The Lost Princess of Story The Chronicles of Story Book 1 by Suzanne de Planque Genre: Middle-Grade, YA Fantasy
"The magical land of Story meets Brooklyn in this unconventional fairytale reminiscent of Narnia...a masterpiece..."
San Francisco Book Review
"...an epic, imaginative portal fantasy touched with welcoming whimsy..." Publisher's Weekly BookLife Reviews
Prince Charming grew up, became King, and married and murdered his way through six of the most famous fairytale princesses. Now the World of Story is torn by civil war, the Wall has been built, and the Doors closed.
Knights and princesses, heroes and magical creatures are refugees in Brooklyn, the place in this world most hospitable to magic. They thought they would be home soon.
Fifteen years later, Brooklyn girl Lilla is chafing at her guardian Gus's strict rules. Why home school? Why can't she walk two blocks without a chaperone? And why won't Gus answer questions about her parents?
Lilla escapes the rules in her beloved books. She is convinced she can find a way to the worlds between the pages.
She is right. Everyone around her has kept one giant secret. Magic is real. On both sides of the Wall, in Story and in Brooklyn.
Can Lilla find the Door that will take her to Story, the World that knows her wildest wishes and her deepest hidden damage, where reward is limitless and danger is beyond all she can dream?
MAGIC IS NOT BIRTHDAY CAKE WISHES. MAGIC IS POWER AND TRANSFORMATION.
FIND THE DOOR.
The Lost Princess of story is YA crossover. All ages book of multigenerational urban fantasy/portal fiction/ retold fairy tale with a Tudor twist. LGBT+ characters.
Recommended for readers of Seanan McGuire's Wandering Children series, Lev Grossman's The Magicians series, Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood, Hafsah Faizal's We Hunt the Flame, and books by Gregory Maguire and Terry Pratchett.
"The magical land of Story meets Brooklyn in this unconventional fairy tale reminiscent of Narnia. Exciting action, fun (and sometimes messy) adventures, and of course, wondrous magic awaits readers as the fine line between fantasy and reality is explored. An homage to refugees who find themselves in a world harsher than what they have left behind, The Lost Princess of Story is a masterpiece that is representative of the real-world issues we face today."
-San Francisco Book Review
"The sweeping first volume of de Planque's Chronicles of Story, created as a 'valentine to children's literature and fantasy', invites readers to sink into an epic, imaginative portal fantasy touched with welcoming whimsy...There's amusing banter, an adorable and hungry teacup-sized dragon, and an enthusiastic narrator given to wordplay and allegory... Lovers of fairytales and epic adventures will enjoy this dangerous quest filled with loveable heroes and magical creatures." A grade.
-Publisher's Weekly BookLife Reviews
"Author Suzanne de Planque weaves a marvelous new world for fairy tale and high-fantasy lovers alike. This endlessly creative novel is an immersive new chapter to the fairy tales we've known for generations. The narrative voice is charming, and there are continuously smart turns of phrase and plays on words. A tremendous creative achievement, The Lost Princess of Story will thrill anyone who has ever fallen in love with a story." ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
-Self Publishing Review
"... a great read, with subtle nods to fairy tales and more current fantasy fiction... carefully skewers and pays tribute to how fantasy tales work... Recommended for readers who prefer works by Gregory Maguire, Terry Pratchett, and works such as Ella Enchanted."⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Lilla had tried it all.
She had started with the basics, bruising herself all over from hurling herself at the backs of wardrobes. Oh, she did it thoroughly. After exhausting every wardrobe at Gus’ house, she had spent an entire afternoon at the cavernous Red Hook IKEA. It had been pouring rain for a week, and she and Charlie had begged his mom, Sophie. Please, they said. We can run around there.
Sophie had pointed them in the right direction. Think you can find Narnia? Then it was hours in and out of every wardrobe she could find. Branching out, trying kitchen cabinets, closets, bookcases with doors. Anything Lilla could open and squeeze herself inside.
Finally even Sophie, the most patient of all their grownups, was showing telltale signs of IKEA exhaustion. They were headed for sweet rolls, the garage elevators, and home, when Lilla saw the huge, deep wardrobe, half-hidden in a dark corner of AS-IS. It radiated an invitation. Lilla could almost swear it hadn’t been there thirty seconds ago. She took it at a full gallop, convinced she would see Lantern Waste in three—two—one--
Well, the good news was she didn’t quite knock herself out cold. And for a consolation prize, Charlie had dragged her back upstairs to the food court, trying to distract her with meatballs and lingonberry drink. Nothing to show for it but bruises and a scraped knee. Not even one step into Narnia.
