A New Kind of Princess Story

We sat down (virtually) with 2018 Alumna, Shiloh Carozza to discuss her debut novel, The Exile.

Interview by Gianna Marchese

Tell us about how this novel came to be. Where did you find your inspiration?

As with most stories, The Exile evolved quite a bit since its inception—which is really for the best, considering I started it when I was fourteen. I remember getting the initial idea for a “princess story” as I read C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, simply because I have always found books and films set in far-away, historical cultures fascinating—and again, I was fourteen, so of course, princesses.

I had actually created a whole mythical world of my own, in whose setting I had been writing little 5-10 page detailed synopses of tales and folklore over the past several years. The Exile began as one such synopsis, told mainly from the perspective of the princess, Clare. But as the story developed and the synopsis ran into 12 pages and beyond, I found myself more intrigued with the character of Clare’s foil, the warrior and ex-slave, Delta. Long after finishing the synopsis, I remained haunted by Delta’s character and the pair’s dynamic. So I decided to start a novel, narrated by Delta, to see where it went.

Walk us through your creative process. How did the princess-story-inspired-by-C.S. Lewis evolve into The Exile as we know it now?

Over the next four years, what started as a princess story turned into something I still struggle to categorize: an adventure story in which two individuals’ simultaneous diametrical opposition toward each other and need for each other forges a blend of annoyance, respect, and loyalty. While my understanding of both characters deepened throughout the process, the most “sweat” I put into the book was the research. Transforming a mythical world into an actual historical backdrop is no picnic, but because of the obscurity of the time frame, most of my research focused on the details of medieval life and Scandinavian clans. The names of the clans and the cities are all fictitious; however, most of them are taken from Old Norse.

In general, my stories and scripts begin with three elements of inspiration: a central personality, a relationship, and some tension. This creates what I call “the situation” (shocker, I know), and from there I ask three basic questions:

Who are these people (to the reader and to each other)?
How did they get here?
Where are they going and why?

The rest of the story is basically a progressive answer to all of these questions.

Do you think your Hillsdale education set you up for success in this field?

My experiences in the Rhetoric and Theatre departments left an enormous impact on my storytelling. In Dr. Kiledal’s classes, we were always examining the multi-faceted, organic nature of every interaction, as well as the fundamental roles of word choice and arrangement of content in giving a written work its meaning. On top of that, learning about induction and deduction gave me a fuller perspective on the different approaches to plot and character development, and why certain stories require one approach instead of the other. Writing, casting, and actually stage-reading scripts for George Angell’s playwriting classes gave me a chance to incorporate my rhetorical training into dialogue. I now look at every exchange between characters as a game of verbal chess, in which each has their own motives, strategies, and tactics.

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About Shiloh Carozza

As an independent novelist, scriptwriter, and songwriter, Shiloh Carozza has debuted her creations at several venues, including the national radio program Our American Stories, Hillsdale College, and the Advance Newspaper. She also creates and publishes the online content for Treeworks, Inc. where she works as the communications director.

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Visit Shiloh’s website and follow along on her blog: The Inquisitive Inkpot.

Gianna Marchese is the Editor in Chief of the Student Stories Blog. She also serves as Hillsdale College’s Social Media Coordinator. She graduated from Hillsdale in 2017 with a degree in Marketing and Management.

Published in April 2020