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By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter
At first glance, it is difficult to tell exactly what feminism, fairy tales, and falconry have in common. However, all three coalesce in Arielle K. Harris.
Harris was born locally and then spent a number of years of Scotland, which she says has “irreversibly confused her accent and spelling conventions.” She returned to Massachusetts, where she finished her first novel, “Bestial.” Her stories “focus on the human experience through the lens of fantasy, posing questions about reality through the means of unreality.” Last Saturday, Harris spoke about her experiences in Scotland, writing and self-publishing, and with falcons, at the Walpole Public Library.
Harris is an inspiration to any aspiring writer. Despite critiques from professors who claimed fantasy was a lesser genre, or any hesitations when faced with the current status of publishing, she barreled ahead. Her novel took approximately 22 months to write, a rate she hopes to quicken as she moves forward. “Bestial” plays on themes found in many classical fairy tales, most notably “Beauty and the Beast.” However, her version has a few twists.
“I wanted to explore what it would be like to have the woman be the beast,” she explained. “The woman is always beholden to a man, whether it’s her husband or her father. And I wanted to explore the idea of women being able to solve their problems on their own, and not be at the mercy of men.”
Part of Harris’ preparation before writing her novel was studying traditional texts such as those by the Brothers Grimm and Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. However, she took her studies one step further. While in Scotland, Harris became interested in the concept of falconry.
“Falconry is very specific, it’s hunting with a bird,” she explained. While she herself worked with a number of birds, she also used the opportunity to explore the dynamic between men and mostly female “beasts.” Since the female birds of prey are larger, they are the ones most often used for hunting. “I joined the British Falconer’s Club and go to observe a lot of local falconers with their birds,” she said. As she showed a picture of one particular couple, she explained, “this bird fully views the man as her mate. That is their love relationship. I wanted to explore how a human can love an animal and have it be a pure, honest love.”
“Bestial” flips the roles of the traditional “Beauty and the Beast.” The man is the “beauty,” while the woman is the “beast.” Harris self-published her book, using platforms set up by Amazon. Despite hesitations regarding e-books, an article in The Guardian changed her mind.
“I love the smell of books and the physical feel of them, so the idea of not having that was hard for me to come to terms with,” she explained. However, after overcoming this initial step, she found that she could put out an e-book version and a paper version. Currently, her book is available on Amazon.