Sunday, September 7, 2014

2014 Debut Author Bash Interview and Giveaway

Today I'm very excited to be interviewing Adi Rule, author of "Strange Sweet Song" as part of the 2014 Debut Authors Bash! 

From Goodreads: 

A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems

Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary? 

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Adi I loved your book and I'm so pleased to be doing this Q&A with you, can you give me a little background on yourself?

Pleased to be here! I’m so happy you enjoyed Strange Sweet Song.

I live in New Hampshire with three cats who don’t get along, a macaw, and a personal trainer. When I’m not writing, I give tours of a lonely, rambling, historic mansion (go ahead, ask me anything about Benning Wentworth) and sing in the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops. I am also the exceedingly proud owner of a 1985 Robo Strux Terox.

How did you first start out as an author? Have you always wanted to write?

My mom is a writer, and was also teaching fiction at our state university when I was a kid, so I grew up in a house in which reading and writing were valued. I’ve always been a writer, I guess, although I didn’t always realize it. I thought I was going to be a performer for a long time. Funny how I was writing the plays more often than I was starring in them. That should have been a clue. Then when my first novel got some nice attention -- I did a couple revisions for an editor at a big house who didn’t end up making an offer -- I decided to focus more on novels and less on plays. I ended up going back for an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, which is a wonderful place. After graduation, I signed with Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Lit (and was/am over the moon about it!).

I once heard an author mention how when reading a really good book she would catch herself thinking "I wish I had written this." If you could write a book that has already been written which book would you choose and why?

Oh, Twilight, definitely. Or Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code. I could keep my awful cats in Fancy Feast, served in crystal bowls (which they would break), indefinitely.

But in terms of something I wish I’d written because of the sheer perfection of it, I’m tempted to say Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. The only problem is that, if it hadn’t already been written when I was a kid, I might have become a very different person. So I’ll say “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear.

If you could meet with any person, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Family members who died before I was born but who are remembered by the older generations. We have their things -- letters, tools, needlework, books with little notes in them. I’d like to meet them.

As far as my heroes, I think the reality of my meeting them would leave a lot to be desired. I did have the opportunity to meet one of my favorite singers, Michael Schade, and all I could do was gape at him until we were both uncomfortable, then finally blurt out, “YOU ARE AWESOME.” It’s probably best I admire people from a distance.

What is your writing process?

My stories often start out as little scenes, and I have no idea of the greater context. Strange Sweet Song, for instance, began as a scene in which a crow watches a classical music performance through a broken window and is sad it can’t participate. These little starter scenes often remain relatively unchanged once they find their place in the larger novel, and more often than not, they end up being the novel’s opening. I have no idea why it tends to work out that way. (Of course, most of them don’t actually become novels. Or haven’t yet.)

Once I’ve got something -- a vignette, a conversation -- I go forward from there. I’m painfully linear. I can’t outline, and I can’t really jump around. I start at the beginning and slog through until there’s something resembling a middle and an end. At the micro level, I tend to revise as I go, which can be a bit inefficient (spending a half hour on a sentence only to have the whole paragraph go out the window later, for instance).

Then I step back and look at the whole thing for themes/pacing/characters/etc. Depending on how that goes, I may ask my critique partners to give it an eyeball, then wade back in. Sometimes I get so bogged down by a thing, I can see neither the forest nor the trees. When that happens, it’s time for more eyeballs from my agent or editor.

How do you deal with writers block?

Deadlines are the best cure!

I also use Freedom, an app that prevents you from going on the Internet. For me, Writer’s Block is remarkably similar to Focus Problems. Watching cat videos seldom solves the problem, but staring at my document and forcing my brain to think of words often does.

How long did it take you to write "Strange Sweet Song" and how long did it take to get it published?

I’m bad with time. Like, really bad. I can barely remember how old I am. I think it took me about two years to write SSS, and another couple years before it hit the shelves. The next one has been a faster process so far, although writing is definitely not the profession for people in a hurry. It’s okay, though, because you’re always writing more stuff.

Music is obviously a big part of "Strange Sweet Song" but there is so much more too it, what other inspiration did you use when writing it?

