Fellow bestselling authors and good friends Sarah Mlynowski and Shannon Hale have never done an event together before now. So it’s only fitting that these authors, who know a thing or two about princesses, held their first joint appearance during National Princess Week (yes, it’s a thing) on April 28 at The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City (Hale’s hometown). Mlynowski is currently on tour for her new release, Whatever After #9: Genie in a Bottle, and Hale is supporting her latest, The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde. For everyone who didn’t get to see them in person, we asked Hale and Mlynowski to provide a taste of how their conversation went that evening. Here’s a post-event exchange they shared with Bookshelf.
Sarah Mlynowski: Hi Shannon! It was so, so, so great to finally have an event with you. You are a superstar in my household. Have I mentioned that my daughter throws weekly Princess in Black tea parties? And requires the entire family to wear all black? And drink tea? We LOVE Princess Magnolia. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?
Shannon Hale: My own daughter by the name of Magnolia was the inspiration for The Princess in Black. When she was four years old she was pointing to the different colors on her skirt and saying, “Pink is a girl color and purple is a girl color and yellow is a girl color, but not black.” And I was like, “WHAT? Girls and boys can wear any color. Besides, Batgirl wears black.” And she said, “Mama, princesses don’t wear black.” That idea struck me like the proverbial lightning and the story started to unfold that day. She’s nine years old now and currently writing her own book based on your Whatever After books. My son is also a fan of yours. Maybe we should trade kids.
SM: I love that backstory. My daughter inspired Whatever After, too. When I started reading her fairy tales, I found myself changing the happily-ever-afters. I loved the stories, but I couldn’t stomach the endings. The only way Cinderella can leave her step-mom’s house is by marrying the prince? Why can’t she get a job and her own apartment? And did the Little Mermaid really have to give up her tail – and her tongue – for a guy? I wrote Whatever After to inject the fairy tales with some girl power.
But back to Magnolia's work in progress. Would she write Whatever After: Duck, Duck, Goose for me? Where Abby falls into The Goose Girl and messes it up?
SH: She would be willing to do that. Just pay her in more copies of your books and Butterfingers. And I’ll await a draft of Princess in Black #6 from your daughter. What’s her preferred payment?
SM: Snow globes. She’s obsessed with snow globes. I’ve been asked to pick up one from every tour stop. Chances of my bag being covered in water and sparkles by the time I get back to New York is about 99 percent.
SH: Yeah, that’s not at all an awkward carry-on item. I’m sure airport security is a breeze with a dozen snow globes in your bag! Kids, man, why don’t they collect bookmarks? My kids always want something when I return from a trip too, and I feel so guilty for leaving I want to bring them something. Unfortunately the bar was set really high the time I returned from a trip to Mattel with bags of Ever After High dolls they’d given me.
SM: What is it like having dolls of your characters?! Do they look the way you imagine them? Did you use them to act out storyboards? Speaking of story boards... Are you an outliner or a pantser?
SH: I love having the dolls! I was asked to write the first books for Ever After High so the dolls came first. Speaking of… my son is demanding we write a crossover book: Whatever After High. And I do both pantsing and outlining. I have written books where I start with a character or idea and just write into the unknown, but for books I co-write (like the Princess in Black series with my husband) we do extensive outlines. I find outlines are vital for co-written projects. You?
SM: I outline everything. Always. Except for my first novel, Milkrun, which ended up not really having a plot. For Upside-Down Magic, the series I’m co-writing with Emily Jenkins and Lauren Myracle, I’m in charge of the outlines. Lauren writes the first drafts and Emily is in charge of the revision. How do you and your husband divide up the work?
SH: You’re a planner! Just like Abby in Whatever After! Dean and I go on plot walks, where we walk and talk plot. Then we each take sections of the outline to write, and once we’re both happy with the outline, we each claim sections of the first draft to write. Then we both revise till by the end we don’t know who wrote what anymore. Though we both claim the funny parts. Right now we’re writing a Squirrel Girl novel for Marvel Press and the next Princess in Black. What’s on your plate?
SM: We never remember who wrote what either! We just finished the third Upside-Down Magic (the second, Sticks & Stones, comes out at the end of May) and the 10th Whatever After, Sugar and Spice, just went to copyediting. And I’m writing I See London, I See France, my next YA. But first I have to finish my tour. (I’m typing this from a library in San Francisco.) Luckily I will be home just in time for Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day, Shannon!
SH: Happy Mother’s Day, Sarah!