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Shannon Hale
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Shannon Hale   Shannon Hale is the New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of Princess Academy, which received the Newbery Honor. She's also written the Bayern series, starting with The Goose Girl, which received the Josette Frank Award and made the American Library Association's Top Ten Books for Young Adults list. Her graphic novels include Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack. Her books for adults include Austenland (which made the BookSense pick list) and The Actor and the Housewife. Shannon spent a year and a half as an unpaid missionary in Paraguay.

Buy Shannon Hale's Books at the following locations: (downloadable audio books) (independent bookstores)
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This episode originally aired on 10/22/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Shannon Hale

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Matthew Peterson: My next guest today is Shannon Hale, New York Times bestselling author of Princess Academy, which received the Newbery Honor. Sheís also written the Bayern series, starting with The Goose Girl, which received the Josette Frank Award and made the American Library Association Top Ten Books for Young Adults list. Thanks for being on the show today, Shannon.

Shannon Hale: Well, thank you.

Matthew Peterson: Letís first talk about Princess Academy. Congratulations on getting the Newbery Honor award, by the way.

Shannon Hale: Thanks, that just never gets old. No matter who I explain it too. Itís the gift that keeps on giving, thatís for sure.

Matthew Peterson: I know! Iím sure itís just one of those things you are just ecstatic about.

Shannon Hale: Yeah, it still doesnít feel real, honestly, three and a half years later.

Matthew Peterson: Well, tell us a little bit about Princess Academy.

Shannon Hale: Princess Academy is a story about a girl who lives in a very small village on top of a mountain. Itís a fantasy book, so itís a sort of a long ago, far away, type of setting. They get word that one of the girls from the village will be the bride to the next prince, and heíll choose one of them, but first they all have to attend a school to learn what they need to know in case theyíre chosen. Theyíre very resistant to this idea, but they attend this academy to learn those things. So, the suspense, of course is whoís going to be chosen and do they actually, any of them, will they want to be chosen and leave their home and all that that implies.

Matthew Peterson: ĎCause they donít even really know the person that theyíd be marrying, do they?

Shannon Hale: Thatís right, in part, I think my fascination with that story was reading fairy tales as a child, it was always a good thing to become a princess and marry a prince and you know, go off to the castle.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Shannon Hale: But the reality of it, you know, would you really want to? Would that always be the best thing? What if you didnít like the prince? What if he wasnít a great guy? What if youíd rather stay with your family? So, these girls have very many conflicting feelings about it and questions, as theyíre attending this school and learning these things. Of course, thereís a fantasy element and danger and romance mixed into it all because those are things that I love.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. And the age group for that book is middle grade?

Shannon Hale: Yeah, they said 10 and up. Iíve had 8 year old readers and well, Iíve had 80 year old readers, so anywhere in between there.

Matthew Peterson: Well, thatís good. You have another series that youíve written. Actually The Goose Girl, was the first one in this series, the Bayern series, back in 2003, that was your first book wasnít it?

Shannon Hale: It was my first book, yeah. It was my first baby.

Matthew Peterson: Your baby. And it did really well. It received the Josette Frank Award and made the ALA Top Ten list for teens.

Shannon Hale: You know, that was a long ride. I started to write when I was ten. So, it felt like a long time to me. It took twenty years to get published. I have many, many dozens of rejections on my stories and on my books before The Goose Girl was selected to be published. And itís interesting, I actually just posted on my blog about this. The Goose Girl was rejected by the Whoís Who of Publishers, before it was published by Bloomsberry. And of course itís gone on to be one of my most successful books and hundreds of thousands of books in print and readers and, you know, 15 languages.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Shannon Hale: And such, so I think, for me, itís an example of how rejection isnít always a bad thing. It isnít a condemnation of you or your book. Itís just saying you havenít found the right home yet, and keep trying until you find the right place.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. I totally agree with you. Rejection . . . I mean it happens, youíre going to get it and a lot of people donít realize how much rejection authors, the typical author, gets. Even well established authors can sometimes get rejected and not get their next book out, or another series.

Shannon Hale: I was talking to several New York Times best-selling, award winning authors, recently. And they were talking about how they didnít feel like theyíd made it yet. And theyíre still waiting to feel like theyíve ďmade it.Ē And it sort of dawned on me that you donít ever really feel secure. Itís such a crazy business. And I think from the outside, people sometimes think that we must be like sudo-celebrities, or wealthy or totally secure in what we do. Of course, weíre not, weíre just working people, writing each story, the best story that we can and just trying to stay afloat in this crazy economy.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, well one of the best things is to get a book published, but then after the book is published, ďyour babyĒ, you know, of course, thereís the reviews. And Iíve learned, Ďcause I have a book out, Iíve learned that you really kind of take the reviews with a grain of salt because you know, you might get a hundred great ones, and itís just that one bad review, that just . . . for me at least, it sticks with me. And Iím like, ďWow, that person really hated my book!Ē

Shannon Hale: It incredible how, and I think we do it in life, just generally as well. You can hear, you know, ten wonderful things and one negative thing, and itís the negative thing that you mull over and over and over again. And reviews are hard, you know, itís hard in this age because of the Internet. Everybody can review. Itís so easy to stumble across those reviews. Itís so easy for people to say, you know, what they think and how much they hate you and your book and your hair style and everything about you.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Shannon Hale: And it doesnít feel personal, they donít think theyíre actually saying it to me. But reading it feels like theyíre saying it to my face.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, exactly. I know . . . exactly. It seems like itís like an invitation to be a little meaner than you normally would be.