But that was okay. No one ever said magic would be easy. There was still so much to try. How many, how many coins had she picked up, on the sidewalks, on the subway? How many doubled wishes had she made? Not even one had turned out to be a half-magical, wish granting talisman.
How many hours she had spent in parks, staring at the trees, the grass, willing them with all her strength to turn into a long, low twisting tunnel she could run through into Whangdoodleland?
Why couldn’t she sneak away with princesses to dance at midnight, explore dark and endless tunnels, find just the right carpet, and fly it over London? Each time she tried, she felt a little closer, and so she unscrewed the knob from her bedstead, looked for the owl with her letter, listened for the secret messages the neighborhood dogs barked at twilight, and, always, wished, wished, wished.
It was impossible to see stars in the New York City sky, but she gave her best guess where the second one to the right would be. The question was, to the right of what? Straight on til morning, she thought, and found her most happy thoughts. Neverland, she thought. Narnia. Hogwarts. Wonderland. Oz. She could feel them calling. Lilla, they said. Lilla. Now.
But she did not fly.
All right, she thought. This might take some work. So, she looked through mirrors and into rabbit holes. She listened for the pipes and drums of the Circus Mirandus. She waited for the mysterious package to arrive, ready to drive far beyond Dictionopolis and Digitopolis to explore Loompaland, Whoville, Moominland and places far beyond. Even though she knew all about Stranger Danger, she listened, always, for someone looking for the road to Butterfield.
Oz, Lilla thought, feeling sleepy. She shrugged out of the covers, scanning the shelves for her favorite set of Oz books. She got up and found a favorite volume, scurrying barefoot back across the chilly wooden floor to her warm nest of covers.
There were so many ways to get to Oz, and she hadn’t tried all of them, not by a long shot. By cyclone, by balloon, by sea and earthquake and the Nome King’s tunnels…
Lilla yawned, sinking deeper into the pillows as The Marvelous Land of Oz slid from her lap, splaying open amidst the blankets. The magic word, she thought, sleepy. She had forgotten about the magic word.
Of course, the books never exactly said that the word would take you to Oz, but how perfect would that be? The secret password, right there in the book itself, if you could just find the right pronunciation.
How hard could it be to find the right way to say “pyrzqxgl”?
Sure, the last time she had tried, she had “pyrzqxgl” ed her way into one heck of a case of hiccups, but she thought—maybe—she could tongue twist her way round the word.
Or—another yawn overtook her—she could ask Gus to dig up that old student of his, the guy who taught “Magical Chemistry” at birthday parties to kids in the Jersey suburbs. If anyone could mix up a good magic powder, it was him. And “Weague! Teague! Peague!” was much easier to say than Bini Aru’s “pyrzqxgl” tongue twister.
That was it—use the powder to make a Gump, and fly with Charlie to Oz. Oz was the way in. It had to be. So many ways to get there, she thought, as her eyes closed.
No one, no one could be as close as she was. No one could want it, need it more. So what was she missing?
Lilla slept, not knowing many things. She did not know that there are no more Gump heads in Brooklyn.
She did not know why she was hearing worry and fear, or why the books were calling more fervently each time.
Most of all, she did not know how close she was to Story, and how soon she would be there.
Suzanne de Planque is a writer, actor, and a stay-at-home mom.
Theatrical credits include off-Broadway and other New York, regional, and tours; everything from Shakespeare to Sondheim. A few highlights from her years in the theatre include enacting what must be
every Grimm's fairytale in her years as the self-proclaimed Queen of Children's Theater, playing cut-rate Disney princesses at birthday parties, inspiring a generation of high school students as the DON'T examples in a series of job-seeking educational videos, and breaking her neck falling out of a giant teapot dressed as the Dormouse.
The latter resulted in a career change to playwriting, and a healthy respect for teacups. Her plays have been commissioned and performed in New York and regionally. This is her first novel.
