Some of Utah author Jessica Day George’s favorite stories to read as a kid were when main characters hide an animal, like a dog or a horse, in their house and try to take care of it without their parents knowing and trying to prove they were incredibly responsible.
“I totally have all of those books,” said George, who is the author of the Castle Glower middle-grade series, along with the young adult Dragon Slippers and Dancing Princess series.
And she pitched the idea of buying a horse and taking care of it herself to her parents once, but they quickly turned it shot it down.
“In a castle, you could totally have as many puppies and kittens and no one would ever know,” George said. “But what if it was something so big, it would have to be something so huge that hiding it would be increasingly stressful … something with wings or something that breathes fire?”
In the next book in the Castle Glower series, “Wednesdays in the Tower” (Bloomsbury, $16.99), Princess Celie finds a new tower on a Wednesday that has very large, very odd egg in it. And Castle Glower, which usually only adds rooms or makes changes on Tuesdays, only lets Celie see the tower with the egg, but also helps her care for the egg and the baby griffin — with the head of an eagle, the tail of a lion, wing and claws — that hatches from it. (It could have been a baby dragon, right?)
Rufus, the griffin, isn’t the only odd thing that appears in the castle. An armory with exotic and possibly magical armor appears — as do new stables and the holiday feasting hall (even though there isn’t a holiday anytime soon). There are also other secrets buried in the history of Castle Glower. “Wednesdays” is a welcome and adventurous sequel to “Tuesdays at the Castle.”
George was getting ready for bed one evening when the thought popped into her head: “On Tuesdays when it got bored, Castle Glower liked to stretch.”
And the ideas flowed.
“What if you lived in this castle and it moved things around?” she asked.
What if you were the king and had a day to hear petitions from subjects, but they couldn’t find you because the hallways where moved? Or if the castle liked someone, it would help them or make their room nicer.
“It was all there in my brain all of a sudden,” George said. (The original name of the castle was Castle Slaughter, but she changed it.)
She picked up a notepad and pen she keeps on her nightstand in case ideas come and began writing it down. The idea for her first published book “Dragon Slippers,” came in a similar way.
When she started writing “Tuesdays at the Castle,” she saw it as one book, but thought it could be fun to come back do more separate adventures from this world with a magic castle.
In “Tuesdays,” the king and queen are ambushed and kidnapped and their oldest brother, Prince Bran, the oldest goes to find them. Celie and her older siblings Rolf and Lilah, with help from Castle Glower, work to figure out whom among the councilors and visiting foreign dignitaries is a friend or foe.
George is currently working on the “Thursdays” book (the title hasn’t been finalized) and it will pick up where and when the 240-page “Wednesdays” ends. “Thursdays” is due out next year.
And George sees a lot of herself in Princess Celie when she was that age.
“Celie is me as an 11-year-old,” George said of the character’s willingness to try different things that might not be for a typical princess, especially one living in a magic castle, but knowing how to act as royalty.
George’s mother made sure they knew how to act at events, like concerts and such, but George also spent hours on the family trampoline coming up with stories.
George also wanted to make sure she had the emerging independence of an 11-year-old who might still need her parents for a few things.
And Prince Lulath of Grath and his tiny dogs were fun for George to write.
“He’s an outrageous character,” George said. “He’s my comic relief.”
His speaks in grammatically backwards sentences, which gave the “Tuesdays” copy editor fits. And despite his tiny dogs and flowing clothes, he’s actually a brilliant military strategist in his country.
But writing didn’t come without its challenges.
She was finishing up edits on “Princess of the Silver Wood,” the third book in the Dancing Princess series which was released at the end of last year, and writing “Wednesdays in the Tower” when she had her youngest son, who had some respiratory issues and spent two weeks in the NICU. And because she had a strep A infection likely from someone who had strep throat, she collapsed and ended up in the hospital just down the hallway from her baby.
“I should have been done with ‘Silver Woods’,” said George, who fully intended to get the necessary edits done and writing “Wednesdays” after the baby was born. “Everything just kept getting pushed back. It was a little bit crazy.”
Her now 14-month-old son is healthy and well. Through follow-up tests for her, doctors found that George has a fatty liver disease, which is essentially cirrhosis of the liver without drinking alcohol and George calls it her “voluptuous liver.”
It’s genetic and for George, it means she can’t have soda pop and now wears a pedometer to make sure she gets enough exercise.
With a 14-month old, a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old, she hires a sitter to come twice a week in the afternoons so she can go to the library and write.
“Now that it is a job and career, when you have a job, you have to make time,” George said.
Then on Saturday afternoons for the past six years, her husband has packed up the kids and taken the grocery list along with a list of any other possible errands so that she will have time to write.
“You can’t do this unless your spouse supports you,” George said.
Her 8-year-old son has read “Tuesdays at the Castle” and has given his approval.
“He really, really likes ‘Tuesdays’ and I’ve read to him ‘Dragon Slippers’,” George said. “He’s excited to read ‘Wednesdays’.”
“Wednesdays in the Tower” is set to be released on Tuesday, May 7, and George is doing a national book tour. She will be at the Salt Lake City Library on Thursday, May 9.
If you go ...
What: "Wednesdays in the Tower" book launch and Jessica Day George book signing
When: Thursday, May 9, 7 p.m.
Where: Salt Lake City Library, 210 E. 400 South, 4th Floor, Salt Lake City
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