The other book I was pulling for in deliberations for this year’s Cybils award was Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale. For me, this book was all about the details: the grit of daily life in the tower, the details of Dashti’s previous life on the steppes, the relentless believability that ran from the first page to the last. It was a fantastic story, and I’m so glad it was one of the two winners in the fantasy / science fiction category.
Shannon has two young children, and so I promised to keep the interview short.
Chris) How did you go about researching Mongolian culture for Book of a Thousand Days?
Shannon: My parents lived in Mongolia for a year and a half, so I had some great first hand knowledge, and I sent questions for their Mongolian friends. i also read books, especially the fantastic Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.
Chris) In Book of a Thousand Days, how satisfying was it to heap so much hardship on a fairytale princess?
Shannon: Ha! Yes, there was some of that. I wanted to make sure I was being honest, and fairy tales sometimes slant things in favor of the well-born. One attraction of this story for me was its difference from Goose Girl–a chance to see a maid’s POV and hear her voice.
Chris) As a father of 7-month-old twin girls, I have to ask: how the heck do you get any writing done? (I’ve finally learned to hold one on my lap while I’m typing, but the problem is she starts typing too).
Shannon: I don’t actually write anymore. I bid on manuscripts on ebay and hope I win. No, it’s all a balancing act. I take a little time here and there. No waiting for a muse–grab whatever time I can! And I’ve slowed way down. I get into more detail about that on my site: http://www.squeetus.com/stage/mince_mother.html
Chris) What are you working on now?
Shannon: My husband and I co-wrote a graphic novel for young readers, Rapunzel’s Revenge, which will be out this fall (the illustrations are so freakin’ cool). I’m working on a fourth Bayern book and a new contemporary book for adults.