I interview Lesa Howard, author of Phantom's Dance.
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Hi Lesa! Thank you for joining me on Bookfever for an author interview! Here are my questions:
As far back as I can remember, my imagination was my constant companion. Entering a library would send me into a stupor, just imagining all those stories. But I wasn't exactly a stellar student and the same imagination that now fuels my writing kept me from focussing on schoolwork, and I struggled as a reader for many years. I enjoyed the stories I made up in my own head more than I liked sitting still and reading or writing. My self-control had to develop and catch up with my imagination before I could figure out how to put my fancies on paper, though. Still, I suppose it was in me from the beginning.
2. Which character in your book Phantom's Dance would you say was the most challenging to create?
Definitely Erik. First off, Erik from the Andrew Lloyd Webber play and Gaston Leroux's original book was much older than Christine. She was a teenager, sixteenish, and he was a good twenty years her senior. Hello, creeper! So I made him younger. Then in revisions, I made him even younger, settling on nineteen to twenty. Also, as his personality developed on the page, and I think because I was writing first-person from Christine's POV, I had to write him more sinister than he's usually portrayed, not quite the romantic hero. It was risky and I knew it.
3. Which writers inspire you?
That ones tough because I'm an extremely eclectic reader. Here are a few with their genres.
Humor & chicklit: Janet Evanovich (nobody does it like her) Joshilyn Jackson, Nicholas Sparks (isn't he considered chicklit?)
Action-adventure, sci-fi, fantasy combo: Clive Cussler (especially his earlier Dirk Pitt novels) Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (both their individual collaborative works) and Michael Crichton, who was one of the best.
Romance: Julie Garwood, I know she does suspense now, but I love her earlier romance novels. Victoria Holt (older than old school!) Gaelen Foley.
YA: Joan Bauer & Laurie Halse Anderson, Alex Flynn, Rick Yancey, Jennifer L. Armentrout, John Flanagan, Simone Elkeles, Kenneth Oppel and new fav Katie McGarry, are a few of the best.
And I'll stop there!
4. How would you describe Phantom's Dance in one or two sentences?
Phantom's Dance is a surprisingly dark take on the traditional Phantom of the Opera in which a monstrously scarred face isn't hiding a soul that is looking to be redeemed. Rather it reflects the truly hideous monster inside.
5. Which three books would you recommend to people?
Hmm, another difficult question. However, I like to challenge people to read outside the box, so I'm going to mix this up. My all time favorite book is Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Its plot is complicated with twists and turns and filled with deeply flawed characters. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. It's a junior high novel about a middleclass African American family in 1963 and their trip to Birmingham, Alabama, which coincides with the bombing of a black church there. Despite its serious storyline, there are laugh-outloud-til-you-cry moments. There are tons more, but I recently discovered Mark Lawrence and The Broken Empire series. I love the anti-hero of the books, Jorg, particularly his voice, I couldn't get enough of it.
6. You mentioned to me before that In the early drafts of Phantom's Dance that Erik wore a hoody and aviators to cover the scars on his face. Can you tell us a little more about that?
In the beginning, I wanted Erik to live in the shadows of the tunnels that run under the city of Houston. In trying to make the phantom's story relevenet for 21st century teens, I changed Christine to a ballet student and wanted Erik to be a hip-hop dancer who wore a hoody and shades to cover his scars. But as I hammered out the setting, the ballet school and theater, it seemed better to have him living in the basement of the parking garage. Then, as his relationship with Christine developed (my version of it anyway) and I decided he, too, would be a dancer, it became clear he would have to come out on stage and dance with her. So the hoody and sunglasses had to go. Then I found a stunningly gorgeous mask combination headpiece that ended up being even more inspiring. In the end, I think the mask was the better choice.
7. If you could jump in a book, any book, and live in that world, which book would it be and why?
What a yummy question, virtually impossible to answer! I'm a sucker for anything historical and set in Scotland—not to mention Highlanders in kilts—so anything that would give me a burr in my speech and Mc before my name.
8. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us all?
Speaking from my experience as a writer, I never feel finished with a book. Even now, I try not to look too closely at PHANTOM'S DANCE because I see its flaws and wish I'd written "that" scene differently. Or, worse, a scene I meant to add was left out. So if there's something you didn't like about the book, there's a very good chance I feel the same way. LOL!
I'm not the typical author. I didn't always enjoy reading or writing. While in school, I found it to be a chore I'd just as soon skip. I would rather have been daydreaming, my favorite past time. It wasn’t until I grew up and didn’t have to, that I realized reading was fun. I soon discovered that reading fueled my daydreaming. So, remembering a short story I'd written in high school, I began imagining expanding that story into a book. Before long I found I had loads of ideas for not just the short story but other books and stories as well. Fast forward a few years, a lot of studying about writing, practicing my writing, studying some more, taking classes from people who knew what they were doing, studying and practicing yet more, and ta-dah, author! In the same way I had learned I loved reading, I learned I loved writing, too. It’s just that writing is a lot harder than reading.