Stories Behind the Stories:
Beauty Within is a sweet, but dark, labor of love for my readers. There was great intensity involved in creation of the novel - my first full-length novel in a decade. Beauty Within takes a detour from my earlier novels like Straight and The Estranged Affair. It leaves the complexities of modern day, and it transports the readers to a time long ago, when Kings and Queens ruled the land and magic was around every bend.
My inspiration for this book came from the brilliant classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. The message of the classic tale has always gripped me, and I had yearned for a way to incorporate that message and the emotions attached to it into a project.
To retell a story that has already been told is a daunting task, and one that many writers fail at. The process for writing Beauty Within took over three years to complete. It had to be right. I couldn't make a feeble attempt. Even if I'd wanted to, that's not in my nature. There were several early drafts of the story - outlines that included different protagonists and antagonists, as well as various identities for the dark lord and circumstances that lead to the meeting between the couple. Natalie Wills was easily my favorite of the drafted protagonists, as she was strong, smart, and she let me know instantly that she would be no man's prisoner. Along with all of these fine traits, Natalie was kind, had a tender heart, and believed in true love. Her persona demanded a love story, and so a love story she was given.
A second character that took some time to fully develop is Madame Howell. A dominant factor is most fairy tales - if not all - is magic. There had to be a source of magic for this story to work, and so I crafted a witch that ran an oddities shop on the village square. Madame Howell may be remembered by some readers from my story 'To Adventure' in the anthology Enchanted Fairy Tales.
Beauty Within was scheduled for release well before Enchanted Fairy Tales was even a thought, but circumstances and rewrites paused the publication. The book had originally ended without part 2, but it had not felt complete. Sometimes, you look at the words 'the end' and you think 'no it's not.' This addition to the story also took some time to craft, and it intentionally took the story to yet another level.
With the announcement of Enchanted Fairy Tales, Beauty Within sat on the back burner - both with me and my editor. I had to work on 'To Adventure', and she had to work on fixing all of our typos. Naturally, while writing another fairy tale, I still had Beauty Within on my mind and found myself working Madame Howell into the story. This was dangerous - I knew - as I had no idea which would be published first, and I neither wanted to confuse the readers nor provide them with unintentional spoilers. Madame Howell had to serve a distinctly different role in 'To Adventure' and readers of Beauty Within will understand why.
The opening paragraph of Beauty Within is salvaged from a book I doubt you have heard of - The Chronicles of Lord Maksim. This book died on an old computer before its completion and the only backup I had contained just the first few paragraphs. After the initial drafting of Beauty Within, I utilized the leftovers of The Chronicles of Lord Maksim and tagged them onto the beginning, providing a setting that I would utilize throughout the rest of the novel.
I knew before I typed the first words of Beauty Within that I wanted the Golden God of Romance CJ Hollenbach on the cover. CJ holds a sensually savage quality that allows him to appear both delicious and dangerous at the same time. Just like the book itself, the cover saw a few different iterations - one of which showed CJ staring through a castle aflame. Another utilized the model as a beacon of light emerging from darkness. In the end, also like the book, the cover had to utilize the aspect of magic, and so the current and final cover was created.
Beauty Within also begins my Jae El's Fandom Hardcore Easter Egg Hunt competition. Within the book's pages is the first clue that will help lead participants to the Easter Egg and the prize sealed inside of it. The competition is my way of thanking my loyal readers that have kept me in this game for a decade and a half. Without them, I don't know where I would be or what I would be doing, but I am sure it wouldn't be nearly as much fun. There is more information on this competition beneath the Fun Stuff tab on this website.
Beauty Within is a sweet, charming fairy tale with an overlaying darkness that I hope will enchant my readers and leave them in a blissful wonder. A perfect read for Valentine's Day or Halloween, I am most proud of this creation, and I give thanks to my editor Jean Watkins, publisher Pamela Seres, and my cover mode CJ Hollenbach for their patience through many drafts and rewrites as we pushed forward to this fantastic new release. Enjoy, and if you decide to take part, good luck in the competition. I'm rooting for you!
Beauty Within is available now in Print and eBook from DCL Publications.
Jae El Foster