News: faq
  Answers to your probing inquiries.

I have a few questions for a school report. Can you answer them please?
How can I get an autographed copy of your books?
What are you working on now?
Why do some of your paperbacks have different covers than your hardcovers?
Why doesn't the Forest Born hardcover have the same style of art as the other hardcover Books of Bayern?
How do you get your ideas?
What is Squeetus?
No, really, what is Squeetus?
Do you do speaking engagements and school visits?
Will you donate a book/some books to our library/good cause?
I want to be a writer. What should I do?
When will your next book come out?
Will you write a sequel to princess academy?
Will you write another book with Ani/Isi or Enna as the main character?
Will you read my manuscript?
I have a really great idea for a book. Will you co-write it with me?
How long does it take you to write a book?
Is writing the second book easier than the first?
Is it hard to make changes with an editor?
Where did you get all the names of people and places?
How do you pronounce the names in your books?
I didn't understand something in one of your books/something bugged me. Will you explain it to me?
Are any of your books going to be made into movies? And can I be in it?
What order should I read your books in?
Do you have any help for book groups or teachers doing your books?
How do I get your newsletter?
What's with the pig?


I have a few questions for a school report. Can you answer them please?

I am so honored that anyone would choose to do me or one of my books as a subject for a school report! This is one of those crazy flattering things that I never would've imagined, and it comes up surprisingly often. I wish I had the time to accomodate everyone who writes to me about this. Please understand that I really truly can't. If I answered all my email and letters, not only would I never have time to write books, but I would have to neglect my family. I have tried to make this site as helpful as possible for you. See School project help.

How can I get an autographed copies of Shannon's books?
  1. Buy the book from The King's English bookstore and request an autographed copy. They keep a stack on hand. If you tell them the name of the dedicatee, I can get in to personalize it, though not always immediately.
  2. Check out news & info: events for scheduled readings and signings


What are you working on now?

midnight in austenland, a companion to austenland, pubs Feb 2012. I am finishing the sequel to princess academy and then moving on to a young adult kick-butt fantasy scifi adventure.

Why do some of your paperbacks have different covers than the hardcovers?

In both the US and the UK, Bloomsbury has chosen to repackage many of my books. I do not have control over this. They kindly show me samples and ask my opinion, but it is their decision and I'm not a part of the design process. Let me assure you--the writer of the book does not have nearly as much power as many people think! We get to write the books, and the rest is out of our hands. Many people feel passionately about the original covers. I love them too! But I have to trust that the marketing people at Bloomsbury know the market and they are changing the covers to reach new readers, ones that hadn't picked up the books based on the old covers. All my books are still available in hardcover and retain their original jackets.

Why doesn't the Forest Born hardcover have the same style of art as the other hardcover Books of Bayern?

It does now! A special edition hardcover with Alison Jay cover art released fall 2011.

How do you get your ideas?

The simple answer to this is: I don't know. It never occurs to me to wonder where they come from until someone asks. With the goose girl, I studied the original tale and asked myself a lot of questions about it, and the answers came out as I wrote. With the next book, I thought, I like the character of Enna. If she had a book, what would happen? And then I had my answer as I wrote. Where do plots and characters and details come from? I imagine from people I've known, things I've seen, things I've read, and things I imagine, all mixed together.
See also goose girl: how it started or enna burning: how it started or all the other books sections for more details on each book.

What is Squeetus?

Squeetus is life.

No, really, what is Squeetus?

Squeetus is this site, your online source for all things Shannon and her books. The evolution and meaning of this word is a mystery, lost in the purling gray mists of etymology. It may just be fun to say.

Do you do speaking engagements and school visits?

I have several small children, and I've discovered I can't do nearly as much as I'd like. I am not accepting invitations right now for most anything, I'm sorry to say. When my kids are older I hope to do more outside the home.

Will you donate a book/books to our library/good cause?

I'm sorry, I'm unable to do so. I know that must sound stingy, so please let me explain. I get so many requests for this, I've been really surprised. If you were the only request, then I'd say, Of course! But I can't say yes to them all. Also, authors do not get an endless supply of our books for free. We get a small number at publication, enough to give to our family members, a few friends, and save a couple for our kids. Then if we want any more books, we have to buy them. Most authors do get a discount, but we still have to pay for them. I give away my free books quickly, so if I donate any, I have to buy them, package them up and mail them off (and I honestly get to the post office about twice a year). If I did so for every request, this would become a part-time job for me, not to mention quite expensive. So, I'm sorry to say no.

I want to be a writer. What should I do?

There's no secret on how to be a writer—you write. I highly recommend focusing on your writing and storytelling and not worrying about the publishing part for as long as you can stand it. When you do decide that you must publish or perish, the following items do seem to improve your odds: read a lot, write a lot, seek and accept constructive feedback, rewrite a lot, learn as much as you can about publishing, and develop a tough skin. It also wouldn't hurt if your favorite aunt is a top editor in a large New York publishing house or a powerhouse literary agent.
See also mincemeat: on writing

When will the next book come out?

midnight in austenland is in bookstores Feb 2012. The sequel to princess academy will pub August 2012.

Will you write a sequel to princess academy?

Your wish is my command! In bookstores August 2012.

