Interview with Sarah Prineas

Sarah Prineas - interview for 7 Magic IslandsArmed with her computer named Pip, author Sarah Prineas penned The Magic Thief series as well as The Winterlings series. Sarah is the next Wizard of Words!

Sarah makes her home in rural Iowa with her “mad scientist” husband, two kids, one cat, two dogs, five goats and the Four Chicks of The Apocalypse. In addition to writing books for kids, Sarah has a young adult fantasy coming out next year.

7 Magic Islands: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Sarah! Let’s turn back the clock for just a moment. What did you like to read when you were growing up? How often did you read?

Sarah Prineas: As a kid, I was a passionate reader.  My mom took us to the library once a week, and I basically made my way through the entire children’s collection.  I don’t read much non-fiction now, but back then, I read this entire kids’ biography series about people like Kit Carson and Amelia Earhart.  I also loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, and all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books.

7 Magic Islands: Wow, that’s quite a literary background at such a young age! You’ve earned a PhD in English Literature. How did your education influence your writing and classroom/Skype visits? 

lab and workplaceSarah Prineas: Because I did a lot of teaching of college students, I felt really well prepared to do school/library visits with kid readers.  For one thing, I wasn’t nervous at all about getting up in front of a big group of people and pretending I know what I’m talking about.  Teaching writing/composition, which I did when I was a graduate student, taught me an enormous amount about how to communicate ideas.  It’s basically what made me a writer.

7 Magic Islands: Your education served your calling really well! Touching on your classroom and Skype visits again, most of your Skype sessions consist of talking about your books as well as using classroom materials when they’re provided. What’s the most surprising question you’ve ever been asked about your books?

Sarah Prineas: Usually, I get pretty much the same questions.  The kids love asking about my pets—especially the goats!—and they seem interested in hearing about the writing life.  One time, a kid asked me if this certain thing was going to happen in the next Magic Thief book.  I’d written the book, but it hadn’t been published yet.  And the thing he asked about?  It was a central plot point.  I was like, “wow!”

7 Magic Islands: I guess he’ll have to find it for himself. It sounds like he was onto something big! According to your author website through HarperCollins Children’s, you have taught seminars on fantasy and science fiction literature. If someone were to follow your path as an author, that is writing fantasy or science fiction, what is the best piece of advice you can offer to them?

Sarah Prineas: The thing about the author path is that it’s different for everybody.  I mean, if you’d told me when I was in grad school that I’d end up with a career in writing about dragons and wizards and magic, I would have been completely psyched, but I wouldn’t have believed it, either.  Still, I do have three pieces of advice.  One, finish what you start.  Two, find a writing group, and try to learn as much from giving critiques as from receiving them.  Three (this is advice from one of my best writer-buddies, Greg van Eekhout): Never Surrender!  Writing can be hard, but you have to keep going.

7 Magic Islands: It’s been said the only true failure is doing nothing, after all! Before you wrote your successful children’s series, you mention on your website you wrote a number of fantasy stories for adults. What was it like switching gears between writing for adults and writing for children?

Sarah Prineas: The funny thing is that the adult stories that I wrote were really young adult stories, I just didn’t realize it until after I wrote The Magic Thief.

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas7 Magic Islands: Speaking of The Magic Thief, you released your latest installment of The Magic Thief; Home is the fourth book in the series. GoodReads and Amazon users have given the book some great reviews! For those not familiar with the series, what was it that first inspired you to write The Magic Thief?

Sarah Prineas: I had the first couple of lines of the book in a file on my computer for a long time—around eight months—and no characters or plot to go with them; I just liked the rhythm of the words.  Then I thought, okay, what if the person saying these lines is a thief and a wizard at the same time—and what if he is a kid?  And whammo, the character Conn leaped into being, and his story unrolled from there.

