Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl 4

A short time ago, I stumbled across Heartless, a new novel by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The beautiful cover art first drew me in, and then the synopsis. Here’s the gist of the book:

The Dragon King Seeks His Princess–Who Dares to Stop Him?

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he’s not what she’d hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love–and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror.

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald’s offer–and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

Intrigued, I contacted Anne, who graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me.

What led you to write this particular story?

A year before I wrote Heartless, I wrote a blog post contemplating the lack of chivalry in our culture. I used the classic analogy of knights, princesses, and dragons. In this post, I discussed how there are so few “knights” left in our world, so few brave men willing to slay their dragons to win their princess. They expect girls to be easy, and if they’re not, the knights don’t bother. Then I mused that perhaps this is because the princesses have become dragons themselves. You see the sad cycle: women disparage men for trying to treat them like the “gentler sex,” so the men stop bothering to be chivalrous. The balance of respect for each other is lost, and we’re left with spineless excuses for knights and dragonish princesses.

A year later, I recreated that blog post in a short story version of Heartless that covered the first half of the story that is now the novel. I was surprised by the strong responses I got from my readers . . . people were so eager to see how the story would continue! I never finished the short version but immediately sat down and started writing the novel. The first draft, at about 40,000 words, wrote itself in a few weeks. The final version (something around eight drafts later) took a little more time, but the core of the story remained true.

Who is your favorite character and what is your favorite thing about him or her?

Let me answer that question in several parts.

The character I most relate to: Princess Una. I have been, and could easily be again, very much like her. She is a sweet but spoiled princess. Vain and immature, she doesn’t recognize these faults in herself. She is a character full of potential, but one who desperately needs to grow up. She is a daydreamer with too few outlets for her imagination, which leads her into trouble. She is, I think, a character that many people will be able to relate to, whether they like it or not.

The character I want most to be like: Easily, Prince Aethelbald. He is true and faithful and brave. His love is unshakeable, no matter the insults thrown in his face.

My favorite character to write: Leonard the jester. This character fascinates me with his tragic humanity. I can’t help but love him, even when I sometimes want to hate him.

My favorite character in the series: Monster/Eanrin. What can I say? I’m a cat person. Eanrin, like every cat, is self-centered and self-satisfied, dashing and clever. Most people don’t realize this, but cats can be the most loyal and devoted pets . . . in their very cattish ways. This is Eanrin. He is a true-hearted knight to his core, devoted to his Master and to Princess Una, but he gives the impression of being absolutely self-sufficient. Watch as the series progresses, though. He will take you by surprise!

Who are your favorite authors? Why?

Charles Dickens—because he can write tragedy with a comedic twist (A Tale of Two Cities).

Terry Pratchett—because he can write comedy with a tragic twist (Nation).

George MacDonald—because I want my fairy tales to remind people of his (The Light Princess, The Princess and the Goblin).

C.S. Lewis—because he knew how allegory was meant to be written (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

Megan Whalen Turner—because her characters are more real than real (The Queen of Attolia).

William Shakespeare—because nobody writes the World of Fairy like he did (Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest).

If you could be any character from a fantasy book, who would it be and why?

Probably Lucy Pevensie. That scene in Prince Caspian where she meets Aslan while the others are sleeping always moves me. The closeness she has with him is beautiful and magical. Plus she got to take part in three different adventures in Narnia . . . four, if you count her brief part in The Horse and His Boy as a separate adventure. I like that she has faults too . . . her jealousy of her older sister, as seen in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy is spunky and lionhearted, but relatable in a way that our more modern “warrior maidens” just aren’t to me.

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished the second draft of Book 2 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, which is called Veiled Rose. It is the story of Leo, a young boy who wants to hunt monsters, and his best friend, Rose Red, a goat girl with a secret. Their story is heavily entwined with Heartless, taking place in much the same time period.

I am about to start the second draft of Book 3, which has the working-title Moonblood. This story is the sequel to both Heartless and Veiled Rose, resolving storylines from both of them. And it is, I think, the most exciting in the set, involving plotting goblins, the ghosts of roses, a poetry-loving tiger and, of course, dragons!

About the Author:

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, NC, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, and a passel of cats. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, studies piano, painting, and fencing, and generally leads a busy life! She studied Illustration at Grace College and English Literature at Campbell University. Heartless is her debut novel.

She is happy to take reader questions at her email address: aestengl@gmail.com. Of the two planned sequels, Book 2, Veiled Rose, is scheduled to hit the shelves in summer 2011.

Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0780-8, ISBN-10: 0-7642-0780-6
Number of pages: 368
Publication Date: July 10, 2010
Formats: Paperback, Price: $14.99

My Amazon affiliate link: Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

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