Good evening, everyone! Happy November!
I am excited to introduce Angela Marshall to you all today. She is the author of The Princess and the Pea, our first featured book in the ongoing Sweet Fantasy Instafreebie giveaway. She’s here to tell us a little about her writing, the people who inspired her when she was young, and why music is a lot like magic.
Without further ado, here’s the interview:
Hi there, A.G.! Thank you so much for doing this interview! I’m delighted to get to know you, and I know readers will be as well. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
Hi, Shari! I am so excited to do this interview. And please, call me Angela. I write as A. G. because I also publish piano sheet music, and I didn’t want anyone to get confused. (I also like having a semi-secret identity. It’s like being an author superhero.)
I have been telling stories for as long as I can remember. I would entertain my cousins at sleepovers by having them each choose an item and then creating a story on the spot using the things they selected. I also staged very elaborate stage plays with my Barbies on a regular basis.
I started college as an English major because I wanted to write, but I switched to music because I was tired of reading depressing literature for classes. I prefer fun! I also have always loved playing piano, so it wasn’t a difficult switch. I kept writing the whole time I was in college, although I largely kept it a secret. My classmates and professors were shocked when I published my first book!
There are so many fairy tales. Why did you choose The Princess and the Pea for your first book in your Fairy Tale Adventures series?
It happened a little by accident. I had planned to use a more popular fairy tale for the first book, either Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, and I worked on several outlines and first drafts for those stories without much success. But the characters Lina and Alaric kept coming back to me and demanding that I write their story instead.
It was challenging to expand The Princess and the Pea into a full length novel because the original story is very short and rather silly, but it also gave me a lot of freedom because I knew I would have to add so much. I searched for the theme under the original story and decided it was identity. Why does it matter so much if the girl is a true princess? That question of lineage drives both Lina and Alaric throughout the book. I added a few goblins and the story was complete!
Out of all the books you’ve written, which is your personal favorite and why?
That’s a tough question! I love all my books for different reasons, but The Princess and the Pea was my favorite to write. Probably because Lina is such a strong character, that book practically wrote itself. And it was the first book where I really let myself explore my own voice without worrying what other people would think. I wasn’t thinking about pleasing my high school English teacher or creating something as good as my favorite authors. I just wanted to tell my story in my own way, and I think that freedom comes through on the page.
In your Amazon profile, you’ve stated that music is more like magic than we might think. I am fascinated by this, and I was hoping you could give us a little insight into that.
Of course! I’m a concert pianist by training, and I still work as a music teacher both at a university and in my own private studio. I spend a lot of time explaining music to my students and magic to my readers. I’ve come to think of them as the same art form, so it feels more like I’m teaching my students magic and telling my readers about music.
Both seem very mysterious to anyone observing. The musician or magician waves her hand, and sparkles fly or beautiful sounds emerge. But of course that isn’t the whole story. There are rules and principles in play, and the performer or enchantress has put a lot of hours into practicing their craft. All our favorite books about magic schools are still books about school. Magic is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice, just like music.
I love writing about magic and of course wish it was real as it exists in books, but music is my own form of real world magic. When I’m performing, I feel like I’m flying. I get to skip words and actions and communicate directly with people’s hearts in real time. And as a teacher, I get to show others how to do the same. Writing, teaching, and performing are near the same art form for me, as I get to communicate fantastic things in creative ways.
You’ve been writing since you were young. Can you tell us about any of your young works? What interested you back then?
While I’d like to say I’ve grown and changed a lot, that really isn’t true. I’ve always loved fantasy settings, princesses, and books with magic. There was a time when I wouldn’t read a book if it didn’t have a castle on the cover! I also love adventure and characters who will fight for what is right. So while my princesses like dresses and dancing, they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty.
One of the earliest works I remember writing was called “Not Too Dainty for a Dagger.” It was about a princess who wanted to learn how to fight to protect her kingdom, so her parents finally gave her a beautiful jeweled dagger as a birthday present. No one expected her to use it as anything more than an accessory, but of course she proved them all wrong. Sadly, that work has been lost, but my published books share very similar themes. None of my princesses are too dainty for a dagger!
Growing up, were you influenced by any authors? What’s your favorite book from childhood?
The Chronicles of Narnia was my favorite series when I was growing up. I also loved the Nancy Drew books. We lived within walking distance of a library, and I would go there and carry home a bag of books every chance I got!
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is another book that influenced my style. I loved how it dealt with serious themes such as poverty, family, and education within the framework of a princess competition. Her careful blend of serious, frivolous, and fun left a lasting impression.
Gail Carson Levine was also a big influence. When I was about ten, I read the first few chapters of Ella Enchanted at a bookstore while we were on vacation. We left the store before I could finish the book, and I didn’t have enough money with me to buy it. It was several years later before I was able to finish it, since our library didn’t have a copy and my hometown was too small to have a bookstore. I had been wondering what happened all that time! So that book has always stuck with me, and now I have a collection of different print editions of it. That may explain my fascination with retelling fairy tales. I also never start reading a new book unless I have plenty of time to finish it. Because no matter how late I have to stay up, I will finish it!
What genres do you like to read now? Have you ever thought of writing in a different genre?
I love reading mysteries, and I plan to write one someday. I’ve made several attempts at writing sci-fi, but nothing has really stuck. I get too bogged down in the technology! I also love historical fiction and steampunk, but I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything in those genres. I’m afraid I’d drive myself crazy doing research to get all the historical details just right. For now I plan to stick to fantasy, but you never know. Someday a story may come along that I just can’t resist telling.
And finally, please tell readers how they can connect with you!
I always love hearing from readers! I’m on Facebook as A.G. Marshall, Author (www.facebook.com/rookandshadow) or they can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also have lots of free goodies on my website http://www.angelagmarshall.com. There are coloring pages, music, bonus scenes, and an exclusive short story that’s free for anyone who joins my newsletter.
Thank you so much, Angela! It was such a pleasure getting to know you. Best of luck to you on all your future writing projects!
Be sure to check out the Sweet Fantasy Instagram Giveaway’s very first book of the month, The Princess and the Pea.