Of Metal and Wishes released early last month and is something of a Phantom of the Opera retelling - set in a Chinese slaughterhouse. If you haven't read it yet, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.
As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.
I was interested to begin with but when I heard Phantom set in a a slaughterhouse I was utterly intrigued! With so many retellings hitting shelves these days, I was curious about this particular pairing. Here's Fine's piece on the subject:
Of Metal and Wishes is often and most easily described as a retelling of Gaston LeRoux’s The Phantom of the Opera. But every time I describe it that way, I sort of waffle a bit, because I feel like I’m not telling the whole story.
Fairytale retellings are super fun. We get to have our cake and eat it, too! We have the pleasure of being told a story that connects us to simpler times in our lives, when we believed magic was possible and real. We have an idea of the structure of the story, and perhaps even the outcome. We have a sense of the conflict. The general arc. That can be very comforting, I think, and also exciting. It’s like listening to a new mix of a familiar song. You might be able to sing along, but the beat and arrangement make it an entirely new thing.
The trick with retellings is to render them fresh. Sure, it’s neat to recognize the bones of an old tale, but it’s especially cool when those bones are wrapped in an intriguing new set of sinew and flesh. And it’s pretty thrilling when a story like that, with bones we recognize, can surprise us.
Maybe that’s why I decided to make Of Metal and Wishes a loose retelling of Phantom. But I’ll fess up here: it didn’t start out that way.
I think that’s why it worked.
Here is how my ideas form: I get fascinated with something, either news story or a place, usually, and my brain starts to churn, working over all the angles of it until I find my way in. In the case of OMAW, I was watching the documentary Food, Inc. and it showed hidden camera footage of undocumented workers slaving in a poultry processing plant, dead birds hanging on hooks zinging past work stations, where people had to cut off various parts for packaging. I stared and stared, and I thought—I have to tell a story about what it’s like to work in a place like that.
Inspiration can be so random.
But then I had to follow the thread of that inspiration, straight down the rabbit hole. Who are my characters? What’s the conflict? And don’t ask me why, but I settled on a boy who had been a victim of the brutal machines on the killing floor, who had turned the entire factory into his domain. The Ghost of the factory. Then I thought of a girl, an outsider who came to live there. I pulled from all the things that fascinate me and knitted together a tale.
About halfway through, I realized that my Ghost was very Phantom-like. At that point, I had a choice—veer in a new direction or embrace the parallels. Well, Phantom set in a slaughterhouse … how could I not embrace that? However, I didn’t let it override the story I really wanted to tell. My interest was in weaving a story about how people survive and thrive and love and risk even in a place that devalues life, that breeds defeat and failure, that crushes souls. I wanted to tell a story of a girl becoming a woman, learning to think for herself and be brave as she reaches out to help others, even when doing either of those things increases the likelihood she’ll be cast out, starving and penniless. So yes, I played up some of the similarities to Phantom, but never at the expense of the core of the story I was so hungry to tell.
So that’s how it happened: old bones, new sinew and flesh. I hope my readers enjoy both. And I hope it surprises them, too.
About the author: Sarah Fine is the author of several books for teens, including Of Metal and Wishes (McElderry/Simon & Schuster) and its sequel, Of Dreams and Rust (coming in August 2015), and the Guards of the Shadowlands YA urban fantasy series (Skyscape/Amazon Children’s Publishing). She is also the co-author (with Walter Jury) of two YA sci-fi thrillers published by Putnam/Penguin: Scan and its sequel Burn (which will be published in 2015). Fine's first adult urban fantasy romance novel, Marked, will be published in January 2015 by 47North/Amazon Publishing, with the sequel, Claimed, coming in March 2015. When she's not writing, she's psychologizing. Sometimes she does both at the same time. The results are unpredictable.
Huge thanks to Sarah Fine for being here today and equally huge thanks to the folks over at Simon and Schuster. Of Metal and Wishes is out now!