Commentary: I usually never ever put a book down as DNF. Sometimes, very early on in a book I know the timing is just not right and I won’t be able to sit through reading it. I give it the first 30 or so pages (like a manuscript, HAH!) before I decide that I need to put it down. Maybe next time, I’ll enjoy it more than I do now. This is not a review. This is just a note to self – and fellow readers.
Book Summary: Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.
Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes–a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.
I just couldn’t read this one right now because:
- I really wanted to keep going with The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy because of the fact that I received this book for review and that the people at Walden Pond Press are just so freakin’ awesome. But I just wasn’t feeling it. Partly because it was so long.
- I legit gave this book a shot. I read over a hundred pages. But the plot was too meandering and I just didn’t find it laugh out loud funny. It couldn’t sustain my attention for more than a few pages. It was a struggle for me.
Chances of Me Picking Up This Book (Again): Slim
- The chances of me of picking up The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is slim to none. I’ve passed on my ARC onto someone who will hopefully give it more of a chance than I did. While I’d love to dabble more into middle grade, The Hero’s Guide just wasn’t for me.
Behind the Book is an exclusive feature at Muggle-Born that gives readers an inside look into the editorial process of some of our favorite books. Plot changes, lost characters, and many more interesting topics are tackled in an interview with the author.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Did You Know?
- THE HERO’S GUIDE was written on and off for a year
- The character Lila originally had the name Ramona
- THE HERO’S GUIDE had a relatively lengthy list of alternate working titles that included: Prince Who?, Don’t Call Me Charming, and much more!
- Read on to find out more Behind the Book info about THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM!
How many months did it take for you to write the original draft of THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM?
Hard to say exactly. Approximately twelve months, I think. But it wasn’t a solid year of writing. I had to squeeze book time in between my regular freelance assignments. It was basically: Write a page of the book, write a video game review, write a page of the book, write a roundup of children’s apps, and so on. Even though I was devoting quite a bit of time to it, the book was still theoretical at that point. Once the manuscript sold, however, and I had an actual deadline to meet for the final draft, I had to kick into high gear. The revision process took far less calendar time, but was way more concentrated and probably took more actual hours of work.
How long did the overall production of your book take from the moment you got your agent to the final publication date?
It’s been an amazingly streamlined process. Agent accepted the manuscript in March of last year. Pub date is May 1st, so that’s only fourteen months. I could use a nap.
Throughout the editorial process were there any significant changes to your story in terms of plot?
Well, Zaubera’s evil plot was entirely different in the very first draft. She was kidnapping farmers and placing them in dozens of towers that she had constructed all over the map, and was planning on simultaneously blowing up all the towers at a designated time… for some reason. It was — how shall I put this? — incomprehensible. But I don’t think my agent even got to see that draft. Luckily, my wife is a brilliant editor, and she was able to very bluntly tell me, “Honey, this makes no sense.”
Did you lose any characters along the way or go through any name changes?
I didn’t lose any characters (though in earlier drafts, Rosilda Stiffenkrauss played a larger role than the one scene she ended up in). On the contrary, I gained a few — and they’re some of my favorites: Lila and Ruffian the Blue. Neither of them was in the first draft. And even when I originally added Lila, she was only in two scenes. And her name was Ramona. I decided that Ramona didn’t sound like the kind of name her parents would have given to their little princess. My daughter suggested the name Lila and it stuck.
The other name change that occurred was for Briar Rose. Historically speaking, there have always been two names used for the Sleeping Beauty character: Aurora and Briar Rose. I initially used Aurora (and nicknamed her Rory), which felt right at the time, because in my very first draft, Sleeping Beauty was a meek and mellow character. I soon found her boring to write, though —which meant she would be even more boring to read. So I gave her a personality adjustment, and along with it, switched her name to the more pointed Briar Rose.
What was the most challenging part of writing and the editorial process?
All the tough, grueling parts about writing and revising Hero’s Guide were self-inflicted wounds. It was my choice to write a book with a crazy number of characters and plot threads to keep in order. I could have written a lovely little story about one Prince Charming, maybe even two. But no, I had to go for four. And the four princesses to go with them. And then I had to push it farther and say, No, let’s make it five princesses. And add a bunch of villains. There are about fifty distinct characters — many of whom have their own plot lines. Writing this book felt a little like air traffic control at times.
