Happy Mother's Day to all of the parents out there!
Shannon Hale is perhaps best known for her retellings of fairy tales. This month, she's hanging out with the readergirlz, as we've selected her novel Book of a Thousand Days to be this month's spotlighted book.
Shannon is one happy (and busy) mom. I was tickled that she spared a little time to talk to me about her published works and her writing process. Perhaps this interview will prompt you to read a story to the munchkins tonight - or write one of your own.
When plotting out a retelling of a fairy tale, how much leeway do you give yourself to deviate from the original?
I try to think first about what this story needs. With The Goose Girl, I wanted to stay as close to the original as made sense, because it felt like such an old, well-rounded story. With Rapunzel's Revenge, the story is knowingly in conflict with the original, which is half the fun. Book of a Thousand Days, I kept the skeleton of the tale but made whatever changes I had to in order to make it fully the maid's story. In my opinion, part of the definition of a fairy tale is a story that is retold many ways, changed for what the teller and the hearer/reader need at that time.
Hm, I don't know! I think some of my early stories might seem like original fairy tales.
Do you select stories that were your own personal favorites as a child or more recent stories?
I retell the fairy tales that irritate me the most -- the ones that don't get under my skin don't motivate me enough to do the work that writing a book requires.
What is been the oddest fairytale you discovered while researching them for your own novels or for pleasure?
I thought Maid Maleen was wonderfully odd. There's the story of the girl who loses both her hands, right near the beginning of the tale, too. I've often thought how on Earth I would retell that one.
Prior to writing Austenland, how many times had you watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice?
I have no idea! But I've discovered I'm not nearly as obsessive as some. Probably I've watched it through about 10 times.
Did you then indulge in it while working on the book?
Yes, definitely I watched it while writing the book, more than once, and took enormous pleasure in calling it "research." And I haven't watched it since turning in my final draft.
Do you write books with the audience in mind or simply listen to the characters' voices? Do you approach writing books for kids and teens differently from writing for adults?
I write strictly for myself, to please my internal reader, though that internal reader is half me now and half me during what I consider the Golden Age of reading, ages 10-16. I have the wonderful luxury of writing a story and letting someone else tell me what genre it is and age it's for.
I know you have multiple books in the works. Do you bounce back and forth between drafts of different stories, or do you prefer to complete one story before tackling the next?
I usually have one principle project and one side project, so that I have something to work on while my editor is looking at the principle. I don't allow myself breaks. After having my second child last year, I've slowed way, way down, and this juggling is getting very tricky!
What was it like working with your husband on the graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge?
We're still happily married.
What are your ten favorite books of all time?
I could never limit it to ten or put them in any kind of order. Some books mean more to me at certain ages. Some books I absolutely cherished as my younger self but don't affect me much now--some are timeless. I rarely reread because I'm a slow reader and there are so many books I want to read, so many authors I've never experienced. It's wonderfully overwhelming.
What are your kids' favorite books? (I'm sure they change often!)
Maggie is 16 months and prefers books with textures. Max at age 4 has a dark side and likes The Spider and the Fly and Wolves in the Walls, as well as some lighter fare like Yellowbelly and Plum and superhero comics for kids.
Visit Shannon's website and blog. She recently posted a sweet list of little things she does to snazz up life for herself and her family.
Shannon Hale will be chatting live at the readergirlz forum on Thursday, May 22nd at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST. Mark your calendars and join us then!