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Shannon Hale's 'secret' project yields 'Palace of Stone'

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 3:42 p.m. MDT

It took one word to spark an idea for "Princess Academy: Palace of Stone" (Bloomsbury, $17.99), the sequel to "Princess Academy."

The word was "revolution."

"A word popped into my mind," author Shannon Hale said in an interview with the Deseret News. "What if there was a revolution?"

Miri, the main character in "Princess Academy" and "Palace of Stone," which will be released Tuesday, and several of the other girls who studied at the academy, travel from Mount Eskel to the royal city Asland to join Britta as she prepares for the royal wedding. As she studies at the Queen's Castle, she learns of a movement opposing the royalty.

"She feels so passionately about justice and equality and at the same time her friend was the princess," the South Jordan resident said. "When I thought about it, I didn't know how Miri would get out of it. I think writers are motivated by trickiness and complication."

When Hale initially wrote "Princess Academy," she saw it as a stand-alone book. She also thought no one was going to like it. Hale was in the middle of the Books of Bayern series and expected those to be bigger and more sweeping books.

"It was an intimate and quiet book," Hale said of "Princess Academy," which she wrote with her newborn on her lap and before her first book had been printed. After "Princess Academy" was published in 2005, it won a Newbery Award.

"You can never anticipate what a reaction to a story is going to be," she said.

Soon, she was hearing from girls who had read the book and wanted a sequel. They also shared their ideas of what should be in that follow-up book.

"They were telling themselves what happened next," Hale said of her readers.

It was intimidating to write a sequel to "Princess Academy" because it was so successful and there were many expectations.

So when the idea came and she decided to write it, she only told her husband, Dean.

"I wrote it in secret," she said of how she was able to turn off the doubts and overwhelming feelings she had tackling the 321-page "Palace of Stone" three years ago. "I just needed to be a writer."

She had a contract for another book that her publisher was expecting (which is still yet unpublished, but she's working on it) and she figured it would be OK to write the sequel instead.

In "Palace of Stone," Miri and her friends, along with Peder, who is going to the city for an apprenticeship, are initially overwhelmed with the bustling city far from their secluded Mount Eskel. As they begin their different pursuits, Miri gets wrapped up in the ideals of the rumbling revolution as she learns of noble and poor classes (on Mount Eskel, everyone was pretty equal) and who to trust as their intentions may not be like hers.

As Miri and her friends learn more and more in the city, it's ultimately their roots in the stone mountain that allow them to help out and earn respect to be listened to and to help out when needed.

Miri's loyalty and love are both tested through "Palace of Stone."

"I have been so anxious about this book, more than any I've written," Hale said. She said that she panicked when she turned in the last draft and when she received the advanced review copies.

"I love this story, I really fought hard for it," she said. "You never know how people will receive it."

She hears from them, whether on Twitter or on her website www.squeetus.com or at book signings. She recently re-read "Princess Academy" and did a chapter-a-day update on her blog.

"I'm still pleased that I still like it," she said.

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