FAQ

When’s your next book out? 

My next three projects are wee collections of short stories. The first, In Spindle Towers, came out in December 2016; Among Green Roses is out in May 2017, and With Mouths Unsewn will be released in summer 2017.

When can I read the sequel to Princess Curse?

I don’t know. It’s not written. And my publisher would have to decide that they want a sequel first, before I can even begin to write.  I also have to offer them one.  I do want to write one, because there are secrets that I think you all would like to know–and there’s more than enough material there, in my head, ready to go.  Sometimes, like with Handbook, imagination is good enough, but I knew when I wrote TPC that I was getting less than half the full story down. However, there are many challenges to telling the story. TPC was a middle grade book–a sequel would have to be YA at minimum. There are challenges to that as well.

Will there be sequels to Handbook and Castle?

I don’t think these books need one. Yes, there is obviously a lot that could and will happen to Tilda, Judith and Parz, and to Perrotte and Sand, but I think it might be best left to the imagination of the reader (and my imagination too, but not in a writing-down kind of way). Suffice it to say, in my imagination, they all have pretty good lives, in the balance.  Some tragedy, because there always is, but pretty good over all, because they are all the kind of people who have learned how to make their own luck.

Well, do Parz and Tilda ever get married? What about Perrotte and Sand.

The beauty of not having a sequel is that you-the-reader get to decide.  Personally, I think Parz likes Judith that way more than he likes Tilda, and that Tilda will end up marrying for the best benefit of Alder Brook–and that will be okay, because there’s no way Horrible, Parz and Judith will let her marry someone solely for the benefit of Alder Brook–someone who is also not at least a decent person that likes her and could love her and vice versa.  Besides which, Curschin would probably eat anyone who treated Tilda badly. As for Sand and Perrotte–the odds are definitely against them from status alone, but if there ever were an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object… well,  wouldn’t get between them, if that’s what they ended up wanting.

What’s all that stuff Curschin says in Handbook? What language is that?

It is an adaptation of Hildegard of Bingen’s “unknown language.” Yes, the Hildegard in my world becomes a Wyrmgloss.

Am I old enough to read your short stories?

In the grand scheme of your life, I’m just a writer. I’m not your parent, I’m not your librarian, and I’m not your teacher. I don’t have any context, and I don’t know the rules in your life. Most importantly, I’m not you! I have no idea what you are ready to read.  My personal feelings about “old enough” are entirely beside the point.

Is your writing suitable for my child to read?

This would be a great time to consult a librarian or a teacher.

I have no idea what your child is ready to read and what your family rules are. I have strong personal beliefs that children are able to self-censor (as they read, they elide over things that they are not ready to face) and should read whatever they like (within reason–obviously there are things that are quite literally meant for no child); they will naturally veer away from things they are not ready for, quite often (emotionally as well as reading level). But that’s how I was raised, and how I participate in the raising of my stepdaughter. I understand other parents do things differently, but as you can see, I have no context for any other method, and so have zero opinion on what’s suitable for your child.

If you’re asking something simpler like, “is there swearing?” or “is there sex?” — well, assume that my short stories have one or the other. (In Spindle Towers, a wee collection of short stories, has the most YA and MG-like of my short stories, but there is some creepiness in a few of the stories, and a little violence, and sex is at least obliquely mentioned.)  As for my books, the middle grade stuff seems pretty sex- and swearing-free, but others may disagree–for example, my characters often understand sex to some degree, and certainly know it exists, like most tweens and teens actually do. There’s some violence as well. There are websites that discuss this, though, and this would still be a great time to talk to that librarian or teacher.

Will you read my ___? 

I wish I could, but I can’t.  I not only have deadlines for future books, but also a regular job, a family, a house, all that stuff. There are lots of ways out there to get feedback, though, and if you’re serious about writing, here are some options:

  • For younger writers, there are many workshops, conferences, and opportunities. The ones I have been involved with include the MSU Young Authors’ Conference and the Youth Literature Festival in Illinois. There are also tons of 826 chapters and the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers Program.
  • Google is your friend. Add your state to the search string, and you may find something great.
  • Do you have friends who like to write? Maybe you could start a story-sharing or critique group.   I have been in several writers groups throughout the years, both in-person and online.
  • Your local library probably has some ideas for you. Just ask a librarian.
  • The hardest but most honest feedback, especially for a short story writer, is the kind you get when you send your work out to editors.  But, as a person who does not like rejection, I have to say, this is an advanced move. Prepare yourself for it.

