Interview with Jessica Day George, author of Princess of the Midnight Ball

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Mockingbird by Rob Thomas.

Today I have the honor and privilege to bring you a delightfully fun and funny author, whose writing just keeps getting better and better. It is a belated interview, but one I am so grateful she was willing to do. Please welcome Jessica Day George, author of many books, including her retelling of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses" - PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL.

[HZ] Hello! First off, let me say I loved Galen's character. He is fascinating as a soldier who does not (quite realistically) like fighting. But your sparse and fluid description in the final confrontation scene shows just how good he is. Any insider info into his head that you can give us during that key scene? :)

[JDG] Galen doesn’t like fighting, but I knew he had to be good at it anyway: he grew up in the army, he survived countless battles, and all before reaching his 19th birthday. Fighting, like it or not, would come naturally to him in a dangerous situation, the movements of loading and firing would be pure reflex, or he wouldn’t be alive! I just thought, this is the moment where instinct takes over and he just does what he has been trained to do for eight years.

In another interview you mentioned that you wrote six novels before selling Dragon Slippers (your first publication). What was that experience like? How did you keep moving from one project to the other and did you ever know when one would sell? What is your relationship/feeling toward those first six novels now?

It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure! I always have at least two projects going, in my head if not on paper, so as soon as I finished one I would just move on to the next, and hope one of them would strike an editor’s fancy. 200+ rejections started to get a little depressing, but I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else, so I just kept going. I would like to see my earlier novels published, but I’m well aware (now that I’m older and wiser, ha!) that they need drastic rewriting!

Your first lines are fantastic throughout almost every one of your stories. How on earth do you come up with them? What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Well, sometimes they just come to you in a flash of inspiration, and sometimes you have to play around with them for maximum impact. It just depends on the story! The hardest part is usually the middle, when you know where you’ve been, you know where you’re headed, but you’re not sure how to get there!

Your characters in general intrigued me. Take for example their mother, who, to stave off any spoilers, is not clean cut or perfect. What made you decide to take that route? How did you come up with her?

Well, someone had to make a deal with the devil, and it had to be someone who was both desperate enough to make the deal, and innocent enough to not fully understand what they were doing.

One thing you did with this novel that I absolutely loved was how you brought in other countries and politics. Your kingdom did not act in isolation. This changed the entire flavor of your story because their choices bore serious and very real consequences. Was this a conscious decision, and how did you go about creating nations and their connection to each other?

I’m always irritated by fantasy books where there is only country in the entire world. In the real world, all our lives are affected in so many ways by the other countries around us: we go there on vacation, crises abroad affect our economy, so many products are imports, (I threaten to move to Canada during just about every presidential election), that I just can’t fathom writing about a world where these issues don’t also affect them. Westfalian is basically an alternate-world Germany, since MIDNIGHT BALL is my retelling of one of Grimm’s fairy tales, which means there would be an alternate France (Analousia), alternate Denmark (the Danelaw), and other countries bordering them. Their continent is called Ionia because Europe is named after Europa, one of Zeus’ lovers from mythology and Io was another. (Yes, this is probably cheating in some way. No, I don’t care!)

Another character question (last one, I promise!) Lily's creation. As a sister, she fascinated and captivated me the moment she so calmly and so accurately held that gun through the window. I was hooked. How do you create characters (and will there be any more featuring Lily, and if not, what happens to her after the end of the story?!)

To use a little Pride & Prejudice analogy: Lily is Jane to Rose’s Lizzie. Rose, as the oldest daughter of a widowed king would be the official hostess at state dinners, balls, etc., in addition to being the leader of the twelve sisters. But this wouldn’t give her a lot of time to be motherly, nor was it really in her nature to be soothing and coddle the younger girls, so I dropped that burden onto the next sister, who I imagined as the calm yet capable one who is quietly holding everything together. And I love the saying, “It’s always the quiet ones . . .” which I know usually applies to murderers, but I started to think, “What if this totally selfless, good-natured young woman had some past pain or secret?” I’d already started writing bits where Galen had had a cousin who’d enlisted in the army and disappeared, and I took it from there. There is mention of Lily in PRINCESS OF GLASS, and she is in the third book, which I’m working on right now.

What fairy tale frustrates you the most? Why?

Well, The Twelve Dancing Princesses! Depending on the version you read, the hero is a gardener or a soldier, and at the end it says, “And they never danced again, and they lived happily ever after.” But in the story, they LOVED dancing! It’s just baffling!

Through the writing process, is there anything you've had to cut out of your manuscripts, editors or otherwise?

Um . . . yes.

Have you ever considered writing short stories to accompany/supplement the worlds you've created? For example I would love a story told from Rollo's or Shardas' point of view (or Lily's. *nudge nudge* You have no idea what I'd give to read her and her love interest's backstory). :)

Nope. But I might. You never know, with me!

What is a favorite unknown book you love that few seem to know about?

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Utterly charming, and a literary exercise at the same time!

And the most important question of all...

Ninjas or Pirates? ;)

Um, pirates, please!

Thank you so much, Jessica! This was such a treat to have you.


Christina Farley said...

Oh I just finished Princess of Glass about an hour ago. LOVED it. LOVED it! I need to read all the rest of the books. I'm truly a fan now.