KC: What inspired you to write "I Don't Want to be a Princess"?
MNM: My oldest daughter once heard a stranger’s little girl referring to herself as “princess” at a playground. She then climbed to the top of the slide and declared, “I’m king of the castle!” I laughed at first, but then it struck me that she was staking her claim on being king because she thought it was better. That’s a pretty powerful concept for a toddler to get but she did. I wanted her to feel empowered and even inspired about being a female. That’s when the seed for this book was planted.
I want her to be comfortable pretending to be both Princess Leia and Darth Vader, the Amazon princess turned superhero and Rapunzel locked in the tower. I want her to see these roles as phases, not permanent pigeonholes. We all have a little bit of protagonist and a little bit of damsel in us.
KC: How did you work out the illustrations for the book?
MNM: I didn’t illustrate the book, though I wish I had the skill to do so (I don’t). The book was illustrated by Esma Kurbegovic, an eighteen year old art student from Bosnia/Herzegovina. Esma was a pleasure to work with, and we actually agreed to team up via a conversation on DeviantArt.
KC: What are some of the challenges of incorporating real historical figures and tales in a book for younger children in a way that is accessible to them?
MNM: For me, the main challenge of this book was paring down the princesses. There are so, so many real and fictional women who I could have included. My initial list included Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, Great Wife Nefertari and Pharaoh Nefertiti, and even Irene Adler and Woman Chief. These ladies could easily have been included but the book would have been never ending. I know from experience with my own children that, while still in the picture book years, shorter can definitely be better (and easier on parents at bedtime).
KC: What are some of your own favorite picture books?
MNM: One of my favorites is the classic Green Eggs and Ham. I just love that Sam I Am! I’m also a fan of The Hottest Boy Who Ever Lived. Next on my reading list is Rosie Revere, Engineer.
KC: What are you working on now?
MNM: I feel like it’s an author cliché to say that I have several projects in the works. Mainly, I’m still promoting both When We Named You, Baby Girl and I Don’t Want to be a Princess.
Thanks for your thoughts, Mandy. And I hope readers check out the book.