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Local mom's book now a movie

Step aside, Twilight: Hollywood is moving on from vampires to fairytale updates with all the adventure and angst — not to mention crush-worthy stars — that lure young audiences.

That’s good news for young-adult novelist Alexandra Flinn of Palmetto Bay, whose 2007 novel, Beastly, has been made into a movie that opens in South Florida on March 4.

Flinn, her husband, Eugene, and their two daughters, Meredith, 11, and Katherine, 15, were flying to Los Angeles this weekend for the film’s West Coast premiere.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’ve read the script and kind of know what to expect. My editor and agent have seen the movie and said it was good.”

Beastly will be followed March 11 by a live-action version of Red Riding Hood starring Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!), with retellings of Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel set for release next year.

Filmed last year in Montreal, Beastly stars Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four) as Kyle, a cocky high school kid who is cursed with disfigurement after tormenting a girl about her looks. Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) is Lindy, who has the power to break the spell with her love. Neil Patrick Harris and Mary-Kate Olsen costar.

Director and screenwriter Daniel Barnz said two things about Flinn’s book drew him to the project.

“I loved the idea of telling a modern day version of Beauty and the Beast, and her concept of putting it in high school was quite brilliant,” he said in a telephone interview.

“Where else are we as obsessed with how we look than in high school and where else do we wish people could see past that to our inner beauty?”

Barnz, 40, also appreciated that Flinn tells her story from the perspective of Kyle, the beast.

“Many of us felt like we were the ugly guy in high school and wished people could see past that.”

Beastly book cover.

Flinn, 44, has tapped into her high school experiences in writing her eight novels, but don’t look for autobiographical details about her life with her husband, an attorney who recently concluded two terms as Palmetto Bay’s first mayor.

“What I write about is definitely fictional, but one of the underlying themes is loneliness,” she says.

“I grew up on Long Island and moved here when I was 12. I had trouble making friends at first. That’s part of the reason I write about lonely characters. A lot of teens are lonely sometimes — that no-one-understands-me kind of thing.”

Flinn found her voice at Palmetto Senior High, where she enrolled in a performing and visual arts program. She went on to study music at the University of Miami and law at Nova Southeastern.

An internship at the State Attorney’s Office and volunteer work with battered women helped fuel her well-received 2001 debut, Breathing Underwater. It was named one of the top 100 young adult novels of the decade by the American Library Association and became required summer reading for freshmen at several Miami-Dade high schools.

Breathing Underwater dealt with violence in a teen dating relationship, and was told from the point of view of the abuser.

“I feel a big responsibility to my readers to have the story be realistic and to tell a good story,” Flinn said. “A lot of teens would write to me and wonder why the couple doesn’t get back together at the end. I said, ‘Because that is so what I wouldn’t have wanted to happen.’ It would send the wrong message.”

One message she does want to send is that actions have consequences.

“That’s a theme in Beastly. He’s mean to this girl and she turns him into this beast and he has to change in order to stop being a beast. Teens are impulsive and don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Sometimes your luck runs out and your whole life can change in an instant.”

Flinn says her first experience with Hollywood was relatively angst free. Beastly’s release date slipped a few times, but she didn’t fret.

“The movie was supposed to come out in July but it would have been competing against the last Twilight movie and, as far as I know, the only thing anyone was watching last summer was Inception,” she says with a laugh.

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