Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess, published, 12/1/2017
Genre: Middle Grade
Editions, ISBNs, and Pricing:
Paperback 978-0692920411 $9.99
Hardcover 978-0692938294 $24.99
Ebook 978-0692938300 $2.99
“Princess Bianca rules, in every way! This tale of intrepid discovery and determination will delight young readers and will dare those who deal with the dragons of self-doubt, frustration, and bullying to step out and challenge those menaces to a duel.”
New England Children’s Book Review—Listed as a Favorite
Great reviews of Bianca:
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Description of Bianca:
Princess Bianca had never set foot outside the castle walls. Not once in her over-protected, pink, fluffy life. But when a dragon was spotted in the land and fear spread that the monster had conquered the king and his brave knights, Bianca realized that it was her duty to protect her kingdom. She will have to prove that she can be braver and stronger than anyone believed because the threat outside the protection of her castle tower was more dangerous and magical than she ever imagined possible, except in a fairy tale.
Serenity Mountain Publishing
Interview with Meg Dendler
When did you first write a story? What was it about?
The first story that I really remember writing was actually a picture book version of The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess in fifth grade. It was not very good at all from a grown-up perspective, and the plot was diametrically opposite from the plot of the book I have now published, but it won a merit award at a contest through the University of Illinois. I have no idea how many other winners there were, but it was a huge deal for me. Someone in the program did a puppet show of the story. I have vivid memories of that. During the rest of the school year, I wrote sequels to the story and shared them with my classmates, who were delighted and very encouraging. All of that told me writing was something I was good at. I usually credit that with being the time I decided I was a writer.
What feeds your process?
I much prefer to write first thing in the morning. The further I get into the day, the more life intrudes and my head gets cluttered. I’ve also learned that a whole day can get away from me before I know it, so I try to get the writing in early. I’d love to say that I write every day, but I don’t. Not even close. The business side of being an author is also demanding. It is a balancing act. What works for me is to set deadlines. If I want the next book to be published on a certain date (I generally do one a year), when do I need to have a first draft done? When will it need to be to the editor? I have learned to back that process up along the path of publication and set goals and deadlines. Meeting those keeps me on task. I often hole up in my office near the end of writing a book and just pound it out. First draft are the bane of my existence. I despise writing them. But I love having them done and starting to mess and fuss and edit and revise, so the first draft has to happen. There is never any music in my office. That would just distract me. I’d start choreographing in my head or something. Too many years as a dancer, I suppose. I work in silence. And I always write at home and at my desktop computer. I don’t think I would be productive at all in a public place. I’ve done some drafting on paper and note-taking in restaurants over the years, but that was mostly out of necessity for being stuck in that place and wanting to get some work done. It’s never my first choice. If an idea comes to me at an odd time of the day, I jot it down for later. I rarely expect to remember it. I have manila folders in stacks with ideas for specific books and ideas for books I haven’t started yet. Sometimes I pick up a note and have no idea what I meant when I jotted it down, but most end up going into something along the way.
What genres do you write in?
The majority of the time, I write middle-grade fiction. At least that is what I am currently focused on and publishing. But I have a YA biography in with a publisher for consideration right now and a picture book under consideration with a different editor. I have a few other picture books in the drawer waiting their turn for revision and attention. One of my published books is women’s paranormal fiction, and a book I’m currently working on is a memoir of our five years running a guesthouse. I guess genre is where the book ends up, but I just try to focus on the story. That will lead you where it needs to be for the reader it is designed for. Who is the audience who will enjoy that particular story? Once you determine that, then you can adjust and focus as necessary to meet that reader in the right place to have your story be for them.
Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?
For my Cats in the Mirror books, the ideas came from the cats and dogs themselves. Deciding, in jest, that our insane cat Kimba must be an alien led to the short story that led to the middle-grade book that led to the whole series. It just kept growing and expanding. My adult novel, At the Corner of Magnetic and Main, was sparked by a visit to a kitschy diner that was located literally at the corners of Magnetic Road and Main Street in our town of Eureka Springs. A writer friend joke that it would be a good book title. I played with that idea for a bit and realized that it would have to involve ghosts because that is something the town is known for. That idea grew and grew and became a book I never intended to write at all. My newest book, Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess has been brewing and shifting and been rewritten in various forms since fifth grade, but I love the final version and the message it has to share. I have no idea where the original thought for the story came from, but I suspect that my love of the Dragonriders of Pern books has influenced my female character as well as my dragon. Even in fifth grade, I may have already been exposed to that series. My mom read them to me when I was about that age.
As people learned about your books, what unexpected things happened along the way?