She lives in a little white house in Brooklyn with her husband and son, an impressive array of costumes, swords, and Original Broadway Cast albums, and a world-class collection of children's books. She is an avid collector of antique and vintage children's literature and a fan of literary
tourism in person and on Pinterest. She has never passed a wardrobe without checking, just in case.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have been carrying some of the ideas in this book around since I was in high school. The basic idea of the book—magic and Brooklyn—I have held onto for at least twenty years. When I had my son, I told him some of the stories, and I’ve written bits of it through all that time, and, sadly, lost two drafts in hectic moves.
But the actual writing—the three months or so where I just sat down and poured it on to paper? That was the real inspiration. I started writing in late May 2020, and the first draft was done by early August. I had COVID in late March 2020 as New York City started to shut down. It was surreal (to get a COVID test, my family had to drive out to Staten Island, we were tested inside our car, with patrolling National Guard holding machine guns) and scary. My noisy, chaotic, lovely city went silent. I have several underlying conditions, and COVID took me down hard. It was touch and go. And for months afterwards, I was pretty much in bed.
How often have you said, “When I get the time. When I get the time, I’ll…”? Like most busy moms, writing always had to fit around the edges. Now I was stuck in bed, weak as a kitten, and had lots and lots of time. I just couldn’t do anything.
Or could I?
I heard the clock ticking in a way I never had before. I appreciated how fragile and fleeting life was in a frightening, but inspiring way. I wanted to make sure that whatever time I had left, I used. I wanted my voice to be heard and my stories to be shared.
And my mind filled with characters and ideas and adventures, and I wrote like crazy. That first draft was close to 700 pages. Don’t worry, I spent about eight months editing that down.
2020 was an epic dumpster fire of a year, but it got me writing in a whole new way. I don’t want to make light of all the pain and loss of that year. But I want to find the positive in 2020, too. It made me appreciate how precious life was and how short our time is. I could never have written The Lost Princess of Story in any other year. And I am glad that I wrote it. I just love this book. I love Lilla and Charlie and Sophie and Jamie and Bob and Luke and all the other characters, and I hope you’ll give the book a try so you can love them too.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Well, I’m in the middle of The Chronicles of Story Book Two: The Towered Prince right now. Out this fall, God willing, and the crick don’t rise.
The Chronicles of Story is seven books, so that should keep me busy for a bit.
I have another series partially written (book one is done, book two and three are both about half written) that I would like to get out as well, although they are in a different genre. That series is called Professional Children, and it is a YA trilogy. Like the title says, it’s about professional kids—high school kids working on a teenage soap (Degrassi vibes!) in 1980s New York City. It is very loosely based in part on my experiences as a kid actor, and my husband’s time at the School of Performing Arts and the Professional Children’s School in the 80s. Love triangles, acting, unsupervised rich kids in 80s New York… I can’t wait to find time to finish and publish.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
When the book really started to cook for me was when I opened it up. The Lost Princess of Story really is an all-ages book. In fact, that has caused me no small amount of trouble trying to market it. The kids in the book are 12-13 in this book and will age up a year with each new book. So by the end, they will be 19-20. Okay. Middle grade and YA.
But when writing, I kept feeling like something was missing. And it was.
The story wasn’t just about the kids, and when I realized that, the book got so much deeper and richer. And larger. (Oh, the things I cut.) The kids’ parents are also part of the story. And so, a book that mom or dad can read along with their kids. Or just keep for themselves.
There are three POV characters in this book.
Lilla, the Reader. Lilla loves her books so much that she is convinced the worlds inside are real and she can get there. Lilla once almost knocked herself out cold running headfirst into a promising looking wardrobe in the AS-IS section of IKEA, sure she would find Lantern Waste. Lilla is searching for magie. She doesn’t know how soon she will find it.
Sophie, the Princess. Once, long ago in another World and another time, her father was King of all Story. Now, in Brooklyn, she is just another mom trying to bring up her kids. She has been a princess, a political prisoner, and a resistance fighter, and now she is a refugee in Brooklyn, yearning for the World she loves and struggling to stay alive in this one, where her health is declining fast.
Jamie, the Shrink. Once he was a Traveling Child who found a Door that took him to the World of Story. There, a passing princess threw him handfuls of silver sugarplums that took him from a wage slave in the markets to a knight in training. But he left Story as the Wall went up and the Doors closed. Now he helps other lost children of Story acclimate to the strange new world of New York City, and waits for the Door he knows will one day open and take him Home to Story.
I have side stories about them, and other characters that I had to cut from the book for length. Some will wind up on my website or in other volumes of The Chronicles of Story. Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Lost Princess of Story?
