Special Interview/Giveaway with In Sight of Stars Author Gae Polisner

Hello everyone!

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):

http://ghpolisner.blogspot.com/2014/10/falling-failing-and-chutes-ladders.html

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!

Beyond The Surface Book Club: Little And Lion Author Interview

For the November book of the month our pick was Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert. Today I am super excited to share with you all an interview I got with the lovely Brandy Colbert. Which is also awesome because it is the first interview I have ever got to host with an author!

About Little and Lion:

A stunning novel on love, identity, loss, and redemption.

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she’s isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (as well as her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

About Brandy Colbert:

(From The authors about page)

Brandy Colbert was born and raised in the Ozarks—more specifically, Springfield, Missouri—and earned a bachelors degree in journalism from Missouri State University. Her debut novel, Pointe (Putnam, 2014), won the 2014 Cybils Award for young adult fiction and was named a best book of 2014 by Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, the Chicago Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library. She was also chosen as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for spring 2014.

Brandy’s second novel, Little & Lion (Little, Brown, 2017), was named a Book of the Month Club selection and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her work can also be seen in the anthologies Feral Youth; Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World; Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories; and the upcoming collections Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles; Our Stories, Our Voices; and Toil & Trouble.

Her third novel, Finding Yvonne, will be available on August 7, 2018, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Brandy lives in Los Angeles where she works as a copy editor for magazines and books. Her writing is represented by Tina Wexler at ICM Partners.

Without further ado, here is the interview!

1. First and foremost, what inspired you to become a writer?

I started writing stories when I was seven years old. I’ve also always been a big reader, and great storytelling (books, TV, film) inspires me to get my own stories on the page.

2. Why is mental health important to you?

I think mental health is still largely considered a taboo subject, which is unfortunate. There’s nothing shameful about taking care of our brains, and mental health should be monitored and maintained, same as one’s physical health.

3. Why is discussing mental illnesses important both in writing and in everyday conversation?

I believe that the more we talk, write, and read about mental illness, the less stigmatized it will become. It helps people realize they’re not the only person going through something, and also hopefully helps them realize that they don’t need to be embarrassed to get help if they want it, whether that’s through therapy or medication or both.

4. What did it mean for you to have Lionel be diagnosed with bipolar disorder?

I haven’t had a lot of exposure to bipolar disorder, so writing a character with it was an excuse for me to really dig into the topic. I did a lot of research to better understand and try to create a well-rounded character who, yes, has bipolar disorder and is learning how to live with it, but isn’t defined by it.

5. What was the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

Incorporating all the research into a book that (hopefully) is authentic. I wrote outside of my experience with both the bipolar disorder and bisexuality, and it was very important for me to get this representation right. I put a lot more pressure on myself than if I had been writing from first-hand experience.

6. How long did it take you to write Little & Lion, how was it different from writing your first book Pointe?

I started writing Little & Lion in the fall of 2013, and it’s been through many versions since then, though the brother/sister relationship was always the focal point. Second books are always more difficult because there are expectations and reviews that weren’t there when you were writing the first one. Plus, I sold Little & Lion on proposal, which means I had only written around 50 pages and a loose outline, and I was working with a new editor and publishing house. It was an all-around different experience, but I’m learning that the writing process of each book is generally different.

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Write what you want to read! Trends come and go, and they’re so unpredictable that it’s not advisable to write to them. Also, once you do get that beloved project to the point where it’s ready to go out to agents, there will likely be several rounds of revisions with your agent and then editor, so it’s important to love what you’re working on. You’re going to be with those characters and their story for quite a while—including once it’s published and you’re promoting it at festivals, conferences, and in interviews. You have to love the story before anyone else can.

8. What novel genre would you like to write in that you haven’t yet tried?

I’d love to dip my toe into magic realism and verse novels. They are two of my favorite genres, though both are intimidating!

I wanna take this time to thank Brandy for taking the time to answer my questions. She is such a sweet human being and I am so happy to have had the chance to read Little & Lion and become inspired by her and her story.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments below. Have you read any of Brady Colbert’s works? If so, what did you think?

Also, What novel genre would you like to write that you’ve never tried?

I know that magical realism would have been my choice as well… but I would also like to try my hand at some speculative fiction…. whelp I just gotta finish writing the story ideas I have for now first.

-Till next time!