Release date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Genre: Light Fantasy
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One Legend Determines the Fate of Two Lives.
In the faraway village of Tulan, sixteen-year-old Elara has spent her entire life as a servant, trying to track down her real name. The name she was given before being orphaned. Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Galandria, Princess Wilhamina does not know why her father, the king, makes her wear a mask. Or why she is forbidden to ever show her face.
When a new peace treaty between Galandria and Kyrenica is threatened, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face. Told in alternating perspectives, this intricate fairytale pulls both girls toward secrets that have been locked away behind castle doors, while the fate of two opposing kingdoms rests squarely on their untrained shoulders.
The Inspiration Behind The Princess in the Opal Mask
The question I get the most often as a writer is, “Where do you get your ideas?” There’s really no one answer to that, because anything can spark an idea for me: something funny my son said to me, something I saw on my walk around my neighborhood, anything. For The Princess in the Opal Mask, my first YA novel, it came to me in bits and pieces over nearly ten years.
In January of 2004 I was sitting on a beach in Kauai thinking/praying about how much I liked to write and how I wished I had a good book idea. And lo and behold: A paragraph immediately began cycling through my brain! I picked up my pen and wrote as fast as I could, trying to keep up with the words I was hearing. I won’t repeat everything I heard that day, but essentially the idea was to write a story about “two girls…and the person you want to be, the person you think you ought to be, and the person you fear you might actually be.”
When the words stopped coming I looked at what I’d written and thought, Well, that sounds great. But that’s not a plot, or a character. At that point in time I’d only written one (very bad) short story. And I was profoundly aware that writing a story about “the person you want to be, the person you think you ought to be, and the person you fear you might actually be,” was well beyond my current abilities. So guess what I did with that bright shiny sort of idea I’d been praying for:
I shelved it. I got pregnant; and life got hard. Shortly after my second son was born I felt like I needed a creative outlet, and decided that NOW was the time to start writing seriously. But it wasn’t a YA story I found myself drawn to, but a middle-grade one, and as soon as I finished it, I got right to work on another middle grade story, the one that would eventually become Seeing Cinderella, my first published novel.
Then in late 2008, as I was nearing completion of the first draft of SC, one night an image just “jumped” into my head: Of a dirty, mistreated teenage girl sitting on a wooden stool. A door opened in front of her and the expression on her face was shock and awe. The writer in me was curious: What could possibly be behind that door to cause such a reaction? So I swung my “mental POV camera” around to see what she was seeing—and what I saw surprised me. I immediately stopped what I was doing, and started writing.
I finished Seeing Cinderella in 2010, obtained an agent and a book deal, and began working on my second MG novel (Plastic Polly). But I never forgot about my YA story. I considered it “My Secret Project” and filled up journals with notes and snippets of scenes. I even went so far as to hang a huge cork board up in my office with scene cards.
In 2011 I decided the story definitely called for the princess to wear a jeweled mask on her face, and gave it the working title, The Princess in the Opal Mask. (And bonus: If she’s wearing a jeweled mask then a masquerade party most definitely needed to be a part of the plot!)As the story took shape, I began to see that—even though this was a fantasy with princesses, princes, assassination attempts, and mistaken identities—this was very much a book about “two girls…and the person you want to be, the person you think you ought to be, and the person you fear you might actually be.” And as the months passed I wondered, now that I was establishing myself as a middle grade writer, would the time ever be right for my YA project to move from being “My Secret Project” to my actual Work-in-Progress?
Then one day, after I had finished revising Plastic Polly, I was whining on the phone to my agent about being blocked in terms of a good middle grade idea, and she asked me if I’d given any thought to writing “that YA princess project you once told me about.”
I don’t know how to explain it except to say that something just…clicked. When she said those words, I realized she was right: now was the time to write that story. So I got out the journals I’d filled up (there were 2 or 3 of them by then) took my dusty scene cards down, and got to work. This time, the idea of writing this book didn’t completely terrify me. I was exhilarated, and couldn’t wait to begin. (Which isn’t to say I didn’t have days where I questioned if I could really do this, I did, but it was more the usual mix of emotions that I experience when starting a new writing project.)
So there you have it, a paragraph I heard on a Hawaiian beach almost ten years ago, an image in my head, and the idea of masks, and jewels and masquerade parties—all of it came together to form The Princess in the Opal Mask.
For those of you who have already read, or plan to read my book, I hope you like my two main characters, Elara and Wilha. Because it certainly took me a long time to figure out their story!
About Jenny Lundquist:jennylundquist.com and Twitter @Jenny_Lundquist.
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