Although Alanna has magical powers, she would rather be a knight and let her twin brother, Thom, become a sorcerer. So they change places. Alanna uses her powers to save Prince Jonathan from the Sweating Fever, and is chosen to accompany him on a journey to the region of the evil Black City.
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Writing what I wished I could have read
When I first discovered fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkein when I was 13), I fell in love with it and read anything and everything I could get my hands on. For the most part I was happy--these books had magic, adventure, romance, and different worlds than the trudging one I lived in. What was not to like? But as I read, I realized that the number of characters like me--a teenaged girl--could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The number of warriors who were female could be counted on the other hand, and most of them did something I felt ruined their appeal by the end of the tale (one of them gave up being a warrior, one was strangled while doing something quite silly, and one sneered at other women). Without knowing the adage that writers write what they want to read, I scribbled story after story about a teenaged girl warrior, the kind of thing I would have liked best to read. I finished my first book, starring a female hero, in my final year at university, and hid it away (it was *terrible*!). Six months later I had a dream. With only an image from it lingering in my mind, I sat down to write my next book (the image never appeared in it), a 732-page monster titled THE SONG OF THE LIONESS. It detailed the adventures of a spirited girl who wanted to be a knight so badly that she disguised herself as a boy to get the training offered by her king.
I cleaned up the manuscript and sent it out to publishers for two years before I moved to New York City and took a job with a literary agency. One of the agents, Claire Smith, agreed to read my book: it was she who suggested I turn it into four books for young people, since so much of it--eight years' in Alanna's story--is about young people. I was willing to try anything that might get me published, and made the changes. The third editor we tried, Jean Karl at Atheneum Books here in the U.S., agreed to take the series. Two years later, David Fickling--then at Oxford University Press in the U.K.--bought the *Lioness* books for British distribution.
While I had wanted a girl hero like I was as a teenager, I also wanted Alanna to be the things I wasn't--brave and forceful, outspoken and bold. (That said, she is like me in her fiery temper and determination.) I based her more on my younger sister Kim, who served in our Air Force and is now a paramedic and nurse. I thought, and still think, the only things Kim is afraid of are boredom and powerlessness. I wanted that for Alanna. Clearly I chose well--Alanna's story has remained in print since the early 1980s, and I get letters and mail from all over the world, from girls and boys alike, telling me how much they love my muleheaded girl hero and her adventures!
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Book Description RH Canada UK Dist, 1988. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 99435608