In today's interview, we speak with two folks responsible for helping create the latest Practical Guide. First, we ask a few questions of Pip—faerie guide emeritus—about his research in the Feywild. Then, we talk to Susan Morris about her role in the Practical Guide series… including where the series began and where it's headed next.
Questions for Pip
Wizards of the Coast: Why is this book called the "Practical" Guide to Faeries—what information do you teach us about faeries that we can use for ourselves?
Pip Puddlejump Impirae Pioneer Playful Prankster Panishee: All the essentials for your trip to the Feywild (where faeries live). There’s an important phrases guide (you never know when being able to ask where the smelly slug bath will come in handy!), a packing list with everything you’ll need, a chart to help you identify the more exotic types of faeries, and even a guide to the most popular dance of the Forever Court.
Wizards of the Coast: As a faerie yourself, why did you decide to educate us non-faeries? Are you just trying to trick us—how much of this book is true?
Pip: Me? Lie? I am the most honest faerie in all of the Feywild, which is totally saying a lot! I decided to teach humans about faeries out of the goodness of my heart, and because I think some of you are really cool and should come hang out with me in the Feywild. But so many humans seem to have forgotten about us!
Wizards of the Coast: We know your full faerie name (Pip Puddlejump Impirae Pioneer Playful Prankster Panishee). Can you tell us about your own faerie outfit? Favorite food? Favorite spell?
Pip: My favorite outfit is a dress made of twenty miniature rainbow butterflies who all—no, wait, that’s not my favorite. My favorite is really a skirt spun of finest spider silk we pixies could harvest with sparkly beads and shells from the nixies woven throughout it and golden browniecraft bells all along the edges so that it jingles as I walk, and a top of the softest, pinkest petals the shimmerlings could find. Really.
Nothing tastes better than honey-crusted puffy buns. Except maybe sugar-coated blackberries. Or sunny apples made fresh in the Forever Court (see A Practical Guide to Faeries for the recipe)! Sunny apples taste like a perfect summer day.
All faerie magic is awesome, but sleep is the best spell ever. Someone getting too nosey? Sleep! Someone disagreeing with you? Sleep! Need to prank someone? Sleep! Sleep-spell all your problems away!
Wizards of the Coast: How did you research all of this information about faeries? How long did it take you, and were you ever in any danger from the places you went or the creatures you visited?
Pip: I was totally in danger! But don’t worry, because I am also very brave, not to mention clever, and I followed all the advice about how to stay safe that I mention in the book—even wearing a red hat that looked way dumb, to fool the redcaps.
Wizards of the Coast: Are you worried other faeries will punish you for giving away their secrets—did any of them try and stop you in the first place? Did you ever have to fight another faerie?
Pip: I have fought valiantly over third breakfast puffy buns—does that count? Because I think it was a serious insult to my honor that my second cousin tried to eat the last one (his fifth!) before I, the clearly more famished and deserving pixie, could have my third. But I’d like to see them try to punish me! I’m much too clever to get caught by those other faeries—they’re just jealous they didn’t think of writing a book first, because now, I’m going to have all the coolest, most interesting human friends (you will come visit, won’t you?).
Wizards of the Coast: Did you learn new things even you didn’t know about faeries?
Pip: There are always new things to learn about faeries! Because, just like you, faeries are always changing. A Practical Guide to Faeries is a good start, but don’t stop there. Along with learning about faeries, I also love learning about other magical creatures, like dragons in A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic! (Did you know that dragons are actually more akin to faeries than humans?)
Questions for Susan
Wizards of the Coast: How did the Practical Guide series come about (was it always envisioned as a series, or did the success of the first book allow for the series), and how does the Practical Guide to Faeries fit within it?
Susan Morris: When I was a kid, the Monster Manual was my favorite bedtime story. Fifteen years later, I applied for a job as an editor at Wizards of the Coast, the publisher of that same Monster Manual, and during my interview I shared that story. Nina Hess, my editor and the visionary behind the Practical Guide series, happened to be working on an idea for a kind of Monster Manual series for kids—one that told kids all the important details about different monsters’ societies, habitats, and features. A Practical Guide to Dragons was first, as Wizards of the Coast has a long history with dragons, but it was the enthusiastic reaction of kids everywhere that drove us to publish more Practical Guides.
