Wednesday night was the single best author event I have ever attended (sorry Gregory Maguire). There I was, a 30-something female reader going solo, surrounded by a large crowd of teenage girls and their parents, teachers, or youth group leaders. Those girls were excited.
Shannon was at St. Louis County Library (SLCL) Headquarters to promote her newest venture, Ever After High, which already has its own line of dolls (ala the Monster High variety), courtesy of Mattel. In addition to answer the slew of questions from her (mostly) younger audience, Shannon treated us to her rap version of one of the songs in Ever After High.
First off, I cannot believe how substantive the questions were coming in from such a young crowd. These girls (as a whole) really knew Shannon Hale’s books and asked some great questions. Maybe we had some future writers in the crowd. 😉
Shannon also revealed that she is a mother of four (including twins) and that (I think) this was her first time visiting STL. Next stop on the list was LA. On a side note, that’s got to be really hard being away from your family that long. If she felt homesick, you’d never know it. Girl brought energy!!!
As a writer myself, I am impressed with her turnout time for novels (Goose Girl was three months, I think she said), and two years for some of her other books.
She spends about three hours a day in her office, during “writer stuff”. Although nobody asked about target word counts, I imagine that Shannon must be really productive when she does get down to work. I think that two years for a book is pretty darn fast.
Waiting in line for the signing, I met some awesome people while waiting in line including some Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) who had met Margo Dill. You may remember that I reviewed Margo’s book, Finding My Place, back in August.
Back to Shannon Hale.
Shannon grew up reading one of my favorite fairy tale authors, Robin McKinley, author of Beauty and Rose Daughter. It was reading Beauty that inspired Shannon Hale to try and write her own version of a fairy tale and answer some questions left unanswered by the original, The Goose Girl.
For those of you who didn’t read The Goose Girl (the original), I recommend the beautifully illustrated copy written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Robert G. Sauber.
C.S. Lewis once said:
“I wrote this story for you [The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe], but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.
I think this quote is often taken out of context. In context, it implies that C.S. Lewis’ family member outgrew reading children’s lit during the long process of him writing it. Out of context, it focuses on the idea that fairy tales are something you come back to again and again (although in Lewis’ case, I think he probably meant when he/she was old enough to have children of their own).
Anyway, my point is, some of us never stopped reading fairy tales. I haven’t.
I never really grew out of fairy tales. I remember being a toddler and reading fairy tales and then even as I grew older, I kept reading them. I loved Robin McKinley and Jane Yolen, and then later, Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale brought this revival of interest in fairy tales as literature. Both ladies have written fairy tale-ish stories that explore the characters on a much deeper level than the originals. It’s not just a fairy tale anymore.
Beyond the fairy tales, what Shannon Hale brought to SLCL was a little magic of her own (ala the author kind). As I described the experience to one friend, she summed it up best, “Sounds like an author who knows how to treat her fans.”
I think that that’s the important thing to remember. Shannon Hale may write her books for herself, versus a specific audience, but people are drawn to her stories. They buy her books. They go to her signings. They follow her online.
Respect your audience.
Embrace your audience.
Sometimes do both!
That’s the magic I think Shannon Hale brought to STL with her, the magic an author brings when they genuinely appreciate their readers and go above and beyond. She stopped to talk to each person that came to see her. She signed their books. She personalized them for Pete’s sake. Some of us took photos.
My favorite thing she did didn’t even involve me actually. There were some really young girls in the audience and I watched Shannon interacting with one of them, a seven-year-old, and sharing with her some snapshots of her own young children. How cool is that?
If our experience at Shannon Hale’s author event in STL was any indication of what LA can expect, readers are in for a rare treat.
Here’s some of Shannon Hale’s writing credits for those of you unfamiliar with her work: Shannon Hale on Goodreads