The completely awesome Nova Ren Suma–one of the wonderful friends I made last summer at Launch Pad (aka, Astronomy Camp)–has tagged me in this bloghop-interview-round robin thing called The Next Big Thing. Nova is the author of Imaginary Girls, and the shortly forthcoming 17 & Gone (which is what her NBT entry is about). Thanks, Nova!
I think you can guess what book I’ll be talking about… Because that’s my next big thing, right?
What is your working title of your book (or story)?
Handbook for Dragon Slayers. That has been the title since I first set fingers to keyboard, so it is both my working title and my final one! Okay, that’s a lie. Harper decided to take off the article. Periodically, the book tried to be THE Handbook for Dragon Slayers and A Handbook for Dragon Slayers. Now it is article-free, neither definite nor indefinite.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
So many places, but the four core ideas that came together were these:
1) Hildegard of Bingen. My editor and I both thought, after Hildegard’s presence in The Princess Curse, that a Hildegard book might be a swell idea. That sort of dictated the setting: the middle Rhine in the 12th century. Though in the end, this is not a Hildegard book–Hildegard only makes a cameo appearance–but the setting stuck.
2) “The Princess of the Glass Hill.” A fairy tale that has always bugged me, with this fantastical bit with 3 metal horses.
3) Handbook for William: A Carolingian Woman’s Counsel for Her Son. A book I read in college; absolutely fascinating advice from a 9th century woman to her son about how to make his way at court. I’ve always wanted to write something about medieval handbooks, entirely due to Dhuoda.
4) Feet. As I wrote last week on this blog, I have chronic foot pain, and mobility has been an issue for several of my family members at different points. Tilda, my main character, may not have always been called Tilda (more on that later), but she has always had a club foot.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a Middle Grade book, which is technically its genre, but I also call it historical fantasy.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This question always stumps me! The only celebrities I had actually chosen at any point were Stand by Me-era River Phoenix for Wim and Adam Lambert to play my bard. Well, guess what folks: Wim and my bard got cut. Hardcore cut.
Part of the problem is that I write about children, and the number of Serious Kid Actors I’m exposed to is vanishingly small. So I tend not to cast anyone. Though after I saw The Avengers and The Hunger Games, I decided that Parz is a Hemsworth. I have NO idea which one, and obviously, he grows into his Hemsworthian looks (Parz is fourteen or so). Judith, in my mind, is perhaps a young Alison Janney. As for my viewpoint characters, I have a hard time–I’m in their head, and we never go mirror-gazing. Okay, I officially give up on answering this question with a good answer.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A runaway princess befriends two would-be dragon slayers and gets a magical horse.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m with Nova in expressing confusion over this question–her point being that a person who self-publishes can also be repped. These things are apples and oranges. If you publish, you either have a publisher or you self-publish. You may not have an agent for either. In any case, since this is a book I wrote under contract with HarperCollins–I think that’s actually the answer. Also, self-publishing in middle grade sounds like a frustrating endeavor. Until more 10-year-olds have e-readers, anyway.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Gusty sigh. I put first words down in September 2010. I think the first draft was done in May 2011. That’s a long time to a first draft for me. Let’s also be clear: the first draft and what’s going to be published in a few months have very little in common, except the 4 core ideas I laid out above.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh, golly. Well, the historical parts of it remind me of Karen Cushman. I hear comparisons to Shannon Hale and Gale Carson Levine now and then. All things considered, when anyone compares my work to any of those writers, I just get tongue-tide and mind-boggled and don’t know what to say. So it’s really hard for me to draw that kind of comparison.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
There are always so many factors. I’ve already mentioned some of the points of inspiration–it’s hard to separate idea and inspiration, sometimes.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I haven’t talked much about the dragon slaying angle much. I will say that I was talking about the book when it was a work in progress to Sarah Prineas (who as we all know, loves dragons a lot). I hadn’t thought too much about what would happen when my characters met a dragon. I assumed, I guess, that they would slay it. Sarah was like, “Subvert the trope! Subvert the trope!” I don’t want to spoil it any more than that…
I am supposed to blog five more writers, but I think I may have reached the end of the internet. In case that’s untrue, though, please join in, let me know, and I’ll link ya up.