Faeries have fascinated kids of all ages for generations, and are a natural extension of the Practical Guide series.
Wizards of the Coast: What was your personal interest in the realm of faeries? When and how did that interest begin? Do you have a particular favorite among faeries of legend or literature?
Susan: Once when I was a kid, my younger sister told me that there was a door to Faerieland in the tree in our backyard if I could only find the secret opening. Even though I was pretty sure she was just trying to get me back for convincing her that she could fly if she sprinkled mica in her hair, as soon as I finished laughing and dismissing her claim, I spent a solid hour searching that tree from top to bottom. That pretty much epitomizes my relationship with faeries. I have always wanted to believe, reading every fairytale I can get my hands on, and absorbing the details as to their culture as though I intended to visit that very night. A Practical Guide to Faeries is filled with memories of my childhood: from the backpack of things you’ll need, to finding four-leaf clovers, to countless other lore taken from D&D and fairytales. My favorite fairytale is probably The Twelve Dancing Princesses (inspiration for The Dance of the Twelve Sisters in the book!), but I’m also a major fan of the movie Spirited Away.
Wizards of the Coast: Why do you think faeries are of interest to readers? And perhaps to young readers in particular (if you feel that's true)? What do faeries add to our perception of the world?
Susan: Faeries are like kids that never have to grow up, only these kids have extraordinary magical power. That’s really attractive when you’re five or eight or twenty-six years old. But really, who wouldn’t be interested in faeries? To enter a secret, forbidden world filled with inhumanly attractive, mischievous, passionate, and magical creatures who all take a particular interest in you? Faeries fascinate us because they break all our rules—they’re delicate and powerful, beautiful and terrible, cruel as a cat at play and sweet as spun sugar. But best of all, faeries challenge us to find the exquisite in the mundane, to use our imaginations to lend wonder to otherwise banal realities.
Wizards of the Coast: Do you think faeries are still important and relevant in our modern world (versus old pastoral societies)? How might have faeries themselves adapted to our times?
Susan: What do you mean "might have"? Faeries have totally adapted to our times! Faeries deal with identity, which is always an important issue for young adults, but is of particular interest today with the blossoming of the internet.
Wizards of the Coast: Where do you see the Practical Guide series going next? As a related question with a possibly different answer, where would you like to see it go?
Susan: I see in the future a new Practical Guide about dragons . . . and the unique and fascinating magic they and their human apprentices wield. Look for A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic (also by me!) due out September 2010. Before then, to sate your appetite for the weird and wonderful, check out the Practical Guide companion books—the Dragon Codices (which accompany A Practical Guide to Dragons), the Wizardry Companion books (A Practical Guide to Wizardry), and the Monster Hunters series (A Practical Guide to Monsters). Who knows? There may even be a companion series to A Practical Guide to Faeries!
Wizards of the Coast: What advice might you offer for writers of young adult fantasy as opposed to adult fantasy—perhaps in terms of a difference in tone, vocabulary, themes, etc.?
Susan: Read. A lot. Become fluent in young adult fantasy. But I think the most important thing is not to write down to a mythical young adult, trying to moralize, but instead to write to the child within yourself, remembering your own emotional struggles, the questions that burned in your mind at night, and your most feverish fears and dreams.
Wizards of the Coast: As an editor in the Wizards of the Coast Books Department, what did you learn about the writing process during the creation of this book? How were your experiences as the one being edited, and did it alter your perspective of the writing/editing process?
Susan: I love being edited. How reassuring to know that there is someone experienced looking over your shoulder, making sure you don’t make a fool of yourself! I really appreciated the depth to which Nina questioned everything. I felt like we were really able to concentrate the material down to its best. Being edited did, however, give me a greater appreciation for the role compliments play (in addition to constructive criticism) in helping a writer know when she hit her mark and in keeping her spirits and inspiration high.