Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Interview with Jessica Day George

What can I say about Jessica Day George? She is a riot in a bottle. She is a red-headed firecracker. When asked for a picture of herself she sent the one to the right, saying, "Oh, here, post this picture! I swear, it's an exact likeness!"

Today we have the opportunity to find out a bit about her, her books, and her writing habits.

But quickly, before we get started, let me remind you about her books. The first one was Dragon Slippers, which I requested from the publisher after hearing it was something I might enjoy. I did. Tremendously. To find out all my thoughts about it, visit my review here.

The sequel to Dragon Slippers will be released in April. Dragon Flight is a fantastic sequel and lovers of Dragon Slippers will surely be happy with it. I have had the chance to read it already and will be reviewing it fully closer to its release.

Jessica Day George's latest book, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, is my favorite of the three. I will be reviewing it shortly. If you love fairy tales and fantasy, you don't want to miss this book. I loved it.

If you comment on this post (be relevant, please), the one about Dragon Slippers, or the review of Sun and Moon (which is coming soon) you will be entered into the drawing for a free signed copy of Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow!!! Comments will close a week from today, on Wednesday, March 5th at midnight. A winner will be announced the following day.

JDG: Okay, let's get to these questions before my brain falls out my ear, which is a very likely scenario at this point.

1. How much research do you do for your stories? How do you organize it?

JDG: Ah, organization. Yes, er, I'm not that organized, actually. It's kind of alarming. For Dragon Slippers, I pretty much did no research, since I like my dragons a certain way and I invented the customs, language and culture of Feravel. But for Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, I reread the original fairy tale both in English and Norwegian, and kept an Old Norse dictionary at hand for reference. It was a project I had been mulling over for years, and so I already knew what elements of Norwegian culture I wanted to bring to it.

2. How did you get the ideas for Dragon Slippers and Dragon Flight?

JDG: Dragon Slippers came to me one night like a bolt of lightning, which is just as painful as it sounds. The entire book just downloaded into my brain (again: ouch!), and I just had to type fast enough to get it all in before I forgot any of it. I never intended to write a sequel, but one day while telling my husband that I had no ideas for a sequel, I thought of one. So Dragon Flight was a bit harder to write. I knew that certain dragons were still alive (not to spoil anything), and I knew that I wanted to go to a new country, and have that country using dragons like cavalry horses. But piecing the rest of it together took a lot more effort than the first book. Hilariously, I've just finished the first draft of a third dragon book, which was much easier to write than the second one.

3. Is the setting in Dragon Slippers and Dragon Flight based on a real location and society?

JDG: Not at all. But if there is a Feravel out there, I'd love to visit. (Not so much Citatie, I don't do well with heat.)

4. How did you get into writing?

JDG: "Oh, yo ho! Yo ho! The writer's life for meeeee. . . ." I am just completely unsuited for anything else. All my life I've wandered around with my nose in a book or my head in the clouds, making up stories. I've got a Cabbage Patch Kid diary from when I was eight that has about five pages of actual diary entries, and then it suddenly goes off on some story about a girl and her horse. (Which, incidentally, I'm turning into a trilogy based loosely on World War I England.) I've been telling people I was going to be a fantasy author since I was at least eleven, and my parents always supported me in that. They would take me to writers' conferences or to booksignings so that I could meet real authors, and all I've ever wanted was to be one of them.

5. What authors have influenced you as a writer? As a person?

JDG: The person and the writer are the same being, really. And I owe so much of my childhood and my writing to Robin McKinley, Patricia C. Wrede and Diana Wynne Jones. If you haven't read The Hero and the Crown, Dealing with Dragons, or Dogsbody. . . . for shame! And there's also the inestimable Tad Williams, whose giant, 1,000 page fantasy novels were the most treasured possessions of my awkward high school years. (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: best fantasy trilogy ever.)

6. Why did you choose to retell Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow?

JDG: It is, hands down, my favorite folk/fairy/legend/tale/story. Trolls, polar bears, fabulous palaces, it has them all! And it's set in Norway, one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. I used to read the P.J. Lynch picture book version over and over, and dream about how I was going to turn that story into a full-length novel. There was just something about it that appealed to me. It was my story, the way little girls now dress up like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, I wanted to be the woodcutter's youngest daughter.

7. After Dragon Flight, do you have any other books in the works?

JDG: Oh, my yes! I have a retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses coming out next year (title is under construction), which will have knitting patterns in it, and I'm a hundred pages into a sequel to that. Plus I just this week finished a third dragon book, and have about half a dozen more books planned. So far.

