After reading Throw Like A Girl, I was exteremly eager to read The Princess Will Save You, simply because of Sarah Henning’s writing style. But, this book was about a princess and a stable boy’s love for each other. The stable boy gets kidnapped and the princess will do whatever it takes to bring her back. And yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds! That said, it’s an honor to have the opportunity to interview the author! She quickly became one of my favorites and I loved being able to ask her some questions!
When her warrior father, King Sendoa, mysteriously dies, Princess Amarande of Ardenia is given what would hardly be considered a choice: Marry a stranger at sixteen or lose control of her family’s crown.
But Amarande was raised to be a warrior—not a sacrifice.
In an attempt to force her choice, a neighboring kingdom kidnaps her true love, stable boy Luca. With her kingdom on the brink of civil war and no one to trust, she’ll need all her skill to save him, her future, and her kingdom.
“The Princess Will Save You is full of inconceivable wit, daring adventure, and cunning political machinations, with a heroine you’ve waited your whole life to root for. It’s as if Sarah Henning looked into my soul that yearned for a book like The Princess Bride and said — as you wish. And yes, this is a kissing book.” — Ashley Poston, author of Heart of Iron/Geekerella
“The Princess Will Save You is everything we love about YA fantasy, complete with first love, sweeping adventure, and a fierce heroine who holds her own. There’s something for everyone in this book.”–Adrienne Young, New York Times bestselling author of The Sky in the Deep
“An action-packed adventure with a fierce heroine that is sure to enthrall! Sarah Henning has created a fantasy narrative that weaves together love and betrayal, pirates and swordplay. Full of plot twists and high stakes, this novel is sure to please anyone who grew up loving tales of princesses.”–Emily Lloyd-Jones, Author of The Bone Houses
The Princess Will Save You is inspired by The Princess Bride! Was it difficult to try and pull from the original, something that is so beloved, but also try and put your own spin on it?
The answer is it’s always difficult. Anytime you take something known and beloved and put your own spin on it, whether it’s a classic retelling, or a loose inspired-by situation, you are engaging with your reader’s relationship with the original text. And you cannot control anything about what that relationship is or how that person “sees” the initial story.
This is the second time I’ve decided to do this, though both experiences were different. My debut, Sea Witch, was an origin story for the character of the same name from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. With that story, I had to contend not only with a reader’s relationship with the original text but also with the Disney version, in which the sea witch character (Ursula) is extremely different than the book version.
In the case of The Princess Will Save You, the inspiration is a little more abstract. If you squint, you should be able to see the homage I’m trying to create to William Goldman’s tale and the fantastic movie, though the parallels are lighter in some places than others. I know for some readers it won’t be alike enough and for others the differences will be welcome, and I just hope that either way, readers can enjoy the story and understand what I was trying to do. In this case, that means really deconstructing the trope of the damsel in distress by gender-bending it against a hyper-patriarchal world.
Ama is such a fierce character and Luca is so incredibly sweet. What was it like to write their characters? Did either of them surprise you in any way?
Oh, thank you! It was so much fun writing two very contrasting viewpoints that still meld so well with they’re together. They both surprised me in that their voices were fiercely different from the get-go—they knew who they were and basically walked in, fully formed, lines at the ready. I am a dialogue-loving writer, so that always makes me so happy because I can feed off their energy for the rest of the action in a scene.
They surprised me really anytime they didn’t see eye-to-eye, even if it was completely in line with their character traits. But I think any good couple is that way—if they’re always each other’s “yes men” then how do they challenge each other? Luca’s kindness and trusting nature challenges Amarande’s sense of survival, and even though that dynamic made complete sense given their personalities, it was still so interesting to see their world views play out and conflict on the page.
When the book starts, and even from the synopsis, Ama and Luca have an established relationship. What were the struggles of writing a relationship that was so developed off page?
The struggle is really getting the feeling of all that history in there without rehashing it over and over. It’s definitely a unique challenge because there’s a real danger of slowing down the on-the-page action while trying to seed in a relationship. That said, I think it was actually helpful in the execution that Ama and Luca aren’t physically together for the whole book. That puts their history into the forefront of the action and allows it to fold in almost as organically as a relationship that begins and grows on the page.
You have written both fantasy and contemporary books (both of which are fantastic!). Do you prefer writing one genre over the other? Was one easier to write than the other?
Thank you! I really do love writing both—and I’m lucky publishing has let me do so because it’s not too terribly common. I don’t know that I prefer one over the other, and actually I’d love to do other genres too—specifically straight historical (my fantasies are definitely pseudo-historical) and maybe a mystery or thriller.
As for the writing, I don’t think one is more difficult than the other, but they definitely take different skill sets the way I choose to do them. My fantasies require much more world-building and intricate plotting. My contemporaries are more character-forward and I have to move the plot through heavier emotional means, which demands that the feel of each scene and character engagement is spot-in. That can be very, very hard to get right.
There were some side characters that I fell in love with that completely surprised me. Did any of them surprise you as well? Did any of them get a bigger part in the book because they simply had too much story in them, or were they also such an integral part of the story?
I love the side characters too! They were so fun! That said, I didn’t realize when I went into it that so many of my female characters besides Amarande would have something very urgent to say about how they saw the world, but that ended up becoming not only part of the story but a crucial part. We’re talking about a world that is so male-dominated I should’ve known that would hit all my women in different ways, and I hope that everyone learns from and enjoys the opinions and experiences of Ula, Koldo, Osana, and even Inés.
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.
Thank you so, so much to Sarah for coming on my blog and answering some questions! I loved reading the answers and of course the book, and I hope everyone else does as well! The Princess Will Save You is out now, and if you pick it up, you can eagerly await the sequel with me!