Shannon Hale: Itís something thatís sort of shocking to me and itís something that I talk to young people about. I think we need to retrain ourselves. I think the progression of the internet happened too fast and we havenít had time to evolve to it. But kindness always . . . thereís no reason to be rude and unkind, to only ever say in print what you would say to a personís face. And always question what youíre willing to say to a personís face.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Donít just have an ax to grind, too. Yeah, have a good reason for what you say. I totally agree with you. But The Goose Girl has gotten some awards and the next one was Enna Burning, River Secrets. Tell us just a little bit about the series, and then weíll talk about the newest one that just came out, Forest Born.

Shannon Hale: The Goose Girl was based on a fairy tale. And the magic system in these books is that everything has a language, animals, plants, people, and also the elements of nature, like fire, wind, and water, have languages and there are certain people born with the ability to speak those languages, to understand them. And as they progress in that knowledge, they actually come to the point where they control them. So, each of my books of Bayern deals with a person learning one of these powers and the adventures and the challenges that come with that. So, Goose Girlís the story of a princess who is sent off, again the theme is a little different than Princess Academy, but a similar theme. Sheís sent off to marry a prince that sheís never met and her lady in waiting, who wants to take her place is jealous of her and tries to kill her, and thereís a massacre in the forest before she escapes, she manages to escape, but she has to hide as a goose girl or a girl who takes care of geese, while she tries to re-claim her throne and her name. And then Enna Burning and River Secrets followed because Iíd found these characters in The Goose Girl, who I just loved so much, I wanted to hear their own stories. And the fourth book in the series, Forest Born is another new character. I think my favorite thing about these books is, itís silly to say, but theyíve become like friends of mine, you know.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Shannon Hale: I love hearing what they say, and returning to that land and seeing where they are now and what new adventures they can have.

Matthew Peterson: Forest Born, thatís the one that just came out. Tell us a little bit more about that one.

Shannon Hale: Forest Born, the main character is Rin. And she is a forest born, she was born in the forest, rather than in the city. So, her folk are scavengers basically, they live off of the land. Sheís from a very large family, sheís got six big brothers and then thereís her. She feels lost in this family, she feels like she doesnít quite belong. And she has this dark secret thatís inside, she feels wrong and bad, like she needs to get away from them. And she doesnít completely understand this at the beginning of the book, whatís causing these feelings, and is she really inherently just a bad person because of some bad things that sheíd done? And she leaves the forest, to go to the city and meets the queen and becomes one of her waiting women. And through this, when thereís a threat to the kingdom and she comes along to help with the queen, she begins to learn about what it is that she has inside her, what these powers mean. And the choice whether she can use them for good reasons or whether she will go completely corrupt.

Itís a little bit darker, I think, than some of my other books have been, than Goose Girl. But I think that thereís also a lot more danger and adventure to it than some of them as well. Theyíre all a little bit different. You can read them all alone, or you can read them in a series, starting with Goose Girl. But itís so fun. It was a three year project, Forest Born, and itís so magical to see it on the shelves and people reading it and the response so far has just been amazing.

Matthew Peterson: Do you plan on having more in the series?

Shannon Hale: I never plan on having more. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Goose Girl was it!

Shannon Hale: I never think that way. I think of one book at a time. And so what just happens is thereís a character that comes along in the story, is one that I canít resist, that Iím willing to spend however many years itís going to take to write it. If another one comes along that just begs to be written then, yeah, I will, but currently Iím not writing another one in that series. Iím working on a completely different book.

Matthew Peterson: You do have a couple books for adults. Your first one, Austenland, came out 2007, made the BookSense pick list, and your second one, The Actor and the Housewife just came out this year. Do you find it easier to write for adults than for children?

Shannon Hale: Yes! I do actually. Most people assume the opposite, but you are wise. It is easier to write for adults than children. And I think that surprises some people. At least it is for me. And I think itís easier for me, partly because . . . [theyíre set in a contemporary setting].

Matthew Peterson: You are an adult, for one.

Shannon Hale: Right. You know, I really donít have a hard time channeling my younger self. I think thatís one of the key aspects of any childrenís writer, is that we tend to be quite immature inside and have very good recollections of what itís like to be young.

Matthew Peterson: Well, one novel I didnít mention was the Book of a Thousand Days, which I understand is based on a classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm? You really like these fairy tales, and you have some graphic novels that are kind of a real twist on the fairy tales: Rapunzelís Revenge and Calamity Jackís coming out.

Shannon Hale: I often get asked why I retell fairy tales. I mean Iíve done four. And I think part of it is just those were the stories of my childhood. And I think those stories of your childhood just resonate so powerfully.

Matthew Peterson: Well, last question. What are you working on now?

Shannon Hale: Iím working on which might be a trilogy, Iím not sure yet. Iím writing it all in one piece because Iím not good about thinking about the future. I have to write the story thatís in front of me. Itís called Daisy Danger Brown. Itís my first book for young readers. Itís in a contemporary setting and itís also first person, which is also unusual for me. And it is so much fun. Iím just having a great . . . it is just a kick-butt, crazy super hero-type of adventure.

Matthew Peterson: Iím so grateful to speak with you today. Iíve been speaking with Shannon Hale, New York Times bestselling author of award-winning Princess Academy and the Bayern series. Thank you for being on the show today, Shannon.

Shannon Hale: Well, thank you so much. Itís my pleasure.

Matthew Peterson: Weíve got a commercial coming up. But donít go away, weíve got Kristin Cashore, author of Gracling and Fire, cominí up next!

  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  

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