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Shannon Hale's blog, author of "Princess
Academy" (Newbery honor last year), and "Goose Girl".
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"I don't get the love interest. I mean, am I supposed to like him?"
This is a response I hear often from readers. And it's started me thinking. Are writers supposed to write a love interest that every reader will fall in love with? For example, in a story where the main character is a female who falls in love with a guy, then this should be a guy that the reader can fall in love with too. But as years pass, I completely question that thought. It just doesn't make sense.
This is a story, not a blind date. A book is an opportunity to experience someone else's story. We certainly wouldn't all be attracted to the same people in real life either. Rather than asking if we can fall in love with the love interest, a more honest question would be, Can we believe that the main character would fall in love with him/her?
The problem of the "universal" or "neutral" or "default" love interest: someone so non-specific that a hetero female reader can imagine into him the kind of guy she would want to date. (Think of the Disney princes: Phillip, Charming, Eric--very little personality there, which makes it easy to fall for them and write onto them our own ideas of perfection.) But by writing these neutral love interests, we run into the same problem as we do with those neutral main characters. We lose so much of what makes books amazing and powerful.
I'm a heterosexual female but I didn't fall in love with Harry Potter, and yet I still enjoyed the books. But then again, since he was the main character, was my job as a reader to identify with him, not fall in love with him?
What are we as readers supposed to do? Feel? Experience? Take away from a story?
When a book successfully writes a love interest who is "universal" enough that millions of readers can fall in love with him, that book has the potential to be a huge hit. But is that the only kind of book worth publishing? Is it the only kind of book worth reading? Can we enjoy and find worth in a book that doesn't give us a main character who easily reflects us back to ourselves and a love interest who we wouldn't fall for in real life?
One suggestion: toss out the term "am I supposed to" when talking about books. What that implies is you're trying to figure out what the writer intended you to think/feel and if they succeeded or failed. 90% of the time when I read what someone claims I was intending to do as an author, they're wrong. Trying to guess author's intent is a pointless exercise. This is no longer my book. This is your book now. You are the reader. You are the director of this movie in your head, of which I just wrote the script. You are in control. What do you want to get out of it? What do you learn about yourself by reading it? Are you seeing something a little differently than before? Are you experiencing a story you couldn't have come up with on your own? Are you entertained, interested, feeling and/or thinking something worthwhile? Are you different now than before?
By: Shannon Hale,
Blog: squeetus blog
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[for mature readers, please get your parent or guardian's approval to read if you're under 14]
Some recent events prompted me to look back on last year's discussions about rape culture and consent, and a followup post. Several people commented anonymously about a related matter that I think is really important. I'm going to repost some of those comments here. Some cultures and religions advocate for celilbacy before marriage. I completely respect and support those who make that choice, but there is the misconseption that celibacy=silence, that the decision to not have sex outside of marriage means one cannot even talk about sex outside of marriage. And often the taboo of communicating about sex extends into a marriage. This silence leads to misinformation, misunderstanding, and a sometimes crippling separation between spouses.
I personally want to advocate for parents having long, varied, open conversations with their children, both sons and daughters, about sex, consent, what it's about, how to communicate, how to listen to your partner, how sex is about the pleasure of your partner and when your partner is enjoying it, your own pleasure increases. And I'd also like to advocate for couples who are having problems to please open up that line of communication. Please go see a counselor together. It's not too late. There should be no stigma about seeing a marriage counselor. Marriage is weird! How on earth can two people maintain that close of a relationship over years and years when both are changing? We all need some outside, non-judgemental help sometimes.
By: Shannon Hale,
Blog: squeetus blog
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Thanks for your comments on the last post. The school district that banned my books also got rid of all their K-8 librarians. I see a correlation. I can't express enough how important librarians are. I've visited about 200 schools to do assemblies and writing workshops. Within a minute of meeting the librarian, I know exactly how the event will go. If the kids will be engaged, excited, and leave the assembly eager to go read a book, or if they'll half-ignore me as some other adult blabbing about nothing. The relationship the librarians has with the kids and the prep they do prior to the assembly is 50% of how it goes.
The librarian is the heart of the school, the center of literacy. I don't mean a book-checker-outer. I mean a Librarian. There are many library aides that are extraordinary and go above and beyond, but in my experience a fulltime, MLS-trained librarian is consistently phenomenal. They know books. They curate a library perfect for their school's population. They booktalk and get kids excited about reading. They match the right books to the right kids, which is the #1 key in turning a "non-reader" into a Reader. They know the school's curriculum and work with teachers to integrate the right books with what they're teaching. They organize literacy events.
Research shows: Kids who are confident readers have a chance to excel in any subject they face. Kids who aren't confident readers will struggle in most subjects. Teachers and parents don't have to be alone in this mission to engage kids with books. Again, librarians make all the difference.
Hug your librarian today! Do you have a fulltime librarian in your school? Write a note to the superintendent or district execs thanking them for valuing librarians! If you don't, maybe write a note expressing why you think it's important. They're often looking at numbers. If they don't understand the added value a Librarian brings, they'll just think, "Why hire a librarian with a master's degree to just check out books? We can get someone for that on minimum wage."
I could hire a lot of people to do something for minimum wage rather than a professional: like add a new electrical outlet in our garage, tile our bathroom floor, do my taxes, fix my car, set a broken bone, cut my hair. When something matters, when we want it done right the first time, when we value it, we get a professional. When we value children and literacy, we make an effort to staff our schools with professional librarians.
Dear librarians, teachers, parents, and readers,
I received this email from a school librarian. If you've had any experience with The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and/or Forest Born with elementary kids, could you leave a comment for him?
"The powers that be in my school district are not allowing your Books of Bayern series of books in our elementary school libraries, based largely on the fact the reviews in professional journals tend to view them as appropriate for grades 6 and up. I feel, however, that we are doing a disservice to those elementary school kids that are ready for your books. It would be extremely helpful if you could write a few words justifying keeping your books on the shelves in elementary school libraries."
By: Shannon Hale,
Blog: squeetus blog
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I promised to post every Monday this year and I'd been doing so well, but I kinda burned myself out in July doing the weekday posts. Summer is so wonderful! I love having the kids home! But at the same time, I have the kids home. Their presence makes it harder to get my work done. Summer is glorious and yet killer on word count.
This past week my spare attention has been absorbed in what's going on in Ferguson. Last Thursday I felt a disconnect between what the media was reporting and what the people on the grown were reporting through twitter, so I storified Antonio French's account. Feeling distant and helpless, all I feel I can do is help signal boost what people of Ferguson are saying. I'm frequently on twitter if you are too.
