M.A. Larson: Pennyroyal Academy Blog Tour Q&A + Contest

Posted October 27, 2014 by Sara 4 Comments

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Today, I am so pleased to be hosting a stop on the official blog tour for Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, featuring an exclusive Q&A with the author about his whimsical new middle grade series.

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pennyroyal academyI love the idea that a princess can be a hero. How did your definition of a princess, as we see in PENNYROYAL ACADEMY, come about?

Pennyroyal Academy began as an animated television series. In the early days, it was a pretty straightforward parody of “Disney princess culture.” The initial idea I had was that Cinderella and Princess Peach (of MarioKart) lived together as roommates, and then it became “What if all the princesses lived in the same place?” which then led to the idea of a military-style princess training academy. But as I started planning to write it as a book, I realized there might be a way to do the idea with a bit more substance. So I tried to strip away a lot of the parody elements and general silliness and create a more substantial world around the idea of a princess training academy. I focused in on Grimms’ Fairy Tales because they’re such dark, rich, substantive stories. I knew that if the girls in my book were going to train to become princesses, they would need an enemy to fight against. That led me to the idea that only a princess can defeat a witch. They are the last line of defense for the people of this world when the witches start rolling in. What I particularly liked about this as an overarching conflict was that it allowed me to create a world that joined all the Grimms’ tales together. Cinderella and Snow-White both live in the world of Pennyroyal Academy. Maybe not at the same time or in the same place, but the characters in my book have heard of and idolize these princesses of the past. Think of them as the George Patton and Douglas MacArthur of this world. Legendary military heroes, only in horse-drawn carriages instead of tanks.

MALarson_authorphotoYou’ve written a lot for children’s television, including Disney. Did your experience in children’s TV influence your work on PENNYROYAL ACADEMY? In what ways?

I never would have thought of the idea if not for my television writing. Before I moved to Los Angeles, I was writing dark, indie screenplays that no one would ever want to produce or probably even watch. When I moved out west, a friend of mine who I’ve known since kindergarten was an animator at Cartoon Network, and the show he was on needed writers. I wrote a couple of spec scripts and got the job. I’ve never been particularly picky about what age level or genre I write for, so animation writing, happily, became my job. And the best way to have longevity in a TV career is to create your own show. I was constantly trying to think of ideas to pitch, and Pennyroyal Academy was one of them. In more general terms, writing for children’s animation has been invaluable. You have to churn out so many scripts and concepts that you quickly learn to not be too precious about your ideas. And you deal with so many notes from so many different parties that you learn to accept rejection as just something that happens. A lot. It’s not personal, it’s just part of the day when you’re someone who comes up with stories. Some will work, some won’t.

Family was a theme that really stuck with me, reading PENNYROYAL ACADEMY—both the family you’re born with, and the family you make for yourself. What sort of impact did your family have on PENNYROYAL ACADEMY?

Even thought I’ve spent my career up until now writing for film and television, I always wanted to write books. My mom took my brother and I to the library all the time when we were kids. At first I would leave with a stack of Garfield books or whatever, but then on one visit I noticed a book with a picture of a rabbit on the front. It was Watership Down. I read that book over and over again, not even really understanding what it was about. I just knew it was magic. That was the switch flip that made me want to write books. My mom has done home daycare my entire life, so there were always dozens and dozens of books around the house, but it was those regular trips to the library that got me hooked. My dad was a radio DJ and a massive movie buff, so he was the driving force behind my love of cinema and music. To this day, Apocalypse Now is one of my top three films, and my dad showed that to me at a very young age. So his love of story also influenced me pretty heavily. I also have one brother who is just under two years older than me so needless to say, his interests were my interests. He introduced me to Stephen King when I was very young, and I became addicted to that sensation of being scared by a book. There’s a short story of his called “Graveyard Shift” that haunts me to this day. My brother also got me into Bunnicula and countless other more age-appropriate books. But you can see how vividly I connect stories to each member of my family.

We hear a lot about different fairy tales throughout PENNYROYAL ACADEMY. What were your favorite fairy tales growing up?

I have to admit, my exposure to fairy tales came primarily through Disney. I love most of the Disney fairy tales, actually. I think they get a bit of a bad rap these days. Sleeping Beauty is one of the most gorgeous things ever put on film, and The Little Mermaid will always be my favorite animated film. I didn’t sit down and read Grimms’ Fairy Tales until I started writing this book. And then I completely fell in love. Now I’ve read them all multiple times in multiple translations, and gotten into the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault and Oscar Wilde. There are little fairy tale Easter Eggs all throughout Pennyroyal Academy, most from fairly obscure Grimms’ stories. Everything from character names to scenes to subplots. I wanted the reader to be able to feel the fairy tales throughout the story, even if they aren’t familiar with the fairy tale itself.

I am hopeful that there will be a sequel to PENNYROYAL ACADEMY—it feels like we still have SO much to learn. Assuming there will be another book, what can readers expect?

I don’t want to say! I’m such a proponent of going in cold, knowing nothing. I guess I’ll say that there are even more Brothers Grimm elements in the second book, so fairy tale fans will have lots more Easter Egg hunting to do. And there might be giants. Maybe. We’ll see.

FLASH QUESTIONS:

Song that can always get you dancing?

I loathe dancing. And yet “Groove is in the Heart” gets me every time.

Favorite Halloween candy?

Anything with peanut butter. In fact, hold the candy and just give me a jar.

Starbucks beverage of choice?

Boring. Venti Americano.

French fries or tater tots?

Tater tots are the one true prepared potato form.

Skill you wish you possessed?

Dancing.

Favorite member of the Avengers?

EMMA PEEL. I know that’s not what you meant, but there is no denying she is the greatest Avenger of all time.

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Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

Enlist today at PennyroyalAcademy.com!

Blog Tour Schedule:

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You can enter to win a Pennyroyal Academy Recruitment Kit by filling out the Rafflecopter form here!

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about the bookAnd here is more about Pennyroyal Academy, which is in stores now:

pennyroyal academyPennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academy masterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.

about the authorM.A. Larson (www.malarson.com) is a film and television writer who lives with his wife, daughter, and two dogs in a canyon in California. Larson has written for Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney UK, Discovery Kids Channel, The Hub, and Nickelodeon. As a writer on the cult sensation “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, he has been a guest at “brony” fan conventions from Paris, France to Dallas, Texas. Pennyroyal Academy is his first novel.

Sara
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Posted in: Author Q&A, Blog tour, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Features Tags:

4 responses to “M.A. Larson: Pennyroyal Academy Blog Tour Q&A + Contest

  1. ccplteenunderground

    What a fun concept! I can’t wait to read Pennyroyal Academy, and I must agree with M. A. Larson that Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid take the cake where Disney princess movies are concerned 🙂

  2. samswicegood

    I have finished Pennyroyal Academy! It’s a great read. Lighthearted one moment, pulling at your heartstrings the next–Larson’s experience with children’s television is apparent in his mastery over a great, balanced story.

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