Beginning with The Frog Princess in 2002, author E.D. Baker has written multiple series for young readers set in magical worlds featuring strong female characters. In More Than a Princess (Bloomsbury, Nov.), which kicks off a new series, a princess with mixed magical heritage must embrace her unique abilities to protect her beloved kingdom. Baker spoke with PW about writing princesses that save themselves, returning to and reworking old projects, and connecting with readers.
You’ve written nearly 30 books, all fantasy novels starring female characters for young readers. Do you have a goal in writing stories for this audience?
I have two daughters and a granddaughter and I wanted them all to be strong women when they grew up. I want that for all girls. I am a big believer in girls being able to take care of themselves, so I try to put that in my stories. Girls who don’t need to depend on anybody to solve their problems but are willing to ask for help when they need to.
With The Frog Princess, I wanted to write a strong princess who didn’t want to sit around waiting for a handsome prince to come rescue her. I’ve kept that line throughout all my books.
How does your background in psychology and teaching affect your writing and approach to storytelling?
I’m not sure that my background in psychology did. If it did, it made me slightly more aware why people do what they do, especially when writing backstory.
I taught elementary school for a little while. I think it helped me relate to kids at that age again. I had had kids when I was a lot younger, so teaching helped to bring me back to the way kids that age thought, and better understand them.
Do you ever consider writing for a different audience or within a different genre?
I have written a science fiction story, but it didn’t go anywhere. It was the first thing I ever wrote, when my kids were little. It was for a much younger age group and wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written. I sent it out and sent it out [to agents]. Eventually, I could wallpaper a powder room in my rejection letters. So, I set it aside and eventually published The Frog Princess.
I’ve recently returned to that story and have rewritten it for an older group. I finally got it to the point where my agent, Victoria Wells Arms, and I like it. It’s about two children living on Mars, in the future, after the planet has been terraformed. It still wasn’t going anywhere, so this past summer I turned it into a graphic novel. I had a lot of fun with that and loved doing the research.
So, yes, I am trying different genres. I figure, you don’t know what’s going to be right for you. If you find a genre and it works, that’s great, but that doesn’t mean something else won’t work, too!
What was the process of rewriting the project as a graphic novel work?
I thought it’d be quick and easy to write, but it’s not! You have to think of your story in different ways, but it was a lot of fun to do. It helped that I already had the story. I had to break up each little scene. Characters can only have little bits of dialogue, not a whole conversation in a panel. The hardest part, for me, was to come up with sound effects. What sounds would you hear in a dust room on Mars?
Most of your books are a part of a larger series. Why does writing in a series appeal to you? Why do you think series appeal to your readers?
I fall in love with my characters, so I want to keep going with them. In each series, I also look at magic a different way. In The Frog Princess, Emma has magical powers, but she doesn’t want to use them because her spells didn’t turn out quite right. In Wide-Awake Princess, magic doesn’t touch the main character. In More Than a Princess, Aislin is two different magical people, so she is magic.
More Than a Princess follows Aislin, a mixed-race (fairy and pedrasi) character. Why did you decide to write a character with a mixed background?
I wanted to make her super special. She’s not the traditional princess, she’s more. There’s a lot going on inside of her that can’t be seen from the outside.
Were you thinking about the parallels between her mixed magical heritage and [the experience of being of mixed racial heritage in the real world?
Not when I first started, but things evolve as I write. So, I didn’t go into it thinking that, but there are parallels.
When starting a new series or developing a new world, where do you start? Do you plan the entire series before starting the first book?
I think about a story for a while before writing. I get a little idea, then I think if a character does this, where does it lead? What type of world would this character have to live in? I start with an idea, then the character, then the world. I don’t have a process and I don’t plan. When I can’t figure out what happens next, I try to relax, take a walk, and not focus on that next sentence. I try to think as the character, instead of as the writer.
How long does it usually take for you to write a complete draft?
It takes me about a month to write a Magical Animal Rescue book, then there’s extensive editing. The longer novels take three to four months to write. From start to finish, it takes roughly a year to write and publish a book.
You publish a regular newsletter to stay in touch with your readers. Can you talk a bit about that?
My newsletter comes out in the middle of the month and is about upcoming projects and current happenings. I also interview secondary characters.
A number of years ago, I also did a Greater Greenwoods Gazette with my fans. Fans could apply to be a writer for the gazette. They would come up with a character and could write some articles. For instance, there was a giant with big ears who could eavesdrop on other characters, so he had a gossip column.
What can you share about your next projects?
I’m working on another princess series, two more Magical Animal Rescue books, and a fifth Fairytale Matchmaker book.
In the sequel to More Than a Princess, Eliasind, the fairy palace, is moved back to the human world—with magic, of course. Aislin also must choose her ladies in waiting, but she doesn’t do quite what everyone expects. There’s lots more female empowerment in this book!
More Than a Princess by E.D. Baker. Bloomsbury, $16.99 Nov. 6 ISBN 978-1-68119-768-5