Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I’ve been trying to write this introduction for a week now and I think the problem is that I live in the same city as Shannon Hale, which means that I see her around now and then, at libraries or bookstores or whatever. And I like her a whole lot. She’s exactly as awesome as you think she is (probably a bit more, actually.)
So I’m jotting down ideas for this introduction but they’re all about how nice she was at Snowbird that one time, or how she graciously smoothed over that awkward situation with the convention, or how much fun it was when she won both the 2003 Utah Children’s Book Award and the 2003 Utah Speculative Fiction Award for The Goose Girl. I’m thinking how much I love reading her blog and how amazed I am at her time management skills, her good humor, and her thoughtfulness about a myriad of issues.
And those are all true things and good times, but I want (need) to talk about the writing here because seriously, Shannon Hale’s writing. Her books, whether they’re adult romantic comedy, middle grade fantasy, or YA science fiction, are often called “spellbinding” and “captivating” and “lyrical” (an oft-overused word that is utterly appropriate here) and they are certainly all those things. She’s one of the few authors I re-read for language as much as for story (honestly, I could have spent most of this interview interrogating her about her metaphor creation process.)
And yet, I’m still thinking about how happy she was talking about her movie Austenland at the Sundance Film Festival and how when she and her husband drove over to my house like normal people to pick up some boxes of books, they made me laugh really hard. Shannon, if you were less awesome it would be a lot easier to talk about your work. On the other hand, your work speaks (oh so eloquently) for itself, so I guess we’re good. Thank you, thank you for taking the time to talk with me, especially during the busiest month ever, and for writing really excellent books.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
I was dramatic. As a teen I felt as if I was living in a tragic drama, whereas now I’m in a comedy of errors. I felt everything profoundly. I ached and hoped and daydreamed and regretted and longed. I think I was fairly smart but unmotivated. I’d do homework but forget to turn it in. I rarely dated. My group of friends was all-important, and the ups and downs of friendships consumed me.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I always wanted to be a writer, but I also did theater and hoped to be an actress. Two impossible dreams!
What were your high school years like?
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a fancy side of town, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought we were struggling because my parents were super frugal and while the people around me went on trips and bought new cars and ate out at restaurants, we often dined on poached-egg-on-toast and were lucky if we got to rent a video once in a while (certainly no cable!).
Right before I entered high school, the boundaries changed. I was supposed to have gone to East High (which years later would be the backdrop of High School Musical) but ended up going to West High. Which was on the west side of the city. Across the tracks, like, literally. I heard scary things: “druggie school,” “gang school.” Some teacher had been stabbed. There were shootings.
By the end of our freshman year, I was the only girl from my elementary school friends who hadn’t transferred out of West High. I loved it. I never saw drugs or guns. The school was so diverse, people from all kinds of economic, religious, cultural, racial backgrounds. It was such a breath of fresh air for me. (Though I did become ashamed of my fancy neighborhood and tried to keep my address a secret.)