Saturday, November 26, 2011

Interview: Author Stasia Ward Kehoe (and a Book Giveaway!)

I'm pleased to share an interview with my friend Stasia, one of the first people I met through SCBWI Western Washington. As I told Stasia, I feel like I'm one of her debut novel's adoring aunties. Between sessions at the 2010 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, Stasia and I exchanged the first five pages of our manuscripts and read them standing next to a shiny, black piano. Her writing completely impressed me. Her words were gorgeous and poignant, and--written in verse--amazingly concise. Soon after that, she asked if I would be a beta reader. I read her full and knew her manuscript deserved to be a book. I wrote about it here. When AUDITION came out and I saw the opening lines printed on the pages of a real book, it brought me back to that piano in New York City. It was truly a moving experience. Stasia's success should inspire us all; it exemplifies how talent and hard work pay off.

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Stasia grew up dancing and performing on stages from New Hampshire to Washington, D.C. She now writes books for young adults and choreographs the occasional musical. She is represented by Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management.

(Viking/Penguin, October 13, 2011)

Here's the blurb:

It all started with the audition . . .

When Sara is offered a scholarship with the prestigious Jersey Ballet, there's no way she can turn down the opportunity of a lifetime. But to take it, she must leave her family and friends for a strange city. Suddenly, she's thrust into a life of endless ballet class and rehearsal, of juggling schoolwork with hours in the studio, of constantly being critiqued, corrected, and judged.

Overwhelmed and lonely, Sara connects with Remington, a brilliant up-and-coming choreographer. Though he's too old for her, sparking scandal at the studio, Sara is thrilled to become Rem's muse. But as the secrets pile up and Rem's innovative dances start to attract wider attention, Sara wonders whose dreams she's making come true.

Debut author Stasia Ward Kehoe spins an intense and romantic page-turner about the deeply flawed yet irresistible world of ballet.

How did you decide to write AUDITION in verse? It was such a brilliant idea!

I didn't decide to write AUDITION in verse so much as find my way to the form. The novel started as a monologue for a playwriting class. I wrote about a young dancer getting dressed for an audition. I felt connected to the character, so I started trying to feature her in a prose novel. It was all right, but I felt the novel didn't have the spark I really wanted. Then, I found myself in a verse novel writing workshop with Ellen Hopkins and I was on my way.

What are a few ways your performing arts skills enhance your writing? I'm not referring to the subject matter and authenticating details of AUDITION, but I'm asking in a more general sense.

First of all, I consider myself a craftsperson, not an artist. Just like in dance, I believe you need to flex the writing muscle pretty much every day to get to where you want to be. As a verse novelist, I find myself paying attention to the cadence and forms of the poetry. I think very structurally, very choreographically. I think that comes from my dance background. And for me, stories definitely begin with character. I say their "lines" out loud, try to feel what they feel, do a bit of "method acting" to get at their motivations.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Be as honest as you can in your writing. Never shy away from what you believe your characters need to say or do. Then, when you feel you're as close to the bone as you can get . . . go closer. If your writing doesn't make you shiver or cry, you cannot expect your reader to do so. Even if you're writing light, funny, or surreal, it has to also feel true.

Also, while it's great to take advice, guidance, and feedback, the best story you can write is the one that only you can tell. That's the cool, crazy, amazing thing about being a writer. So, even when you're making editorial changes, be certain that you are also holding on to your own story, your characters. That way, you don't run the risk of diluting things as your work evolves from desktop manuscript to published work (you CAN get there!).

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Stasia! I wish you continued success!

Places you can find Stasia on the Internet:
Writer on the Side
A Year of Auditions
Stages on Pages
The Bookanistas

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Now it's time for the giveaway! I have a copy of AUDITION to send to one lucky follower. To enter the contest, all you have to do is:

1. leave a comment on this post before
11:59 p.m. PST on Friday, December 2, 2011
2. be a follower of this blog

3. have a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada (Sorry I have to set limits. I wish I could include everyone!)

Each person can enter only once.
Good luck, and thank you for following my blog! :)


Old Kitty said...

A book in verse?!?! what does that mean!?! Well it sounds FANTASTIC!!

Huge congratulations to Stasia and all the best with her very delicious and intriguing sounding novel. Take care

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Old Kitty! While I haven't read many novels in verse, I've really appreciated the ones I've hit. OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse is the first one I read, and it's wonderful. I recommend it. Stasia mentioned Ellen Hopkins, and she is a great example of someone who writes novels in verse. She is so creative, even forming shapes on the page with her poetry. I have not yet read MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose (I believe it will be released in January), but I plan to ASAP! It sounds great, and I'm already a Caroline fan. And of course, she blew me away.

Thanks for stopping by! I always enjoy your comments! :)

Paul Greci said...

Dawn, Audition sounds like a fabulous book!! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy. :-)

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Paul! It is fabulous! And you're welcome! ;)

Theresa Milstein said...

I've enjoyed Lisa Schroeder's novels in verse. How great that one workshop on writing a novel in verse got you on your way, Stasia.

Please enter me to win. I live in the US.

Susan R. Mills said...

Sounds good. I'll add to my list. Thanks you both for sharing!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Oh my goodness gracious, this sounds good! I really, really, really want to win!! But even if I don't, thanks for the recommend, Dawn!

Nancy Thompson said...

Sounds quite interesting! Do I get brownie points for living in Western Washington too? *wink wink*

Dawn Simon said...

Theresa, consider yourself entered! :) (And I agree: very cool about the timing of the Ellen Hopkins workshop!)

Susan, you're welcome!

Amy, you are too cute! It really is a great book!

Hi, Nancy! Regarding the brownie points, absolutely not. ;) Still, it was a nice try, and I do hope to meet you at a local conference!

Claudia Del Balso said...

Congratulations to Stasia on her book!
I met a ballet dancer turned writer in one of the writers' organizations I used to attend. She wrote funny stories. Much continued success to Stasia!

Susan Fields said...

Congrats to Stasia - that sounds like a wonderful book!

Rebecca (RivkaBelle) said...

I've not read many novels in verse, but the ones I have read have been 'perfect' for the story. Def looking forward to reading this one.

LOVE the bit about writing so you make yourself shiver & cry...

Thanks for the giveaway! :o)

Unknown said...

This is the third time I try to comment and nothing! Blogger hates me! LOL.
Anwyay this book is in my TBR pile! And I loved the interview, esp. the advice for aspiring authors!
And thanks, Dawn, for stopping by my blog the other day! <3

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Claudia! Cool about the ballet dancer/writer. I've been meeting quite a few writers with performing arts backgrounds in the past couple years. It makes sense, really. Thank you for the happy wishes for Stasia!

Thanks, Susan!

Rebecca, I loved that part, too! You're welcome!

Monica, ugh, I hate it when that happens. I'm glad you kept trying! Thanks! :)

Molly Hall said...

I got to see Stasia and her team of superstar writer colleagues in NYC! And it was SOOOOO fun! (Don't enter me in the contest, because I already have a copy!) Can't wait to read this. All my favorite ingredients: romance, dance, and good writing! Great interview, Dawn!

Unknown said...

I love how Stasia fell into writing the book in verse.

I'd love to win a copy! :D

Dawn Simon said...

Thanks, Molly! It is so cool that you got to see them! You'll love the book!

Stina, sometimes experiences hit us at just the right time, don't they? Serendipity! :)

Thank you for all the comments!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the inspiring interview.
The book looks amazing!