The Lost Princess of Story is stuffed full of characters. The careful reader will even find some old favorites from fantasy and fairy tales making cameo appearances.
There are three POV characters in Lost Princess of Story.
Lilla is twelve years old, and she loves her books, especially the ones with magic. She loves them so much she is convinced that she can somehow get inside them. She wishes on stars and eyelashes and pennies and dandelions, she has given herself hiccups trying to say magic words, and she almost knocked herself out cold running headfirst into a wardrobe in the AS-IS section of the Brooklyn IKEA. Lilla is sure magic is real. She does not know that she is right.
Once a Traveling Child, in Story he became a knight-in-training, thanks to a gift of silver sugarplums from a passing princess. Forced out of Story in the Evacuation, he ages twenty years overnight when crossing the Wall, and struggled to reacclimate in this World. He knew what it was to be broken, and he has been fixed, a debt he never can repay. That is why he became a therapist, helping other lost children of Story. And that princess? Is now his patient. He knows his Door will open again someday.
Princess, political prisoner, resistance fighter, refugee—she has been so many things. Her father once was the High King of all Story, before he was murdered by Charming, his own cousin. Sophie is the last of the Old House, carrying the hopes of the many who yearn for the Doors to open, the Wall to fall, and Story to return to the Old Ways. Most can cross between Worlds easily, but for her the cost was high. Now she struggles with chronic pain and illness. Magic is just so much harder in this World.
There are many other characters in the book. Some of my favorites include:
CHARLIE, Sophie’s son and Lilla’s best friend. Charlie is a Brooklyn boy who knows every inch of the city. He has many enveloping fascinations. Current ones include roller coasters, wyverns, the Roosevelt Island tram, the Times Square shuttle, and 70s supergroup ABBA. Lilla’s stalwart companion, Charlie keeps a cool head through high adventure.
TICKEY-DING, Charlie’s faithful sidekick. Tickey-Ding is a teacup sized turquoise and lime green baby banzai dragon. (Yes, with a z, not s. He says the “z” is for “zazz”.) Tickey-Ding is loyal, brave, and eternally hungry. He is incapable of passing a bodega without stopping for a snack and is devoted to Seven-Elevens. (Seven-Eleven being still fairly newish to New York City, and exotic and exciting in a way it may not be elsewhere.)
LUKE—Jamie’s son, who is trying very hard not to believe in magic. Though his other dad is a magical creature. And Luke is fascinated with naiads. Luke loudly proclaims there is no such thing as magic, even as he is being pulled through a Door to another World. Luke is fiercely loyal to his adoptive dads and is still struggling to find his place on both sides of the Wall.
There are so many other characters, including BOB, a magical creature with a heart as big as his supersized, muscular body; SASS, a princess wannabe in Story; TIGG, Charlie’s swashbuckling cool uncle who saved the kids and wound up in the Tower, in desperate need of a rescue; CLARENCE, a Resistance dwarf who drives a magical Checker cab between worlds; GUS, the mysterious head of the Community, XERXES, who may or may not be a real live mad scientist… and so many more.
Meet them all in The Lost Princess of Story. How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I’ve carried the idea around for years. I love and collect children’s books, especially antique and vintage books of magic and fantasy and fairy tales. Some parts of the book date back to my high school years, where I wrote a much darker magical book. It was extreme juvenilia, but some of those one million words you’re supposed to write before you publish. But the basic idea for the book I’ve had for quite a while.
I started writing it a few times. Two or three drafts are somewhere in a box in storage from one of our many moves. My family is blessed to live in Brooklyn, but as the borough becomes more and more popular, it is hard to keep up with the increases in rent. We have been priced out of our neighborhoods several times as they became super-gentrified with movie stars and hedge funders.
I knew I had the structure, and I just needed the right characters for the book to click. And finally, I found them. Lilla came from something J. K. Rowling said about Harry Potter—that she wanted to write a book about a boy who didn’t know who he was. And of course, Harry knows who he is, to some degree. He just didn’t know he was a wizard. He didn’t know who his family was or what his story was.
I wanted to take that a little farther. Lilla really does not know who she is. Her memories seem to start around the time she came to live with Gus, who does not answer her many questions. While Lilla has a strong sense of who she is in the family she has created around herself, she does not know where or who she came from.
After I knew Lilla, the characters came quickly. Charlie was a natural foil to Lilla.
