Books: princess academy
  Place in princess academy

My first two books, the goose girl and enna burning, as you can probably tell from the titles, are truly about the main character, as are books 4 & 5 (which are currently outlined and aching to get on the page). But number 3, princess academy, is rooted in a place as much as a person. Don’t get me wrong—I believe every story worth its salt is about a character and the setting of every story is as essential as bones to a body. However, Miri felt so tied to her place that the book came to be about both.

My imagination has a penchant for vastness —I love having journeys, a need for a map at the front of the book, and I tend to have at least two separate countries feature prominently in the story. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. But princess academy was born from a slightly different imagination. I wanted to tell a story from a small place. It was delightful for me to draw a character in such a narrow world and watch her stretch and grow. It was also a huge pain. Why is writing a book always joy and misery? Would that I simply knocked three times on the keyboard and the angels poured a perfect story onto my screen…on second thought, that might be creepy, besides not very satisfying, like heating up a freeze dried meal in the microwave.

I am far from a historical fiction writer, but I enjoy drawing on old cultures (albeit very loosely) to build settings, particularly ones from my own birthright. The Bayern books nestle into my Germanic heritage, and this one pays homage to my Scandinavian stock. Like many folks in the United States of America, I am a true mutt, so I have plenty of blood to draw on. The food I adapted from medieval Danish cookbooks, the names are Scandanavian, and the setting links the high, northern mountains with the coasts.

The entirety of this book takes place on a mountain, one that felt very palpable to me. I grew up in Salt Lake City, and while it's a fairy large city, I was lucky enough to have undeveloped hills and a small canyon in my backyard. I spent my summers tramping around those hills, and their barren loveliness inspired much of Mount Eskel. Miri's view came from a place I only visited once. It was a road at the top of the world in southern Utah. No civilization within binocular range, just treeless mountains rolling out from every side, some brown, some gray, some purple. We pulled over, stepped out of the car, and my heart ached because I felt I could not understand just how beautiful it was. Perfect. It was a transcendent moment. I've almost felt the same way many times when witnessing some kind of natural beauty. Now that I've had a child, I feel it all the time. When he makes a face, when he learns something new, when he putters around playing by himself, when he sits on my lap and smiles at me—I feel an almost physical pain in my heart because I love him so much. That feeling is somehow akin to the one I felt witnessing that mountain range, and I tried to weave it into Miri's own experience for her mountain.


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