Interview Double Take!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Venice Rooftops by Jesper Kyd [Assassin's Creed 2 soundtrack].

Okay, I am deliriously excited about this when I probably shouldn't be, especially considering all the extra work Ms. George unwittingly put into this. Let me explain. She sent me the answers to the interview questions I sent over, but then thought her computer had nommed the email out of existence. And so she sent a new email answering them all again, apologizing profusely for not getting to them (sweetest thing ever). After a quick exchange about the mix-up, she delightfully agreed to let me re-post the interview with both answers side by side. How rare is that? You get the same author answering the same questions and seeing how the responses differ. It's a real peek into an author's mind you don't often get a chance at. And you'll see some of the answers are eerily similar, but others... let's just say a few new tidbits snuck in. :)

I hope you enjoy this second round interview as much as I did!

Today I have the honor and privilege to bring you a delightfully fun and funny author, whose writing just keeps getting better and better. Please welcome again for a very special double feature, 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 - Take 1] 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.

[JDG - Take 2] Galen may not like fighting, but he’s been trained to do it since he was a child. He knows what to do, and he’s obviously good at it- or he’d be dead by now. At the end of PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL, he knows what he has to do, and he just lets instinct take over. All the moves are there, now it’s time to use them.

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?

[Take 1] 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!

[Take 2] Let’s see. I wrote six novels in nine years which were rejected a total of 190 times by every publisher and agent I could find an address for . . . I’m going to describe that experience as horrible. Yes, horrible . . . though it doesn’t really do it justice. There was a lot of crying. Some stress eating. A proportionate amount of swearing. I was basically just writing books as they came to me, because I do love to write for writing’s sake, and then I would throw them to the wolves and see if one bit. I am going back now that I have more professional experience and reworking a couple of them, with an eye to trying the rounds again now that I have an agent. They’re all adult books, though, and vastly different from what I’ve been doing.

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?

[Take 1] 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!

[Take 2] First lines are my favorite! Even if something doesn’t just come to me in a flash of inspiration, like with DRAGON SLIPPERS (It was my aunt who decided to give me to the dragon.) I love to play around with them until I’ve got something that will hook the reader. First lines and last lines are always better than the middle, where you’re just desperately trying to get your people from A to B!

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?

[Take 1] 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.

[Take 2] In the case of their mother, I needed someone desperate enough to make a deal with the devil, but na├»ve or perhaps simply hopeful enough to think it would be all right. She’s a very conflicted woman, and yet very strong: she is willing to lay down her own life to try and save her family, and her adopted country. The rest of the characters would take days upon days to discuss, since it took days upon days to create them!

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?

[Take 1] 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!)

[Take 2] I have two world-building pet peeves with fantasy. One is when there’s only one country in the entire world, the other is not having a religion. You could get fifty Stone Age people in some caves, and they’d form varying alliances, not to mention start a belief system of some sort! But for Ionia (the continent of my PRINCESS books) I cheated a little: it’s Europe. (Io and Europa were both abducted by Zeus in Greek mythology.) Basically, I’m using an alternate early 19th century Europe. Westfalin is Germany, Analousia is France, Breton is England. A lot of times I’ve simple altered the name of the actual country, or I’m using some older form of the country’s name. Sorry. I’m a big cheater! Mostly because of laziness.

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?!)

[Take 1] 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.

[Take 2] According to my notes for MIDNIGHT BALL (which my husband read and found endlessly hilarious), Lily is the Jane to Rose’s Lizzie. (That’s a little Pride and Prejudice reference, for those of you wondering.) I knew that Rose would have a lot on her plate: she’s the official hostess since her mother’s death, oldest sister/surrogate mom, etc., and I wanted her to have someone who was her biggest supporter, who knew what they were going through, and who could help organize the younger girls when Rose was ill or just couldn’t take it any more. And, lest she be boring, I decided to give her a Big Secret. (It’s always the quiet ones!) Lily is only mentioned in PRINCESS OF GLASS, but look for more excitement in the third book, which I’m supposed to be writing right now!

What fairy tale frustrates you the most? Why?

[Take 1] 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!

[Take 2] The Twelve Dancing Princesses, mostly because of the ending: And they never danced again, and they lived happily ever after. Um, what? So did they, or didn’t they like dancing? Also, in one version I have, the guy is a soldier, in another, a gardener. In one he marries the oldest princess, in another, the youngest. MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!

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

[Take 1] Um . . . yes.

[Take 2] 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). :)

[Take 1] Nope. But I might. You never know, with me!

[Take 2] Nope. But that could always change.

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

[Take 1] Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Utterly charming, and a literary exercise at the same time!

[Take 2] ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn

And the most important question of all...

Ninjas or Pirates? ;)

[Take 1] Um, pirates, please!

[Take 2] Um, pirates, please!

Thank you so much, Jessica, doubly so! *bows*