Sophie came from my wish to write a character that was a mom dealing with chronic pain and illness. That was very personal to me, writing about the joys and frustrations that go along with parenting while disabled. There are not many characters like this in books, and the ones that exist are outdated and not very helpful.
There are a lot of Victorian-era mothers who are wasting away gently and peacefully. Sophie is not that kind of mom. Sophie is feisty and determined, using every scrap of resources she has to raise the kids she loves, trying to make every moment count because she does not know how much longer she has.
It is my fond wish that readers may see their own life mirrored in the book, whether middle grade and YA readers who have a parent struggling with chronic pain and illness, or moms and other parents who live this reality. Sometimes just knowing you are not along can be deeply significant. Sometimes finding a character that resonates with your reality in the pages of a book can be deeply affirming.
Jamie came along and changed up everything. I did not even intend for him to be in the book. Suddenly he was there one day. He stole another character’s name (Charlie was originally named Jamie, but Jamie insisted the name was his. As it turned out, it was, and I think Charlie is a much better name for Sophie’s son.), told me about his practice (he is a psychologist who specializes in PTSD—both kinds. The one in this world, and Post Travel Story Disorder, the product of too many jumps between Worlds and the difficulties of readjustment.), his own struggles coming back through the Doors, his partner, his son… Jamie had a lot to say. He still has a lot to say, and he is convinced the entire story is his. (I haven’t had the heart to tell him the truth.)
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I have a great collection of baby name books I use all the time, and I keep lists of names I like, and I used both. But there are two kinds of funny name stories for The Lost Princess of Story.
The one male POV character in the book is Jamie Malarkey, a knight-turned-shrink. Back in the World of Story, he was training to be a knight. When the Wall went up and the Doors closed, he found himself back in New York. Crossing between Worlds aged him about twenty years—overnight, he went from about 11 to his early thirties. He also wound up in therapy. And became a therapist.
The last name. Malarkey, came from a chef on Top Chef years ago. I keep lists of names I like, and I had been holding that one for a while. But the first name….
Have you ever been writing, and a character just shows up? That was Jamie. The original idea I had for this book did not include him. But he was just there one day. He told me his name was Jamie. (He actually stole that name, at that point another character’s child was named Jamie. No, that was his name. And he was married. To a minotaur. And had an adopted kid. And…)
Jamie had a lot to say to me. Still does. (He is still trying to convince me that this split POV stuff is far less interesting, and he should be the only POV in the books. We disagree about that.)
So, the second story. I now had a character without a name. A kid with no name. I went in circles on that for a few days. Then I asked my kid for help. “Charlie,” he said. “His name is Charlie.” He sounded so sure, I went with it.
Months later I found out my kid named him after Charlie in the musical Kinky Boots. (We are a theater household. I was a professional actor for years, my husband works in entertainment engineering. Broadway shows, rock tours, Vegas, etc.)
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved everything about writing this book. In particular, I loved getting to know the characters, and world-building the World of Story. I also loved revisiting favorite children’s books and books of magic as I wrote. The Lost Princess of Story has over 100 mentions of children’s books. (There’s a list in the back.) It is a valentine to all those influential books of my youth that I still revisit, and it was pure joy to read them, and to write the book.
I wrote The Lost Princess of Story in 2020, a year like no other. At the beginning of 2020, I was coming off several years of health crises. And then I got COVID in March, as New York City shut down. It was scary and weird and strangely post-apocalyptic. To get tested we had to drive out to Staten Island, where they tested my family through the windows of the car as masked National Guardsmen patrolled with machine guns. I had several underlying health conditions and was not in good health to begin with, and COVID hit me hard.
I spent months basically in bed. I needed an escape, and that was what writing this book became. I could escape into the worlds of my favorite children’s books and fairy tales and books of magic. I could escape into the World of Story. And I could escape into the minds and lives of my many characters.
The World of Story became very real and necessary to me in those crazy months and took me away from all the surrounding stresses. As the world around me became dark and confusing and sometimes scary, I loved creating a world of magic and mystery and adventure. I loved revisiting the messages of the old fairy tales, which have taught children for hundreds of years that life can be scary sometimes, that there are monsters in the world, but that you can make it through the hard times. You can defeat the monsters. And not all monsters are evil. Not all heroes are good. Fairy tales teach us hope in the dark times and bravery in the tough times and the best ones also teach us to laugh a lot and whistle past the graveyard.
