|Shannon Hale||Interview with Shannon Hale, July 2003|
Ages 11 Up
Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt's stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady in waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to help her. She becomes a goose girl and must use her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny.
From the Grimm's fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible and original tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.
Enna and Princess Isi became fast friends in The Goose Girl, but after Isi married Prince Geric, Enna returned to the forest. Enna's simple life changes forever when she learns to wield fire and burn anything at will. Enna is convinced that she can use her ability for good-to fight Tira, the kingdom threatening the Bayern borders-and goes on secret raids to set fire to the Tiran camps and villages. But as the power of the fire grows stronger, she is less able to control her need to burn. In her recklessness she is captured by the Tiran army and held captive by a handsome, manipulative young captain who drugs her to keep her under his influence. Can Isi and her old friends Finn and Razo rescue her without sacrificing themselves? And with the fire still consuming her, will Enna find a way to manage the gift that threatens to destroy her?
ETC: The Goose Girl is both lovely and enchanting. Why did you choose to retell a fairy tale for your debut novel and what is the attraction of revisiting tales in novel form?
Shannon Hale: First, I think the stories of our childhood have the most power. They're the ones we think and wonder about when we're at that stage where we wonder most. And as we grow up, they're still there, in the deepest parts of our brains, still being worked out. Second, as a writer, my greatest interest is in the story. Characters, incidents, plot, word-making, language-all there just to tell a story. So when I set out to write a book, for me it's got to be a story that's engaging, fathomless, and worth telling. The old tales, the tales the Grimm Brothers collected, lasted for decades and centuries for a reason. There's a reason "The Goose Girl" was worth telling generation after generation, passed from mother to daughter, persevering orally until it was written down in the 19th Century. That's a story worth telling. That's a story that's going to resonate with a reader and yet surprise her still, a tale both old and new.
ETC: Why did you choose The Goose Girl?
Shannon Hale: I was reading Robin McKinley and was impressed with how she dealt with "Beauty and the Beast" in her books Beauty and Rose Daughter. My favorite tale had always been "The Goose Girl." One of the reasons it stood out to me amongst the more famous tales like "Cinderella" or "Hansel and Gretel" was the questions that it left humming in my mind. But why did the Princess give up her name? How could she talk to her horse? What was her power with the wind? And what about the Prince? I think stories that leave you wanting more show the strongest potential for storytelling, character development, and exploration on a larger scale.
ETC: What was the hardest part of translating the tale into a novel?
Shannon Hale: The character of the princess. She's so passive in the tale, I was sort of frustrated with her. I thought I had two options: give her a sword and have her proactively seek adventure and victory, as so many books-from-tales do, or try to be true to the character of the tale. I chose the latter because I believe literature is all about options, and I wanted young girls to see a character that was neither Sleeping Beauty waiting to be rescued by a prince nor the woman warrior boldly changing the world. Ani is in between; she is scared, and unsure, and weak at times, but learns how to both accept help from others and be her own heroine. That felt more real to me.
ETC: Your book is friendlier and lighter than the original tale. What choices did you make when changing the tale to a novel?
Shannon Hale: It's interesting to me that a reader is left with the impression that the tale of "The Goose Girl" is dark while my novel is lighter and friendlier. I made an effort not to flinch away from any of the details of the tale, even the gruesome ones. But I think it's just the magic of what happens when you change forms. The brevity of the tale leaves you wondering, with questions and fears. When you write something from four pages into 350 pages so much changes. Now the reader understands the characters, their motivations, the way that world works. What was mysterious becomes very real.
ETC: Tell us about your background and family.
Shannon Hale: I'm the middle of five kids and grew up begging my older sisters to participate in my games and plays, and later bribing the younger ones. My favorite classes in school were English and Drama, so when I went to college I majored in English and did a lot of theater. Noises Off was my favorite play to be in, and I also loved being a part of an improv comedy troupe. I got to do college semesters in Mexico and England, spent 18 months as an unpaid missionary in Paraguay, and went to graduate school in Montana. After 12 years of best-friendship and courtship, I married my honey in 2000, and right now we're expecting our first child-a boy! We live in Salt Lake City, Utah.
ETC: How did you get into writing?
Shannon Hale: I've loved books and storytelling since I could talk. My 4th grade teacher first introduced me to creative writing and the idea that I could actually write my own stories down. I started writing four novels that year. For years I kept writing (and reading, of course), until I decided that being a writer was the only thing I could really do that would satisfy me, so I applied and got into the Creative Writing Masters program at the University of Montana. After taking that step, there was no turning back. I started The Goose Girl my first summer in grad school.
ETC: Why is writing the only profession that felt satisfying?
Shannon Hale: Partly because doing it makes me happy. I find I'm writing stories in my head all the time, and it's such a relief when I can sit down and write it for real! Also because I just think literature is so important. I teach Sunday School to a group of inner city girls ages 8-11 and every week I ask them what they're reading. I told them if they can read everyday, even one page, by the time they're in high school they'll always be one of the smartest people in their classes. I really believe that. I think reading fiction does so much more than entertain-it gives options and makes our minds explore new ideas, and allows us to see new things and places, and even experience bad mistakes without having to commit them.
Also by Shannon Hale:
Austenland (2007)- Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.
Forest Born (The Books of Bayern) (2009) - Rin is sure that something is wrong with her…something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she’s lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But war has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies—magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters—as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin’s own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that drives this compelling adventure.
Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king's priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year's time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king's ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.
Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.