I reviewed Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle a few weeks ago, and today I’m lucky enough to welcome the author to my blog!
*What inspired you to write Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle?
Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle has an interesting story behind it. I did a lot of babysitting as a teenager. The family I sat for had three small children and, being the conscientious person I am, I wouldn’t let them watch TV until after dark. Dark in the southern summer comes late. Often we would sit in the shade on the back porch telling stories. I let each child choose one element for the story and then I simply started talking as we all waited to see where it would go. Those stories wouldn’t have fared well against an English teacher with a red pen, but the kids loved them and they made they made the long, hot days pass faster. The only one I still remember was about a princess who lived in a castle made of glass.
After I was all grown up and writing real, not-off-the-top-of-my-head stories I thought about that princess and her glass castle. I thought about all the retellings and reworking of fairytales and all the books inspired by fairytales I had read over the intervening years. And I wondered, what would that story look like if I were telling it now?
The answer is, a lot different. First off the Crystal Castle (no longer actually made of glass) belongs to the dark, handsome prince who uses his magic to steal away Princess Rose after she turns down all of the princes desperate to marry her. Second, Princess Rose carries a strange and dangerous curse that makes everyone she meets fall in love with her. And last but not least, nothing in the Crystal Castle is quite what it seems: not the handsome prince, not the mad king she never sees, not even the silent page who becomes her only friend. But there is still a dragon, sort of.
*Where is your favorite place to write?
I love to write outdoors. There’s this nice, shady spot on my front porch where I like to write in the summer and a sunny one, at the other end, where I write in the spring and fall. In the winter I curl up in the big, cozy recliner next to the window in my library. I open the windows and snuggle under a blanket with a cup of tea, a cat or two, and my iPad.
My house is in a woodsy neighborhood and there’s a little stream running between the next house and mine. Instead of listening to music, I listen to the wind in the trees, the rustle of small creatures in the leaf litter, the soft sound of water trickling over rocks, birds chirping. My favorite is when it rains. I love the sound of rain.
*What did you find most challenging about writing Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle?
I originally intended for princess Rose to be very short, bedtime story length, and written in a traditional fairytale style. Both of these plans flew out the window almost as soon as I started writing. By the time I finished, it was a nice middle grade novel length and no more traditional than I am. So I had to go back and rewrite the first chapter several times. It was difficult to find that balance between my writing style and that distant, objective voice of a traditional fairytale. I needed to ease the reader out of that fairytale comfort zone while still staying true to my “once upon a time” beginning.
*If you could meet any literary character, who would you pick?
When I was young I would have said Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I had an imagination to match hers but I wasn’t proud or fierce like she was. She sounded like so much fun, like she’d make a great friend. I dressed up as her for Halloween one year. Sadly, no one got it.
Now, though, I think I’d rather meet Lilly Potter. Even though she’s dead before the series starts she has a huge impact on everything that happens. She has to be the most loved and loving character in all of literature. Harry lives because of her love. Slughorn gives up his shameful secret to honor her memory. Snape ultimately gives up his life protecting the son she died for. Remus, Petunia, everyone talks about her with such love and respect. Someone like that is always worth meeting because they change your life for the better.
I’d also like to meet Lois MacMaster Bujuold’s Miles Vorkosigan. He’s like a force of nature that sweeps everyone around him along in his wake. That could be a bad thing, especially with such an eccentric character in such an oddly strict culture. But Miles is also one of those people who can do what is necessary while still remaining a genuinely good person. I doubt you could meet him without getting drawn into some adventure.
*Have you been influenced by any particular writer’s style?
I first read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis when I was very young and it blew my mind. I loved that series growing up and read it over and over again. By the time I graduated high school I owned three copies of each book and knew them backwards and forwards. Those stories made me feel that anything was possible and that has definitely influenced my work.
*What is your all-time favorite book?
That’s too hard. There are so many great books out there. I could never choose just one.
I’d honestly be hard pressed to even choose a favorite author. I always say its Marion Zimmer Bradley. I love her Darkover novels, especially the Renunciate books. But Anne McCaffery also has that same perfect balance between a rich, unique world that keeps you coming back book after book even when all the characters change and strong, very human characters that you identify with right away.
For a sense of the otherworldly and a story where you never know what might happen next, because truly anything can, I can always rely on Patricia McKillip and Neil Gaiman. I love that darkness that edges every word. They have a way of taking the everyday and twisting it, without you even noticing, until its disturbingly alien. And their prose is simply beautiful.
*Fun fact about yourself?
My five favorite things in the world are my husband, my cats, books, chocolate, and routines. I think that routines make life interesting.
I start every day with a cup of tea. I have several pairs of the same set of shirt and pants, in a variety of colors, that I wear to work every day. All the pieces match each other so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear. All I have to do is pull something off the hanger and put it on. I eat the same thing for lunch everyday and a cup of tea when I get home.
I try to turn as many of the little nothings that we all do everyday into a routine as possible. That way I don’t have to waste my mental energy on things that aren’t important. I’m not a naturally organized or efficient person. My routines let me save as much energy and creativity as possible for my writing.
Thanks so much for answering my questions!
I highly recommend checking out Princess Rose and the Crystal Castle. It’s a great, fun, quick read!