HOW TO SAVE A QUEENDOM by Jessica Lawson is a book that has probably one of the best titles I’ve featured so far this year. It also has a great premise:
Life’s never been kind to twelve-year-old Stub. Orphaned and left in the care of the cruel Matron Tratte, Stub’s learned that the best way to keep the peace is to do as she’s told. No matter that she’s bullied and that her only friend is her pet chicken, Peck, Stub’s accepted the fact that her life just isn’t made for adventure. Then she finds a tiny wizard in her pocket.
Orlen, the royal wizard to Maradon’s queen, is magically bound to Stub. And it’s up to her to ferry Orlen back to Maradon Cross, the country’s capital, or else the delicate peace of the queendom will crumble under the power of an evil wizard queen. Suddenly Stub’s unexciting life is chock-full of adventure. But how can one orphan girl possibly save the entire queendom?
You’ve mentioned that you often have a lot of writing ideas. How do you know which ideas can be fully fleshed out into stories and which to leave behind?
This is a great question! I have a Word file dedicated specifically to ideas—some only have a description of a character, some have a summary of a unique plot, and some have first pages. There are way too many ideas to pursue at once, and I write a lot of “test text” to see if I have a feel for a certain character’s voice. If I find myself always thinking about a particular protagonist (for example, if I’m scribbling random notes on Post-Its during my kids’ sports practices), I eventually can’t resist writing pages. Those pages might come in the form of dialogue, action, setting description, or plot notes. I’ve found that, in my writing, I need to connect and be on board with the main character’s emotional journey—even if I think the external plot has potential, I can’t quite “tap in” to writing unless I really know what my characters are going through. Once I’ve written a certain number of pages (usually 50-60), I know that I’m truly invested in following through with the story. This results in a LOT of stories that are left behind that don’t hit that mark. But the beautiful thing about those left-behind stories is that you can take pieces of them with you as you continue your writing journey.
That’s a great way of putting it! And I love the characters in HOW TO SAVE A QUEENDOM, especially the apprentice cook. What do you feel is the most challenging part about developing characters?
Thanks so much~ the apprentice cook, Beaman, was so fun to write! I think the most challenging part of developing characters is making sure that they’re three-dimensional. It’s important to remember that every character should have qualities that boost their ability to complete their own journey, but also have qualities that might lead them into disaster. Virtues and Challenges and Goals and Flaws. Likewise for villains. With QUEENDOM, I specifically tried to make certain villainous characters have somewhat redeeming/relatable qualities, even if those qualities may lead them to make bad decisions.
And I love redeemable villians! You just signed a contract for your debut picture book. Congratulations! What can you tell us about the book so far?
Thanks so much for the congrats~ I’m really excited about this book! I can’t say too much right now, but it’s a picture book biography about an AMAZING female who was the first person in the nation to do something dangerous and necessary. She faced challenges due to her gender and, with determination and support, was able to pave the pathway for many other women who are interested in her specific field. I was able to speak to the subject of the book on the phone multiple times, which was an incredible, humbling experience.
Amazing! What are some of your current projects?
Other than the picture book mentioned in the previous question, I’m working on two middle grade manuscripts. One is from the perspective of a backyard chicken. I used to have backyard chickens (all named after female book characters) and hope to do so again in the future! The other project is inspired by the Tall Tales I read as a little girl. Both projects are in the drafting stage, so there’s not much else to say other than, please wish me luck! Thanks again for having me on your blog!
For Jessica Lawson’s other books, go to http://jessicalawsonbooks.com/Home/Books