How Ash Poston Combined Fairytale and Fandom in Her Latest Novel, Bookish and the Beast
We've been obsessed with Ash Poston's writing ever since we first read the transfixing words of Geekerella back in 2017—and since then, we think she's only gotten better.
The Once Upon a Con series is all about brilliantly structured modern retellings of classic fairytales with a modern twist—and a healthy dose of fandom, conventioneering and geek culture thrown in. These stories revolve around a fictional sci-fi series called Starfield, and how a shared passion for the franchise brings people together. And did we mention they're packed with adorably angsty romance?
Bookish and the Beast is the third novel in the series. If follows Rosie Thorne, a book-loving Starfield fan who recently lost her mother, and bad boy actor Vance Reigns, who plays the deliciously evil General Sond in the Starfield films (and who we learned in The Princess and the Fangirl can be quite the jerk in real life as well). When consequences bring them together, they couldn't be more different, but there's a special spark between them that might grow into something more.
Bookish and the Beast is out today, and we got the chance to speak with author Ash Poston about the this latest entry in the series, and what makes her novels unlike anything else out there.
Sweety High: What was it that originally inspired you to write these romance stories from the perspective of fandom?
Ash Poston: I love fandom—everything about it. I love how a story, a group of characters, an OTP, can bring people of diverse backgrounds together to celebrate the things they love. Being part of a fandom in and of itself feels like a sort of romance. It becomes an essential part of you and how you view the world and interact with it. Sometimes, fandom can save you. And sometimes, it can break your heart.
But how you feel, and the memories from the community, stay with you and shape who you are. I think that's the richest idea—how integral online communities are to our worldview, and how sometimes the fandom becomes more diverse, more inclusive, more evolved than the original work could ever be.
SH: In The Princess and the Fangirl, we loved to hate Vance. When you were writing that story, did you know he would be getting his own tale told before long?
AP: I had a feeling I wanted Vance as the third book's hero the moment he sauntered onto the page, but I didn't realize how much I'd love him until I started writing Bookish!
(Bookish and the Beast via Quirk Books)
SH: What inspired you to have a Beauty and the Beast spin this time around? Did you find it trickier to do a modern, non-magical retelling than in your other stories?
AP: I absolutely adore Beauty and the Beast. It's one of my favorite fairytales of all time, but I knew I needed to find the right characters, and the right framing, in order to update the story for a modern audience. Then Vance and Rosie popped into my head, and I knew I could do it.
Because Beauty and the Beast relies so heavily on its historical setting and the rights of women at the time, I needed a heroine who could go head-to-head with Vance from the beginning so neither of them would fall into the lopsided power-play pitfall that often plagues modern Beauty and the Beast retellings. Rosie needed to be the arbiter of her own circumstances and not the prisoner of it.
SH: All three stories loosely utilize the enemies-to-lovers trope. What do you think it is about that kind of relationship that makes for such a captivating romance?
AP: I have a soft spot for a good enemies-to-lovers romance. There's just something magnetic about two main characters beginning their meet-cute at odds with each other over whether Star Trek: Voyager or Star Trek: The Original Series is the better show, but through trial and error they understand one another and fall in love (and realize that, obviously, Star Trek: The Next Generation is better than either of them). Besides, I love a heated and snarky debate that devolves into a makeout session, don't you?
SH: How much of yourself do you put into the leading ladies in your books?
AP: I think there is a little bit of me in Elle, Jess, Mo, and Rosie, but I think there's also a fair amount of me in Darien and Vance, too. Especially when it comes to their hate for salads. Rabbit food, bleh.
SH: Which Once Upon a Con trilogy protagonist would you most want to date?
AP: Oh, gosh. I'm not sure! If I were a teen, I'm pretty sure either Vance or Mo would appeal to me the most, but currently? Gimme Rosie's hot library dad!
SH: Do you have a dream casting for Rosie and Vance?
AP: I don't actually! But I'm always up for suggestions.
SH: Which scene from this book did you have the most fun writing? What scene was the toughest to write?
AP: I can't say without spoilers! So… [SPOILER WARNING] I loved writing the scene where they get caught in the rain and have to wait out the thunderstorm in the pool house. The toughest scene to write was the phone call between Vance and his mom. That one took a lot out of me.
SH: Have you ever considered writing one of those many Starfield novels you refer to in the book?
AP: I have toyed with the idea… I did write a YA sci-fi duology—Heart of Iron and Soul of Stars—that are sort of adjacent to Starfield. Maybe those will scratch the itch of people looking for more stories in the Starfield-verse!
SH: Is there any question you always wish someone would ask you about yourself or your writing?
AP: I always love the question, "What is the worst writing advice you've ever gotten?" because I've heard a lot of bad advice over the years. The worst advice, though, has to be the advice to write to the market. Do not write to the market—write the books you want to see in the world. If it's a weird fandom book about vegan food trucks and weiner dogs and lesbian fairy godmothers and geeky Cinderellas and shy Prince Charmings? Then write it, and don't look back.