7 Magic Islands: You might even say the origin of Conn himself was magic! The Magic Thief stars a wizard’s apprentice named Conn, whose skills as a thief and a wizard send him on an amazing journey. How do you identify with Conn as a character?

Sarah Prineas: Conn and I are really different!  I’m a lot more like the duchess’s daughter, Rowan—impatient, energetic, a good sword fighter. 😀  Conn would drive me completely crazy, too, if he was my friend, because he just leaps into things without thinking first about his own safety.

7 Magic Islands: That’s part of what makes his adventures so intriguing. Since the series’ inception, The Magic Thief has travelled all around the world, from the states to the UK, Europe, South America, Asia and beyond. What does it feel like to have people all around the world reading your work?

Sarah Prineas: Oh, it is a huge thrill.  I’ve done Skype visits in lots of different countries, and I even did book tours in the UK and a book festival in India, and I get emails from readers from all over the world.  It’s fun to have copies of the books in different languages, too.

7 Magic Islands: It’s so exciting to be known worldwide! The Magic Thief by Sarah PrineasYou’ve published a number of books now, including The Magic Thief and The Winterling series. What’s your favourite memory when you published your first book?

Sarah Prineas: Some people think that the best moment is when you get a finished copy of your first book, but my favorite memory was when I first saw the character illustrations by artist Javier Caparo, because they were so perfect.  I was sort-of cackling with glee and dancing around my kitchen.

7 Magic Islands: Everyone’s allowed a cackle moment or two! The Winterling series, which came after the hit The Magic Thief series, follows Fer, a young woman who “must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil.”, what were the differences and challenges between writing for Fer and for Conn?

Sarah Prineas: Well, Conn tells his own story, and Fer’s is written in the third person, so I had a little harder time getting into her mind, figuring out what she wanted.

7 Magic Islands: That’s an interesting insight into narration! You just recently released your fourth book for The Magic Thief as well as a prequel for the Winterling series, an e-book called Thrice Sworn. Do you have any further plans for the futures of Fer and Conn?

Sarah Prineas: A lot of readers have written to ask me if Fer and Rook end up together.  They do, but not in the books, so at some point I will write that as a stand-alone story and publish it for free on my website.  There might be another Magic Thief book, too, but it has to get in line behind four (!) other books.

7 Magic Islands: Oh, wow! We can’t wait to read all of them! After two successful series, a book on the way and an ongoing blog, I imagine you’re nowhere near finished writing. What’s next for you?

Sarah Prineas: My next book comes out from Harper Teen in fall 2015. It’s my first young adult novel, and it’s called Ash & Bramble.  My editor recently sent a draft of the cover, and it’s stunningly gorgeous—I can’t wait to post a picture of it on my blog (in February, maybe).

Saras pets7 Magic Islands: We’ll be on the lookout! Between writing acclaimed fantasy titles and presenting for schools and libraries, you keep yourself very busy. What do you do when you’re not writing and presenting?

Sarah Prineas: I’m weirdly busy!  I wrangle my goats and my dogs and cats, and my kids.  We live on 40 acres in the country, and I’m working to restore the prairie and forest that are on our land, so I spend a lot of time outside.

7 Magic Islands: That’s quite a bit to keep you busy! Your characters Conn and Fer both encountered circumstances that sent their lives in unexpected directions. If you didn’t end up becoming an author, what do you think you would be doing now?

Sarah Prineas: I’d almost certainly be working in university administration and teaching a college class now and then.  It was my day job before I started writing, and I loved it.

7 Magic Islands: We’re glad you would have been happy either way! We have a traditional question we like to ask at 7 Magic Islands: How do you encourage kids to read more?

Sarah Prineas: I’d tell ‘em to read what they love, and never mind what anybody else—even parents or teachers!—says about it.  My own parents didn’t approve of fantasy books, and I felt badly for reading fantasy for a long time, which is really too bad.

To learn more about Sarah Prineas and her work, visit her online at www.sarah-prineas.com.


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