Saturday, January 3, 2015

1 Donna Jo Napoli, author of HIDDEN, on finding the answer to a previous character's path

What was your inspiration for writing HIDDEN?

HIDDEN is a sequel to HUSH. I actually wanted to write it years ago, because I loved the younger sister Brigid, and I wanted to find out what had become of her. She disappears into the water in the first book, and the main character grieves, bereft in her ignorance of what has happened to her sister. But I had a lot of other stories I wanted to write too. So I turned my attention to other things. Over the years, though, readers wrote to me and asked what had happened to Brigid, as though I knew. I didn't know. I never know until I finish a book. So wrote the book in order to be able to answer my readers' questions. And I was lucky enough that an editor at Simon&Schuster agreed to publish the sequel.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I had trouble with a scene in which Brigid, the main character, realizes that a slave woman is being raped. It brings back a memory from childhood... one she has suppressed. Getting that scene not to be sensational or maudlin, getting the reader to believe that Brigid would be as bold and brave in that scene as she is, that was hard. I feel good about it now. But I won't know if I succeeded until I see how readers respond.

 How long did you work on HIDDEN?

That's hard to answer. It took only about a year to write it and go through the revisions. But I was collecting and reading material on Ireland and Denmark for two years before I ever sat down to write the first draft.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

I surprised myself with the interest I had in boating and pirates. I didn't expect that. I'm a relatively cautious person, particularly about the dangers of water. But the freedom of being out on a boat -- that thrilled me. And the idea of creating a society of crew members who make their own rules -- wow, thinking about that was so much fun.

What do you hope readers will take away from HIDDEN?

Mainly, I just want to give a good read. And I always hope to give people a sense of the challenges and joys of a different time and place. Perhaps in this book, though, I also want to help readers see inside the women's choices, because today women have so many choices -- we need to understand why and how people make them -- what they lose and gain by each decision.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

My publisher agreed to publish this right off. And I've published around 80 books by now. But it took me over a decade of rejections before I sold my first story. And I have a four-drawer filing cabinet full of mss. that never got published (though I never give up hope -- so now and then I pull out one and resubmit it).

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I don't believe there is a key. However, there was a point when I realized that people wanted to read stories -- made-up things that fit together beautifully -- rather than read tales of what had happened to my own children or to children I knew. I was so in love with my children that I thought everything they did was fascinating. And it was -- to me -- but not to others. Once I started writing true fiction, that's when i finally got published.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I can't listen to music. If I listen to music, that's what I do -- listen to music -- not write. I sit at home and write. If there's chaos around me, that's fine -- i can ignore that. but if there's organized sound (like music), i have to shut the door to my laundry room (my desk is in the laundry room).

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

 write write write. Write your worst fears and nastiest, most mean-spirited thoughts. write your joys and passions. Write everything in every form -- lists, poems, stories, instructions, whatever. The more you write, the better you get at being comprehensible to others and at being honest. And most people want to read something comprehensible and honest.

 What are you working on now?

I just finished a draft of DARK SHIMMER -- a YA novel set in Venice around 1500. It drove me crazy. So I can't talk about it or I'll cry.


Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Released 12/30/2014

 A young girl must learn to survive and find her family against all odds in this heartbreaking companion to Hush from award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli.

Lost at sea when her sister is taken captive on a marauding slave ship, Brigid is far removed from the only life she knew as a princess and the pampered daughter of an Irish king.

Now Brigid has few choices. Alone and abandoned, she disguises herself as a boy and vows to find her innocent sister taken into slavery. Through her search many years pass and she grows from being a child to a woman, tough Brigid does not give up. She lives from the land, meets friend and foe along the way, and gains a reputation as a woman thought to be fierce enough to conquer men. It is not fierceness that guides her but the love of sister and the longing for her family to be united. One day she finds her way, knowing that her only real power comes from within herself.

Based on the legend of the first Norse woman pirate, award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli has told a remarkable survival story spanning years and continents and one that transports and transforms readers.

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Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction. Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread. At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to make the neighbors wonder. But dear dear Taxi died in 2009. She lives outside Philadelphia. She received her BA in mathematics in 1970 and her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures in 1973, both from Harvard University, then did a postdoctoral year in Linguistics at MIT.

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