I've also been closely following the Amazon-Hachette news. As you may know, the two are in negotiations for new terms, and because Hachette hasn't been relenting to changes Amazon wants, it in turn is not stocking Hachette titles. My Ever After High books are published by Little, Brown, a division of Hachette. Authors are caught in the middle of this feud and many are hurting a lot. A Wonderlandiful World (my third Ever After High book) publishes a week from tomorrow. Amazon won't sell preorders of it. As Amazon accounts for 40-50% of book sales, their choice not to sell certain books is significant. I hope people who normally shop from Amazon exclusively will use this opportunity to support bookstores who are stocking these titles. This article links to an email Amazon sent to many of its customers as well as Hachette president's response.
I promise to have marvelous things to say here next week. And going forward there will be much book news and hopefully plenty of good discussions. Stay tuned!
I read through it speedily and didn't stop to write notes. It's often true for me that last chapters come quickly. If I get the rest of the story right, the last chapter usually feels natural and doesn't need as much revision as some. Looking back at my first draft, I'd gamble that the last chapter is the least changed of all of them. Then I go back and spend a year or two revising what came before, trying to lead up to and earn that final chapter.
I started this book years before getting pregnant for the first time and turned in the final draft exactly one week before giving birth to my first child.
My editor, Victoria Wells Arms, helped me hugely to shape this story. She read many drafts over a couple of years and gave me copious notes, which I used to help myself see the story objectively and make it stronger. Some think that editors just look at grammar, spelling, etc. That is a copy editor's job, who comes in at the end when there's a final draft. An editor like Victoria works with the author over the whole writing process and is essential for helping a book be the best it can. No author can work in a vacuum. A good editor makes all the difference. My husband, as always, was also a great in house editor and sounding board. In the acknowledgements I mention T.L. Trent. This is Tiffany Trent (author of The Unnaturalists), who I met in grad school. She read early drafts of both Enna Burning and Goose Girl.
Rachel says, "I loved the ending of Enna Burning; I think the whole 'learning each other's languages' twist at the end sums up the essence of reading. And also, great picture (the other one was great too, of course :)." Yes! It was important for me to make that work. I love themes! Yeah, I got a new author photo. It was time. The old one was several years, hairstyles, and children ago. I finally decided not to be lazy and get a new one when my 7yo saw the cover for Dangerous and said, "Mama, if you put that picture on the book people will think that's what you look like."
Ralsa asks, "If Enna had died at the end of this book, the events of River Secrets and Forest Born would've gone a lot differently, wouldn't they?" Definitely! If they'd have happened at all. I never wrote a version of Enna dying, but I always want to explore every possibility. If a writer always knows there's only one possible ending and considers no others, the text reflects that and the reader can't as easily imagine other endings either.
Thanks for taking this journey with me! This took a lot of my writing time this month so I don't know that I'll do it again, but it was rewarding for me to look back at this book.
Original ending: Enna gives up her powers entirely. That was what I was writing toward in the first draft, but I eventually discovered it wasn't the best story. I also considered ending it in her death.
Found this note I apparently never incorporated in the story: "Mimicbeetles introduced, mimic sounds of men or Finn coming."
The ceremony: I was always curious about these verses from Isaiah in the Old Testament (which is generally poetic and full of strange and interesting images):
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
This ceremony seemed like something the fire worshippers might believe in.
Wind and fire: In an early draft, my editor was not on board with the wind/fire solution. She thought I should change it to rain/fire. I thought it was working until her comment, which made me look closer and work harder. I decided not to take her exact advice but it was still helpful because she pushed me to make work what I wanted to have happen. I deleted most of it and rewrote the whole thing. And then again. And again. I overwrote and then deleted liberally. And then wove strings throughout the entire book that helped lead up to the moment when Isi and Enna teach each other their languages. And now it's 10x stronger. Reminds me of what others have said, "If someone says something's not working in your manuscript, they're always right. If they tell you how to fix it, they're always wrong." I don't like "always" but mostly I think that advice is true.
Nicole asks, "I was wondering what your favorite book is, outside of those which you've written?" I don't have a favorite book. I don't have a favorite anything. I like choices! But the first book that popped into my mind when you asked that is I Capture the Castle, which is a book I completely adored until the last page, and then I was so upset by the abrupt, unclosed ending that I couldn't deal. That book taught me a lot about what I love as a reader and what I don't. Highly recommend it for both reasons.
Eliza asks, "Sorry to hijack the Enna discussion, but I have another EAH question. Are Apple and Daring siblings?" No, that would be weird! Apple inherits her mother's story, but her father (the previous Prince Charming) doesn't have a son to inherit his. I explain more in a short story about Dexter that's coming out this fall in the Once Upon a Time collection, but the Charming family is huge, lots of branches, and there are plenty of prince charmings to take up those roles so there's no incest!
"silly songs about swimming rabbits and no-tailed squirrels": it occurs to me I should have had my husband write this song! He wrote the "bodiless piglet" song Tegus sings in Book of a Thousand Days. He also expanded the rap I wrote for Humphry in The Storybook of Legends and then wrote new raps for him in The Unfairest of Them All and A Wonderlandiful World. He's my go-to song writer! I should have made him write all those songs in the Princess Academy books. (I think he wrote part of one or two in the upcoming third book, actually.)
The journey south: I mentioned my love of fever dreams. Other things I love: journeys through wilderness. Love it. I feel very disappointed by high fantasy books that don't move, stay in one place. They feel stagnant to me. I want to wander, feel the landscape beneath me and around me, changing and threatening. Writing Book of a Thousand Days felt so risky to me because I knew I wanted to start the book inside the tower and stay there for some time.
"Over there!" After this book, Dean and I used to shout that to each other sometimes. I'd forgotten about that till I read this scene.
Yasid: Looking over my notes, I had so much more info about Yasid than I could use in the story. That's generally the case, I think. You use about 5% of your research. You need to rifle through the other 95% just to discover the 5% that you need. Here are some notes I took:
"The Magi were the priests of the Persians, kept fire and ash upon an altar and without them no sacrifice could be made. Believed that sun, fire, and light were emblems of Ormuzd and sources of all light and purity. Worshiped fire not as separate being but symbol, embodiment. Worshipped on mountaintops, not in temples. Magi connected with astrology and enchantment. Ancient Zoroastrians forced to give up their religion, some refused and fled to the deserts of Kerman and to Hindustan. Arabs call them Guebers from Arabic word meaning unbelievers. Fire is still adored as the symbol of divinity. “Lalla Rookh” = “Fire Worshippers”.
Audrey asks, "Shannon what is your favorite Bayern book-inspired fan creation? (example: clothing/ cosplay, objects, art)" There are so many wonderful things! Sometimes people will email me photos, Halloween costumes, art. I love the watercolor paintings some have done.
Nicole asks, "I was just thinking that, since my favorite book is Enna Burning, what is your favorite book?" I couldn't choose. They really do feel like my children.
