Hello, hello, hello! I am so excited to bring yet another interview with OneFour Kidlit Author. Today’s center of attention is none other than Danielle L. Jensen, author of the YA novel Stolen Songbird AND a Strange Chemistry sibling!
If you haven’t heard about Stolen Songbird, let me fill you in, courtesy of GoodReads.
ABOUT THE BOOK: For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy…
For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.
Doesn’t that just make you want to rush out and get this book right away? I KNOW… ME, TOO!
Okay, Danielle, I have to get to the first question!
Sarah: Cécile is a strong, logical, creative character. What inspiration did you draw on to create her? And on the flip side, how did you strike the balance between making Tristan being amazingly sweet and disgustingly repulsive?
Danielle: Cécile is meant to be a bit of the underdog. Often times, the main characters of fantasy novels are the top dogs from the first page. They are the best sword fighters in the land. The most feared assassins. They are highly educated. They are worldly beyond their years. So is it any real surprise when they win the day given they have very nearly all the tools they need from the beginning of the novel? I wanted Cécile to go into the story almost destined to fail, and then have her survive and thrive off her own hard work, tenacity, and initiative. (Note: There are many novels that I love where the MC is badass from the beginning, but it wasn’t what I wanted to write.)
Tristan is one complex troll. I think whether I’ve successfully balanced his behavior is quite dependent on the reader grasping and buying into the idea that Tristan’s nasty attitude is absolutely necessary not only for his own survival, but for the survival the revolution he is secretly leading. If the reader doesn’t buy into that, he’s pretty much going to come off as a spectacular jerk.
Sarah: Was there any part of the story that took you by surprise or didn’t turn out the way you originally had in mind when you started writing Stolen Songbird?
Danielle: The joy of being a pantser is that it’s all a surprise! I’d have to say the weight of the political intrigue is much greater than I originally thought it would be. But I’m quite happy about that now.
Sarah: Ah yes, the panster method. I’m more of a hybrid girl myself. Now, as a writer, I’m always curious about how long the concept to final draft process takes. How long did it take you to write Stolen Songbird from concept to query status? Did you ever run into a point where you weren’t sure where you were going to go next and how did you handle it?
Danielle: It took about two years of drafting before I started querying. My agent asked me to revise and resubmit, and it took me about six months to make those changes. After I signed with her, we did about another five months of revisions before it went out on submission. I’d say the revise and resubmit changes were the most difficult – the bulk of the political intrigue in the novel came out of those changes, and there were times when I didn’t think I’d be able to make it work. I handled it by not working on it at all until I’d thought the problems through.
Sarah: That’s a great piece of advice. I’m going to have to remember that. Okay, I won’t give anything away, but I felt there was this epic “Scarlet O’Hara-As God is my witness” cliffhanger for Stolen Songbird, so I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be reading more about Cécile and Tristan in the future. Do you have any other upcoming projects?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird is the first book in The Malediction Trilogy, and the second book will be coming out in 2015. I’m very nearly finished writing the sequel, but I expect the bulk of the next few months will be consumed by editorial work. Then it’s on to the third book, which is set to be published in 2016. No rest for the wicked.
Sarah: Well, no rest for writers who created wickedly awesome story arcs, anyway! Moving on to the publishing aspect of writing, what surprised you the most about crossing the threshold from aspiring writer to debut author?
Danielle: How much time I’d have to spend on stuff that isn’t writing another book, and how difficult it would be to write to a deadline.
Sarah: Tell me about it! I used to bore my non-writing friends when I rambled on about revisions and plot structure. Now I’m pretty sure they take a shot whenever I say the words marketing and platform. On more big question before the finale and this one is about titles. A lot of people don’t realize what goes into coming up with the perfect title. For me, there was a flurry of emails between my agent and editor where more than 70 titles were tossed around and then out. Was Stolen Songbird your original title or a brilliant collaborative effort between you and the amazing Amanda Rutter from Strange Chemistry?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird was about the hundredth title this book had. So many lists circulated between Amanda, my agent, and me, but my agent came up with Stolen Songbird. I think it was an amalgamation of a couple suggestions Amanda had come up with. I hate coming up with titles, and I was borderline useless during the process.
OMG! ME TOO. When I started the first draft of It’s A Wonderful Death the working title was, and I am not making this up, The Butler Did It. And even that was a title I stole from a CP. Needless to say, there is no butler and it’s not a mystery. I was just desperate.
Alright! We’re almost done. All that’s last is my Fast Five!
If you were stranded in a land filled with, oh let’s say trolls, what one of each of the following would you want to have with you to keep you sane?
Book: Machiavelli’s The Prince. I’m going to need it to hang out with the trolls.
Musical Instrument to learn to play: Piano
Craft or Hobby supplies: Crayons and a massive coloring book. That is about the limit of my crafty skills.
Comfort Item: Red wine
Recipe for the kitchen to make for you whenever you wanted it: The phone number for magical Pizza delivery. I hate cooking.
Fair enough! Danielle, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and I wish you much success with Stolen Songbird. And my dear readers, please make sure to put this amazing book on your TBR list… better yet… pick up a copy today and curl up with a glass of whatever you curl up with when you read!
ABOUT THE DANIELLE: Danielle was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated in 2003 from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous; and in 2010, it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University and to pursue publication. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.
|Sarah J. Schmitt is a K-8 school librarian and Youth Service Professional for Teens at a public library. She lives outside of Indianapolis with her husband, two kidlets and a cat who might actually be a secret agent. Her debut novel, IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH, comes out Fall 2014 from Strange Chemistry. Check out her antics on Twitter.|