Carmela LaVigna Coyle, Monica Ropal bring their books to Next Page in Frisco
If you go
What: Book signing with Carmela LaVigna Coyle, author of “Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots?” and other titles, and Monica Ropal, author of the new young-adult novel “When You Leave”
When: 3-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1
Where: Next Page Books & Nosh, 409 Main St., No. 101, Frisco
Cost: Free; books will be available for purchase
Carmela LaVigna Coyle’s daughter Annie was 4 years old when she posed the question, “Do princesses wear hiking boots?” Annie’s now in college, but her matter-of-fact childhood questions have spawned an entire series of books that explore the lives of princesses, getting to the bottom of whether they scrape their knees and whether they have best friends.
Two years after her last visit to Next Page Books & Nosh, Coyle is returning to Frisco on Saturday, Aug. 1, to sign copies of the latest in the princess book empire, “Do Princesses Make Happy Campers?”
New kind of princess
When she started writing her princess books, many of the royal daughters in kids’ films and literature were the helpless, hapless type, but, with the advent of heroic protagonists in stories such as “Brave” and “Frozen,” little girls are now being born into a new way of thinking about princesses as being inquisitive explorers and adventurers, and Coyle’s books fit right in.
“All of the books, I hope, have that thread running through it, where the princess is brave and courageous,” she said. “She’s also having that look back at herself like, hmm, can I be both these things in my heart? I think that’s the thing that has kept the series going is the duality that’s there.”
She said there’s likely some crossover from the Disney-type fans to her books, as there’s a similar energy behind the characters. She said presenting girls with active, outdoor-loving female characters has a positive effect, no matter the source.
Of the princess-in-the-tower stereotype, she said “I love that we are getting away from that. The bottom line is that girls and boys alike, we have to see ourselves as these individual, capable people.”
That triumphant spirit carries over into her spinoff book, “Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?” and will continue in a title that was just confirmed Tuesday, July 28, called “Do Princesses & Super Heroes Conquer the Parks?” — a special celebration book for next year’s National Parks centennial.
The author also will be releasing “Do Princesses Boogie?” next year, giving her and illustrator Mike Gordon yet another volume to help boost the series to a collective 1 million copies sold.
“I’m calling it a read-and-dance book because it’s a cute little movement dance; I’ve kind of been looking at the gross motor skills for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds,” she said of “Boogie.” “I’ve been working it around that whole ability range, so it’s been really fun. It has not been sent to the illustrator yet but will be in September, so it has a really short fuse.”
She said she continues to receive emails or Facebook posts with attached photographs of a little girl or boy enjoying one of her books, holding their copy or hugging it, and that’s been the best reward from creating her beloved characters.
“It’s really warming because I feel like they are embracing it, literally, and that is such a joy to know that they are in the hands of children,” she said. “And I love the messy, crumpled up, pages-are-ripped or -bent type of books that I’ll see. I’ll go to the library and pull it out, and if they’re there, they look like they’ve been checked out a lot, which makes me happy.”
Joining her for the event at Next Page is Monica Ropal, author of the young-adult novel “When You Leave,” her first foray into the publishing realm. Ropal said she reads a lot of young adult novels, so it made sense for her to choose that style of book when she delved into writing in earnest a few years ago.
“It allows you to play in different genres, but there’s this real emotional honesty and rawness about the characters and the themes,” said the St. Paul, Minnesota resident. “And I also really loved mysteries. I used to read a lot of adult mysteries. The drawback of the adult mysteries is the hard-boiled detective who is pretty unaffected by the crime.”
With “When You Leave,” she set out to write a mystery that paired the emotional intensity that she loved about young adult novels with themes of loss and dealing with death, as the main character, a teenager, deals with the murder of someone close to her.
“I thought there was an opening in the market for young-adult mysteries that have that mystery but are also a lot more personal and emotional,” she said, adding that the story also contains a few influences from her own life.
“She’s a lot braver than I am, but she’s also a lot more damaged. I’m lucky I’m not that damaged,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve drawn upon some emotional truths, but she has her own experiences and path.”
She spent 12 years as an oncology nurse, followed by another three in her current role as a hospice nurse, which she said lends some empathy to the characters in her novel.
“I think that’s one of the reasons I became a nurse,” she said. “I’m a sensitive person, I easily take on other people’s emotions and feel what they feel. I thought, as a writer, that was really helpful.
“In order to be really honest, I wanted to be in a place where I could feel what they feel, draw on other people’s emotional experiences. For me, it kind of went hand in hand.”
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