Will you write another Bayern book?

forest born, the fourth Bayern book, will be my last. At least for now. If I do another (or others) it won't be for a few years, as I have many other books more insistent right now.

Will you read my manuscript?

Unfortunately, no. Having objective eyes look at your work is a very good idea, but I'm not the person for it. I'm not a professional editor and am in no position to help people get published. And, alas, if I read everything people ask me to, I wouldn't have time to write. Clare Dunkle has a wonderful page on her site explaining why authors can't and shouldn't do this. If it's good, healthy feedback you're looking for, I am a big fan of writer workshops. I've been a part of workshops in college, online, and with writer friends. Join one in your community or form your own.
For further tips, check out the articles at mincemeat: on writing

I have a really great idea for a book. Will you co-write it with me?

Sorry, no. I have so many ideas for books that I don't think I'll get to all mine in my lifetime, even if I never had another idea. Besides, collaborating on a book is actually more work and takes more time than writing alone.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I don't start writing until after I've had the story rolling around in my head for about a year, started doing research, taking notes, and making a rough outline. When I'm writing a first draft, I do 1000 words a day, 5 days a week. It takes me 4-5 months to complete a first draft. Rewriting can take me another 9-18 months, depending on how much it needs, if I can work at it fulltime, etc. All told, each book requires about a year and a half of steady work, spread out over 2 years or more.

Is writing the second book easier than the first?

Virginia Euwer Wolff quoted Ernest Hemingway at a conference recently: "And then I remember that it was always difficult." We like to imagine that no book will ever be as hard to write as the one we're on right now, but they are. Some things do get a bit easier. I know my writing process better now, and that makes it easier. Writing enna burning was a little easier than the goose girl because I already knew many of the characters and the landscape, but with princess academy, my third book, I had to discover that all over again. Truly, the hardest part of writing is doing it every day. The second hardest is finding the story. The third is finding the right words to tell it. For me, with every book, every story, that challenge never gets easier.

Is it hard to make changes with an editor?

I love my editor and feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with a professional editor before my books see print. The hardest parts are when she gives me feedback that I know is right but that I don't know how to employ. Figuring out how to, for example, make a character arc more believable or build more tension is always desirable but difficult in actually seeing it through, word by word, sentence by sentence. My editor never makes me make changes that I don't want to. She is wise, and I'm grateful for her wisdom.
See also mincemeat: on writing

Where did you get all the names of people and places?

The only two names actually included in the original tale of "The Goose Girl" are Falada and Conrad. In some versions of the tale, Conrad's name is Curdken. Interestingly, a friend told me that "falada" means "spoken" in Portuguese. Besides those two, the Kildenrean and Tiran names are born somehow in my head, and I took or adapted the Bayern names from a list of medieval German names, some of which are still in use today. I used a list of Scandanavian names from the middle ages as a jumping off place for princess academy. The names in book of a thousand days are inspired by Mongolian words.

How do you pronounce the names in your books?

Any way you like. I'm pretty stubborn about this point. I hate it when I'm reading a book and pronounce a name one way in my head and then the audio book or author or another reader insists that I have it wrong. Whichever way you like to say it is right. Some of the names, I've been known to pronounce in multiple ways.

I didn't understand something in one of your books/something bugged me. Will you explain it to me?

Actually, no. I don't like to do that. I have to let the book stand on its own. If you didn't like something or something wasn't clear to you, that's part of your personal reading experience and it wouldn't be right for me to push my way in and explain. I don't want my way of reading the book to be the "one true way." However, when I am put off or confused by something in a book, I like to talk to other people who have read it and get their insight.

Are any of your books going to be made into movies? And can I be in it?

The austenland movie is currently in post-production, release date to come. No other movies from my books are currently in the works. The truth is, a director casts professional actors in movies, so if you want to be an actor, a good idea is to take acting classes and work toward getting an agent. (Make sure they're legitimate--a true agent only makes money when you do, taking a percentage of your earnings.)

What order should I read your books in?

Any order you want, though for the Bayern books you might want to start with goose girl, then read enna burning, river secrets, and forest born. princess academy, austenland, the actor and the housewife, and book of a thousand days are standalone books, so you could read them any time. Like, right now, for instance. The graphic novels rapunzel's revenge and calamity jack can be read in any order, though people generally read rapunzel first.

Do you have any help for teachers or book groups doing one of your books?

Yes!The US paperback of the goose girl and princess academy include reading group guides and author interviews. Download the guides at www.bloomsburyusa.com. The paperbacks of austenland and the actor and the housewifealso have reading group guides.

What's with the pig?

My publisher asked me for a bio, and I read lots of other writers' bios to get a sense of what people were doing. They all mention their pets. "Why?" I wondered. "Is it a secret writer thing? Without a pet you aren't in the club?" Sadly, my husband and I don't have a pet (that is, until we had our baby, of course). My husband's nickname for me is "pig" (it's affectionate, I promise), and so we have a few small plastic pigs around the house. We picked one of them to be our official pet and I put it in the bio. I thought my publisher would edit that line out of my bio, but no! It even made it into the UK edition bio. I think it's thoroughly delightful to be known for having a pet plastic pig and think all other writers should jump on this bandwagon. E.g., "Mary Scrumptious lives in an 18th century farmhouse in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and their pet, a styrofoam llama."