Flashback!: A flashback is, of course, a scene that takes place earlier than the current story. The narrator takes us back, usually because the main character is remembering something. I do everything I can to avoid flashbacks. They can weaken the narrative. A flashback early in a book is especially dangerous, and in the middle of a chapter can feel cheesy or forced. This scene was important enough that I didn't just want the info relayed through thought or narrator. I wanted to see it. A nice reminder of Peder while he's away. And important info about quarry-speaking. Rereading it now, I'm happy to find I didn't cringe. I like how it feels at the beginning of the chapter.
Quarry-speech: Page 82 has the first real description of how Miri feels using it. Quarry-speaking was not in my first draft. While researching quarries, I learned how deafening the work can be and also how dangerous. The Eskelites were so disadvantaged, I wanted them to have a talent, something unique that lowlanders did not. The ability to communicate warnings in a noisy quarry would be very helpful.
"The sky was achingly blue." pg 83. I like this line. And the ones that follow. They make me feel and see the day.
Holding hands: Someone I know immigrated to the US from Germany when he was 13. The first day of school, speaking little English, he walked with a neighbor boy. As they began to walk, he reached out to take the other boy's hand, as they always did in Germany. The American boy pulled away and looked at him as if he were a freak. It dawned on him that hand-holding was not something boys did in America. I loved this story, and it's the root of Mount Eskel's tradition of hand-holding. Bits of real life and stories I hear often work into books in this way.
Singing: Another Eskelite custom and one, like most of their customs, comes from their work in the quarry. I love Britta's confusion on page 86. Should she sing along? That disconnect, that bewildered loneliness that comes when two cultures meet. I find it both scary and fascinating.
"Thanks for talking to me.": Oh Britta! I want to just hug her! I imagine what the last year of her life has been like. Loneliness is something, I think, everyone has tasted.
The princess house: Miri could never dream about marrying someone she's never met and could never imagine, but the house to give to her family is a tangible goal.
Mount Eskel: The mountain itself naturally became a character in this book. While it's possible that the mountain has some kind of magical sentience--that it's aware of the people--it's also possible that's Miri's imagination. I am very careful to never declare one way or the other. I imagine some readers might believe one way and others another.
Isobel asks, "while working on other books and gathering ideas for Princess Academy, did you ever feel impatient to get on with things, or just happy to let the story build?" I'm often, like a magpie, charmed by the shiny thing off in the distance. It's always a temptation while writing any book to abandon it for a currently-more-interesting idea. I jot down ideas I have, but I'm very firm with myself to finish the book I'm working on. If I didn't, I'd have dozens of books begun and nothing finished.
Alison asks, "How long does it usually take you to plan and write? Once you have an idea, does it just flow out, or do you have to sit down and plan out everything that's going to happen in the plot? Or do you just let things happen?" Every book is different. With PA, I had the idea, wrote it down, and kept jotting down further ideas as they came for about two years. The first draft took about 3 months, then I rewrote about 10 more drafts over the next 9 months--the fastest I've ever written a book. Some things I've planned, some I discover while writing and rewriting.
Kitty asks, "When you actually start to write, after all the outlining and such, do you start with CHAPTER 1 and divide up the book from there, or just write until your story is told?" I don't divide into chapters the first draft usually, and sometimes not for several drafts. I add and delete and change way too much to try to create definite chapters that early.