Shannon Hale on princesses, poetry, and pudding!

Shannon Hale

THIS IS SO EXCITING. Shannon Hale, author of Princess AcademyBook of a Thousand Days,  and creator of such incredible princesses she’s practically a Queen, has answered a few of our questions! Now sit up straight, fold your hands in your lap, cross your ankles, and listen in…

Did you follow along with the Will & Kate royal wedding?
I was way too lazy to watch it in the middle of the night. I’ve got twin babies and sleep is more precious than a royal wedding, alas. But I did google it first thing in the morning. I loved the dress. I’m so girlie in that respect. It was all about the dress for me. And I took an inordinate amount of pleasure from those English wedding hats.

If you were trapped in a tower for seven years, which books would you HAVE to have?
Ones I haven’t read yet! I want new stories. And a blank notebook so I could write some. I’d have to have some scriptures, because they renew me. And lots of novels with vivid descriptions to take me away. Oh, I can’t choose specific titles. Seven years is a long time. Can I just request a library?

How can you be a princess in everyday life?
A princess is someone who understands conventions and can respect the way things are but has the power to make change. I’d say, listen, learn, and act. Oh, and sometimes turn on some music that makes you feel pretty and dance alone in your room.

What are things you do for yourself that make you feel like a princess?
The dancing-alone-in-your-room advice may stem from personal experience… Reading and writing make me feel royal because the storyland is my realm. I also like to get the occasional pedicure. Call me shallow, but a good pedicure builds my self esteem!

We hear you’re on the set of the movie AUSTENLAND (made from your book!). What are your top five British food things?
1. Sausages in puff pastry, i.e. Sausage Buns (teehee, that name makes me laugh)
2. Salmon Wellington. Delicious, and makes fish sound like an aristocratic title
3. Puddings. Really, “pudding” here just means “dessert.” Yes, please.
4. Eton Mess, one of the aforementioned “puddings.” I’ve never been fortunate enough to happen across a bowl of Eton Mess, but my friend described it to me, and it SOUNDS good enough to make my list. Perhaps if I write it down, it will be like a wish and the universe will grant me some Eton Mess. I deserve it. I’ve been a very good girl.
5. Curry. England loves her some curry, and so do I!

You’re also a really awesome poet! Any chance you can write us a FLASH poem about writing craft or reading?
I am? I had no idea! If you’re referencing the “poems” at the beginning of each chapter in Princess Academy, I never thought of them as poems or I’d have been too scared to write them. I thought of them as songs to take the fear away. A flash poem? Okay, I’ll do it. No revising allowed. Here it goes.

It’s been two weeks
since I read a book.
Living in only one world
isn’t enough.
I miss the extra words
the voice in my hands
the story in my eyes.
Life without story is lonely.
Quick, cuddle me a novel,
tuck me into a book.

Shoot, that’s hard! I’m such a reviser by nature. I’m slapping my hands to keep from fiddling with it.

How’s writing a diary (in Book of a Thousand Days) different from writing in the third person?
It’s very different. I didn’t realize how different until I was in the middle of it! There’s a wonderful immediacy to the voice. The story is happening NOW. And I had to arrange the action around the event of writing. Her need to stop and record events needed to feel real. I think it was the right choice for that story but I wouldn’t do it again in a hurry. Third person is a luxury by comparison.

Do you take hints from real historical settings/events for your fairy tale settings?
When writing fantasy, I think it always helps to ground the story in the facts of real places and events. When you’re asking a reader to believe in impossible things, it’s easier for them to leap that chasm if you provide a bridge of reality. For example, I based the setting of Princess Academy on Scandinavian countries in about 1700. Book of a Thousand Days borrowed heavily from Mongolia. Rapunzel’s Revenge was in an alternate American Old West.

We love all the tea in your books! What’s your favorite kind of tea?
Oh my, do I have a tea thing? I didn’t even realize! I think it stems partly from the need to boil water. Water wasn’t always clean and safe back when, and boiled water made for safer drinking. As long as you’re boiling the water, why not add some fresh herbs for flavor? I find chamomile comforting and relaxing, but my favorite is peppermint. Smells heavenly. I also love fresh peppermint in lemonade. Mm!

Who’s your favorite princess?
I was fascinated by Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth when I was younger. The mother who lost power and the daughter who won it back and then some.

What’s the importance of humor in your books/in fairy tales in general?
Humor is what makes us human. I think every book in the world of any genre deserves some humor and is made better by it. I love to laugh more than just about anything. While I don’t write strictly humor, I think there are fewer great compliments than that something I wrote made someone laugh. Couple humor with real thought, real emotion, and boy howdy, you can change the world.

Find Shannon Hale online on Figment or on her (funny & totally charming) blog. And don’t forget that you can enter our princess contest here to win copies of her book!

10 thoughts on “Shannon Hale on princesses, poetry, and pudding!

  1. I love your books, i read the books of bayern , Princess academy and the book of a thousand days. and too this day the bayern books are one of my favorite series. I have a few questions, which book exactly is becoming a movie. And any tips for an author to be?

  2. This post just increased my adoration for you. You sound so down to earth and cool even though you’ve written all of these amazing books and have a movie being made based off of one. The poem was wonderful, despite your worries over the lack of revision.

  3. I love Princess Academy!! I didn’t know you had other books though! Now I HAVE to read them! Also, you HAVE to make Princess Academy a movie! It would make the best movie in history!!! <3 ok well im gonna go find one of your books at the library RIGHT NOW!! (literally)

  4. I love Enna Burning. That’s all there is to it. I love ALL of your booke but Enna Burning is by far my favorite. I’ve been on your website a bunch of times but the first time I went, I read the section where you give writing advice. I had never really thought of writing and becoming an author before that. Now though? I’ve taken a creative writing class in school and can almost never go a day without typing or writing something to add to the few short stories I’ve started. So the moral to this long-ish comment is to thank you. So….THANK YOU! It was you and your books that got me hooked on writing. (Trust me, I was hooked on reading way before then, haha.)

  5. Shannon, you are AMAZING! Your writing is so lyrical and beautiful I just get drawn into every one of your books. The characters become so real to me I envision their stories as if they were wonderful movies. My favorite books are “The Books of Bayern” and “The Actor and the Housewife.” I’m so excited that “Austenland” is becoming a movie, and I look forward to watching the film. Keep up the good work! Kudos!

    Your biggest fan,


  6. You are by far my favorite author! Whenever I need an escape I dive into your books. I can always loose myself in your plot lines and characters. Please keep writing books, and congratulations on your movie. I can’t wait to see it!

  7. Thank you so much for writing all these lovely books! You’re one of my favorite authors, right up there with J. K. Rowling, and I love the simplicity and style of your stories, the way they flow and take place in less developed places. By that I mean there’s no modern-day technology, and it’s always like a break from the modernized world to sink into one of your stories. I love all your characters, though my favorites are Isi (Ani), and Miri. One of my favorite things in the Books of Bayern is I kind of have a thing with the elements, especially wind. The way you go into detail on how the wind uses pictures to speak is fascinating. I could go on forever, but the point is that I wanted to show my gratitude to you for writing these novels. I’d have wanted to meet you, but missed you when you came to my hometown a few years ago (Menlo Park). But thank you, I admire you so much.

  8. First off, I just want to say that I idolize you. (Not to sound creepy or anything…) I’ve been told rumors about your books becoming movies. If so, which book(s)? Any idea of when the movie will be in theaters? Do you plan on turning all of your books into movies? And also, do you have any advice (other than to constantly write) for a junior writer? Thanks for answering!

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