The setting was inspired by the wintery northern New England landscape. In writing the Felix, I enjoyed imagining the uncomplicated motivations/reactions of a large predator in times of battle and peace. And in Sing’s case, I was inspired by the idea of a child being pressured to follow in her parents’ footsteps, and how that might be complicated, how breaking free would be more difficult, if following that path was actually what she wanted to do.

Song's relationship with her father leaves a lot to be desired, do you think that would be different had her mother not died?

That’s an interesting question. I think Sing and her dad have a lot of misconceptions about each other coming into this story, even though there is deep affection on both sides. Because Sing’s mother was such an imposing presence in both of their lives, I’m not sure they would have come to understand each other in the same way if she hadn’t died.

Nathan was by far my favorite character, who was your favorite character to write and who was your least favorite to write?

I’m glad Nathan stood out to you. He’s one of my favorite characters, too!

My favorite character to write was the Felix. Unlike the others, she’s not contained by normal boundaries; her story spans eons and lightyears, and her behavior and emotions are unrestricted. While it might not be a great idea to associate with someone like that in real life, it was very freeing to tackle her on the page.

I wouldn’t say I disliked writing any of the characters, but Sing was the biggest challenge. Other characters -- and the reader -- have to have a reason to be invested in her story, but I didn’t want that reason to be that she was this perfect, adorable person facing injustice. Sing makes mistakes, and I hope that the authenticity of those mistakes is what keeps her interesting as a protagonist. She is becoming her own person and learning how to form meaningful relationships with others, and, like all of us, she doesn’t always do so gracefully. You don’t see her noble or compassionate side right away because she has this protective shell around her. It can be a tricky line to tread.

I loved the chapters from the Felix's point of view, how did you come up with the tale of the wish granting tear?

I think it started with the idea of the connection the Felix had with other creatures. She is a monster in many ways, but is capable of great emotion. Tears are a universal expression not only of sadness, but empathy.

If the Felix were to grant you one wish what would you wish for?  

Magic always comes at a cost, and for the Felix’s particular brand of magic to work, the cost must already have been paid. A Felix tear is about setting something right that has gone hopelessly, despairingly wrong. So I guess if I had answered this question before July 30, 2014, I would have said a Robo Strux Terox.

What is your favorite quote from the book?

The only true thing you ever did was die.”

If you had to describe your book in three words what would they be?

Space cat opera?

Who would be your dream cast if they were to turn "Strange Sweet Song" into a movie?

I have no clue. Emma Thompson. She’s not appropriate for any of the parts, but if she were in the movie then maybe I could meet her.

Being a debut author is there anything you would have changed looking back?

For my second book, the one coming out (hopefully) next year, I would have skipped all the time during which I attempted to outline. I’m just not an outliner, and trying to force myself to do it in the interest of efficiency resulted in a lot of wasted days.

What are you planning next? Is Sing's story finished or is there perhaps a sequel in the future?

I don’t have specific plans for a SSS sequel right now, but I have thought about where the characters might go from here, so who knows? I do have another YA, Redwing, coming out from St. Martin’s Press in 2015. It’s more fantasy than magical realism -- set in another world -- and the feel is a little bit steampunkish but without a lot of the overtly Victorian facets. There’s also a strong mythological element, with a pantheon of new gods. And a whole lot of volcano. It’s been a lot of fun to write and I hope people enjoy it.

What books are you reading now or looking forward to reading?

Right now, I’m boning up on Guardians of the Galaxy comics. There are so many great books coming out this year that I’m excited for, like Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen (Candlewick) and Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath (Delacorte). I also keep up with the latest launches from my alma mater at the VCFA Launchpad (which I help run), and with my agency-mates’ debuts at EMUs Debuts.

Thank you so much for having me over!

You're more than welcome! Thank you for stopping by!  

Below you can enter to win a signed copy of "Strange Sweet Song". Good luck to all who enter!

Until next time, 


  1. This book has officially caught my eye. Who could ever resist a romance book w/ a dash of goth! I'll have to get my hands on this! The debut bash has brought a lot of good book to my attention.

    1. I know, I've found a ton of books I would have overlooked otherwise. It's not helping my TBR list lol

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