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Valiant by Sarah McGuire
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Egmont USA; 384 pages
A debut fairy tale retelling featuring a strong female character and a daring quest just right for fans of Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Gail Carson Levine.
Saville despises the bolts of velvet and silk that her father loves- he's always prized them more than he's ever loved her. Yet when he's struck ill, she'll do anything to survive, even donning boys' clothes and begging a commission to sew for the king.
Piecing together a fine coat is far simpler than unknotting court gossip about an army of giants led by a man who cannot be defeated. And they're marching toward Reggen to seize the throne. But Saville knows giants are just stories, and no man is immortal.
Then she meets them, two scouts as tall as trees. She tricks them into leaving, but tales of the daring tailor's triumph quickly spin into impossible feats of giant-slaying. And mere stories won't deter the Duke and his larger-than-life army.
Now only a courageous and clever tailor girl can see beyond the rumors to save the kingdom again.
Valiant richly reimagines "The Brave Little Tailor," transforming it into a story of understanding, identity, and fighting to protect those you love most.
Every author I've met or talked to has a different way of writing. Some outline, some wing it, some use excessive amounts of sticky notes and I've even seen some graphs - what do you do when writing a story, specifically this one, Valiant?
I am not organized enough to write a detailed outline, and for me, some of the energy the drives my writing is figuring out what happens next. Yet when you're retelling a fairy tale, you also have a specific story structure that you work within. So I compromised. I ended up plotting the bones of the story on a 8.5 x 11 piece of white paper. I used the nine box structure I found here. (http://tesshilmo.blogspot.com/2012/03/best-plot-help-ever.html) For me, that worked– it also framed the story in terms of reversals, which I found super helpful.
I scribbled notes on that poor piece of paper for a few weeks before drafting. But once I started writing, I had to move fast because I was part of a whole-novel workshop. If I wanted the workshop leader to read and comment on my draft, I had to finish it in two months. So as soon as school was over (I'm a teacher) I got to writing. I took butt-in-chair very seriously- I actually left a dent in my sofa cushion! After that came revising . . . and lots and lots of sticky notes.
What were you feelings and/or reactions when you either read or heard about your first review for this book?
Let's see... fortunately, the first review was lovely. It was from Stephanie Burgis, author of the wonderful Kat, Incorrigible series, and she ended up blurbing Valiant! She sent the review to my editor and posted it on Goodreads. I remember blushing (my face was SO warm!) while I read it. And I didn't know what to say in response. "Thank you, thank you, I love you, you're awesome," probably would have been too much.
And . . . I'm going to add this because it will be online Tuesday, March 3rd . . . but I got a good review on Kirkus! I just read it this evening– and that made me cry. :)
How much input, if any, did you have in the final cover for your book? It's pretty awesome, if I do say so myself, especially the title font.
I didn't have any input, really, on the cover, though I think Egmont did a fabulous job with it! It was created by Shobhna Patel,(http://shobhnapatel.tumblr.com/) a paper cutter. So all the white you see is actually cut paper. (Except for my name- I think they used a font for that.)
How long did this book take for you to complete? From the moment you first started writing or outlining until it's publication on April 28?
I started scribbling notes for Valiant in March 2012. I started writing April 1, 2012. (I wasn't thinking in terms of April Fool's Day!) So, it took a little over 3 years to write, find my wonderful agent, then sell and publish Valiant. Though I'd like to say that I spent years figuring out how to write a novel before Valiant. I know things moved relatively quickly with Valiant because of everything I learned during the years I spent working on that other novel.
With a retelling of The Brave Tailor, how true are you to the story and how familiar did you have to make yourself to that original tale in order to write Valiant?
I think what makes a retelling work is that it goes deeper into a story without slavishly following it. So, when I was looking at the Brave Little Tailor, I tried to pick out the key plot points (depending on which version you read!): a tailor outwits giants, the tailor is betrothed to the princess, the princess is NOT happy, the tailor must perform at least one more act of valor.
Once I had those points, I could play with everything else and explore those things that mattered most to me, including motivation: Why would the tailor be a girl? Why would she challenge the giants? Why were the giants so easily tricked? How would a princess feel about being given away before the king even met her betrothed?
I had no intention for Valiant to follow all fairy tale tropes, especially those about giants, but I was determined that it should at least acknowledge them. I still wanted it to feel like a fairy tale. In fact, the most research I did was about giants in fairy and folk tales. You can't upend your readers' expectations if you don't know what they are to begin with.
All that to say, I don't feel like I need to follow a story exactly. And the truth is that we don't have one version of any fairy tale. There are layers and variations. I just think of my retelling as another one of those layers, another way the story has changed over time.
Sarah McGuire loves fairy tales and considers them the best way to step outside of everyday life. They’re the easiest way, at least: her attempt at seven to reach Narnia through her parents’ closet failed. She lives within sight of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, where she teaches high school creative writing and math classes with very interesting word problems. Valiant is her first novel.
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