The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

me in a dinosaur mask. or maybe it's a dragon.

I’m writing a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Venice.


Screw it. Today I’m going to tell you about Faustina.

Faustina is the novel I’m working on. I’ve been saying all along that I probably won’t call it Faustina when I publish it, but I’ve been calling it that for a long time now and I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to get another title to stick. Especially now that I’ve designed and become attached to this cover.

The cover for Faustina: a woman wearing a gold Venetian mask and a coy smile.

Faustina is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in 18th Century Venice, against the backdrop of Carnevale, because masks and historical costumes are pretty and also I went to Venice last year and saw a lot of masks and then became a dinosaur.

me in a dinosaur mask. or maybe it's a dragon.

NB: there are no dinosaurs in this story. Please believe me when I say that I would have shoehorned one in if I possibly could. Actually, looking that this picture again, I think that might be a dragon and now I’m questioning everything.

I’ve been writing retellings of Beauty and the Beast for over ten years now. (Beauty and the Beast was an obsession for me throughout my teen years. I could probably dissect that in another post.) I keep meaning to stop, but I think I’ve become that guy in Amelie who paints a new copy of the same painting every year because he can’t get it quite right.

I really want this to be the time I get it right, which is probably the problem.

The heroine is Faustina Casanova, younger sister of Giacomo Casanova, who is famous for having sex with everyone. I read Giacomo’s Wikipedia page and was really fascinated by some of the crap that he got away with, like hiding spikes in Bibles to escape from prison and pretending to be magic. (It’s okay, wiki-haters, I also bought his big-ass book.) I really wanted to write a heroine who was essentially a con-artist, falling into one scrape after another in the pursuit of an easy life and always coming out on top, but only just.

That reminded me of maybe the second or third retelling I started writing back in my teens, where the Beauty character was a thief whose father sent her into the mysterious, magical castle to steal something. I’ve always liked that as a twist, although I never finished that story, because it gives the Beast something to push back against. What I mean is, in Beauty and the Beast, Beauty dislikes the Beast because he’s scary-looking and keeping her prisoner, but the Beast just adores Beauty from the beginning. I used to eat that Beast-angst up with a spoon back when I thought the height of romance was having someone who was so desperate for you to love them that they would just stop eating and wait for death if you left them (this actually happens in the fairytale) but now that one-sidedness feels both deeply problematic and also kind of dull. But giving the Beast just as much reason to be mad at Beauty as she has to be mad at him, THEN trapping them in a castle together… that appeals to me.

Anyway, that’s how Faustina, the Beauty, came to be. Giacomo Casanova loses a lot of money in a game of cards to a reclusive, mask-wearing figure, and sends his criminally-minded sister to get it back. Throw in a curse that may or may not exist, some arguments and some kissing, and you’ve got what I’ve been tearing my hair out over for the last year.

I think, if I weren’t writing this, I would want to read it. Hopefully some other people will, too.

I actually started this post because I wanted to post an excerpt from the book but this has been way too much of a build-up for that so I’m just going to close with this picture of a cat I watched from the window of my Venice hotel room. (Update: there’s an excerpt here!)

a cat in venice

On the internet, a cat is worth a thousand words.

PS: If Faustina sounds like something you would enjoy reading, here are some things you could do:

  1. Comment and tell me. You might stop a tiny piece of my soul from dying!

  2. Subscribe to and/or revisit my blog to see future excerpts! (Warning: you will also see posts about things like buying an absurd number of candles or revisiting my childhood diaries.) The subscribe box is in the sidebar to your right.

  3. Join my mailing list. I don’t spam (in fact, so far I have sent precisely 0 emails, so I can say that with utmost confidence) but I will let you know when I’m close to publishing the book.


13 thoughts on “I’m writing a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Venice.

  1. I honestly do like the sound of that. And I know what you mean about working on versions of the same story. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for a decade with my current WIP, but I think *touch wood* that I might have finally worked it out 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aww, thank you! It’s so reassuring to hear that this sounds like a good idea outside of my head! I hope it turns out that you’re on the right track with your WIP. It’s so frustrating to feel like you’re telling the right story in the wrong way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would definitely enjoy reading your story, and I just hope it does not take you another 10 years to let other people read it, that would be kind of a long wait!

    And the picture of the cat is nice but – in my opinion – absolutely not worth a thousand of your words (judging by your Bloody Zombies). It was frustrating to see that you finally did not share any excerpt of the book, so whenever you feel ready please share, I for one would be glad to read it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for commenting! It’s always nice to hear from you 🙂 I really (really really really) hope it doesn’t take me 10 years to get Faustina out into the world. I’m aiming to finish it by the end of this year but I said that last year so clearly I am a lying liar who lies.

      I will get an excerpt up in the next day or two!


  3. This story premise hugely appeals to me.

    So…thoughts on a release date?

    Is that too much pressure?

    *refreshes page looking for excerpt*

    *refreshes page again*


    • You’re such a sweetie, thank you! After missing a whole load of deadlines I set myself and feeling lousy about it, I’ve decided to just write it as quickly as I can comfortably manage. I might set a release date once I start editing, though, just to stop me fiddling with it indefinitely!

      I will post an excerpt very soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: An Excerpt From Faustina | Victoria Leybourne: The Opposite of Popular

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  7. Pingback: New cover for Faustina! | Victoria Leybourne: The Opposite of Popular

  8. Oooh, your first cover is cool! I like the color theme and the shot of Venice at the bottom! And I think it’s interesting that Faustina is wearing a mask since that is Benedetto’s trademark! Why am I commenting on an old cover, when you’ve already got a new one? But even with the new cover, I can’t actually tell what the black thing is on the side of her head. A wig? A mask?

    Also, loved to read the details behind how you came up with the idea, though you’d already told me bits and pieces before. And I am at the part of Faustina where they are both mad at each other, and I may or may not have mentioned this in a review, but I do absolutely love that! I think the only Beast I encountered who was mad at Beauty was the Disney Beast, but he was just angry in general, lol. And even he did kind of think “maybe she can break the curse” so attempts to be nice to her. I like that so far in Faustina, there is no mention of “breaking this curse” and Benedetto’s thinks instead “oh hey maybe a companion for the rest of eternity?” who then turns out to be trying to rob him – all this makes for a GREAT set up! 😀


    • Thank you! I did like this cover but (as I said in the post about changing it) I didn’t feel like it worked in thumbnail. She’s wearing a mask in the new one but to be honest that doesn’t quite work either. I’m hoping to get a new computer after Christmas (which is what I said this time last year – I’m basically a broken record) that will be able to run some decent image editing software and then see if I can do a better one. I might ban myself from changing it again before I’ve actually finished the story, though!

      And thank you so much! Yeah, I used to really like how the Beast was just desperate to please her from the beginning (maybe because I was a teenage narcissist who wanted to be fawned over?) but now it’s much more exciting to me to have them both start out angry at each other. Sarcastic, sniping dialogue is so much fun to write!


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