Swanky Seventeener Patricia Bailey recently interviewed Julie Leung, author of MICE OF THE ROUND TABLE: A TAIL OF CAMELOT, a middle grade fantasy published by Harper Collins on October 4, 2016.
About the Book:
Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of the day when he will become a Knight of Camelot like his father and grandfather before him. For generations, Calib’s family has lived among the mice that dwell beneath the human Knights of the Round Table, defending the castle they all call home. Calib just hopes he will be able to live up to the Christopher name. Then, on the night of the annual Harvest Tournament, tragedy strikes. The mice suspect the Darklings are behind the vicious sneak attack, but Calib has his doubts, so he sets off on a quest for the truth. Venturing deep into the woods beyond the castle walls, Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a threat far greater than the Darklings is gathering, and human and animal knights alike are in grave danger. With help from a host of unlikely new allies, including a young human boy named Galahad, Calib must get the Mice of the Round Table and the Darklings to put aside their differences and fight together. Only then will they be strong enough to save Camelot.
About the Author:
Julie Leung was raised in the sleepy suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, though it may be more accurate to say she grew up in Oz and came of age in Middle-earth. She works in book publishing as a marketer. In her free time, she enjoys furtively sniffing books at used bookstores and winning at obscure board games. Her favorite mode of transportation is the library. You can visit her online at jleungbooks.com.
Patricia: The concept of Mice of the Round Table is so great, and Calib is the perfect hero – and so easy to relate to. What drew you to writing a character like Calib? And what’s your favorite thing about him?
Julie: My favorite thing about Calib is the pride he has for his family and his reverence for those who came before him. It becomes a source of much anxiety for our protagonist, as Calib endlessly compares himself to his perceived ideals from the past. I empathize strongly with this feeling. Growing up in an immigrant family, I was made aware from a young age of the sacrifices my family had to make in order to secure a better life. I think that urge to become worthy of this sacrifice imprinted heavily on me and came through in my main character.
Patricia: One of the things I loved the most about Mice of the Round Table: A Tale of Camelot was how vivid the setting was. I really felt I was right there, following in Calib’s pawsteps. Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to write a vivid setting that also serves the story?
Julie: I’m going to call this the nachos method. (Maybe because I’m very hungry on this flight.) When I begin drafting, I typically word sprint—simply getting the action (chips) and dialogue (refried beans!) onto the page. I don’t fuss over sentences and wording. Afterwards I go back and layer on toppings—sensorial and setting details. For each detail, I ask myself, does it enhance the action I just wrote, or does it bog it down? Is this extra scoop of salsa going to make my chips soggy or does it actually add flavor? One test I like to do is read passages out loud to someone, and see if they still follow the overall action after all the details are in.
Patricia: I’ve always loved the stories of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. What inspired you to write a series based on the Arthurian legend? Can you tell us a little about the research you did for the book?
Julie: I live and breathe fantasy novels. (No joke, it’s also a big part of my day job at Random House.) And Arthurian legends sit at the epicenter of this literary tradition. The stories are a shared mythology, like a song that everyone recognizes and can sing along to. And like most popular songs, there have been endless “covers,” including mine. When I began Mice of the Round Table, I was inspired to look at these familiar epic tales from a different, more diminutive perspective.
In my research, I revisited many of the shows and books based on Arthurian legends from my youth—Mary Stewart, T. H. White, the 1998 Merlin series starring Sam O’Neill. I also investigated the legends’ origins themselves. What I quickly found out is that even these are nebulous. There is no definitive account of Arthurian legends. Even the most like Troyes adapted and adjusted the stories to fit their needs. I also re-read a lot of “rodent-as-hero” stories—Redwall, Poppy, Mouse Guard.
Patricia: What was your rode to publication like? Is there something that surprised you the most about the process?
Julie: My rode to publication is a little different than most in that I worked with a literary packager, Paper Lantern Lit to bring Mice of the Round Table to fruition. So all along in the writing process, I had two great editors in my corner. Kamilla from PLL, who helped me forge the plot in the fires of Mount Doom, and Andrew at Harper Collins Children’s, who then shaped the manuscript into the shiny new book it is today.
Your favorite book when you were a kid?
Ozma of Oz by Frank L Baum.
The last great book you read?
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Favorite Camelot Two-Legger?
The Lady of Shalott
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee is necessary for basic human life functions. Tea is lovely, but optional.
Strangest writing habit?
I make sound effects when I delete sentences. Bloop.
Favorite board game?
SO MANY. But right now, I’d have to pick Seven Wonders: Duels 1
About the Interviewer:
Patricia Bailey grew up in a small town in Oregon. She now lives in a slightly larger town in Oregon with her husband and three cats. She spends her time exploring forgotten places, hiking mountain trails, and scribbling story ideas on sticky notes.
THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN is a middle grade historical novel, coming from Albert Whitman Spring 2017.