Saturday, April 5, 2014


On March 22nd, Merrie Haskell hit the number 2 spot in the Children's section of the Amazon Kindle store with her book Handbook for Dragon Slayers. Written for middle grade readers, it's a historical fantasy and it recently won the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle Grades). Merrie joins us today to talk about her book and its e-format success.

First, please tell us what your book is about.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers is about a princess who, for a variety of reasons, really doesn't feel she fits in with the people she's going to rule someday. Her dad died in the Crusades, she has a clubfoot that some people think is a sign of evil, and she's a bit isolated and prickly. So when the chance to run away from home presents itself, she takes it. She runs off with her two best friends, who want to be dragon slayers. She doesn't feel she's physically up to being a dragon slayer, so she comes along as their biographer and researcher until she can get to a nunnery that will take her in. Along the way, the Wild Hunt, an evil prince, and a few dragons interfere with her plans...

How did you get published: traditionally or independently? Recently or further in the past? 

Traditional, and fairly recently--my first book came out in 2011. Which feels like a billion years in many ways! But is really not that long. Of course, the book that came out in 2011 (The Princess Curse) was first written in 2008, so it feels even longer. I started writing when I was a young kid, and submitted a few short stories, poems, and novels to various publishers and contests over the years, but I would say I was not at all rigorous or persistent about it until I was 27. I started out writing short stories for the extremely vital short story science fiction and fantasy scene, getting published in places like Asimov's and Strange Horizons. When I sat down to REALLY and TRULY write a novel, no-this-time-I'm-finishing-it, I wrote a query letter and got a literary agent in the entirely boring and straightforward way.

What does your writing schedule look like? What are you working on now? 

My writing schedule, when I'm on target, is 8pm to 10pm weeknights (after work! I work in an amazing, enormous academic research library by day), and then usually write four or five hours a day on weekends as well. When I'm on contract and pushing my deadline, more like 7-11pm and all day all weekend! Right now, I am writing a book proposal, and am not entirely sure how to describe it at the moment. I am terrible at talking about what I'm working on! It's my single worst feature as a writer--people always want to know what you're writing, and I hem and haw and stumble and just ultimately say, "Look over there!" and run in the other direction. Once I have a first draft down, I can talk quite freely, but until then... Fortunately, I can say that my next book, The Castle Behind Thorns, is out on May 27th, and it's about blacksmithing and astronomy and evil countesses and ruined castles. And thorns.

Time to pull out your Magic 8 Ball: How do you see the world of e-publishing developing for children and young adults over the next 5 years? Do you think it will ever exceed or replace print publishing? 

I do think that as tablets and e-textbooks get integrated into school curricula, we'll see much more e-book pleasure reading among kids: devices will be more readily available to them, perhaps will be subsidized by schools or loaned out during the school year. I work in a library, and e-book loaning and licensing rights are of primary concern to us right now--of course, I work in a university library, and our students are a bit older than my writing's target demographic, but many of the issues are the same. It's a weird paradox, being on both the library side and the publishing side of this equation, though my heart falls on the library side. I would like to see more liberal loaning policies! I think the liberality of policies and the way devices may or may not disseminate into school-age populations through schools and libraries will determine a lot of the changes in the next 5 years; I think either way, we will see a generation that is format-agnostic, and will really not care, format-wise, how they consume books.

Find out more about Merrie and her books  at her website or by following her on Facebook,  Twitter or Pinterest. And check this week's updated Kids' EBook Bestseller List for the latest top tens in electronic format for children and teens.