Sarah Prineas is the author of the amazing The Magic Thief series and is a fellow Iowan, as well as another “Sarah with an h.” Sarah, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave!

Thanks for having me, fellow Sarah-with-an-h!  

I just finished reading The Magic Thief: Lost and there was a good amount of sword fighting in there. Did you get to do any yourself for research?

A little online research, yes.  Also, I was a fencer in high school and drew on memories of that, though fencing isn’t exactly the same as sword fighting.  When The Magic Thief: Lost came out I did a presentation at the Iowa City Public Library and two members of the UI Fencing Club acted out one of the sword fighting scenes while I read it aloud.  Fun!  Here’s a link to Rowan’s sword fighting tips

Wow, library + fencing club = awesome! You talk about dragons a lot on your website. Who are your favorite dragons in literature?

Well, Smaug, of course, from JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  He’s so evil and tricky.  Also the dragon in Beowulf, which is described so beautifully, and is surely the grandfather of Tolkien’s dragon:

    When the dragon awoke, trouble flared again.
    He rippled down the rock, writhing with anger
    when he saw the footprints of the prowler who had stolen
    too close to his dreaming head.

How does your writing process work? Has it changed as you get more experience?

One of the main things that writers have to figure out as they become writers is their process.  Mine hasn’t evolved all that much, though I’ve become more mindful about what I’m doing and why it works.  My process is based on the following:

1) I write when I feel inspired to write and not out of any sense of duty, and I never feel guilty that I should be writing or working harder.  If the act of writing is a joy, then the writing itself will have a spark.

2) I don’t plan or outline, so writing is an act of discovery.

You would think this kind of process would add up to disaster, but I’ve never missed a deadline!

What things do you do to promote your books?

I have a vexed relationship with book promotion, and I should warn you that I have strong opinions about it!  When The Magic Thief came out, my publisher, HarperCollins, pushed it very hard.  In the first 18 months just before and after the first two books came out, I did four book tours, both here in the US and in the UK.  If an author is asked by her publisher to do a tour, or do other promotional stuff, she can’t really say no, but it is very, very hard work, and being away from home and family is difficult.  For example, at one point I got back from a UK tour and within 12 hours had left for the airport again for an event in the US.  For a while I said yes to every appearance request, and finally got burned out.  Lately I’ve cut way back on book promotion, and frankly it hasn’t made a scrap of difference to how the books are doing.  I think authors worry too much about self promotion, when the best thing you can do for your writing career is to write the next book.

So right now I’m doing basically nothing to promote the books, beyond Skype school visits (which are easy and fun!), the occasional appearance, and paying a guy to maintain my website. 

Thanks for such an honest answer. There are a lot of opinions in the blogosphere about what authors need to do for promotion, and it’s great to get a different view. Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

Hmm!  This is hard. 

Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, which is a wonderful, character-driven adult fantasy novel that brilliantly redefines epic fantasy. 

Megan Whelan Turner’s A Conspiracy of Kings, the fourth book in her Queen’s Thief series.  It’s got MWT’s trademark character development and intrigue and tricky plot twists.  I read this as an ARC; it’s out in April.

E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, a YA set at an elite private school; it’s all about power and gender with a great YA voice.

Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

Nope, I don’t have an e-reader and don’t plan on getting one.  I like the old fashioned book technology.  As far as ebooks go, I hope publishers figure out how to make e-publishing work for them, so that authors can get paid for their work and can continue to benefit from having editorial oversight on their books.  The unedited self-published ebook is a thing to be feared. 

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Never Surrender!  It’s tough to break into publishing, and there are no guarantees, but with luck, talent, and persistence, you can do it!

Very inspiring 🙂 What are you working on next? Is it true there will be a fourth Magic Thief book?

Let’s see.  As you may know, HarperCollins has taken three more books from me after The Magic Thief trilogy.  The tricky thing is, I’m not sure yet what books those are going to be!  The first one is done; it’s a MG fantasy called The Crow Queen’s Daughter and it should be out in spring 2011.  After that, we’ll see.  I have written a fourth Magic Thief novel (I’m revising it now), but my editor hasn’t decided yet whether Harper will publish it.  Probably depends on sales numbers from the trilogy, which won’t be relevant until this summer.  After that, I have an idea for a sequel to the Crow book, plus my editor is interested in a couple of the other proposals I wrote up for her last year.  I’ll be excited to work on any of them. 

Wow, you’re busy! Finally, I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

Hey, I’m a cheese freak, too!  You know how some people have a sweet tooth?  I have a fat tooth, and it loves cheese.  I love a well-aged sharp cheddar, Vermont-style (white, not orange).  Also the stinky cheese, gorgonzola, especially on pizza.  Another favorite is feta on a green salad. 

Mmmm.  How can I possibly choose a favorite?!

I LOVE the “fat tooth” idea and will now be using it whenever possible. Thanks so much to today’s guest, Sarah Prineas. Learn more about her at her website and blog, and if you haven’t read The Magic Thief books yet, what are you waiting for? The third, The Magic Thief: Found, will be available on May 25, 2010!