When talking to students, I remind them that we want happy lives for ourselves--but we don't want story characters to be too happy, or the story is boring. "Let's say I'm writing about aprincess," I tell them. "She's beautiful and happy and healthy, and both her parents are alive and they love her very much, and she has lots of friends,and everything she could wish for, and the kingdom is at peace, ... Am I putting you to sleep? I'm putting myself to sleep! We don't want to hear about thatprincess. We want to hear about aprincesswho's kidnapped by a band of feral fairies; or who has a wicked stepmother who says, 'Bring me back her heart in this box.' That's aprincesswe're interested in because we want to see how she faces her problems."
After I'd said this a few times, I started thinking: How DOES a princess who's kidnapped by fairies solve her problems? And what about the fairy who takes the place of the princess? And that's how I came to write The PrincessImposter.
(There is a video--introduced by my editor Zach Clark--of my saying this here.)
Once upon a time there was a princess named Gabriella, who was beautiful and sweet-natured and much beloved by her family (all of whom were in good health) and by all the people of the kingdom (which was at peace with all their neighboring kingdoms and which was situated in a region of the world not plagued by dragons or ogres or naming-day curses), and she was betrothed to a perfectly nice prince of whom everyone approved and with whom she was certain she would fall madly in love in the next year or so when she would be old enough for such things.
In short, Princess Gabriella had a perfect life.
--Until a band of misbehaving fairies kidnapped her and substituted one of their own in her place.