Eliza asks, "In The Storybook of Legends, the Narrator makes a passing reference to "the goose girl's daughter" attending Ever After High a year ahead of Raven. Does this mean...sister for Tusken? At least in your head? Or is it just a nod to your Bayern fans?" Yes! You're the first person to ask me about that. It's really just a nod. The Goose Girl and Ever After High take place in totally different worlds, so I don't think she'd literally be Ani's daughter.
Just two more chapters!
"So she laughed." I remember a moment in Hero & the Crown where Aerin is so distracted by a rash on her neck from plant sap that her wizard uncle can't quite make her afraid or enchanted with his words. That real detail stuck with me. A physical thing. A mundane thing in the midst of magic and drama. Those are good story choices. I can't remember now if I was thinking of that when I wrote this scene, but perhaps. Here what keeps Enna grounded is a laugh. A realization of the absurd. That works for me in real life too.
"Enna-girl": This is the nickname Razo calls her. In this scene, I think it's interesting that she gets strength by thinking of herself the way that Razo sees her, not the way Sileph sees her. Or even Isi or Finn. The laugh. The ridiculous. The absurd. And...I think I just broke a rule about not trying to interpret my own story for you. Hopefully you'll forgive me this once. As much as I don't want to place myself as the Voice of Authority, it might be interesting to know that writers like me think very, very carefully about word choices, connotations, layers. That stuff English teachers make us analyze.
Sileph: I wouldn't mind if some readers fell in love with him a little bit. Some don't like him from the beginning (my husband always thought he was a douchebag) but some, like Enna did, might fall for him. I don't think Sileph is pure evil. I do think he loved Enna in his way. I think it's tough to have people-speaking. I can understand and feel for him, but I also wouldn't want him anywhere near me or my daughters. I hope some readers did fall for him and when they got to this point, were able to take a step back with Enna, and say, that was an abusive relationship. That is not the kind of person I want in my life.
"Then there was wind." Gives me chills. I know I wrote it, but if my own writing doesn't affect me emotionally then it fails. I work at it till it does.
The other day we were outside. The weather was uncanny, dark and crackling. The wind was blowing. My hair beat around my head and rose up. I turned to my husband and said, "This is what I am, Sileph! This is what I am!" (teehee) But I honestly love dramatic moments. If I could paint, this is the scene I would paint, Enna in this moment.
Finn!: as I recall, this wasn't in the original draft. I believe it was my husband's suggestion. He thought Sileph was a douchebag. And he always identified with Finn. I think he wanted to vicariously punch Sileph in the face.
Rebecca says, "I feel like this chapter specifically juxtaposes Isi's trip from Kildenree to Bayern. The betrayal she experienced on the first trip versus the bonding and growth of their friendship in the second." Yeah that's a nice thought. I wrote Forest Born in contrast with The Goose Girl too. I hope any of my books can be read alone, but I think FB means so much more if paired with GG.
Nicole asks, "I read that you weren't going to write another book of Bayern, but if or hopefully when you do, do you think you would write it about a character we already know or introduce someone new, like Rin?" I currently have no plans to write another book of Bayern. If I came back to this land one day, perhaps it would be in the future and tell the story of Tusken when he's grown.
Anna asks, "I've always wondered how you pronounced Anidori." However you like! Most say "Ah-ni-dorry" or "Annie-dorry"
I'm back from a wonderful time at San Diego Comic-con and ready to get back to work!
Part 4: Friend: Here's where the structure of this story gets really unusual, I think. There is still a quarter of the book left, but Enna ending the war would have been a traditional climax. Some readers might expect no more than a denouement here. Our brains are trailed to expect that story structure, which I totally appreciate. But I wanted to tell a slightly different story. So we head into the final quarter.
Fever dreams: I mentioned my love for fever dreams?
These two lines always stay with me:
"It was war."
"I was me."
Yasid: For words in their language, I borrowed from Guarani, a language indigenous to Paraguay. "Tata" means "fire" (accent on the second vowel). As well, the tea Isi drinks that smells like "seeped hay" is my feeling about mate, a drink I often had in Paraguay. I prefer mate dulce (with milk and sugar) or terere (yerba mate with cold water and ice and often mint or other herbs) to traditional mate. With apologies to mate purists. :)
AH! Sileph again! What will that man do next?
Catherine says, "This has nothing to do with the book club, but I thought you would like to know. I visited Jane Austen's home today (which was absolutely amazing) today and I overheard the cashier in the gift shop giving a raving review of Austenland, the movie. Congratulations! You've made it back to the motherland!" Ha! That's awesome.
Nicole asks, "Are Isi and Enna based off people you know or did they just spring to life in your wonderful mind?" Thank you! I rarely base characters off real people. They develop as I write the story. A character is what they say, do, think, and until I write I can't see that. I thought I knew Enna when I wrote The Goose Girl, but not till this book did I realize I'd only scratched her surface. You may notice she seems slightly different in all the Books of Bayern, because we're seeing her through other characters' points-of-view.
Lynn asks, "Do you think of a character and then name them or do you start with a name? I don't know why but I pronounce Enna's name as Eena or Ina." I say "Eh-na" but I don't mind if anyone says it differently. I met a baby named Enna once (after my character I believe) and recently someone named a baby Isilee (which is a name I made up, as far as I know).
Eliza says, "Last time I read this book, it was about struggling with a problem no one else could see and conquering your inner demons. And now it's about friendship! Haha, you tricky book, changing on me like that." Yay! I love that about books, how they change with you.
No one can relate to Enna's actual position at the beginning of this chapter, but I believe we've experienced times when there seemed to be no options. When we were trapped by the choices we'd made and the circumstances we were in. Inside those moments, all can seem impossible. As I hope it seems so now in the story. Impossible. She is truly trapped.
The catalyst for change: Isi. Always Isi. She changes nothing except perspective. I think sometimes that's all we need. Not for someone to take away all our problems but just help us turn a bit, see a slightly different way out. Isi was raised on stories, and so that's what she can offer. A story. I feel the same. I can't reach back to every reader who reaches out to me with letters and requests and needs for friendship or mentorship. I can't find every person who is lonely or afraid or trapped by people who don't have their best interests at heart or stuck in their own mistakes or sad or desperate or yearning. But I can offer a story. That's what this book is for me. A story like the one Isi tells Enna. And hopefully it will reach the right people in the right way. Hopefully the right reader can take what they need from it and turn just a little bit, see the path they hadn't seen before.
But--oh! After weeks in that tent, as horrible as this chapter is, I'm so relieved when she starts escaping in the camp.Run, Enna, run!
Stories are characters. Characters are their relationships. With others as well as with themselves. Everything in this story matters because of Enna's friendships with Isi, Razo, and Finn. Can you imagine this story without them? If you're story is stuck, look closely at the relationships. Which need to be strengthened? More important? Can you add a friendship/sibling/parent-child relationship that will matter to the story?
Anna asks, "If the Goose Girl was a movie, who would you want to play Ani and Enna?" I truly have no idea. Who would you pick?
