It’s a busy week here on Galleysmith and I’m so pleased to be able to bring readers another fantastic guest post. Today we’re hearing from Diane Zahler author of the middle-grade fantasy tale A True Princess. Please join me in welcoming Diane as she talks about fairytale retellings.
When I was growing up, what I did best was read. I was terrible at sports. I was the kid who was picked last for the team in gym class. I’m guessing that probably some of you know how that feels. I wasn’t that great at math, either. But I was a really good reader. Everyone in my family was. We went to the library every week and literally filled a huge box with books to take home. We read everywhere. In bed after bedtime under the covers with a flashlight. In the bathroom. We even read at the dinner table. It wasn’t until years later that I realized people thought it was weird that the whole family sat at the table with a fork in one hand and turning pages with the other hand!
I kept on reading children’s books even when I got older, because that’s what I liked best. In high school I got a job in the children’s room at the public library. Mostly I just read there too, though sometimes I actually had to do some work. But I got to read all the new books before anyone else, so I loved it. I studied medieval history in college, and the world of courtly love in the Middle Ages became part of the way I thought about fantasy and fairy tales.
When I graduated from college, I went to New York and got a job in children’s book publishing. I didn’t last long there, though; I had to spend so much time working on other writers’ books that I couldn’t write my own. So I quit my job and I started writing textbook lessons. I tried to make them as interesting as I could – not an easy task! It wasn’t the same as writing my own books, but it was a way to make a living by writing. And it gave me time to think about and finally begin to write what I wanted to write.
My first children’s novel, The Thirteenth Princess, wasn’t the first book I wrote. It wasn’t even the first novel for kids that I wrote. I wrote one that was really bad, and nobody wanted to publish it. Then I wrote another one that was pretty bad. Nobody wanted to publish that either. Then I wrote a historical novel that wasn’t so bad, but nobody wanted to publish a historical novel. I got a little discouraged. Well, a lot discouraged.
All this time I was still writing textbook lessons. I stopped writing fiction and wrote some quiz books with my sister. We were completely shocked when they did well. Who’d have thought people would actually want to take multiple-choice tests for fun? After that, I wrote two nonfiction books for high-school students. One was on the bubonic plague, a horrible disease that killed millions of people about 600 years ago. The symptoms were really gross and what happened to people who got it was terrible, but I have to admit it was kind of fun to write. The other book was about the country of Burma, in Southeast Asia. I didn’t know anything about Burma when I started, and it was very difficult to find information about it. It was a real challenge, and I learned a lot from writing it. That was the best thing about the kind of writing I was doing then – everything I wrote was different, and a lot of it taught me something new.
Then I started thinking about fairy tales. I’d always loved fairy tales and fantasy. I’d read all the fairy tales in their original forms, and I decided I wanted to write a novel-length version of one of them. “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” was one of my favorites, so The Thirteenth Princess was born. It was two years in the making, but my publisher, HarperCollins, snapped it up pretty quickly, and wanted more. So then I wrote A True Princess, and now, here I am!
Thank you for the insight into how your wonderful book came into existence Diane. I hope all of my readers come back tomorrow when I’ll be posting my review of A True Princess.