In which acclaimed author Frances Hardinge and her editor Michael Stearns (henceforth our heroes) undertake a breathless, breakneck tour across the continent and back—visiting seven cities, seventeen schools, eight libraries and bookstores, and one enormous (and rather interesting) gathering of national booksellers. A thrilling adventure filled with moments of high danger, humor, and courageous acts.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Day Eleven (May 19)

New York, New York. Two classes of formidably smart students. The reader as outlaw. The revision-rich road to publication.

Before reading a selection at Dalton Middle School, Frances explains that in the world of her novel, she and everyone in the room would be engaged in criminal activity.

At both Dalton Middle School and the Little Red Schoolhouse, Frances began by pointing out that in our world, there is nothing strange about an author giving a talk to a group of readers about a book, nothing strange about that book not bearing a governmental seal of approval. But if this were the world of Fly by Night, "the lights would be off, I would have likely had to smuggle the book in under my coat, and your teachers would have to be on the lookout at the doors in case constables showed up with muskets. And if the police did appear, we would all have to make a run for it lest we be arrested and some of us hanged. Because in the world of Fly by Night, books are considered dangerous." She then launched into a description of Mosca Mye, the novel's heroine, who is hated and feared by people because—like the students at the schools—"she is able to read."

Not only were members of the audience readers, but many were writers also, and they peppered Frances with well-considered questions about how she came to write and publish the book. And then our heroes were off for a bit of rest before the next day's signing and trip to Washington, D.C.

In a room at the Little Red Schoolhouse full of talented writers (their takes on Beowulf from Grendel's point-of-view were pinned to the right-hand wall), Frances tells the thrilling story of how her first novel came to be published.

Day’s Most Highbrow Questions:
“How many changes (edits) were there per page?”
(Answer: “It varied a great deal. Some chapters such as ‘J is for Judgment’ were rewritten completely and unrecognizably. On average, there were probably two or three per page.”)
“Will Fly by Night be translated?”
(Answer: Yes, into many languages, among them French, Greek, Portuguese, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, and Chinese.)
“If the novel is based on the eighteenth century, are parts of the story based on specific events and people?”
(Answer: Yes—much of it is based upon real historical figures and events, but with lots of big differences. But you don’t need to know a lot about English history to understand what is going on.)


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