More than four decades ago, children’s author Peter S. Beagle published his novel The Last Unicorn. The title was adapted into an animated film in 1982 and has since been re-released in a blu-ray/DVD combo pack. We caught up with Beagle and learned that there are more unicorn stories in the works for the future. Here are the highlights from our interview.
Q: How did you first get The Last Unicorn published?
A: I wasn’t worried about getting it published — maybe naively — because by then I’d been getting published since I was seventeen, which was most of a decade. I was worried about getting the bloody thing right. Of all the books I’ve ever written, that’s the one I remember as being a trial by fire.
Q: What’s the difference between writing for a fiction title as opposed to a nonfiction title?
A: It varies. In fiction you are at the mercy of your imagination as you try and wrestle it into submission. In nonfiction you have certain facts to go on, and you are shaping them. There you are dealing with decisions about what is important and isn’t, especially if you are dealing with someone else’s life. How do you shape it so that you are honoring the original story while also putting something of your own into it? I’ve recently ordered an out of print biography written by a dear friend of mine, whom I only know as a rather wonderful fiction writer, and I’m quite curious to see with what she did in this different form.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: George Burns used to say ‘I can’t die, I’m booked!’ And I know exactly what he meant. There are so many different things going on with my work that I’m hard-pressed to keep track. On my desk at this very moment is the second draft of a limited edition novella I’m doing for Subterranean Press that’s a kind-of sequel to my story ‘El Regalo.’ Next up after that I’ve got three nonfiction essays to write for a planned collection, then the second draft of a new film treatment, then three Shakespearean-themed stories for a special set, and finally six different original unicorn stories for another standalone set.
I’m shaking my head at that last one because it was supposed to be just three stories, only I got carried away when I started coming up with possible ideas. And in the background, while writing all these things, I’m also polishing the final drafts of two long-simmering novels — Summerlong and I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons — and doing research for a new one, a baseball fantasy called Sweet Lightning that is set in 1950s Pittsburgh. I lived there back then, when I was a college student working on my first novel, and it’s going to be nice to go back…both in real life, to do research, and in the sooty-but-happy realms of memory and imagination.