Saturday, September 19, 2015

0 Sarah Prineas, author of ASH & BRAMBLE, on persevering through rejection

We're delighted to have Sarah Prineas join us to chat about her latest novel ASH & BRAMBLE.

Sarah, what was your inspiration for writing ASH & BRAMBLE?

A couple of years ago I was hemming a pillowcase (I am not a seamstress), and kept pricking myself with the needle, and got a stiff neck, and was basically not enjoying myself very much at all, and it occurred to me (as happens, with writers) that the fairy godmother gives this gorgeous ball gown to Cinderella, but where did the dress come from, exactly? Who makes the fancy dresses? And for that matter, who makes all the other stuff you find in fairytales: Snow White's glass coffin, the gingerbread for the witch's cottage, the bed piled with mattresses (and a pea)... The sweatshop/fortress of the Godmother was the obvious conclusion, and from that the seamstresses and Pin, and the idea that being caught in a fairy tale might not be the best thing ever.

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?

All of my other books before this have been middle-grade fantasies, so my genius editor had to push me to add more emotionally deep scenes (plus kissing). Those scenes were both difficult to write (I felt weirdly awkward at first!) but also incredibly fun, once I got the hang of it. Those are the scenes I go back and reread the most. The scene I'm most proud of is the climax, because it's the moment in the book where all the external plot stuff and the heroine's internal journey come together, and I think I nailed it.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or vice versa?

Oh, wow. I'm a bookseller, too, and I love matching books with readers--you know, "if you loved this, then try this!"  Some good matches for readers who enjoyed Ash & Bramble would include Robin McKinley's retold fairytales (Beauty and Rose Daughter, for example), and Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing, Heather Dixon's Entwined, and even though it's not a fairytale, exactly, Naomi Novik's Uprooted.

How long did you work on ASH & BRAMBLE?

Usually my books take around five months to write, but the first draft of Ash & Bramble was written in a whirlwind five weeks. I was moving house at the same time and channeled all the stress of that into writing the book. Then came revisions, which is an entirely different process and took much longer.

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

Ash & Bramble is twice as long as any of my other (middle grade) books, so I definitely learned a lot about sustaining a story with a larger plot arc. Writing YA for the first time, too, I learned how to push even closer to my characters, to really dig into what they're feeling from moment to moment.

What do you hope readers will take away from ASH & BRAMBLE?

Beyond the Cinderella retelling, Ash & Bramble is about how stories shape our lives, and some of those narratives are pernicious, damaging, and warp us away from our best possible selves, especially the stories that insist that girls have to look a certain way or act a certain way, or end up in a certain place. The book says, hey, push back against those stories. Tell your own story. Be your own story. That girl-power message is in the book--it's not glaringly obvious, but I hope readers will respond to it.

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

I've had seven middle-grade novels published by HarperCollins, which is also publishing Ash & Bramble, and I've been working with the same (genius) editor for nearly all my writing career, so the road to publication wasn't too rocky for this book. But it is the first YA I've written, so we did a couple of rounds perfecting the book proposal and the sample chapters to convince the rest of the publishing team that YA is something I can do.

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?

The key for me--way back in 2006, when I started writing my first novel--was finding my voice. Before that I'd been writing short stories for adult readers, and it just didn't feel right. When I started writing The Magic Thief (which was published in 2008), the voice just clicked, and I realized that all along I'd been writing for YA and MG readers and didn't know it.

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

*pause for maniacal laughter*
I don't really have a writing ritual. Some writers are all 500-words-a-day and butt-in-chair, but I can go weeks without writing anything and then write 6000 words in a madly frenzied weekend. When that happens, I'm so immersed in the world and the characters that I can't sleep, can't think of anything but the book, neglect my family, and drink a lot of coffee.

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

The best writing advice I ever got was from my BFF and writer-friend Greg van Eekhout, who said, "NEVER SURRENDER." Writers are constantly faced with rejection; persevere through that, if you can.

What are you working on now?

Right now I'm about to start the last round of revision on the companion book to Ash & Bramble, which I think we're calling Rose & Thorn. It's a Sleeping Beauty retelling where beauty (Rose) has to fight the curses that Story has put on her.


Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Released 9/15/2015

When the glass slipper just doesn’t fit…

The tale of Cinderella has been retold countless times. But what you know is not the true story.

Pin has no recollection of who she is or how she got to the Godmother’s fortress. She only knows that she is a Seamstress, working day in and out to make ball gowns fit for fairy tales. But she longs to forsake her backbreaking servitude and dares to escape with the brave young Shoemaker.

Pin isn’t free for long before she’s captured again and forced to live the new life the Godmother chooses for her—a fairy tale story, complete with a charming prince—instead of finding her own happily ever after.

Sarah Prineas’s bold fairy tale retelling is a dark and captivating world where swords are more fitting than slippers, young shoemakers are just as striking as princes, and a heroine is more than ready to rescue herself before the clock strikes midnight.

Purchase Ash & Bramble at Amazon
Purchase Ash & Bramble at IndieBound
View Ash & Bramble on Goodreads


Sarah Prineas lives in the midst of the corn in rural Iowa, where she wrangles dogs, cats, chickens, and goats, goes on lots of hikes, and finds time to write. She is married to a physics professor and has two kids.

Have you had a chance to read ASH & BRAMBLE yet? Do you feel awkward when writing kissing scenes? Is your writing routine more slow and steady or mad frenzy like Sarah's?

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Jen, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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