Today’s post is a special one, because I got to interview the author of one of my all time favorite books of the year and she offered to do an exclusive giveaway right here on my blog so that you all could have a chance to receive a signed copy of her beautiful book “In Sight of Stars”. *disclaimer* **This is a US only giveaway** (I apologize to my international blogging friends).
In Sight of Stars is an absolute gorgeous thing of a novel and if you haven’t already you can read my rave review of it here.
Anyway you’re not here for my words right now (or at least you shouldn’t be, I mean, I have a queen as a guest).
On to the interview!
1. Gae, you have written many books. How was the writing process for In Sight of Stars different from your other books?
Each book brings a totally different process for me, but IN SIGHT OF STARS was most tough for me to trust that I could bring the element of art to life, especially since I was dealing with VanGogh. My mother is an artist so she helped – and pushed me – on that, and so your next question makes me smile because this leads right to that. . .
2. In Sight of Stars has this beautiful mix of an ethereal beginning that bleeds into more and more clarity, how did you decide that that was the best way to write your story?
When the book opens, Klee is in the middle of a psychological break. He is not himself, and doesn’t have control over what is happening with, and to, him. I really wanted the reader to feel the disorientation and delusion (not to mention the desperation) Klee is feeling, and, I imagine from the reading I did, that it is much like Van Gogh felt at times in his life.
I was referencing Klee’s connection with Van Gogh in the opening of the original draft, but it was my mother – who is an incredible artist herself, and one of my best BETA readers – who suggested I might want to make the opening “like a Van Gogh painting come alive.” I had literally just watched my mother-in-law hallucinating from too-strong pain meds, and the minute my mom suggested it, it freed me in a way I was needing to be able to go fully there.
As for being the best way. . . we never know that, whether anything we’ve done is the “best way.” ☺ I’m sure I’ve lost readers with the opening, too. But I presume the readers who need the story, who connect, will find what they are looking for.
3. In the book, art is a tone setter for emotions that fly. What is a painting that you think best captures Klee’s emotional journey?
Oh wow, what an amazing question. I mean, obviously Van Gogh’s work would capture it. . . The most obvious: Starry Night.
I know for many it is simply a gorgeous painting, which it is, but for me, the painting feels tumultuous, and many have spoken to the haloed suns in his work pointing to problems with his vision, whether due to too much absinthe, lead in the yellow paints he used, or toxic but not lethal overdoses of the medication known as digitalis…
But VanGogh’s Wheatfield With Crows (and, of course, Daubigney’s Garden) were the two paintings that inspired the scene I tried to set in the first several days of the story. . .
But, I could also point to a few Paul Klee paintings – as you know, that’s who my protagonist is named after. . .
Paul Klee- Little Tree Amid Shrubbery
Bird Wandering Off
And by the end of the story, I believe his emotional journey forward could be more encapsulated by a VanGogh painting filled with light and hope like this version of Wheatfield with Cypresses.
I find it notable that both the starting and ending point of that emotional journey – a proverbial wheatfield – remain the same, but the light and hope of the setting (Klee’s own mind) can be seen as healthier and changed.
4. Books don’t appear from nothing. What was your inspiration for writing In Sight of Stars?
I’ve talked about it in a few blog posts . . . the first scene I ever wrote in the book was the one where Klee draws on Sarah’s paper:
[Sarah] works across from me. Her hair spills onto her paper like a shiny black waterfall, and her hand moves the charcoal in tight gray lines.
. . .I stare at her hair, then at her hand, then I reach out and trace the
strands with my charcoal.
“Hey! What the fuck, Alden?” Her eyes search mine, then dart back to my marks on her paper. “What the hell is your deal?”
I yank my hand back, burnt, but it’s too late, several kids have jerked
their heads around. And I’m already an alien for showing up here senior year.
Originally the first lines of the book, now, not appearing until pages 9 – 11, this scene was the catalyst for the whole story that came after, because, as the daughter of an artist, and a writer myself, I know the danger in touching someone else’s work. You don’t. Not without their permission. And, the thing is, Klee knows this too. And, so, in that moment I also suddenly knew a ton about Klee and who he was going to be when we meet him: a kid who knows better, but is in such a fragile place he can’t stop himself. He gives in to an impulse, feels utterly compelled. It’s literally the first instant when Klee is out of control. The first inkling we have that he is. And Sarah forgives him. More than that, there is something about his impulsivity, his compulsion, that draws her to him. Yet it will ultimately be the same thing that undoes them. To me, this interaction is one where love, pain, and art all collide.