Writing The Lost Princess of Story reminded me of all those things, and I hope it can do the same for you.
Tell us about your main characters, what makes them tick?
There are three POV characters in The Lost Princess of Story, and each of them has their own driving forces.
When we first meet Lilla, she is surrounded by and defined by her books. Lilla loves to read. She reads everything, but her favorite books of all are books with magic. Lilla is stifled by her every-day-the-same life. She yearns for the life of adventure and magic she sees inside her books. Lilla is convinced that magic is real, and she has made quite a project of trying to prove this. We learn about her many experiments, how she has cornered the market on wishing, talked herself into hiccups trying to say magic words, almost knocked herself out cold running head-first into wardrobes trying to find Narnia. Lilla does not remember her past before she came to live with Gus. She does not know who she is, or where she fits in, and she is trying to answer these questions.
Sophie, Charlie’s mom, is another POV character. Sophie was a princess back in Story. Once her father was the king. But when she was very small, he was murdered by his cousin who seized the throne. The World of Story has been torn by civil wars ever since. Sophie has been many things—a princess, a political puppet, a prisoner, a resistance fighter, a refugee, a mom—but what means the most to her is her family. Sophie is driven by the need to raise her son and the other children she loves, even as she is hampered by chronic pain and illness. She can hear the clock ticking, she knows her time may be running down, and she wants to make the most of every minute that she has, wants to give her children as much love and as much raising as she can while she can.
Jamie, the last POV character, is driven by the need to go back to the World of Story. Not a day goes by that he does not look for his Door to reappear. But in this world, Jamie is no longer a knight. He is a therapist. Crossing between worlds was traumatic for him, and while still very young he wound up in therapy. He was broken, and he has been fixed. This makes him feel the need to fix others, especially other lost children of Story. Jamie also has great love for his partner and for his adopted son.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
I wanted something with a fairy tale ring, that was evocative of the books of magic and wonder that were beloved to me as a child. (And are still beloved now.) There is an Oz book called The Lost Princess of Oz. I put my own spin on that. Also, I wanted a title that was both specific enough and broad enough that I could hide a secret inside. Readers of the series may find that as they progress through the books, information may come to have multiple meanings as they learn more. That’s all I can say now!
Who designed your book covers?
My husband is my designer. He did the book cover and a lot of my marketing images. He also has done beautiful pen and ink sketches of many of the characters. You can see them on my website, suzannedeplanque.com, and learn a little more about the characters.
His day job is in entertainment engineering (Broadway shows, rock tours, Vegas), but he is an incredible artist. He has been super supportive through all of this and has also used his film school experience to make me some great book trailers. (Lost Princess of Story book trailer on YouTube. Check it out.) Thanks, Murphy! I love you!
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Right now, I would have to say no. It was hard to know when to stop. I edited this book like crazy, trying to knock down the length. But I am happy with where it ended up. I may change my mind in time.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
When I first read this, I read too fast, and saw “would you like to play the lead”?
If I were younger, and a little less ravaged from years of chronic illness, sure. I was a professional actor for years. Sophie (one of the three POV characters) shares a few things with me. She is also a Brooklyn mom, she also suffers from chronic illness and pain, she also loves her family like crazy.
But she is definitely not me. And she is much younger and prettier than I am.
So let’s see. If Helena Bonham Carter were a bit younger, she would be great. She is small and feisty, like Sophie. (Does she do an American accent? I can’t remember.)
For Jamie? I’m lost. I think I keep getting hung up on the red hair. Not that many great ginger actors out there.
For Lilla? I can’t think of a kid actor I would name. If this was a film, I would want kid actors who don’t look like kid actors, if you know what I mean. There is this overproduced child actor thing. I want kids who look like kids. The Harry Potter movies did a good job of this, with a few exceptions. (Emma Watson is lovely, but not my dream Hermione. I love book Hermione.) The first season of Stranger Things got the reality thing right, though the kids are growing up fast and getting really “kid actor” ish. Lilla would be hard to cast, because she is supposed to be easy to overlook, but she has enormous hidden depths.
For Charlie? Same thing as Lilla.
For Bob? My son is lobbying hard for John Cena. I don’t see it. I think it’s just because Bob is a big, big guy, like John Cena.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Give this book a try. I think you might just love it. It really is for all ages. Moms, you can read it with your tween or teen, and love it. Or you can keep it for yourself. It’s YA crossover—there are characters who are 12 and 13, who will age up in following books, but the books are also about the entire community surrounding them. Parents, friends, magical creatures, etc.