Lizza asks, "Are any of the characters in Enna Burning LGBTQ+?" The text doesn't specifiy but surely there must be. 5-10% of the population in the US identify as LGBTQ, so it's reasonable to assume that at least 5% of a book's population as well. I've had readers email me that they read Enna's fire-speaking as a metaphor for their own homosexuality, which I hadn't intended but I love how fantasy can create metaphors to speak to everyone's own experiences. Telling the story of characters who are LGBTQ is not something I've done yet (there are so, so many stories I haven't done yet!) but if you're looking for recommendations, I love authors like Holly Black, Malinda Lo, Libba Bray, A.S. King, Maureen Johnson, and David Levithan. A couple recent books I've loved featuring LGBTQ characters are Smile by Raina Telgemeier and Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. The Stonewall Book Awards also provide an excellent list.
I'm off to Comic-con and won't be able to blog again until Monday. Thank you, readers!
Sileph and Enna: some are upset by this relationship, but it occurs to me how important stories are, how a distanced reader can see and understand things that a character can't. And in turn, that helps us take a step back from ourselves and see and understand ourselves better. How many people have been in a relationship like Enna's with Sileph but couldn't see it for what it was?
"You lying son of a goat." Feel free to use this at need. You have my permission.
Someone close to me had a hard time with this book, and it occurred to me that she had never made any big mistakes. Maybe it's uncomfortable for those who have lived a quiet kind of life to try to empathize with a character like Enna.
A note to myself in an earlier draft: "What are Sileph's motivations? Does he really love her?" I came to my own conclusion in later drafts but since the text doesn't specifically say I'll let you decide for yourself.
Rebecca asks, "Would you rather have this series adapted into movies or a TV show ...or neither if you had the choice?" Ooh, wouldn't a Game of Thrones style miniseries be wonderful? If done well. But I highly doubt any of the Bayern books will ever be made into a movie. The Goose Girl was optioned years ago. And I remember (about 7 years ago?) someone shopping it around as a potential vehicle for a young actress. Obviously nothing happened. It's very rare that any book is optioned for a potential movie, and of those that are, maybe 10% actually are made into one. The only power a writer has in the matter is to wait, and if someone asks, to say yes or no. That's it.
Viola says, "Haha, they definitely have stood up to many rereads--with me, at the least. They're my go-to books for when I've got nothing else to read. I've lost count of how many times I've read each one. Each time, they feel like old friends and new adventures all at once. I'll never grow out of them." Thank you! Someone who read a draft of the last book in the Princess Academy trilogy (not out yet - next spring) said that reading it felt like coming home. I feel that way too when I write these characters.
Sileph: It's hard to talk about this book without giving spoilers for those who haven't finished it yet! But...Sileph, man. Sileph.
Looking over one draft's notes (I don't know which draft except that it was in November 2002), I marked to make clearer that Sileph was a foil for Finn. He's an interesting character to me. I genuinely loved writing him, even if I was so uncomfortable putting Enna in his power.
Other draft notes:
What is going on in this section? Must use it to move forward 3 plot lines:
1. grows farther away from Bayern and Isi
2. learns to consciously love S and contrast with F
3. relationship with fire—must learn more about it, learn to control or give into it
Whew. These chapters are all so intense for me! I've said before, I don't think I could have written this book when I had children. I'm so much more sensitive now, I couldn't have lived inside this story for so long.
Viola asks, "Is it possible for you to pick a favorite book out of the Bayern books? ;D" Nope! Like picking a favorite child. The mood of this one is quite different from the others. But I'm fond of them all. They were all extremely hard books to write. I poured my everything into each one, hoping they would stand up to many rereads.
Anna asks, "I ADORE this UK cover for Enna Burning. I'm partial to the older painted ones as well, but I've had trouble finding them. Would any stores still carry those older covers, or is my best bet to scour the internet some more?" I love the Alison Jay covers too! The US hardcovers are still in print and have these covers. I know my local store The King's English keeps them in stock. Or any bookstore can special order them if they don't have them on the shelves. Forest Born has a special edition cover with the Alison Jay artwork.
Eliza asks, "You've made a few references to your sisters in recent posts. How many do you have?" Enna Burning is dedicated to my three sisters Melissa, Katie, and Jessica.
(ps. I have a book announcement on my tumblr page)
Chapter 12 was so intense for me, I'm almost shy to read chapter 13. Ay, what authors do to their poor characters...
The king's-tongue: Ugh, what a nightmare. I don't enjoy anything that alters my mind or body chemically. I don't drink alcohol and have had very bad experiences any time I've taken prescription pain killers or valium after surgery. One time I took half an Ambien and felt wretched (also I hallucinated--yuck). I despise feeling out of control of my own body. This would be horrible for me, as I know it is for Enna too.
Ingridan: When I wrote this description, I didn't yet know we'd be going there in the next book. I didn't yet know there would be a next book.
Razo and Finn!: No! I'm so sorry, boys, I don't want you to be prisoners too. It's uncomfortable for me to stop reading here. I want to keep going and going until I'm sure they'll be safe. I hope they'll be safe!
Rebecca asks, "Did you get any backlash from the scene with the soldier? What was Sileph's reason for coming back to her tent?" I'm sure I did. I get lots of upset emails for all my books. Such a scene does (and should) illicit strong reactions from people. But I felt like the story wouldn't be honest if Enna didn't feel herself in such danger in her current situation. I hesitate to say why I think Sileph did what he did. I know, but if it's not in the text I'd rather people decide for themselves.
Laurie says, "This makes me want to re-read Enna Burning. I haven't felt that way in years because it was an agonizingly beautiful book that hurt me a bit to read. So much pain. So much loss. So much danger and complication." I'm sorry. It is all those things for me too. But I am grateful I was able to write it and I am glad it exists. "How long before we get a summer book club on Maisie Danger Brown?" Not any time soon, but I'm so glad you want one! I love that girl.
Nicole asks, "if Enna and Ani were both real people (even though you said they are real to you) which you would get along with better- hard-headed Enna or strong Ani/Isi?" Honestly I think I'd love them both. I've always enjoyed having different kinds of friends. I'm a middle child, a balancer, and tend to get along with different personalities. Diversity of all sorts is wonderful to me.
By: Shannon Hale,
Blog: squeetus blog
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Part 3: Prisoner: Whew! Okay, let's do this. I think this part can be uncomfortable and intense for some, so feel free to hold hands if you need to.
Enna's dream: I love weird, fever dreams (if they don't go on too long). I had more fever dreams in Goose Girl early draft with young Ani sick but later cut it. But I think the image of the birds flying and breaking a mirror sky I stole from those cuts. "Cornstalks sprouted ears of fire, and the fields caught it and burned green." I love that.
The imperfect heroine: I think it's a lot easier for readers to root for Ani in Goose Girl than Enna. I think especially with female characters we're more comfortable with the good girl who stuff happens to, who shows courage in the face of terrific obstacles that aren't her fault, than we are with the girl who makes big mistakes. I think both kinds of heroines are valid.