The story evolved from there, from asking myself the question, “But, why?” Why was Klee in that fragile state? Why was it so intrinsically related to art, and specifically the art of Van Gogh?
5. Of all your books, which is the one you struggled to write the most and why?
Oh, hands down, JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME, the one that comes out next. It’s darker and maybe more commercial than my other books – a good thing – but I’ve struggled to make sure there’s a reason I’m telling the story other than, “Oh, cool, dark story,” that the journey my main character takes actually matters, that the readers’ reading actually matters. Plus, for some reason, I seems to struggle more writing female MC’s than male ones. Funny, huh?
6. Writing is a journey. What was the beginning of your journey to becoming a writer?
I still can’t believe I’m actually a published writer. The journey was long, checkered, and never seems to get too much easier to write a good book and get that book published (and see copies sell). If you want to get a sense, here’s a blogpost I wrote in 2014 called “Chutes and Ladders Redux” (and, yes, apparently I have a thing for Chutes and Ladders and board games from my childhood, as you know all too well from IN SIGHT OF STARS):
7. One day I could only hope to write a book that shares as much truth as In Sight of Stars. What is your advice for an aspiring writer?
Oh, you know, all the usual: Read a lot, Rewrite a TON, expect your first few manuscripts to be practice runs. But maybe most of all, trust your own unique voice. There are no unique stories, only the way YOU tell them.
8. Not all must be serious. What is something you turn to that brings a smile on your face every time?
Oh, even in my darkest moments, I find humor, and hope that translates to my stories (although in JACK KEROUAC, I’m not sure…)
In IN SIGHT OF STARS, Sister Agnes Teresa brings that humor with her wry sarcastic exchanges with Klee over Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. In THE MEMORY OF THINGS, it’s why I chose Kyle to watch Cow and Chicken with the bird girl, maybe one of the stupidest, most ridiculous TV shows that ever was.
I think one of the biggest things that draws me to others is their sense of humor, so I try to impart that in the relationships in my stories – a repartee (?) in my dialogue, sometimes light, sometimes cutting, but always a sense of humor.
9. Writers must always be readers first. What are some of your favorite books?
Yes, they must. YA: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork, and books from my childhood like A Wrinkle in Time, or Judy Blume YA’s (vs MG’s). Adult: OMG, anything by Barbara Kingsolver. Her writing astounds me. A book called To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal (he also writes YA). But so many. So many.
10. When at first you don’t succeed… The writing process can be difficult and knowing our weaknesses is invaluable. What is something you struggle with when you write your first draft?
Everything. Everything. Creating a story rather than just strung together moments. Figuring out WHO my characters are and why they ultimately matter. Finding enough stakes, enough drama. Everything. Did I say everything?
Again I want to thank you for writing a story that I have come to love so much! I am so happy that I had the chance to read your words. Especially during a time of struggle personally. It means the world that you reached out to me. Thank you! – Tiana (The Book Raven)
I’m so grateful for you sharing your book love, and so grateful to be connected. Hope this period of struggle passes quickly, and the period of pure joy that will arrive before the next struggle checks in (because they always do, don’t they?), is extended and rejuvenating, and fills your soul with hope to spare.
[END of Interview]
This is the first time on my blog where I ask myself “Did this really just happen?”. I’m a little star struck. I had just fallen in love with Gae’s writing and had been researching her other books so I could add them all to my tbr.. and she contacts me?! Because of my review!?! This has been one of the most surreal and wonderful experiences of my life!
Anyway… time to link what you really came here for the Giveaway!
Click the rafflecopter link HERE.
You all really don’t want to miss on one of my absolute favorite books of the year!
Thanks for reading! *internally screams* (my professionalism is slipping) You all have to check out this book! Anyway enter the giveaway and check out Gae’s books! Her writing is incredible!
Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below.
-Till next time!