I also am excited about this book because it has diverse characters. There are teens, tweens, and adults. There are characters of color. There are strong female leads. There are LGBT+ characters. And there are characters with disabilities, both physical and psychological. As a disabled parent, I am really excited that there is a mom who is parenting through disability. There are not a lot of characters like that out there, and I think it is time for more.
I hope you will love the book as much as I do.
How did you come up with the name of this book?
I wanted a title that suggested fairy tales and books of magic and wonder. There is an Oz book deep in the series called The Lost Princess of Oz. I gave it a Story spin. I also wanted a title that had room for more than one meaning. I wanted a title that was both specific enough and broad enough that I could hide a secret inside. Readers of the series may find that as they progress through the books, information may come to have multiple meanings as they learn more. That’s all I can say now!
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Oh, it is so hard to pick! I love the scene when Lilla, Charlie and Luke argue about their parents and wind up in an old-school food fight flinging Jell-O at each other and wind up even closer because they are laughing like idiots. I love anything with Tickey-Ding, Charlie’s tiny teacup dragon, who is eternally hungry. And I have a deep soft spot for Jamie and Bob when they are together. I also love Sophie’s tenacity as she struggles with chronic health and pain while trying to raise her children.
If you could spend time with a character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Oh, so hard to pick just one! I have this desire to spend time with a lot of my characters, to tell them to hang in there, to reassure them. But if I gave them the information I have, then they would know… and the books would become very different.
I think, if forced to choose, I would pick either Tickey-Ding, the pint-sized dragon, or Bob. Bob would be very restful to spend time with. I would love a day with Bob eating Cheetos and watching Aaron Spelling soaps. (Bob’s secret vice.) That sounds like a vacation to me!
And I love Tickey-Ding. He makes me laugh. Laughter has been really important to me in the past year, dealing with the pandemic and lockdown, and struggling to recover from long-haul COVID symptoms.
Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Like many authors, my writing is completely fictional, and yet it is informed by everything I see and read and encounter. None of my characters are “real people”, I made them all up. But there are little pieces of everyone I know, everything I do, everything I’ve seen that show up when I am imagining, when I am writing. And every character has to have a bit of me in there, even if it’s buried really deeply. I need a way in, I need to sympathize and empathize with every character.
And there are definite inspiration points. My son, for example, is the same age as Charlie, and shares a few traits with him. They both have fascinations, love roller coasters, and have curly hair. But Charlie is not my son.
Sophie and I are both Brooklyn moms, both deal with chronic illness and pain, and both love our families like crazy. But Sophie is not me. My husband shares traits with several characters, including Jamie, Bob, and Bray. (My son says there is a bit of my husband in Gus. I’m not so sure. But then, I know more about Gus than what appears in Book One.) But none of the characters are my husband. My brother Tom is the coolest uncle in the world, and so is Tigg. But they are not each other.
So, yeah, all the characters are from my imagination. But the act of writing for me involves all the experiences of my life. Before anything “real” makes it onto a page, though, it is so spun and masked and changed that it loses that quality of reality and becomes just another imagined piece of the larger story.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel you have the reins of the story?
Can I pick both answers, please?
I am writing the story. I know where it is going and where we need to end up.
That being said, yes, the characters try to hijack the story. Frequently.
My characters become really real to me. Even when I’m not writing, they take up space in my brain, and they “talk” to me at idle-ish moments, like when I’m cooking or cleaning or taking my kid for a walk through Brooklyn. Especially cooking.
Jamie, in particular, has quite the agenda. He wasn’t even originally in the story, and now he’s a POV character. He just—showed up one day. Showed up and started announcing things to me. He stole another character’s name (originally Sophie’s son was named Jamie. Now he is Charlie. In the long run, I think this was a good thing. He’s more of a Charlie.)
Jamie appeared one day and told me he needed to be in the story. And his name was Jamie. Jamie Malarkey. And he’s married. To a minotaur. Named Bob. And they adopted a kid. And--
Well, Jamie hasn’t stopped talking since. He has a touching belief that the story would be greatly improved if it were all about him. Because, in his mind, it is.