Sileph: Man, this chapter...I don't even know what to say about this chapter except it does what I hoped it would do. Reading it now, I feel what I think Enna is feeling. She is complicated. He is complicated. Life is complicated.
Looking at rewrite notes for one draft, I have a full page of notes on parts 1,2,&4, but only two lines for part 3: "Need to see the progression continue here, the yearning becomes much stronger, due to the king’s-tongue and then the long times when she is forced to keep it in against her will" I wonder if this section was easier for me to write for some reason, or at least her arc and sequence of events made sense from an earlier draft, so I didn't have as much revision.
Writing the first draft, it was around this point, Enna a prisoner in a tent, I had to put the book on hold for some time. My husband and I had both lost our jobs in the recession. I was revising The Goose Girl (which I’d sold but the amount was very small, not enough to live on even for a couple of months) while we were both job hunting. I found work first and so went off to work again as an Instructional Designer. Working full time and editing Goose Girl nights, I had little time for Enna Burning. Eventually GG was done and I got back to Enna, finally rescuing her from that tent!
Melissa asks, "I love listening to audio books especially the Books of Bayern and of course Austenland. As an author do you have any say in the cast or the sound of each book?" No I don't. Full Cast Audio has always been so kind and will consult me on pronunciations of names or my opinion about a male or a female narrator, but I'm not directly involved. Which is fine.
Research: Like most writers I suspect, I always do more research than I actually need. Looking through my notes, I researched fire in myth and folklore from dragons (firedrakes) to Jinn (offspring of fire), as well as the science of fire and how it works in order to come up with fire-speaking. I also have notes on Zoroastrianism as well as life in earlier centuries and things like food. Here are some food notes I took from somewhere:
ballock broth, brawn, roast squirrel, capon-neck pudding, tripe, buttered worts, apple mousse, sheep’s milk cheese, bread & butter pudding flavored with marigold, pears stewed in honey & vinegar, plates of hard bread, hot griddle bread
Revision notes from some earlier draft for part 2: "We don’t have enough sense of internal change, from the first tent --> gallows, we should see how her self control diminishes, both growing and letting go (surrender)
"See her scared and weak moments. The burning is manic—have foil scenes where she’s frightened, not everything on such a grand (war) scale, but also personal, losing her friend, Keep her human, inhuman with fire, see human, vulnerable
"Look at sections where she’s gone back on a promise, make sure she’s progressively worse each time, max. 3-4 breaks before capture, punctuate them, get the sense after telling Razo that she’s broken 2, accumulating broken promises, be aware, reflect, wonder am I slipping? Need to justify them, reader should detect that the justification is getting weaker as she goes along (gallows, justify before going)
"Mourn losing Isi, decide that it’s too late to go back, she has to give up everything to see this through, something the augury did not warn her, she has to be the sacrifice
"May even realize at the end that she’s lost it, must be close to where Leifer was when he burned her, or when he burned himself, but also the weight of the augury and her mission compels her to continue"
What strikes me most about reading those notes and reading this chapter is how different a book is from an idea. The notes are full of ideas, but they're not a story. I think sometimes people think the idea is what matters most, but most important is how you tell it. One reason why it's torurous for writers to write a plot synposis. The story isn't the sum of events, it's the words used to tell them.
Eliza asks, "What are some other weird reader theories you've heard for any of your books?" I've heard lots. I never mind when people bring their own interpretations to the book, but I do mind when people insist I had some particular agenda that I didn't. Ah, how many worry that I am out to corrupt the youths!
Viola asks, "do you have to approve all of the cover art or does your publisher handle that?" In the US, I am consulted on cover art, though it's up to the publisher. Outside the US I am not consulted and just see it after it's published (if even then).
Leilani says, "Also, I think had (have) a teensy crush on Finn... (So much butterflies!)" Me too :) I have to fall in love with all my characters in order to feel enough to write. In this book, I fell in love with Enna, Isi, Geric, Finn, Razo, and Sileph.
Raiding the taken towns: This was always part of the story, but this section underwent so many revisions. I remember my sisters reading an earlier draft of this book and then a final draft. Both said that they couldn't tell what I'd changed but that it read better now. Often revision is like that. Subtle reorganizing, changes at the sentence level. Sometimes most of the events of the book stay the same from one draft to the next and yet 10-50% of the words themselves change. I can stumble on the right events of the story early on and yet not figure out the right words to tell those events until a final draft.
The metaphor of fire: While writing the book, I was aware that Enna's fire power could be a metaphor for various things, but I was careful not to force that metaphor. I concentrated on trying to be true to the logic of the story. What would it be like, in the world I created, to speak the language of fire? What would that feel like? What would be the consequences? The magic of fantasy allows readers to bring their own experience, create their own metaphor. I've received emails from people who asked me if I intended to have the fire a metaphor for drug addiction, sex addiction, divorce, adoption, mental illness, disability, and spiritual sin. If I'd forced the fire to be a metaphor for one thing, I would have prevented those readers from finding what they needed in the story.
Enna and Razo: In movies, especially for children, it seems to me there cannot be a male and female character who are remotely close without there being either a love affair or sexual tension. I think this is ridiculous. I have no problem believing Enna and Razo are friends and there's no awkwardness between them. A girl's purpose is not to be a love interest for every single male character on screen. She can just be. Same with the male characters.
Tales: I've enjoyed making up the fairytales of Bayern. There are some in Goose Girl too. I'd thought once about writing them all and making a little book of Bayern fairytales.
Finn in the tent: You may have noticed, I am a romantic, especially my self that I am channeling through this book. And I sometimes think this entire book is worth this one scene. It's a testament that no writing is ever wasted. In college I wrote a short story called The Sand Hill Gathering. It was a contemporary story, the setting like a Rainbow Gathering. In it a girl and a boy who have known each other for years but never been close end up sharing a tent, and he whispers in the night the same words Finn does. That other story was crap, but it brought me to a scene, an idea, that I re-purposed for this book.
Anna asks, "Did it ever annoy you to have Razo push for his own story?" I don't remember ever being annoyed by Razo. His presence always solved problems for me, not created them. That he was a character worthy of his own story and able to carry it was a relief.
Rebecca asks, "Where does the heat/flame come from in her chest? Does everyone (in the Bayern world) have an ability to learn that or are there only a select few born with the possibility?" In the book Enna believes some are born with the ability but have to be taught how to use it. I hesitate to get into the anatomy and details of it unless it's in the book. If it's not there, I'd rather readers decide for themselves.
A friend just texted me that while at girls' camp this week sitting around the campfire, on at least two occasions she heard girls mention Enna Burning. I spent a lot of time watching fire, finding new ways to describe it. I remember writing in Princess Academy after finishing this book in which there was a bonfire and I automatically started to delve into the description, giving the fire a gravitas that the scene didn't require before catching myself.