8. How did you break into publishing?

JDG: With a crowbar and a delicate set of lockpicks. . . . Oh, sorry! That's another story. . . . I was at BYU's Writing for Young Readers Conference (which I very much recommend), and the girl sitting next to me during one of the sessions heard me talk about Dragon Slippers. She invited me to attend a private writing retreat she and some local authors were putting together. They were bringing in a real live New York editor to talk to about 20 people about publishing, and then we would each get 15 minutes alone with the editor to tell her about our writing. I went, it was wonderful, the editor loved my story and ended up buying it. I couldn't understand one word in ten of the contract, though, so I called up an agent I had met at the BYU conference, and asked her if she could negotiate it for me. Now she's my agent full time, and Bloomsbury is my publisher! I really recommend attending writing conferences. Not only does it help you become a better writer, but meeting an agent or editor face-to-face gives you a much better chance at selling your story.

9. What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

JDG: Not enough time! Balancing writing new books, editing the ones on their way to the printer, and taking care of my little one and our messy house is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Added that are making time for school visits and booksignings, it's just crazy-busy!

10.What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

JDG: Make sure you don't forget to read, not just in the genre you're writing in, but all kinds of books. Write down all your ideas and keep them, even if you think they sound stupid five minutes later. A few years down the road, you may find a use for that scene/character/plotline. Did you catch my above comment? I'm using a story I wrote when I was EIGHT as the starting point for a trilogy! And writers' conferences = invaluable.

A commenter at Clean Reads asked the following questions:

What are you reading right now?

JDG: I am currently reading Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing, which is also a Twelve Dancing Princesses story (but vastly different from mine), and next I am very excited to read Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, a wonderful writer for grown ups and a cool person too!

What do you do when you get writer's block?

JDG: Eat licorice and dance around the room. (You're laughing because you haven't tried it.)

What's your favorite part of the creative process?

JDG: Sitting down at the computer and starting a fresh new story. There is no writer's block yet. There is nothing but that blank screen. And as soon as I start typing, I get this giddy feeling and think that I could go on and on for days . . . if only my family didn't need dinner and clean underwear.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

JDG: You're welcome, you're welcome!

To find out more about Jessica, visit her website,, where she blogs and there's all kinds of fun stuff about the books.


hwalk said...

I really, really need to read her books. This interview is wonderful.

Erin said...

VERY fun interview. :)

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Thanks for the great interview. I totally understand about the family needing food and clean underwear.

joelandnatalie said...

Thank you so much for posting my comments! I really did want to know the answers to all three questions I had (especially about what she was reading), but didn't think there would be room. I think it would be so fun to meet her -- she & Shannon Hale are both just hilarious.

Stephanie Roth said...

I ADORE Jessica Day George. Her books are FABULOUS!! Thanks for the fun interview that gave me such a great insight into her mind, life and works.

Manelle said...

Great interview. I just finished Dragon Slippers and I can't wait to read Sun Moon Ice and Snow. It's next on the list.

Becky said...

Great interview! I finished reading Dragon Slippers earlier this week and I absolutely loved it!!! I hope I can read more of her in the future :)

Deanna said...

I cannot believe her story about how Dragon Slippers got published. That has to be a writer's dream, to be attending one of those conferences and have everything basically fall into place. Wow!

Laurie said...

One of my favorite fairy tale re-tellings is East by Edith Pattou, and I loved Dragon Slippers, so I'm really looking forward to both upcoming titles by the author.

Laurie, a Librarian

Melissa said...

Wow, she read it in Norwegian? That, I must admit, sounds like dedication and research. I think I would require more than a simple dictionary handy. Looking forward to reading this book!

Laree I said...

I loved the interview! I'm on the list at the library for Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow and I can't wait to read it. I wish I had the ablility to write so it actualy made sense to others (instead of just rambling like I usually do). But I love reading books by people (Like Jessica Day George) that do!

Julie and Joe Campbell said...

My husband and I put Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow on a must read list for 2008. It was great to read your interview with Jessica Day George and learn a little more about it. I too loved the tale East O' The Sun, West O' the Moon. I bought my own copy of the illustrated version years ago. It is also nice to read that other families struggle for dinner ideas and underwear (hopefully they see mom reading or writing!)

Bohae said...

"Eat licorice and dance around the room. (You're laughing because you haven't tried it.)"

I guess now I should try it ;) Great interview!!

Aj said...

That was a great interview! Thanks so much for posting it. She sounds like a really nice person.

Susan said...

What a fun, hilarious interview. I loved it. Jessica Day George sounds like a fascinating person.

I would love to win her book. Sounds like a wonderful read!

Alyssa said...

Excellent interview! I love it when authors show thier personalities in interviews

Reader Rabbit said...

That's a great interview. Jessica Day George seems like a really nice person.

Caesia J. said...

Thanks for the interview with the charming Jessica Day George! Now,of course, I want to read all of those books she mentioned she was writing, has written, or plans to write! Starting with "Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow."

Also, would you happen to know the working title for the third dragon book or a skeleton plot? Worth a shot.

Thanks again!
Caesia J.

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