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.
Very fun interview! I’m glad Briar Rose’s personality was changed. She isn’t exactly likable, but she’s a lot of fun to read (and totally unexpected!).