dorihbutler (dorihbutler) wrote in kidlit_central,

Meet Sarah Prineas!

My son met Sarah Prineas at least two years before I did. She was the director of scholarships and the assistant director of the Honors Program at the University of Iowa. She also taught a seminar on J. R. R. Tolkein, which he took. I didn’t even know her name then. But then she joined the Iowa SCBWI listserve and as part of her introduction she mentioned what she did at the University and I made the connection. She and I met at the International House of Pancakes in Coralville not too long after that…and then we started e-mailing and getting together regularly, so I had to ask my son whether it was okay if I made friends with his professor. Since she was no longer his professor at that point, he responded in typical college-guy fashion: “Uh….I guess…”

So on this Meet-and-greet Monday, I’m pleased to introduce my friend, Sarah Prineas!


Sarah lives in Iowa City, Iowa, and is the author of a fabulous fantasy novel entitled, The Magic Thief: Stolen. She’s had an almost fairy-tale experience as a children’s book author…and she didn’t even realize The Magic Thief was a children’s book until her agent sold it to HarperCollins in a 3-book deal. Foreign rights sales (there have been 14 of them so far) began to pile up before the book was ever published. In fact, HarperCollins moved the publication date up a year and published it as their lead title this past spring. The book has received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.


Have you always wanted to be a writer, Sarah?

No, I haven't always wanted to be a writer. As a kid I always liked telling stories, and wrote plays and poems, but I hardly realized there was such a thing as a writer. I didn't think a whole lot about what I was going to be when I grew up; I was too busy playing soccer and reading and doing my paper route and building forts in the woods.

When/how did you become interested in writing?

In the year 2000-1 my husband had a Humboldt Fellowship to do a postdoc at a lab in Germany (he's a physicist). At the time, my son was a tiny baby. I was working on my PhD dissertation (English) and bored, bored, bored. I started writing in order to procrastinate on the dissertation and yet feel productive.

What got me hooked on writing was the Online Writing Workshop, (, where I discovered a supportive community of readers and writers. Through the OWW I learned the basics of how to write.

Tell us about the day you sold the Magic Thief.

Let's see. I had jury duty; I was juror #1 on an assault on a police officer trial where the accused guy was stupid and a jerk, but not guilty. During one of the breaks I got the call from my agent that an editor at HarperCollins was interested in the book. Not too long after that, we had a deal.

Where did you get the idea for this book?

A couple of places. The first line of the book is "A thief is a lot like a wizard. I have quick hands, and I can make things disappear." I had that line in a word.doc file on my computer for over a year until I came up with a character to say it. Conn, that character, came out of my decision to create a protagonist who protags. He's a real plot generator, always getting into trouble. Other than that, I wanted to write a book that had all my favorite fantasy elements in it: magic, wizards, adventure, peril, magical talismans, biscuits and bacon, and dragons.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I don't have a typical writing day; I'm not a butt-in-chair writer. As a binge writer, I spend a lot of time doing what I like to call "pre-writing", which is essentially messing around, tweaking stuff I wrote before, checking my email, reading LJ, doing "author" stuff. When I glom onto a plot twist or an idea, I write it all at once, a frenzied week-long productive burst where I write 10,000 words and annoy my family with my fixation on writing. Then I tweak-tweak-tweak and "pre-write" and wait for the next binge to come along.

What does a NON-typical day look like for you?

Lately I've been touring a lot for my publishers, both in the US and the UK, and the traveling is not my usual thing. It's a lot of non-typical days in a row!! A tour day--a non-typical day--starts with a big room-service breakfast and a cup of tea to give me plenty of energy for the day. A car arrives at the hotel and takes me to my first school visit; the driver waits while I do my 'show.' Then lunch (sometimes back at the hotel, sometimes at a Starbucks or something) and a second school visit in the afternoon. Then back to the hotel, a quick dinner, and later that night the driver takes me to do a signing at a local bookstore. During the down times, I try to write, depending on what I'm working on and what my deadlines look like, or go for a run, or read, or write emails to my friends. The traveling is a little stressful, and school visits take an enormous amount of energy, but meeting the book's kid readers has been hugely rewarding.

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the whole process?

The biggest surprise has been learning the difference between being a writer and being an author. For me, writing a book doesn't take all that much time, and it's a lot of fun. Authoring--being an author--is totally different than being a writer. Every single day I've got author stuff to do. For example, yesterday and today: emailed publicist about tour dates in November. Answered reader mail. Responded to UK editor about a publicity thing they're doing for the book two launch. Ordered more thank-you cards (to send to booksellers who host visits). Discussed with editor and her assistant the 'extras' that will be in the back of the paperback Magic Thief. Emailed my website guy about a site update. Exchanged emails with my agent about what I'm writing next. Responded to email from librarian in Des Moines about this weekend's visit. Responded to email from Harper school/library visit coordinator about another visit next month. Etc!! I don't mind the time that authoring takes away from writing, but they do demand different skill sets. It's something new every day!

Sarah's second book, The Magic Thief: Lost will be out on May 12 and her third, The Magic Thief: Found will be out in the spring of 2010.

If you happen to be near Des Moines TODAY (or if you feel like driving there!), you can meet her at the Des Moines Public Library (1000 Grand Avenue) at 10:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m. Tell her you read about her HERE!
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