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Happy Monday Everyone! I had a wonderful week seeing Anna Li graduate and celebrating with my family. So proud of her and I was so happy our family came to town to help us celebrate. Today I am at orientation at the University of Michigan, so it could be later in the day before I get to your blogs. Once orientation is done, things should slow down. Yay!

I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of Lauren MacLeod's query critique is Laura MP!

The winner of 5 TO 1 is Rachna Chhabria! And BTW, I'm reading this now. It's fantastic!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can get your book to you. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Sarah McGuire here to share about her MG fairytale retelling VALIANT. It’s a different fairytale that I haven’t seen retold, so I’m really looking forward to reading this.

Here’s a blurb about VALIANT:

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.

Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I’m a high school math and creative writing teacher who loves fairy tales. I drink more coffee than I should, cannot keep houseplants alive, and am a firm believer in afternoon naps.

My earliest memories aren’t of writing, but of staying up at night fixing stories that I read. (I still remember a storyline where I added a princess of Archenland to The Silver Chair. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I decided to write a short retelling of Cinderella for my little sister. I owned a cleaning business at the time, so I’d think about what would happen next as I cleaned the Barnes and Noble. It helped pass the time.

And when I went to college, I took what writing classes I could, but it wasn’t until 2006 that I decided I wanted to take it seriously. I joined SCBWI, found a crit group, and went for it.

2. I think we'd be friends. We're a lot alike. I love coffee and little naps too! This is a retelling of The Brave Little Tailor. Share how you got the idea for your story.

I’d finally put aside the Cinderella retelling I’d been working on (and learning from!) for years. To help me commit to a new story, I joined a whole novel workshop taught by Patti Gauch. Once I knew I was in, I decided I’d better pick out a story. So I flipped through Grimm’s, and The Brave Little Tailor was one of the first tales in the book.

I knew the story, but hadn’t much liked it. The tailor seemed to take advantage of the oh-so-stupid giants, the princess resented the tailor when she had to marry him, and … Yet I remembered how a girl I used to nanny loved the story because the tailor was so clever.

And then I realized I was thinking of the tailor as a girl. (Because for me, when I think about a fairy tale to retell, I wonder what aspect of it I can change. The tailor’s gender seemed a good place to start.) And then I realized I needed a reason for her to challenge giants. (Killing seven flies in one blow did NOT seem enough reason.) And then I realized the giants didn’t have to be stupid.

And then I realized that I had enough realizations to drive an entire novel. So that was the story I took to the workshop.

3. I’ve read that you used math in your world building, which I found interesting, especially since you’re a math teacher too. How did you use math in creating your world and what else goes into your world building process?

The math that helped with my world building was the relationship between one-dimensional size
and volume. Simply put, a giant might be six times as tall as a human but the giant’s volume might be six times six times six (216 times!) a human’s. Which means giants would need to eat a lot, which got me thinking about how giants would find food in the rocky Belmore Mountains.

That was the only instance of straight-up math, but I find it’s sometimes attention to the small details that makes a world seem real. I remember reading Shannon Hale talking (somewhere!) about researching Book of a Thousand Days. And she said that while the author knows so much about the world they’ve created, they only need to write those details unique to the world. Math helps me think of those details.

As far as world building, I suppose I just keep asking myself if what I’ve written makes sense. Sometimes we know a certain detail about our world, but we don’t dig enough to find out why it’s so significant. I think that’s

4. I've read that about world building too that there is so much that doesn't get into the actual story. I also read that your ending was the most challenging part of writing VALIANT. Tell us about that and how you overcame this challenge.

In the final showdown in Valiant, I have almost every major character, human and giant, in one place. I needed to juggle the action, the emotional arc, and do it in a way that let the reader know what was going on with the … ten plus characters. I needed to keep the characters distinct, the story moving, and the action tense. And I was doing a wretched job of it.

So, Patti suggested I find a book where someone does that juggling act well and dig to how they handled it. Who better than J.K. Rowling? So I went to the battle of Hogwarts in the Deathly Hallows and looked at how she did it. What stood out most to me was how she used very specific, but brief, action to help us place characters. MacGonnagal is driving stampeding desks through the halls, etc. I realized that I’d used very general and rather long description to mark everyone. So I tried to think of more specific, character-unique action to place each character, and for me, that helped.

I’m not saying I did an awesome job, by any means, but it did help me.

5. Harry Potter would be great to learn from. You were part of the Nevada SCBWI mentor program. How did that help you with your writing in general and in writing VALIANT?

Harold Underdown chose me as one of his mentees for the 2010-11 program, and it was wonderful to work with him. We actually worked on a novel that I ended up putting away. I’d played with the novel for years- it was the one that taught me to write. But it was rather disjointed, and Harold helped me specifically with its middle, a common trouble-area for authors. Even though I put that novel away, I used so much of what I learned with Harold as I wrote Valiant.