Hesel: I like her name. I always wished she could be a bigger character so I could write her name more.
Enna's rules: This was an important point in the story for me. The augury is a catalyst for her action. But she defines rules for herself to keep from going too far. Will she be able to keep them?
Alone outside on a winter night: There is something so poetic about this situation to me, transcendental even. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. That feeling of life and stillness, wonder in being somewhere inhospitable and the danger of it too. Magical, silent.
Enna burns: I can't help but read this book like an author, examining my choices, and so far I approve. (that's a relief) I see this chapter as an essential step in the story's and Enna's arc. It's hard for me sometimes to risk analyzing the book, explaining each choice and why it had to happen, but I don't want to go down that rabbit hole.
This chapter was getting so dark...and then Razo! Hooray for Razo! He brings hope, a laugh, and a companion. Even the darkest books need moments of victory, some reason for the reader to hope, to care.
Catherine asks, "I've always found Enna and Finn an interesting pair, because they are so different. You mentioned before that in an earlier draft Enna was already married. Was she married to Finn or someone else? What made you bring Enna and Finn together? Was it always going to be that way?" I can't remember. There was the beginnings of something between Enna and Finn in The Goose Girl, but the note I had about Enna being married I made before I'd ever written a final draft of Goose Girl, and before it sold as young adult book. I never wrote a draft with her married, it was just a note in an outline.
Lindsey asks, "at the beginning of the chapter we learn that unlike Enna and the rest of Bayern, Isi does not necessarily believe that the augury will determine the outcome of the war. Although Enna points out that such things might only have power in Bayern. Do you believe that, within the bounds of Bayern, the augury really does have magical powers over the outcome of the war? Or is it just an old superstition, which by some fluke may or may not prove to be accurate (maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing)?" I purposefully didn't decide. I thought as the narrator I had to remain impartial. I know that Enna believed it and Isi did not, and I would not pick sides. Maybe that sounds silly but I made a real effort to keep myself from deciding what was true.
I really appreciate all your comments! Thank you! What wonderful readers you are to write for.
Enna & Leifer: First, I misspelled Leifer's name the first time I just wrote it. And then the second time. You'd think I could spell my own character's names. I had a twitter discussion recently about what a terrible speller I am.
Anyway, the beginning of this chapter reminds me about how important relationships are in a story (and life!). A character is, fundamentally, their relationships with others. No one lives in a vacuum. This conversation would have gone very differently if Ani had been Leifer's sister, or anyone. If ever I feel like I'm losing understanding of who my character is, I put them in a conversation with another character and develop their relationship. Even if I don't keep that conversation, it's instructive to me in understanding.
"smarts in your head like there's fire in a flint": I think this is a paraphrase of an idea I read in a Shakespeare play. I can't remember which one!
"Embo's been cutting and storing wood for our house for a year": A small detail, but one I wouldn't have known if I'd tried to write this book 10 years earlier. It wasn't till I lived in Paraguay that I learned that people who build houses outside a bank and mortgage system would gather and store materials for years before beginning. I wanted to be a writer since I was 10, but I personally believe a person needs some life experience as well as time to develop the craft before getting good at it.
The orange egg of the omen: In the outline, I hadn't thought to include Razo. But he always worms his way in. In the first draft, he didn't show up till later chapter, almost as an afterthought. But as the story continued, he became more and more important. So as I revised, I thought I should introduce him earlier. And in a memorable way. Looking back at Goose Girl and the pranks Enna and Razo used to play on each other gave me this idea.
Isi: In Goose Girl, the narrator referred to her as Ani, since Isi was her alias she only named to the forest workers well into the book. But this is from Enna's POV, and I decided that Enna would think of her as Isi, and then so should the narrator.
Anna asked, "I've always wondered why Leifer wanted the fire speaking!!" I don't think he could know what it was when he read the vellum. Once he learned the secret, he gained the ability. It's the nature of fire to want to survive, to spread. I hesitate ever to interpret my books for people. I don't want to be the authorial voice of authority, so I won't say much more but pipe up anyone else if you have an idea.
Ratger: Looking over my first draft, instead of meeting Isi in the market, Enna went to the palace and had to wait in the marketday queue for those wanting to see the king. She's belligerent and gets turned away until Ratger sees her and lets her in. I liked Ratger from Goose Girl and intended to make him a larger character in this book. But Razo won the right for a more major role, and the story moved away from Ratger in later drafts.
So much cut: And I keep looking through this first draft, realizing how much I deleted. That's common for me. I can't ever find the right story the first time through. For every 300 page book I publish, I've deleted another 900 pages of material. Just because I typed some words doesn't mean they're worth reading. I need to always keep myself open to trying it a different way.
the treasury: this scene reminded me of something I'd read as a child. I'm having a hard time remembering. Maybe it was from Prince Caspian? Or perhaps a scene in Hero & the Crown. Anyway, everything I've ever read is in my brain somewhere and inspires what I write.
Isi is not superstitious: She's a very practical thinker. Enna is the opposite.
Avlado: The name of Isi's horse. The word "Falada" means "spoken" in Portugues, and Avlado is a play on "hablado" which is "spoken" in Spanish.
Anna asks, "Did Isi have a bond with Avlado like she did with Falada?" Yes, she did. Is that right? Honestly it's been so many years since I last read Enna Burning I can't remember if the bond was a little different.
Rebecca says, "Personally, I think Embo sounds like a great future husband. They are young and he is already responsible enough to have the foresight to provide for his bride." I agree! I'm much more practical than Enna is.
Carlie asks, "How do you make up character names that feel so real and represent so well where the person is from?" The Bayern names I took from lists of old German names. The Forest names I wanted to have a similar feel, so I just found names (and made up some) that felt right. There's a passage in Forest Born about how the Forest names tend to rhyme and alliterate.
The Forest: Yesterday I went up a canyon here in Utah to make campfire tinfoil dinners with my family. We hiked up slender trails that crisscrossed the mountainside, completely in the shade of the close growth evergreen forest, dark trunks and gray-green spines. The ground was thick with the pale green of low-light plants, some sprayed with tiny white flowers. My niece had just finished reading The Goose Girl in a hammock. I told her that the mountain forest here was what I'd visualized when writing Bayern's Forest. Reading this chapter here reminds me of that again, "the groaning, beating, swaying, and creaking voice of the forest."
Geric calls the hundredbands: As I read this, I find I can't remember anymore the process, why hundred-bands (was it research? The Roman historian Tacitus's writings on Germania?). Did this scene of a prince calling to the Forest people invoke in my mind a scene from another book? A piece of history? Did I make it up from nothing? Some things I recall and some I don't. I know a (much different) version of this was in the first draft so this scene always felt important to me.
I found that Shakespeare quote! It's from Trollius and Cressida: "'There were wit in this head, an 'twould out;'
and so there is, but it lies as coldly in him as fire
in a flint, which will not show without knocking."