Jamie is the loudest, by far, but multiply this by three (I have three POV characters, he is one). Multiply it by about twenty, for all the other characters in this book, and you get some idea.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I wrote the book I wanted to read. I love books that take me out of my life and into more exciting worlds. I love books where the characters seem so real that I find myself arguing with them in my head, warning them not to do things, crying over their pain and celebrating their triumphs, and falling in love with them.
I love books where a Door opens and takes the characters to a different, more magical world. I love fairy tales and books of magic and wonder. I love the great classic children’s books and the magical worlds of more recent YA literature. And I love books that make me laugh. I took all these things that I love and somehow managed to stuff them into one book. I hope that makes it a must read.
As a writer and as a reader, I am passionate about this book. If you are looking for a book to take you some place magical, to introduce you to characters you will care about, to bring some magic into your world, then I think you will love The Lost Princess of Story.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I was writing “novels” back in first or second grade. I have written quite a few over the years. Some are in boxes in storage from our many moves, some on my computer. I am writing Book Two in the Chronicles of Story right now. And I have another series that I hope to publish after the Chronicles of Story, or at least when I’m a little further along.
It’s called Professional Children, and it’s about high school-age kids who are on a teen soap (Degrassi vibes) in 1980s New York City. It is extremely loosely inspired by my acting career and my husband’s time at the High School of Performing Arts and the Professional Children’s School. Love triangles, teen angst, and all that great 80s style and clothes and music.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Oh, this is hard. I guess it would be the scent of magic, because that is one of the two great powers at the heart of this book. The other one is love. I think love smells different to all of us, like Amorentia in Harry Potter, reminding us of whatever and whoever we hold dear. The smell of magic? I’m not sure, but I think it would smell like dreams and transformation and all sorts of magic, like birthday cake wishes and dandelions and wishing wells and wand wood and potions and rabbit holes and wardrobes and definitely like books, that great smell of old books that have been loved well for a long time.
What did you edit out of this book?
About 150-170 pages. Really. I loved writing The Lost Princess of Story. I wrote the book mostly in bed post-COVID. I had underlying chronic conditions, and COVID knocked me down hard. Writing about the World of Story took me away from all that and gave me a break from our world, which was often frustrating and frightening in 2020.
When I finished writing, I realized the book was WAY too long. So I edited it many, many times. I hope some of the other adventures may find a home in other volumes of the series, or maybe as reader magnets.
I particularly liked a chapter where Lilla, Sass, Charlie, and Luke have a scavenger hunt all over the grounds of the Tower and wind up finding the keys they need to break out Tigg. (My family loves scavenger hunts and treasure hunts. We had one hysterically funny Christmas where each of us independently decided to do a treasure hunt and hide a package for a family member who was having a rough time to cheer them up. The poor person was running up and down stairs all day long, following clues! But it was a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed it.) Sadly, the scavenger hunt chapter turned out not to be necessary for plot. But it might come back in another book… or a reader magnet. Reach out to me and let me know if you’d be interested in reading it.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be, and why?
J. K. Rowling comes to mind immediately. Let me take a moment and say that I have great love for the books and try to see them outside the writer’s recent comments. The books mean a great deal to me, and to so many others. In the books, Rowling created a world that both encouraged and supported diversity. She also created a world that was complex and funny and magical and deep and that has endured in the hearts of readers long after the series finished. As another writer who writes humorous fantasy, I would love the opportunity to talk about writing with her, and to ask her a million questions I have about the Potterverse.
The more often I return to the Harry Potter books, the more amazed I am at how much is packed inside the pages, and the skill a first-time writer showed across such a lengthy series. I would love the opportunity to learn more about her writing and any advice she would offer.
Follow the tourHEREfor special content and a giveaway!
$100 Amazon gift card
Lost Princess of Story t shirt
Lilla t shirt (Book theme)
Large stuffed Tickey Ding (the mini dragon character in Story)
Coat of arms personally created for you by the Royal Designer of Story (book illustrator), suitable for framing
More reader and Story swag
$50 Amazon gift card
Lost Princess of Story t shirt
Sophie t shirt (This Princess Saves Herself) I
Medium stuffed Tickey Ding
Coat of arms personally created for you by the Royal Designer of Story (book illustrator), suitable for framing
More princess and Story swag
$25 Amazon gift card
Lost Princess of Story t shirt
Jamie t shirt (Knight in Shining T Shirt)
Small stuffed Tickey Ding
Coat of arms personally created for you by the Royal Designer of Story (book designer), suitable for framing
More knight and Story swag