6. Tracey Adams is your agent. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

I’d met Tracey briefly at the initial conference for the Nevada SCBWI program and liked her very much. We were Facebook friends, and through that, I had a sense that she was someone I liked, period, as well as being a fabulous agent. Still, it didn’t occur to me to send it to her at first. However, Tracey represented a crit partner of mine, and that CP suggested I send it to Tracey. So I sent Valiant to Tracey and another wonderful agent who had read first pages of Valiant at a conference. Both she and Tracey ended up offering representation, and I ended up going with Tracey.

Tracey and I discussed revisions for Valiant and I dove into those right away. Within a few months, it was ready to go out. Valiant sold the first day of school. (I might have been a little distracted that day!)

7. Awesome how she became your agent. I'd love to have her husband or her as an agent. Your publisher, Egmont USA, closed. What has that been like for you as a debut author and how is affecting your promotion of your book, if at all?

t was a huge blow. Egmont USA’s closing was heartbreaking on so many levels. There were authors who had covers and ARCs and then ended up having to sell those books all over again. My wonderful editor, Alison Weiss, had less than two weeks to finish all her work before she had to leave. Plus, my release date was moved from June 9 to April 28.

I think as a debut author, you especially hope to rely on the expertise of the publishing team. You might be ready to jump in and help any number of ways, but you expect to be working within a preexisting framework. I lost that framework, even though Andrea Cascardi and Margaret Coffee did a fabulous job of supporting me and the other Egmont authors throughout our releases.

I think the fact that the remaining Egmont authors banded together to form Egmont’s Last List helped so much with promotion. The writing community is awesome and we only had to stay in one place long enough for them to help. Amie Kauffman and Kat Kennedy did so much to set up interviews and blog tours so that folks knew about those of us with books coming out.

8. So glad Amie and Kat helped organize your blog tours. I noticed that you already have been doing interviews on some blogs. How did you set that up and what other promotion plans do you have for your book?

Those blogs interviews were almost entirely because of Amie and Kat.
As far as other promotion, I’ll be at ALA in San Francisco in June. Lerner, who bought the remaining Egmont USA titles, has set up a signing for me there. I continue to do local promotion and events when I can— though that’s challenging since I work full time. I’m convinced, though, that the best way I can help Valiant is to write another story and get it out in the world.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m working on another fairy tale retelling based on Grimms’ Six Swans.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Sarah. You can find Sarah at:

Twitter: @fireplusalgebra

Sarah generously offered an ARC of VALIANT for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 20th. I’ll announce the winner on June 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S. residents.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the participating Middle Grade Monday bloggers on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow Casey will be posting a request for your questions for agent Stephen Barbara.So get your questions ready and stop by tomorrow.

Next Monday I have a guest post with debut author Carolyn Lee Adams and a giveaway of her YA suspense/thriller RUTHLESS. 

Next Wednesday I have a guest post with agent Tina Wexler and Jessica Lawson and a query critique giveaway by Tina Wexler and a giveaway of Jessica's new MG mystery NOOKS AND CRANNIES.

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Virginia Boecker and a giveaway of her YA historical fiction THE WITCH HUNTER.

Hope to see you next Monday!


Cindy Tran said...

Oooh, I love the cover! It's so pretty and looks like frosting on a purple cake! The story line sounds just as good, so I'm down for this one. Please enter me in! :-)


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Having a relationship with your agent beforehand really worked to your adavantage, Sarah.

Greg Pattridge said...

What a great idea for a retelling of a fairy tale. And the author being a teacher had me from the get go. Thanks for the insightful interview about her path to publication.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I enjoyed learning about how she went about retelling an old fairytale. (Truthfully, I never liked The Brave Little Tailor, either, but it sounds like Sarah McGuire turned it into a dazzling story in her retelling. I also enjoyed learning about how she applied math to pinpoint aspects of the story. That was just amazing o me. Good interview. I'm glad she was able to push on with he book even after the publisher folded.

Ms. Yingling said...

I didn't know about Egmont USA! They have had so many good books. Will have to take a look at the Last List, as well as Valiant.

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful interview. I love how Sarah came up with her ideas for stories. It's so much fun putting twists on fairy tales. Congratulations to her. And yay for afternoon naps! :)

Karen Lange said...

Enjoyed the interview and meeting Sarah today! Thanks for the intro, Natalie. :) I think the retelling of fairy tales has great potential. Wishing Sarah all the best!

I will pass on the giveaway this time around.Have a wonderful week!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations on taking an oft-forgotten fairy tale and creating new life from it! The closing of Egmont was a blow to so many authors. I am glad that authors banded together to recover from it and that you're getting support from your new publisher. Good luck with Valiant!!!

Bish Denham said...

At last, a retelling of a fairy tale that isn't so well known! I'd love to read it. Way to go Sarah.

M Pax said...

Congrats to Anna Li! Glad you enjoyed yourself and your family.

Naps are lovely. Interesting use of math. All success to Sarah.

Jennifer Hawes said...