Enna's age: just read a note that originally I thought her age 22-25. This was in the first draft before Goose Girl sold as a children's book. I'd thought Ani originally 19 when she left home. I changed that to 16 I think. And my editor advised me instead of Enna Burning taking place 5 years after Goose Girl it was only two years in order to keep them teenagers. When I was writing The Goose Girl and then the first draft of Enna Burning, I was unfamiliar with young adult literature, which had sprung up in the decade after I graduated from high school, so I thought I was writing fantasy novels for adults, although I remember thinking that I wanted to write something that I would have loved from ages 10-16 (my best reading years) as well.
Libby asks, "How come Conrad is cut completely from Enna Burning?I mean he did play an important part during the good girl, and then just magically appears again in river secrets." He went the way of Ratger, Gilsa, and others. Razo and Finn were so important to this story, others like Conrad just couldn't be squeezed in. I know many were fond of him and wanted more of his story. I've had many requests for a Conrad book. But so far he just hasn't been as insistent to me for a story as, for example, Razo was.
Elsbet asks, "You said you based the names in your book mainly on German names, yet both Enna and Finn are Gaelic, did you do that purposefully, or not?" I found most of the Bayern names on lists of medieval German names. Names tend to float around, be traded between languages and cultures. Mostly I chose them because I liked how they sounded and they felt "Forest" to me.
Jess-ica asks, "I noticed when reading Enna Burning again that in this book it says she's 16 and Isi is 18/19 (2 years after GG where she was 16). In Goose Girl I always assumed they were the same age. Was there a particular reason for having Enna younger? Was she younger in your mind in Goose Girl too? Is 18 considered too old for a YA main character?" Yes, exactly. That was an editorial decision and one I didn't mind changing. People mature at such different rates (especially girls) that I was comfortable making her younger.
Rebecca says, "I love scenes with Geric and Isi. How comfortable they are with each other and how you can tell that as happy as Isi is to see Enna it's not until Geric enters that Isi relaxes. I feel the same way with my husband. Everything is just better when he is there...even if he is messing up the words to one of my favorite songs. ;-)" This chapter has some nice little bits between Isi and Geric. Even though this book isn't their story, I think it's nice to see where they are now, two years later.
Audrey on the last line of chapter 3: "now that I've read the book through more than once the last line is even more steeped in its intended uncomfortable-ness. It reminds me of things to come, and I involuntarily shudder at the memories more NOW then I did the first time I read the book." Foreshadowing! Foreshadowing! There is a pleasure in rereading a book, isn't there? One reason I do as many drafts as I do is for the rereaders. Honestly a 3rd or 4th draft of my books might be as enjoyable to most readers as my 12th draft, but it takes 12+ to polish a story down to each word so that it stands up to the scrutiny of the noble rereaders!
Isi: Some readers of Goose Girl have told me they were disappointed in Isi's portrayal in this book. She found a strength in Goose Girl and in this book she seemed weak. But she never seemed weak to me. She has power, and sometimes there are consequences to power. But I still find her remarkable.
Enna's brother: Ooh, found some early notes that had Enna’s husband (instead of her brother Leifer) discovering the vellum and fire-speaking. Interesting! I’d forgotten that originally I’d thought she got married and moved back to the Forest. Now I can’t imagine it that way.
The first battle: I think originally I thought this scene would be the midpoint of the book, but I have an outline that splits it into the four parts it is now, so I think I realized before too long that this battle was the catalyst for Enna's story, not the midpoint.
The king: I know we didn't know him well, but I was very sad to lose him. He didn't die in my original outline, but he does in the first draft. A story must always raise the stakes, make the choices that will most challenge the main characters.
War: The descriptions of killing are a bit brutal. But in a book about war, I don't want to be responsible for glamorizing violence. This book has been criticized for being too graphic. It may be for some, and I totally respect that response. But I'd rather err on the side of truth. War is graphic. I don't think the description is sensationalized. If anything, I resisted going into too much detail.
The ending of this chapter gave me chills. If I don't have a reaction to the writing, I can't expect my readers to. Enna Burning is probably my most dramatic book. I was an exquisitely dramatic and romantic teenager. This story really speaks to that part of me. I dug in and went all out. I know this book made many uncomfortable, being too dark for some. Those who told me that, however, were all adults, usually mothers. I finished the final draft of this book before I gave birth to my first child (literally one week before) and I’ve wondered how different this book might have ended up if I’d been a more sensitive, less dramatic mother when I wrote this, rather than a young woman channeling my teen self.
Lily asks, "Would you say research is always vital when writing a novel? I have a hard time knowing where to look for what I want, so tend to push research aside." Yes, it's always vital. I tend to do minimal research before I begin. After I have a draft or two, I do more research, allowing the needs of my story to direct the research. I don't write non-fiction or historical fiction, where the research directs the story.
Part Two: Warrior: Like Goose Girl, Enna is split into parts, though four instead of three. I have them in my robust outline (the one that I made as I worked, more in detail than my original). I felt the story arranging itself into these parts and wanted to call that out with the part names Sister, Warrior, Prisoner, and Friend.
Lyrical language: When Goose Girl came out, several reviews praised its "lyrical language." I was finishing up Enna Burning at the time and the reviews made me nervous. Somehow I had managed to write lyrical language in Goose Girl and people would expect that in Enna Burning too. But I didn't think this book was lyrical and was sure everyone would be disappointed. Reading this chapter, I think I was always a lyrical writer and just didn't know it till the reviewers said it.
Fire: I spent so much time thinking about fire, observing it, reading about it, watching flames. After writing Goose Girl, I thought I knew what fire-speaking would be, but not till I was writing the story did I have to really work it out in detail and understand. I like to be able to believe that whatever is magical in my books is actually possible.
Enna & Isi: I hope everyone has a friend like Enna at their side.
Recently I read an article that bemoaned the lack of female friendships in YA literature. I thought through all my books and couldn't come up with one that didn't have at least one strong female friendship, as well as male friendships and female/male friendships. I didn't do this intentionally. I hadn't thought about it before, but clearly friendship must be important to me.
Enna's fire-speaking: I'm curious, in this chapter are you rooting for Enna to give in and embrace the fire-speaking or are you rooting for her to resist it?
The Tiran tent: Whew! That was exciting. I'd forgotten about that scene. I liked it when she booted the soldier in the head. Does that make me bad?
Eliza says, "One time I told my brother to read a story of mine "until you get bored". Forty nine pages in, he handed it back. "I'm bored now." I read over that page and realized he'd stopped at the first death scene. Gasp! What was I thinking, letting my sweet eleven year old brother read a book with a gory decapitation scene? When I asked him why he stopped, he told me, "Only one person dies in the first fifty pages. Usually someone dies in the prologue."" When adults worry about too much violence in children's books, I appreciate their concerns. I'm not a fan of violence. But I also think children read stories differently than adults with experience. They don't visualize the violence. It doesn't enter them. Books are gentler that way than movies. Our minds only show us what we already understand.
