paranormal, urban fantasy and high fantasy.
Thanks so much for answering my questions, Rita! 🙂
What did you think of the interview? Would you read Ensnared when it releases? Let me know in the comments!
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