Hello, everyone! Today I’m thrilled to host an interview with Sarah Hipple!
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✖ Could you give us a glimpse into your childhood?
I pretty much spent my summers reading. My dad was the local librarian, so we always had new books at home. We had a cardboard box at the top of the stairs where the library books we weren’t reading lived. It was a big box.
When I was in college, I spent my summers working for my mom (a children’s librarian). She hired me and another girl to help run the summer reading program. We made crafts and wrote and performed puppet shows, and it was pretty much the best job ever.
✖ You have a work-in-progress that’s a Middle Grade set in an alternate 1950’s America. Tell us all about it!
Moura Pearce is the main character. She’s a pretty happy 1950s kid until the villain, Senator Darius McCarthy, decides her dad is a Communist traitor and announces it on national TV. McCarthy encourages his viewers to go after Communists, and Moura’s home is set on fire. With her parents still inside!
Her mom somehow manages to lug her unconscious father out of the house, but then they’ve got to go into hiding. Moura’s given a new last name and sent off to live with a rich, old family friend. (This is the 1950s – before Facebook stalking make that sort of thing impossible.) At first Moura feels abandoned and unwelcome, but then she makes a friend.
McCarthy strikes again. At a school assembly, McCarthy announces that her new friend is the daughter of Communist spies. Moura helps her friend get safely away, but now she’s an outcast all over again.
Moura’s had enough. She’s going to get McCarthy back, even if she’s not sure how. Even if the punishment for getting caught is becoming a dragon’s next meal.
All of this takes place in an alternate 1950s where everyday appliances are powered by strictly controlled dragon magic, and McCarthy is aligned with the Dragonmasters who rule the country.
✖ What exactly inspired this awesome setting with the dragon magic and Dragonmasters? Can you go into a little detail on the mechanics of your dragon magic system?
(I drew a really cool dragon about a year ago. I created it because I was trying to think up a way to make a dragon that was a little different from your stereotypical dragon, but this is not what the dragons in my book actually look like – they’re a bit more like flying dinosaurs. I just think it’s a super cool drawing, so I decided to send it along.)
Inspiration: Honestly, I just think dragons are awesome, so I knew I wanted to use dragons. Then I wanted an interesting villain and a time and place that people could clearly and easily imagine. The 1950s and a fictionalized version of Senator McCarthy and the Communist witch-hunts came to mind.
My Dragons (aka, the coolest part of my story): Dragon eyes are hypnotic to humans. Dragons look a little like a pterodactyl and are super awkward on land but absolutely huge and majestic up in the air. Their roar is terrifying, their fire fierce and molten, and their tails and teeth are vicious. Also, they like peanut butter cookies.
And while the dragons have very special powers (magic and a sort of telepathic mind control), they are controlled by the real masterminds, the Dragonmasters.
Dragonmasters look practically human, but they have very mysterious powers. Humans aren’t entirely sure what they’re capable of.
Dragonmasters have turned some humans into the part-dragon, part-human Lamia so that the Lamia can rule over humans. They do the Dragonmaster’s dirty work (aka, keeping those pesky humans in line).
✖ What’s the most recent thing you’ve learned as a writer? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with all your other fellow writers-in-arms?
I’ve been around writing circles long enough that I’m familiar with most basic ideas, but now I’m starting to understand the stuff better.
For example, I learned online contests are cool a while ago. And then, very recently, I realized you can’t just throw stuff at a contest (No – I don’t mean it like that. I always worked hard on my entries). But I learned that if my manuscript isn’t ready, it shouldn’t be entered, no matter how cool the contest is or how many hours I’ve tweeked my entry. The manuscript itself ought to be polished before entering.
And I’ve learned a lot about editing lately. Tightening a manuscript is hard but essential (aka getting rid of the flabby pieces of writing and only leaving the essential stuff). I’ve learned that combining characters is an awesome way to create a cool character and make a reader care more about the secondary characters.
My only advice is to keep going if you really love it and keep hoping, and when you’re disheartened and discouraged, go do something else that will cheer you up until you’re happy to write again.
✖ Lastly, you’re in a foreign country and headed to jail. What did you do to get yourself into this predicament and what’s your escape plan?
Cool! (Well, not so cool, I’ve never been in jail before – now I’ll have a record.) I’ve got to be in Italy because I’ve just been dying to get to Italy, and it was obviously the joy of finally getting there that went to my head and made me go a little crazy. Maybe I tried to get up close and personal with Michelangelo’s David or tried to sneak a Da Vinci out under my shirt. I hear the guards are rather persnickety about that sort of thing.
So I’ve been thrown into some old school dungeon and the rats are nibbling at my ankles. All I’ve had is stale bread and water for the last week. I can’t really divulge my entire escape plan (because what if I need to use it some time?) but it may or may not involve learning rat language, a feat of strength, an identical twin, and a red balloon. And chocolate, of course, because chocolate is never a bad thing to have in a time of need.