If you’ve been following me for a while now, you will know that I love Sea Witch and all of Henning’s books! Sarah has something for everyone from a Little Mermaid retelling duology – ending with Sea Witch Rising – to a contemporary about a girl football player, Throw Like a Girl! So this interview is a dream come true! Keep reading to see my burning questions about The Princess Will Save You, Sarah’s most recent book!
The Princess Will Save You
A STABLE BOY
When her father dies, Princess Amarande is given an ultimatum: Marry the leader of one of the four neighboring kingdoms, or lose her crown—and possibly her life. And to force her hand, her beloved, the stable boy Luca, is kidnapped.
But Amarande was raised to be a warrior, not a sacrifice.
And nothing will stop her from saving her true love and rescuing her kingdom.
How did you balance retaining elements from The Princess Bride with the story you wanted to tell – specifically Amarande’s story? What are some of your favorite elements of the original?
The Princess Will Save You is very obviously and proudly inspired by The Princess Bride, which I love to death. It’s not a retelling, but it definitely takes the things I love about story—True love! A dangerous pursuit! Mouthy pirates!—and highlights them with a gender-bent twist. It also addresses the one piece of the story that I’m not crazy about: the last part of Buttercup’s character arc.
Spoiler, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, BUT: In the scene after Buttercup’s sham of a wedding to Humperdinck, Buttercup has given up on everything. Somehow she has managed to secure not only a dagger but also a private room, and decides that she must end it—a future with the traitorous Humperdinck is far too bleak without the hope of ever seeing Westley again. The Buttercup we met at the beginning of this story, or even in the middle of it, would’ve taken that dagger and fought her way out of the castle and to Westley. Yet, she didn’t.
I wanted to address the discomfort I had with her inaction—and that of other damsel-type characters—in my own way.
So, from the very beginning, I wanted not only to gender-swap the damsel-in-distress trope, but also give my girl a dagger she would use if she had to for her true love.
I also very consciously did not want to paint my male damsel, Luca, in the image of how a female damsel is typically portrayed. He’s not weak, helpless, or less in any way. I don’t believe that centering a story around a strong female character means everyone else has to be watered down. I mean, that’s just lazy. Amarande is strong enough to stand on her own and I wanted everyone else—most importantly Luca—to have their own strengths too.
Did you know before starting The Princess Will Save You the story arc you will be pursuing in the sequel? Or did many elements from this one change throughout the drafts?
We sold it as a duology, so I knew what I wanted to accomplish for the first book and the second before we even made the deal. That said, the sequel has had a mind of its own. I got in there, and it had so much more to say than I have planned. My editor and I are going to have to take a scalpel and tweezers to it or it is going to be a very long book when it comes out next year. That will be my project for the next couple of months, actually.
Can you describe to new readers a bit about the Torrent? I loved that The Princess Will Save You have such a fabulous world building, how did you create this world? Did you begin with a brief picture in your head and keep building? Or did you fit the places to what they could do in the story?
Thank you! I’m so glad you liked the world building! The world of The Sand in Sky is heavily influenced by a study abroad stint I did in Spain. Basically, the continent is the Iberian peninsula, hacked off from France. That ended up informing everything from the physical world to what they ate and drank to the names, which a spun off from Basque, Catalan, Spanish, and French.
As for the Torrent, which is a lawless former kingdom in the middle of the continent of The Sand and Sky, it was heavily influenced by Chile’s Atacama Desert, which has this beautiful red sand and is surrounded by mountains. It also has a sculpture of an open-palm hand that was the very obvious inspiration for the Hand that is a landmark in the Torrent.
Did any of your characters go through some serious changes through revision?
Actually, not really. My characters in this story knew exactly who they were and what was going on right off the bat. I will say that it is third-person, multi-POV, and at least two of the characters surprised me by wanting to have their own chapters. They had something to say and I went with it because I loved the dynamic those POVs added.
Did you always know the title would be The Princess Will Save You?
Yes! I mean, that was always my title but I wasn’t sure it would survive the journey to publication because I thought it might have been a little too much “in your face.” But to my surprise, it not only survived the sale and house approval, but I think it was enhanced by Charlie Bowater’s gorgeous cover art. I knew that if we were going to have that as a title, we were going to have to lean very hard into the book’s central theme of “gender-swapped damsel-in-distress” for it to work. Charlie very much got exactly what we were trying to do and that really packaged the whole idea together.
The epilogue is going to make the wait feel extra long, do you have recommendations for media (tv, movies, books, music) we can find until the sequel releases?
Sorry/not sorry! Ha! I’m glad the epilogue has done its job! And, yes, I knew exactly what was going to happen there from the beginning.
I think if you love quest stories and need more of that part of the tale, I’d recommend picking up Lori M. Lee’s Forest of Souls, which came out in June, and Rebecca Coffindaffer’s debut, Crownchasers, which comes out in September. Forest of Souls is a fantasy with a gripping friendship at the center of it and travel through a very terrifying wood—it is a totally magnetic read. Crownchasers is a sci-fi quest tale with all the humor and camaraderie of Guardians of the Galaxy and I just adored everything about it—the major voicy-ness, the character connections, the competition aspect—SO GOOD.
About the Author
Sarah Henning is a recovering journalist who has worked for the Palm Beach Post, Kansas City Star and Associated Press, among others. When not writing, she runs ultramarathons, hits the playground with her two kids, and hangs out with her husband Justin, who doubles as her long-suffering IT department. Sarah lives in Lawrence, Kansas, hometown of Langston Hughes, William S. Burroughs, and a really good basketball team.
Sarah is the author of SEA WITCH, which was a 2018 Indies Introduce and Indie’s Next selection. Its follow up, SEA WITCH RISING, came out in 2019. THROW LIKE A GIRL, about a down-spiraling softball player who is recruited to play quarterback on her ex-boyfriend’s football team, was her first YA contemporary novel and came out in January 2020. Also scheduled for July 2020 is the first book in her next fantasy duology—a feminist tale inspired by The Princess Bride—called THE PRINCESS WILL SAVE YOU.