Author Interview: Shannon Hale
Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting… until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she “should “help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends’ ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city. Picking up where “Princess Academy “left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom.
I know that the title of Princess Academy didn’t prepare me for what was inside! It threw me off a bit. Have you had readers tell you that before? And how did you feel about that?
Oh yes. I had NO idea how controversial that title would be! It was just a working title, and I figured that eventually my editor and I would have the conversation about changing it. But by then we’d both gotten so used to it, and Sales liked it (before they’d read the book) because I guess the word “princess” sells books. I had no idea, or maybe I would have called The Goose Girl something like “The Princess Who Talked to the Wind” or “The Princess in Disguise” or something! I was worried about the title because there are no actual princesses in this book. But it ended up working for the best in many ways. It’s a commercial title that attracted an audience, and I’ve had many parents tell me it was a gateway book for their children who would only read the fluffier, lighter fare but discovered through this book that they might also like books with a little more meat.
Tell me FIVE things you LOVED about writing PALACE OF STONE.
1. Hanging with my characters again. That Frid. Love her. Miri’s voice was so easy to recapture. We only spent a chapter on Mount Eskel, but it was good to be home.
2. Those darn poems! They were a curse writing the first book, but I actually enjoyed the crafting and fine tuning that goes into writing all the little poem and song snippets at the beginning of each chapter.
3. The research. I always love the research for any book and learn far more than I can use. Revolutions are fascinating, complicated, scary, and exciting.
4. Watching the relationships progress. A character is her relationships with others (including herself), so it’s exciting to see growth and change with friendships.
5. The words. The Princess Academy narrator allows me to explore with words in a way that pleases me.
I’ve seen the huge list of potential titles for this book, how did you finally decide on PALACE OF STONE? (You can see the huge list too on Shannon’s website!)
Honestly I don’t even know. We just kept throwing titles around until there was one that didn’t cause an uproar. There were five titles I thought were the final title at one time or another. The Robber Princess and Crown Breaker I was both pretty attached to. Palace of Stone was my husband’s suggestion. It worked so well for the book and the Powers that Be liked it, so it stuck. That was literally right before the book went into production, like months later than you’re supposed to have a final title.
Although PALACE OF STONE is fictional, did you have any fun research moments?
I studied several historical revolutions, and the French Revolution absolutely blew my mind. It was such a mess! I’d had no idea some of the really messy details, and after all that butchering of aristocracy, just a few years later they crowned Napoleon as emperor. What floored me was how many revolutionary leaders, who at one time led the fight against aristocracy for equality, themselves were executed as new revolutionary leaders took their place. Some really smart, brave, interesting people were cut down. Such a vivid example of how people who want the best and most likely mean well can make horrible mistakes.
What YA books are currently in your reading pile?
I’m reading Libba Bray’s The Diviners, and it’s scaring the crap out of me. Just finished Stephen Emond’s excellent Happyface and bought Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which I’ve never read. This summer I also enjoyed Liar & Spy, Team Human, Wednesday Wars, Tiger Rising, and The Fault in Our Stars.
Will we see more of Miri or is this really the end?
When my editor told me they were doing a photo shoot of a fourteen-year-old model for the cover of Palace of Stone and also to rejacket Princess Academy, I told her, “Um, you may want to get some shots of her in at least one other outfit and hairdo.”
You are having a dinner party with your closest friends and colleagues. What do you serve and what does your tablescape look like?
Wait, am I cooking? And decorating? Then we’re eating on our scratched up kitchen table without a tablecloth, and maybe I’ve stuck some hasty candles in the middle. And the food comes out of the crock pot. If I have a fantasy budget to hire a caterer, then we eat mountains of amazing tapas and there’s a chocolate fountain in there somewhere.