Here’s a magical tale spun with real emotion and believable characters. Sarah McGuire is pretty magical herself, teaching both math and creative writing at the high school level (Who does that? Smart, creative people!). Please join me in celebrating her book birthday here and in person at Over the Moon Bookstore, Crozet, VA at 2 pm on Saturday, May 2, 2015.
First, the book blurb and some get-to-know-you questions:
Reggen still sings about the champion, the brave tailor. This is the story that is true.
Saville despises the velvets and silks that her father prizes more than he’s ever loved her. Yet when he’s struck ill she’ll do anything to survive–even dressing as a boy and begging a commission to sew for the king.
But piecing together a fine coat is far simpler than unknotting court gossip about an army of giants, led by a man who cannot be defeated, marching toward Reggen to seize the throne. Saville knows giants are just stories, and no man is immortal.
Then she meets them, two scouts as tall as trees. After she tricks them into leaving, tales of the daring tailor’s triumph quickly spin into impossible feats of giant-slaying. And stories won’t deter the Duke and his larger-than-life army.
Now only a courageous and clever tailor girl can see beyond the rumors to save the kingdom again.
Tea or coffee? Flavor? Milk or sugar?
Coffee with cream and sugar. If I’m working late at night and can’t risk the caffeine, green tea with honey
Fall– because of the crimson leaves and those first cool days when you smell woodsmoke in the air.
Can you deal better with wind or rain?
I like wind. It makes me look up.
What’s always in your fridge?
Favorite comfort food?
Chocolate. Box mac n’ cheese. Fresh-baked bread.
Chocolate or some lesser nectar of the gods?
See above. :)
Food you’d rather starve than eat?
Peanut butter. I already have. I hate the taste. Not even chocolate can redeem peanut butter. (I’m looking at you, Reeses!)
Flats or heels?
I’m on my feet all day. Flats or really comfortable heels
Jeans or fancier?
Short hair or long?
Long, though I often twist it up.
A quiet one! Time to read a book I like.
Last summer, I went on a walking vacation along Scotland’s West Highland Way. I LOVED it.
(Sarah, I’ll go with you next time! — Kathy)
Country you’d most like to visit?
There are so many! But I’ll say Switzerland because I’d like to hike the Mont Blanc trail in the Alps for my next walking holiday.
Favorite musical instrument?
Cello- it has such a golden, molten sound to it
You’re going on a book tour: Plane, train or automobile?
Topic you’d most like to write about?
I don’t really think of stories in terms of topics. Is that weird?
(Nope. — Kathy)
What most surprises you about our current culture?
The lack of empathy
Some favorite books?
Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Andrew Lang’s colored Fairy Tale books, Lord of the Rings. Those were the stories that shaped my childhood.
Thanks, Sarah! Now for some specific writing questions:
How do your ideas come to you?
I don’t think it’s a question of how the idea comes to me, because we all (writers or not!) have so many ideas. I think it’s more picking one out of all the ideas swirling around.
For me, it’s a case paying attention to my own pulse and then taking the time to fully explore and expand that idea. I think many people know that moment when you can feel your pulse quicken– your heart rise– to meet an idea or scene or character you stumble across. I think the key is paying close attention to the things that call out to you. Writing isn’t easy, and it isn’t a short process, so you’d better be starting from a place of passion and pay attention to your pulse.
But for me, once I’ve found that idea or character I care about, the worst thing I can do is to immediately start writing that story or scene. I’ve learned to trust that if a scene or character is capable of moving me, I can afford to keep it inside me for a while and brood over it. (I don’t mean brood in the way we often think of it– a brooding hero wandering a forsaken moor somewhere.) I mean brood in a nurturing sense: a hen broods over her eggs, and then over her chicks. She warms them and protects them with her own body. In the same way, I personally need to keep the story-seed near me for a while and let it grow. I don’t have to pin it to the page immediately.
And while I brood, I have time to explore those aspects of the story that mean the most to me, that continue to move me. Characters and scenes (and conflicts!) become clearer. The story’s world will expand. By that time, I can jot down the story’s bones and begin to write.
(I need to say again that this is how it works for me. For the time being. Just because I write this way doesn’t mean that anyone else should!)
Valiant, and a few other stories I’m working on, are fairy tale retellings. For me, it starts with a fairy tale that quickens my pulse, one I can’t not think about– for good or bad reasons. Normally there’s at least one aspect that stands out to me, something I have to explore. With Valiant, I knew early on that the tailor would be a girl, and that I didn’t want the giants to be stupid.
So I tried to figure out why a girl would dress like a boy . . . just to sew. I researched what tailors might have argued about so many years ago. As far as the giants, I knew that in western culture at least, our stories about giants paint them as stupid, brutish, and easily fooled. So I kept thinking about how a giant might be easily fooled, and yet not be stupid.
I really like exploring these ideas within the frame of a fairy tale. I imagine it’s almost like meter and rhyme pattern might be for a poet. In a crazy way, those restrictions allow the poet to be even more creative than she would be without them– she can’t use any word, it must be a word that communicates the heart of the matter and works within the poem’s structure. In the same way the preexisting structure of the tale forces me to dig deeper and travel further through the story than I might otherwise, even if I’m changing the story as I go.
Do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?
“Art is fire plus algebra.” Jorge Luis Borges
I love it because it embraces both the passion and the craft of writing. And because I’m a math teacher.
What are you working on now?
More fairy tales! But I’m brooding over those stories for a little while longer.
Sarah McGuire loves fairy tales and considers them the best way to step outside of everyday life. They’re the easiest way, at least: her attempt at seven to reach Narnia through her parents’ closet failed. She lives within sight of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches high school creative writing and math classes with very interesting word problems. Valiant is her first novel.
Thanks, Sarah, and congratulations on Valiant! You can get to know Sarah better via the following links: