Excerpts from the interview:

‘‘The most important struggle for a lot of us (especially girls and women) is that period of time when we discover that society wants one set of things from us, and our own hopes and desires and skills and talents have given us other desires. We are now faced with a choice: Do we give way to what society wants – do we compromise – or do we go with what we want for ourselves? And how do we shape our lives to reflect who we want to be?

‘‘This is not just true of girls and women; this is true of everyone. But girls and women face that demand of femininity and what it means to be a lady – to behave properly, to be ‘nice.’ How do we break free of those centuries of conditioning? And that struggle takes place right as we’re making the transition of girl to woman. I find these very fruitful areas to work.”

‘‘Let’s face it. Look at what’s happening to the country now, what’s happening to the world: the haves are separating from the have-nots at practically light-speed. The separation between the classes is as viable now as it was in the Middle Ages. I think of that time period by the title of the William Manchester book A World Lit Only by Fire, because what was lit was so bright and what was dark was so dark. The contrasts are really useful. This is why I prefer the medieval setting: I use those vivid contrasts to make my points and to get people to think.”

‘‘For ideas I hope to write about someday, I keep track of them in my head. If an idea is meant to be, if I stick it in my head it will stay there, cook away and develop, and then I’ll take it out and play with it for a while. I’ll tinker with it while I’m doing dishes or taking a shower or feeding critters or whatever. And I’ll talk about it with my husband or my editor or my agent. Usually, by the time I sit down to write a book, it is a minimum four to six years that I’ve been thinking about it – unless it’s the first book in a series. That might be a shorter period of time, although with the way things have been going, four to six is still usual.

‘‘As for keeping track of what’s going on in the current book, I have a form I fill out for each main character, and sometimes for secondary characters. I have a complete cast list for all the books, by first name and by last name, so that I never use the same name twice. I also have notes on the magic that gets used in each universe – just things like that, that I’ll need to go back to. (I’ve found that I will be going back to this stuff later.)”

‘‘Right now I’m working on Battle Magic, a Circle of Magic book that’s the prequel to Will of the Empress. My fans were really upset that I split the four kids up for The Circle Opens, and I had to write Will of the Empress to bring them all back together. So now I’m backing up, and I’m showing what happened to Briar Moss, Rosethorn, and Evvy when they journeyed east and got caught in the middle of a war – which accounts for all the symptoms of PTSD that they show in Melting Stones and Will of the Empress. …

‘‘Once those things are done, I’ve got another Tortall book contracted for, and I have other stuff lined up after that. My husband Tim Liebe and a friend of ours, Julie Holderman (a young writer I’ve known for years), are working on The Tortall Companion. They are taking all those files of notes that I’ve had, and things that I’ve said elsewhere that fans have copied down, and they are turning them into chapbooks and guidebooks to different areas – like a Diplomat’s Guide, a Mage’s Curriculum for the Royal University, a Healer’s Curriculum, a journal on the Royal Kitchens, and an exchange of letters that deals with plans to revamp the training program between the pages and squires. So we are all working on these notes that everyone will have. That will probably be out in 2013.’’

‘‘I started getting fan mail around 1985. When a kid tells you your books changed his or her life, you know they’re telling you the truth, because you remember the books that changed your life. When you’re an adult, it doesn’t happen like that. There are books that make you think, books you remember, but there aren’t books that change your life, literally.”