Congrats on Valiant! It sounds wonderful. I've heard great things about The Witch Hunter too,

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Congrats on the publication of your book! It is unfortunate when you lose your publisher and that has happened to me several times as well. Just make certain to have your rights reverted in a written document. It sounds like you have an excellent agent and I'm certain that will make a big difference. My YA novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER is published by Clean Reads and has done very well.

Kristin Lenz said...

Great interview! What a great learning path with Patti Gauch and then the Nevada Mentor program. And then to have Egmont close... I love how the Kidlit community comes together to support each other.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

All the characters in the final showdown? That must've been a challenge!

~Sia McKye~ said...

What a great use of math. :-) I never thought of studying how another created their scene from the character's perspective but now that you mention it, that was a good scene. Congratulations!
Sia McKye Over Coffee

Brenda said...

Wonderful interview and loved reading all the attention to detail McGuire put into making sure that even the math made sense with the plot. Plus that final showdown sounds epic. Congratulations on the release. Have a lovely week Natalie

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Congrats to Anna Li!

I remember The Brave Little Tailor (and the seven flies). What a brilliant idea to switch it to a female tailor and make the giants smarter. This must be the first time I've heard of an author using math in her worldbuilding. Terrific interview!

Jenni said...

Congrats on Anna Li graduating!
This sounds fantastic and so unique. I love The Brave Little Tailor, but love her twist of making the hero a girl. I also enjoyed hearing about how she used math and how solved the climax scene.
Great interview!

Liz Brooks said...

I am so bad at keeping houseplants alive too! (I never remember to water them.) And I drink way too much coffee as well. :) VALIANT sounds super exciting--I'll definately add it to my TBR list. And wow, Sarah, it must have been awful to hear your publisher was closing down. How will you get your royalties if they're not in business anymore? Are you planning to find another publisher for future print runs? (I hope you don't mind me asking.) I'm heading over to Twitter right now to tweet about the giveaway (@adelethelaptop).

Rosi said...

Wonderful interview. I really enjoyed this and will be looking for Valient. Please let someone else win, though. I won't have time soon to read it.

Kelly Steel said...

I enjoyed this interview. Congratulations on the release.

Rachna Chhabria said...

All the characters in the final showdown must have been super challenging. I also have a similar scene in a book I had queried a few years back. I need to revisit that scene and go through it with a new perspective.

Thanks Natalie. I am thrilled that I won a copy of 5 TO 1. It sounds very interesting. I have emailed you my address details.

mshatch said...

I love re-envisioned fairy tales and what a great idea to change the gender of the mc! Congrats and great interview :)

Madeline Osigian said...

Cool! I'd love to read this!!!!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for having me, Natalie! I was a bit under the weather yesterday, or I would have come by sooner. :)

Danielle said...

This book looks super cute! I'm excited to check it out - winner or not!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks so much for the giveaway and interview. I loved how you used math to build your world. The engineer in me loves that! I tweeted: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/608281216329084928

E.G. Moore said...

What a wonderful spin on a Grim tale! Valiant sounds wonderful! Please use this email for contest: emilygmoorewriter @yahoo. I've also shared on twitter. @egmoorewriter

S.P. Bowers said...

I've always loved this story and can't wait to read this. And I'm a big fan of afternoon naps, but they do get in the way of my writing.

S.P. Bowers said...

P.S. Congrats to Anna Li on her graduation!

Meredith said...

I like that you picked a less-popular fairy tale to retell. What influenced you to retell fairy tales?

Sarah said...

Thanks! I think it helped me see that I liked Tracey as a person as well as an agent. And it let her know I wasn't crazy. But I think the most important thing was that she connected with the story. (Despite our connection, she still had her fabulous assistant read it first.)

Sarah said...

I wouldn't be able to do it without afternoon naps! They're the best. :)

Sarah said...

Thanks, Karen!

Sarah said...

Thanks, Dianne! The Last List authors really have been a wonderful group of people!

Sarah said...

Thank you, Bish!

Sarah said...

Jacqueline, Tracey's been so amazing in this whole transition! I don't know how I would have managed without her.

Sarah said...

Yes, Kristin, the kidlit community is truly wonderful. I'm so fortunate to be part of it!

Sarah said...

An engineer! I love it. :)

Sarah said...

Meredith, I've always loved fairy tales. To be honest, it never occurred to me NOT to retell one.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds so lovely!

Unknown said...

Sarah's road to publication sounds as exciting and fraught with tension as her book. How heartbreaking to have the publisher close. Wishing her much success with Valiant and her new swan project!

Carol Riggs said...

Congrats to your daughter for graduating, and her U of M plans! How exciting. Also congrats to fellow Fearless 15er, Sarah--I totally sympathize about Egmont closing (having had the same experience with my debut novel and Strange Chemistry closing). Great interview, thanks Sarah and Natalie.

Anonymous said...

This book looks very promising. I love the title and idea behind it. Success to you and your new book!