Will you blurb my book?  Or give me a review? 

I would be delighted to give a blurb to a book I like.  Same with reviews, though I really only review random things that catch my eye.

However
All blurb and review requests must come through editors/publishers, not authors. This is for a number of reasons:

1) I am pretty pressed for time, so I can’t always help out.
2) I won’t like every book I am asked to blurb or review.

It is much easier/less awkward to say I don’t have time/I don’t like the book to the editor/publisher than to the author directly.

So, authors: go through your editors, publishers, agents, or PR people about blurbs. Those folks can query me by email.

Will you donate a copy of your book to my worthy cause?

Probably not. I’m already very aware of a load of worthy causes, and I earmark several copies a year for those. I like to donate to Worldbuilders and to Con or Bust and to a few small organizations geographically close to me.  Sometimes I do Twitter give-aways (“first five libraries or librarians to respond to this tweet get a copy” or “a classroom set to a teacher in the continental US who retweets this in the next 24 hours”).  There are many requests on my time and resources, and I simply do not have infinite amounts of either.  If you email me with such a request and I don’t respond, the answer is “no.”

What are YOUR favorite books?

Shockingly, I like to read the kinds of books I also write–historicals, fantasies, historical fantasies, adventures, romances, books about girls with swords, and science fiction.  It’s so weird.

You can check out some of my Goodreads shelves.  My general faves:

And some highly specific categories:

What is it about fairy tales that interests you?

How infinite the variations on them can be!  I’ve loved retold fairy tales since Robin McKinley’s Beauty (and later, Rose Daughter).  Though, as a writer, what interests me about retelling them is that they come with a pre-made structure.  Since I’ve always considered structure something I would learn “someday.”  (I’m still learning!)

How many people were cursed in the making of this book [The Princess Curse]? 🙂

Just 12 princesses, 30 handsome men, and about two dozen women and less-attractive men. Plus Didina and her mother. Oh, and Dragos.

When did you start writing? 

I wrote down my first story when I was 7, but I did not immediately launch into a high rate of productivity or anything.  I wrote a lot from about age 11 onward, however, which was when my Language Arts teacher told my mother that she should encourage me to write.

But writing is more than just writing; it’s love of story.  And that came from my grandfather, who told me a LOT of stories over my lifetime.  I remember the first time I tried to make up one for him.  It was Raggedy Ann fan fiction, and it was terrible.  And I knew it was terrible as I told it. I seriously remember this, clear as day, how I felt as I told the story to him. It was my first act of conscious story-creation, and I knew it was so badly lacking, and I could not have been older than four, maybe five years old.  It was a source of much angst for me for years afterward.  I’d told my beloved grandfather a story and it was boring.  For good or ill, that was the day I became a story-teller.

How do you pronounce your name–is it like Marie? HasKELL?

Nope, it’s like the Merry in Merry Christmas, and the Haskell in Eddie Haskell on Leave it to Beaver.

You can argue with me about my first name all you like (people do), but I really do pronounce it that way.  So does my mom.  And so did my great-aunt, for whom I’m named, and my great-grandmother who named her.  Plus my great-great-grandmother, for whom Aunt Merrie was named.  We are pretty firm on how we pronounce that name in my family.  It’s a 150-year tradition.  I won’t get upset if you call me Marie, Morrie, or Mary, but I probably won’t turn around if you shout that from across the room.  (Though admittedly, I probably won’t hear the Mary/Merrie difference from across the room, unless you are a US Southerner and saying it “May-ree!”  Which is also not correct.  And if you are from, oh, anywhere west of the Mississippi and loads of other places besides, you probably can’t hear the difference between Merrie and Mary, so please don’t worry about it.)

My family all calls me Mer, anyway.  Say it like the word “mare,” barring other ideas. Or like the French word for the sea.  Or like Rhoda calls Mary Tyler Moore in The Mary Tyler Moore Show because my mom really liked that and that’s why Mer is my nickname.

The Haskell part properly comes out like HASK-ull.  Not has-KELL, but hey, if that helps you spell it right, then you can say it that way.  I really don’t mind. Just don’t spell it Haskill. That’s so weird looking to me. It’s got “kill” in it. Weird.

This is also my birth name, for the person who anonymously asked on Tumblr at some point.