Have a big warm welcome to our guest Merrie Haskell!
Here we go!
Tell us something about your book that we wouldn’t know just by reading the blurb.
Something about THE PRINCESS CURSE that you can't know from the blurb... well, nowhere in the blurb is Romania mentioned. My book takes place in a made-up region of medieval Romania (the year is 1489, if you want to get specific; and while there is no way to discover this from the text, and it proved completely unnecessary, I did calculate out the changes in the local calender based on when Transylvania switched over to Gregorian from Julian). But all the reviews discuss the Romanian setting, so I should choose a more interesting non-blurbed fact. Did you know that invisibility caps figure prominently in this story? They do! There are two of them, plus a Helm of Darkness, which is the name of Hades' invisibility helmet.
What’s your favorite non-essential item on your desk?
It's a tie, really! First up is my lodestone. I bought it a few years ago, thinking I could really use a metaphorical compass on my desk. I'm not entirely sure it has guided me to anything but throwing paperclips at it to see if they'll stick, but I enjoy it. The second is an antique bronze stylus that was used in the Middle Ages for inscribing wax tablets. My husband gave it to me for our "bronze" anniversary. It feels incredibly good in my hand. I could totally write some wax novels if I had to.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing a novel?
For me, it's always, always, always the editing phase. I love writing first drafts. I would write only first drafts if I could possibly get away with it. Editing is like trying to fit a stepsister's foot inside Cinderella's shoe--someone's appendage has to get hacked off. On the other hand, I know I need editing. A lot. So I'm very grateful to the people (my best friend, my agent, my editor, my writing buddies) who tell me what I've done wrong. Even if I look like you kicked my puppy afterward.
What's a typical day like for you?
I get up, eat breakfast, all of that. I get to the gym, but not often enough. I drive about 7 miles to work, typically listening to a writing podcast or an audiobook as I go. I bus in from a remote parking lot, so I get the best/worst of commuting as a driver *and* as a passenger of public transit. I work on a college campus in an enormous library, so I enjoy my walk from the bus stop a lot--there are people watching opportunities, and I walk past an art museum with a big gallery space right at the pedestrian level. And then, every day, I get to walk into a nearly 100-year-old building, along sandstone halls, beneath elaborate Roman-esqe murals with Latin mottoes--to my tiny cubicle. I put in a day's work at our interlibrary loan office, which is like overseeing a vast, surging tide of books. (The books come in; the books go out.) Sometimes I write during lunch, if I'm feeling both disciplined and desperate enough. Then home, pet the cats, eat dinner with my family, and by 8PM, I am sitting down to write. (The rule in our house is, if I am not writing by 8PM, anyone in the family can bang a novelty squeaky gavel until I flee to my office; if anyone bothers me while I write, I get to chase them with my big novelty foam sword. It works.) Then bed, about 3 hours later.
Besides writing, what do you like to do in your free time?
In theory, I like to garden, but you would not currently know it from the state of my garden. Likewise, I like to draw, but it's been about a year since I picked up a charcoal stick or a pencil. All of this is due to not having free time, I suppose. So, things I *actually* do: I know you said, "Besides writing," but I like organizing writing retreats--or attending them if other people organize. I like photography, though I'm a rank amateur. I love to travel; I went to Romania and Germany last year. Naturally, I like to read!
And, I will admit, that I enjoy TV a lot. It fulfills a need for story for me. I loved LOST and FIREFLY like everyone else of a science fictiony nature, but I love love this random Canadian show called BEING ERICA about time traveling therapists, and DROP DEAD DIVA, about a model who dies and comes back in the body of a smart, beautiful, plus-sized lawyer. Even though the law in the latter is so bad that I have to pretend that it takes place in an alternate universe.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned when creating your book?
For THE PRINCESS CURSE, I learned a bit of Romanian folklore; I learned that Romanian has had at least three words for dragons. First, zmeu, which is a dragon prominently featured in my book, is a humanoid sort of dragon that likes to kidnap young wives; second, balaur, which is a more dragony sort of dragon; and third, dracul, which we know from Vlad Dracul and of course Dracula. (Vlad Dracul was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was a prestigious chivalric order of the day; he was very proud to be a member. "Dracula"--or slightly more accurately, "Draculea," meant "son of the dragon." In Modern Romania, dracul was adapted to a meaning more like "devil" while balaur stuck with meaning dragon, and zmeu means both dragon and... kite!
Thank you so much Merrie for joining us!!!