Oh man, I did so much goose research for this book. I learned way, way more than I'd ever use, about goose habits as well as goose symbolism in literary history. Using research is a balancing act. I find sometimes I can get too excited about the cool things I learn while doing research and let the research push the stories in ways it wouldn't have gone. Sometimes that's good and interesting, and other times the research can bog down a story, slow a pace, make me lose sight of what the story needs to be. Many drafts I find myself working to undo the effects of Researchitis.
Aah! That moment with Geric and Ani kills me! The tension, the beating hearts, the clasped hands but impossible situation! I'm such a romantic. Can you tell?
Ani tries to rescue Falada
This was not in the first draft. Ani was so often passive, I needed her to do something. A character who doesn't do anything is boring and has no chance to change or make change. She had to grow slowly, she's no Enna, but this felt like the right moment for action. Besides, I don't think we could've forgiven her if she hadn't tried, given what happens later.
My mom was crushed by this chapter. We had a version of "The Goose Girl" tale growing up where there was a fairy godmother who was conveniently absent for the entire story (so that a story could happen at all without someone there to instantly fix everything) but appeared at the end to magically bring Falada back to life. My mom wanted some of that action. But I never believed it. A story has to bleed a little or no one can believe it. Besides, Ani had to lose everything before she could find herself.
I am so sorry, though. I'm still sorry for doing it. An animal death is often harder on readers than a human death, and I feel every death I write. And I also feel a little responsible for any tears I help evoke. I remember at one of my first signings I met two children who were reading the book with their mother. I asked them, "Who's your favorite character?" They said, "Falada." "Where are you in the book?" "We're just starting chapter 13." "Oh. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
Anna asks, "In that universe, was braids a sign of royalty?" Nope.
Angie asks, " In the original fairytale, the Goose Girl first confesses her real identity to (inside) an iron stove, and in your book she first confesses to Enna, who is also full of fire in more ways than one. Was that the inspiration for Enna's interest in fire, or is that a reach more suited for a high school English paper?" No, I didn't think of that there. For me the stove idea (and the king listening through the pipes) will play out near the end.
Leilani asks, "when you write a story, do you have a specific theme/moral in mind that you want to portray, or does the story form one on it's own. Or is it different with each book?" I never think of a theme(s) before writing. The story always finds themes on its own and I follow what I'm giving as I do rewrites. I listen for what works with the story and then nurture the themes given to make them resonate. I was on a panel once with four other children's/YA writers who made fun of the idea of English teachers making students find themes in books that the author clearly didn't intend because they never did. But I had to disagree--some writers are conscious of that and work hard to craft it. Sorry, beleaguered English students!