If you’ve been keeping up with my blog for the past month or so, you’ve no doubt seeing me flail about my love of The Belles on here and on Instagram, as it’s turned out to be my FAVORITE read of 2018 so far. So I knew that I would be attending Dhonielle’s tour stop in California, and I was DETERMINED to get a good seat…so I did what any other type A blogger would do and showed up 3 hours early to claim my seat and prepare for what was bound to be a fantastic event. The night of the tour stop ended up being an extremely fun evening full of friends, great discussion and floral photo ops.
Dhonielle was in conversation with Sabaa Tahir and the conversation flew by and was filled with talk of everything from being “extra” to the formative pre-teen years.
Fun Facts and Interesting Insights from Dhonielle and Sabaa’s Conversation:
- Dhonielle wanted to write something “extra” because that’s how women have been talked about through history. Their bodies have always been so exaggerated.
- There’s an author’s note at the end of the book saying that the book was twenty years in the making, ever since Dhonielle was in a mall and overheard men talking about how they wished their wives looked more like women in magazines, on tv, etc. It was shocking to overhear as a pre-teen and created a bit of an obsession with her and how the female body was viewed by society.
- Dhonielle has a secret reading book in her room that her dad built her (how cool is that?!) but after hearing that conversation she began pasting images in the nook of photos of idealized and glamourized women’s bodies.
- Dhonielle very wisely pointed out that as women we’re not taught to interrogate the feeling of worrying about looking bad in a photo (such as asking WHY do I feel like anxiety about how I look) and instead we are supposed to succumb to it.
- Dhonielle’s writing method is to write with “potholes.” She writes what she wants first and then goes back and fills in the missing parts. Her writing partner from the Tiny Pretty Things duology, Sona Charaipotra, coached her through going back and filling in the literary plot holes. It also took her a while to find her rhythm writing fantasy. She notes she “got lucky” with contemporary and her first series in that genre was published.
- On Why She Wrote The Belles: She wanted to explore the desire to change herself down to her bones that she wrote about in her journal as a pre-teen, and also wanted to create a new fairytale. Fairytales tell very specific things about women’s bodies (what characteristics are good, evil, etc.) and also focuses on what people are willing to do their bodies to achieve those ideals. She’s also fascinated with groups of girls and how they interact, and wanted to lean into what happens to girls when masculinity, patriarchy, etc. interact. She wanted to explore why a compliment from a woman feels so different (and “heavier”) than a complement from a man (and why “fat” and “ugly” are always the insults people reach toward first).
- On the Villain: She took the worst parts of herself as a fifteen/sixteen year old and exaggerated them, wanted to lean into those traits. She doesn’t know if she could trust herself in a world like that of The Belles at that age with that much power.
- On the Cover: It’s the first YA fantasy book with a black woman on the cover! She was hesitant at first, but her publisher (Disney) went all in and pushed her to embrace it and overcome her fear that the model would detract readers.
- I’ll leave you with this intriguing tidbit- She wanted to read/write a book about slavery that wasn’t a book about slavery.
Have you had a chance to read The Belles yet? Have you picked up on any of these underlying themes that Dhonielle discussed? Are you planning on attending any of The Belles tour stops? Let me know in the comments!
I’m so excited to read this! I haven’t had a chance to yet (the novels I have to read for uni are monopolizing my time) but I hope to soon! That’s really interesting that this is the first YA fantasy with a black woman on the cover. When I first read that, I thought ‘that’s ridiculous, there must have been others!’ but really, I can’t think of any. It’s always these kinds of milestones that seem so ridiculous coming this late in the game. It just goes to show how there may be more diversity than there was in the beginning of YA Fantasy, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of perception.
Definitely agree on all counts. I was shocked when she brought it up but it’s true and CRAZY that we’re just now hitting milestones like this in 2018! I hope you get to pick up The Belles soon- I really enjoyed it!
I can’t believe that this is the first YA fantasy with a black woman on the cover. That seems absolutely crazy to me!
Right?! It’s like you’d think that by 2018 this would be way more common place, but then I really started to think about it and I realized I couldn’t think of any others!