On several occasions, I found I’d written myself into a corner, so I had to go back and change something that happened earlier — and whenever I did that, I realized that the change would create a butterfly effect and necessitate even more changes down the line. There were honestly some grueling moments. I learned from those long, head-banging evenings at the computer, though: I outlined Book II before I started writing. Of course, it has even more characters, though, so…
Did THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM go through any title changes?
More than I can remember. I submitted the book to my agent as The Princes Charming. But we thought that might be too easily misread as “Princess Charming.” The title after that was The League of Princes. But during the editorial process, we decided we wanted the title to be more expansive, to incorporate not just the four princes, but all the other characters who are looking for their inner hero over the course of the series. That’s how we ended up with The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. But there was also a ridiculously long list of alternate working titles that popped up along the way. Some lasted for a few days, others no more than a moment before being deservedly tossed out.
A few highlights (for better or worse):
The Aspiring Kingdom-Savers Handbook
Don’t Call Me Charming
I Saved the Kingdom and All I Got Was This Lousy Nickname
The Princes Formerly Known as Charming
Is there anything else that you could tell us about THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM that we wouldn’t know unless we were part of the editorial team at Walden Pond Press?
I assume you’re referring to the office pool in which the staff is placing bets on which prince I kill off first. Sorry, I have been legally advised not to comment on such matters.
Meet Prince Liam – he’s one of the Prince Charmings you hear about in fairy tales. He’s the hero of Sleeping Beauty, but he’s never had the spotlight until now in this excerpt of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy.
Excerpt from The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy:
Art copyright © 2012 by Todd Harris.
Liam never doubted that he was a hero. If anything, he was a little too sure of it. You can’t really blame him, though; people had been treating him like a demigod ever since he was a young child. The adulation began shortly after the birth of Princess Briar Rose, the daughter of the king and queen of Avondell. In a rare instance of international communication, they announced that they were looking for a suitable prince to whom she could be engaged. When the princess came of age, she would marry this prince, forever joining her kingdom with his.
As it so happened, the kingdom of Avondell sat upon a seemingly endless chain of gold mines. Whichever nation managed to hook up with Avondell would become super rich. Gareth, the king of Erinthia, which sat just across the border (and therefore just out of reach of Avondell’s gold), wanted in on that. The treasure-hungry King Gareth suggested his then three-year-old son, Liam, as a worthy future husband for Princess Briar. Unfortunately, lots of other countries were itching for a shot at Avondell’s gold as well, and the competition for Briar Rose’s tiny hand was fierce. Little princes from around the world lined up to present themselves before the royal couple of Avondell—and each seemed to have a special skill. There was a tap-dancing toddler from Valerium and a baby from Svenlandia whose parents claimed he could “speak dolphin.” A four-year-old from Jangleheim absolutely rocked on the flügelhorn. And a five-year-old prince from Sturmhagen (one of Gustav’s brothers) demonstrated his ability to kick a chicken forty yards.
Afraid that little Liam wouldn’t stand out in the crowd, his father resorted to trickery. Just as Liam toddled out in front of the king and queen of Avondell, two masked assassins burst into the throne room. They were actually actors hired by Gareth, and each wore a cinnamon stick—young Liam’s favorite treat—tied around his boot. The two “assassins” positioned themselves between the preschool prince and the royal couple—and as soon as Liam excitedly grabbed at the cinnamon sticks on their legs, the actors proved how good they were at their craft. As the boy pulled and tugged at the sweets, the actors threw themselves around and howled in pain. They spun, flipped, and smashed into each other. To the rulers of Avondell it looked as if the three-year-old was beating the grown men senseless. When the royal guards reached the scene of the “fight,” little Liam was standing over two seemingly unconscious assassins, slurping happily on a cinnamon stick.
After that, there was no question as to which prince would be selected to wed Briar Rose. The king of Erinthia took his son home in triumph. The boy was treated to awards, parades, and festivals held in his honor. The two actors, by the way, were unable to prove their innocence and were locked away in an Avondellian dungeon for life, but King Gareth didn’t worry about that: He was going to be rich (well, richer—he was already a king).
Young Prince Liam thrived on all the attention, though he was unsure of exactly why he was getting it.
“Why does everybody love me so much?” he asked his father.
King Gareth didn’t want to tell his son the truth—that, for the most part, the people of Erinthia were as greedy as their king was, and they cherished Liam because they knew he would someday make their nation unbelievably wealthy by marrying into the Avondell fortune. Instead he told his son, “Because you’re a hero.”
Liam and a Melon
Art copyright © 2012 by Todd Harris.