SALT LAKE CITY — As the author of a Newbery Honor winner and multiple best-selling books, Utah author Shannon Hale was doing well on her own. But when she started writing with her husband, Dean Hale, the transition was an easy one.
"Dean was always my sounding board and first editor," Shannon Hale said in an interview. "Even though my first several books I did alone, it didn't feel unnatural to do it together."
In 2008, they combined their talents first to write the "Rapunzel's Revenge" series, then moved on to "The Princess in Black" books and "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" series, along with "Monster High/Ever After High: The Legend of Shadow High" in 2017. Their most recent, "The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare," (Candlewick Press, 96 pages) is the sixth book in the series and the 10th book the couple have released together.
"Dean is a story generator," said Shannon Hale. "He'll come up with ideas and then we'll find the ones we're most excited about and start developing from there."
In "The Science Fair Scare," the title character, Princess Magnolia, is at the Interkingdom Science Fair with her friends when a goo monster attacks. The Princess in Black works with the Princess in Blankets by using scientific problem-solving skills and help from their friends.
"With each release of the series, it gets easier in some ways but it's hard because we have so many ideas but we need to make sure each one coming out is at least as good as the last one," Dean Hale said.
The Hales work hard to keep their books new, fresh and relatable. With "The Science Fair Scare," the Hales said introducing Princess Magnolia, her friends and her readers to science was a natural step.
"Science is a staple of superhero and monster stories. Taking it to the fair felt like a kid thing, something readers could relate to," Dean Hale said.
And while the motto of the "Princess in Black" series is "Who says princesses can't wear black?" Shannon Hale takes it a step further: "Why shouldn't we see princesses doing science fairs?"
It provided a ready excuse for Shannon Hale to revisit her favorite school science experiment.
"I don't think you can go wrong with a volcano," she said. "When you're younger, before you know how science works, it's like a magic trick."
In the book, it's the volcano experiment that gets the participants of the royal science fair in trouble, leaving room for the Princess in Black and her supportive friends to save the day.
"Princess Magnolia isn't a selfish hero or a tyrant," Shannon Hale said. "She's going to go out and do her thing and then let anyone else who wants to be a hero join in."
And as far as the Hales are concerned, the more heroes, the better.
"I like as many super heroes as possible," Dean Hale said.
"It will keep growing and growing," Shannon Hale added. "You can never have too many superheroes. … It'll be like a 'Princess in Black' 'Infinity War.'"
But the superheroes aren't the only point of the books. While the "Princess in Black" series is full of adventure and fun, it also has a message that's important to the Hales. Whether read as a series or as stand-alones, the "Princess in Black" books should be read by all kids, boys and girls.
"It's very healthy for boys to care about stories about girls. It creates empathy," Shannon Hale said.
The Hales said oftentimes it's the adults in children's lives who tell them that some books are girl books and others are just for boys and that they should only read the book that matches their gender.
"If adults would leave books around and make room for kids to discover what they like to read without mocking or shaming them, they will discover books they love," Shannon Hale said. "Sometimes the battle is in getting adults to see that the 'Princess in Black' books can be for boys, too."
The Hales have seen firsthand what happens when children of both genders read the series, particularlly at their events and book signings.
"My favorite part is when we read the story aloud and get big belly laughs (from everyone) in return," Dean Hale said.
And it's not just the kids laughing at their events. They've found that adults enjoy the books, as well, and for "The Science Fair Scare," they hope to reach one group in particular.
"We dedicated this book to teachers who help kids love science," Shannon Hale said. "There are so many phenomenal teachers who don't get enough credit, so this one's for them."
If you go …
What: Shannon and Dean Hale book signing for "The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare"
When: Saturday, Oct. 13, 5 p.m.
Where: The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of "The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare" from The King's English.