Margaret Owen Speaks About "Little Thieves" And The Value of Drawing for a Writer
Little Thieves is about a conwoman who trades lives with a princess and is eventually cursed to turn into jewels if she doesn't break the curse within two weeks.
The book, a retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale, is written by Ma
rgaret Owen (known for the Merciful Crow duology as well), and releases on Oct. 19, 2021. Owen answered a few questions via email about her writing life, her art (the drawing kind), and the book.
As a child, author Susan Fletcher visited Owen's school and that was her first indication that there was a person behind a story she loved — that writing was a career. But it took some time for her to realize that was something she could do. So through college and beyond, Owen had other jobs, but she always wrote on the side.
"I just really loved being able to build worlds and usher readers through them, and how things I wrote could speak to them in a way that could be difficult, if not impossible, in the real world," Owen said. "So I stuck with it! And it seems like it’s panned out."
Owen is an illustrator in addition to being an author — in fact, she shared, she actually illustrated Little Thieves! There are seven illustrations to accompany seven interstitials in the book, each of which was drawn by Owen's own hand.
"Drawing really helps develop observational skills, in my opinion—you have to learn how to
communicate as much info as possible, visually, with the most economic work," Owen said. "When we say 'show, don’t tell,' drawing is that advice in its purest form."
In drawing, it's all about a person's body language and what that can say about what they're thinking; the very architecture of a city can have an impact on what viewers glean about the society.
"Drawing challenges me to think these through," Owen said, "and in turn, think them through when it comes to writing."
Another fun fact about Owen is that she loves to travel. As an avid traveler myself, I wanted to know more.
Owen shared that she spent a month in Japan with a school program when she was 17. In addition to being tourists and visiting the country's cultural centers, students also spent time living with host families.
"I’ve been to some neat places in the world," Owen said, "but honestly, everyday life with my host family beat being a tourist by a country mile."
Little Thieves is a Goose Girl retelling, which Owen said came about because she wanted to write about "a con artist who was cursed to do good deeds," citing recent stories like that of Anna Delvey as her inspiration to write about a commoner impersonating a socialite.
Owen mentioned that fairy tales often have an outsize emphasis on bloodlines and nobility, and she was fascinated by the idea presented in the original tale of a princess and a commoner being indistinguishable.
"One of the original story’s most radical statements is that a common maidservant could
credibly pass as a princess on her own," Owen said, "without any sort of disguise beyond trading clothes."