When I first started going to events and sitting at booths and tables with my first few cat books, readers made it clear they wanted a dog book. I’d hear that question several times at each event. “Don’t you have one about dogs?” Nowhere in my plan was there a dog book, but I do have a dog and he is part of the Cats in the Mirror series. The cats call him The Big Black Beast. And if I thought about it, Max did have a story of his own to tell. He had run off one evening and spent the night on his own in the Ozark Mountains around our house. There was a story there. So I tried writing it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers did too. One mother told me her son has read Max’s Wild Night nine times. That’s about the best it gets for an author! I assumed that would be the end of it, but then my older daughter (who is a dog fanatic and trains them for a living) insisted that her dog needed a book as well. Dottie’s Daring Day was suggested. I have found that’s about all I need. Give me a great title like that, and I’m off and running. I highly suspect there will be another dog book before I’m done.
How do you start a novel/story?
Sometimes I have a general idea about how the story is going to go. I sort of know that C, J, K, Q, and V are going to happen as it unfolds. But I don’t always know how it will all fit together. What I will often do is start with the scenes I know. I’ll write C and J and then see how I feel about it. I’ve often ended up with weird chunks of story that all have to be tied together to make sense. Some of what I originally planned may have to change, but that’s okay. If I waited until I understood every second of the story, I might never start. It would be too frustrating. I just have to jump in and poke at it a bit and let the characters tell me about themselves and where they want to go. I usually know how it will end. Especially with the cat series because they have to work together and lead into the next one. There’s a bigger story going on when you deal with a series. I know things that will happen in Book 10. So then I have to decide what it will take for the characters to get there and what will be a part of each smaller storyline along the way. I jot down ideas and make notes and write until it flows and makes sense. With kidlit, you have a very limited word count. Maybe 30,000 words for the whole story. You can’t mess around. You have to know the plot points that are important and get to them directly. Maybe that’s why I start there.
What does your writing space look like?
I work “old school” at a desk with a computer. My laptop is only for fun and games. I love my desk. It belonged to my grandfather, so it is pre-1900. Besides being this massive wooden structure with beautiful carvings, it has all kinds of side trays that I can pull out to put books and notes on. It’s fantastic for a writer. Because I work as an editor for other writers along with my own writing, I have a private office in our house that is only for my work use. No TV or anything like that. The one frivolous thing in there is my Disney mini-plush collection and my storybook stuffed animals. They surround me. I freely admit to talking with them when I get stuck in a story. They don’t answer, but it helps me process. There is usually a cat or two in the room with me as well, and Max (our dog) likes to lie across my doorway to protect me while I work. I try to keep things tidy with “in” baskets and folders. There is usually a stack of papers that are more urgent “to do” items. The running of a publishing business involves a lot of paper! In general, I’m a very organized person, so I try to keep my writing space tidy.
What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
For me personally, the first draft is the hardest part. Even if I know exactly what is going to happen, I have the hardest time sitting down and getting myself to do it. After reading The War of Art and Big Magic I found that I’m not alone in that problem. It’s just a resistance to creativity and productivity that is out there in the universe. I find that idea annoying—a resistance to creativity— and it help me to fight against it. Once I have gotten a full first draft out, that’s when the fun starts. That’s when it gets interesting and exciting because I’m making it better and better and getting closer to being done. I love the editing and revising process. Maybe that’s why I devote time to helping other authors as their editor. That’s the part where a book comes alive.
Do you travel to research your books?
I definitely did specific research for At the Corner of Magnetic and Main to include real things and places in Eureka Springs, but I also fictionalized the town to suit my own needs. For Dottie’s Daring Day, I came up with the idea of having the book be something a child could walk through from beginning to end. It is set in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the real Dottie lives with our daughter. From the moment Dottie gets off her leash, you can figure out where she is on the Razorback Greenway Trail and follow her journey down the trail, across Dickson Street, onto the University of Arkansas campus, and around and into the stadium. I walked the route many times and found things to work into the book. Dottie and my daughter made the trip with me a few times as well. The big drawback to that reality attempt is that things and landscapes change. When I was on the verge of publication—the book was formatted and in final edits and touchups—the university decided to blow up the front of the stadium and rebuild. Okay, I realized they probably decided that months or years ahead of time, but the demolition took place days before publication for me. I had a whole scene that took place in that space that was now a big crater of dust and rubble. All I could do at that point was add a comment in the “author notes” section at the back and move forward. I have some story ideas for a cat book that takes place in Italy. I should definitely travel to research that one!
Where would your dream book signing occur?
Well, I suppose it would be at some massive SCBWI event, and I would be sitting next to Sharon Creech and Lisa Yee and Natalie Lloyd, and they would think my books are delightful and amazing. That would set me for life.