Carlie says, "I gave birth to my first baby six months ago, and I can't now read certain things without becoming emotionally invested (and often crying). My husband has suggested I stop reading the news. (And why did I think it was a good idea to reread "Walk Two Moons"?)" Yeah, I'm the same. Much more sensitive after children. Any child that gets hurt is my own.
Anna asks, "What was your favorite part about writing Enna Burning?" Honestly? The burning. It was fun to find the words for it. Also the relationships: Enna with Isi, Finn, and Razo.
Audrey says, "Finn is a wonderful character and I love how he's one of the Forest Born shown to understand what a battle means. The contrast between him and the younger boys playing at swords is stark; I can only imagine what sort of things were going through his mind during this chapter." Yeah, those boys playing swords before their first battle kinda killed me, but it also felt so true. Thanks about Finn. As a writer, I should be able to write the entire novel from any of the character's POVs. I should understand all the characters enough that the reader can guess what the others are thinking, imagine their internal story, even if I don't reveal it.
Enna as warrior: Looking back at my first draft, I didn't have Enna's encounter with the Tiran scouts from last chapter or this scene with Finn and Razo practicing swordplay. A scene like it took place later. This section was the most difficult of all the book, though the book generally was a tough nut to crack. But figuring out Enna's arc in part 2 was tricky, how the power builds, what events help shape it, how she feels about and reacts to those events, where her relationships are with the others.
My sister died in a car accident just over 11 years ago. (I was probably on draft 6 or 8 of Enna Burning at the time.) It was rough, and a month later Dean and I took a last minute trip to Thailand. I needed a change of scenery. For the whole week I managed not to think about much. But I remember in the airport waiting to fly home, sitting down with a notebook and talking through with Dean the events of part 2, trying to break these chapters, figure out what needed to happen and when. I'd rested. I was still heartbroken. But I was ready to start writing again. Rewriting is problem solving. I couldn't bring back my sister. But I could solve this problem.
It's hard to explain why some books are trickier than others. Sometimes I just start wrong (Calamity Jack). Sometimes the character is so quiet, she takes a long time to tell me what her story really is (Forest Born). Often it's because I'm trying to write a book I don't know how to write yet. Enna Burning is not a traditional structure. Although I'm playing with some strong archetypes, it's not quite like any other book I've written or read.
The amazing, prolific, ground-breaking Jane Yolen read Goose Girl when it first came out and praised it on her blog, which I read regularly at the time. I was so gleeful. Then a year later, she posted that she was reading Enna Burning. (I just tried to google that post and couldn't find it, but from my memory...) She wrote she was in the middle of the book and thought the writer had gotten herself into a place she wasn't going to be able to write herself out of, and that she wasn't as much a fan of this book as the first. I was heartsick.
I met her for the first time some years after that. As we talked, she said she liked my books, and I said I'd seen that she hadn't been as pleased with Enna Burning. (can you believe I said that? I hope it came up naturally in the conversation! I can't remember.) She said, oh no, only when I was in the middle of the book. But you pulled it off.
In an interview last year, Jane Yolen named Enna Burning one of her favorite novels. (I just found this while googling for that blog post! Jane Yolen rox.)
#brag #braggin #shamlessbraggingbragbrag
My point of all that was to say, I think in some ways, this is a writer's book. It's kind of been my black sheep. But for whatever reason, more writers seem to like it. If you don't, that's not to say you're not a writer. I've just found that of this book's ardent fans, most seem to be writers themselves. Maybe we enjoy watching other writers take on impossible stories and walk that tightrope.
Esa asks, "On your website (I think) you said that the title "Enna Burning" has a slightly different meaning in each of the four parts of the book. Did you think about the four different meanings when the book was separated into the four parts, or did you only realize what each part meant later?" I didn't name the book till late, but I did split it into these four named parts fairly early. Part of the reason I loved the title Enna Burning once I thought of it was because how it played with the meaning of the part titles differently.
Sally asks, "do you ever feel that Razo snuck his way into the story for the comic relief side of things?" THat's possible, I can't remember. What I do remember is when I was struggling in rewrites, I realized I didn't fully understand Enna's relationships with some of the characters, except with Razo. I always knew what their friendship was. I always knew how he stood with everyone. He is such a refreshing character to write because he doesn't hide things from me. Razo is Razo.
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The augury: The initial idea for an augury came from my study of the Roman historian Tacitus writing about the early German people. Here's his description of a war augury:
"They have also another method of observing auspices, by which they seek to learn the result of an important war. Having taken, by whatever means, a prisoner from the tribe with whom they are at war, they pit him against a picked man of their own tribe, each combatant using the weapons of their country. The victory of the one or the other is accepted as an indication of the issue."
Some notes I found in my 2nd draft outline about the augury:
Time passing. Finn. Encounter other forest workers. What pushes her into arson again?
Maybe make a couple of characters from the enemy camp. Enna sees them when they parlay with Geric. Runs into one at night when she goes about setting fire to enemy camps.
First time Enna sets fire to person, something in her breaks, something she was holding back and it gets harder.
Finn’s fight in war augury helps forest folks gain legitimacy.
Here are other notes from either an earlier or later outline, I can't actually tell:
Learns how to use it, starts to want to use it, leaves camp because the desire is consuming, gets caught by Tiran scout party and burns her way out, Sileph is there, and it feels good to her, but still she resists until augury.
After augury, occurs to her how to fight
no tension between E&I until after augury, E has to hide it from I. then guilt develops. Also, doesn’t tell her because she’s afraid I would take her to Yasid and take away her knowledge.
Finn: The sweet Forest boy. He who cried when bringing Enna the feathers of her slain chicken. I hated having to put him through this story, to make him change as he did. Authors are cruel. But the story is always more important than what's best for the characters.
"She would save Bayern": She's all in now, baby. Enna has her mission. She is going for it. And my recommendation? Do not stand in that girl's way.
Heather asks, "How do you think of your characters? Are they just descriptions and actions on a piece of paper, or like imaginary friends, or do you think of them as real people, or what?" They do feel really real in my mind, in that once I've spent many drafts with them and fully developed them, I know how they would react to most anything. I know what they would say and how they would say it. I know how they would feel about whatever changes would come, in a way that I don't always know about real people, even my own children. Once they're developed, I can't change them. Only a story can change them, the way the war and Enna's overheard talk in the market changed Finn.
Viola asks, "Is Razo's character your favorite type to write, or do you like searching out and discovering the more difficult characters?" Easier is always better! But there is definitely a satisfaction to having labored long with a story and a character and then to finally get it right. Forest Born is that way for me. I feel so happy about that book now, so proud, even though during some drafts I wanted to give up writing entirely.