Friday, June 27, 2008

And Another Awesome Author Visit: Christine Fletcher

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Fletcher, author of Tallulah Falls and Ten Cents a Dance. For my review of Ten Cents a Dance, click here. Christine is a delightful person and a wonderful author. I also want to thank her for sending (and signing) me a copy of her book for me to review, again.

A little background on Christine. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon with a multitude of animal companions, and a human one too! Not only is she an author, but a vet too. She even likes to give herself some credit for inventing veterinary science! Of course she's a big reader too, always has been always will be.

For more info visit her website.

Now without further ado I am pleased to present you with our fabulous interview!!!

1. How did the story of Ten Cents a Dance come about?

One of my mother’s aunts was a taxi dancer. When Aunt Sofia was fifteen, she got kicked out of the house. To survive, she supported herself by taxi dancing. Later, she became the mistress of a prominent mob boss. Talk about a black sheep! After I heard Aunt Sofia’s story, I got curious about taxi dancing and started doing some research. I learned that it was considered really disreputable, and that many girls -- especially the ones still living at home -- kept their job secret from their familes. In essence, they lived double lives. I began to wonder: How would a young woman manage this? Why might she have to? And how long could she possibly get away with it? Before I knew it, I was working on a novel.

2. Were you an author or a veterinarian first? Why did you chose to become a vet?

I was a veterinarian first. When I was a kid watching doctor shows on TV, sickness seemed like a kind of puzzle that you had to figure out from clues. That really appealed to me. And I’ve always been fascinated with animals. So, when I was about seven, I had this amazing flash of genius: I would be the world’s first doctor for animals! I couldn’t believe it when my mother told me other people had thought of it first. But then I decided that was OK, I’d be one anyway.The writing came much later, after I’d been a veterinarian for a while. I still work in veterinary practice part-time…I’m not ready to give it up!

3. Do you prefer to write about events in the past, present, or future? Why?

Ooh, good question! I haven’t tried writing any stories set in the future (although I’d like to try someday). As far as present vs. past, it really depends on the story. My first book, Tallulah Falls, could only have been set in the present, and Ten Cents a Dance could only be set in the 1940s. But I admit I do love historical fiction. I like imagining how people used to live, what they took for granted that we would find strange. Also, I’m a total research geek. So writing stories set in the past lets me spend lots and lots of time in libraries, discovering obscure and irrelevant things that I can stuff into my head. Which is why I can tell you all about the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, but I can’t remember where I put my sunglasses.

4. How did the names for your characters come about? Did you always know what they were going to be from the moment you sat down to write or did you sift through a baby name book?

For Tallulah Falls, I knew the main characters names from the beginning. But Ten Cents a Dance took a lot more work. Names go through fads, just like clothes. Something like Amber or Stephanie would be way too modern for the 1940s, while Fannie or Ida would be too old. Also, the name had to suit my main character. Fortunately, there are records of popular baby names going back decades. My absolute favorite is the Baby Name Wizard ( That thing is addictive, I can play with it for hours! (See, I wasn’t lying about the geek part). As soon as I saw the name Ruby, I knew it was perfect. It’s colorful and sparkly and strong, just like Ruby herself.

5. What was your road to publication like?

Strangely, I didn’t set out to be a YA author. I wrote my first novel, Tallulah Falls, for adults. I thought maybe it was good enough to publish, and fortunately, a wonderful agent, Dorian Karchmar, agreed. We got a lot of interest from editors, but the novel kept getting rejected; the editors said that adults won’t read books with teenage characters. So Dorian suggested we try the young adult market instead. I told her I didn’t see myself as a “kid’s author.” My agent, bless her, she’s so patient. She said, “Go to the bookstore and look at YA and see what you think.” So I bought an armful of YA books and read them all and I loved them. Dorian started submitting Tallulah Falls to children’s publishers, and within a couple of weeks, we had two offers. Now, I can’t imagine writing anything but YA. I love the books, and I adore the readers. They’re enthusiastic, and at the same time they’re so honest. They just come out and tell you what they loved and what they didn’t, and I really enjoy that.

6. What are you currently working on?

The next novel is also set during World War II. But unlike Ruby, this girl starts off with everything…and loses it all. She figures out a plan to get her life back, and the boy she loves too. But whether or not it’ll work…well, we’ll see.

7. What are the last three books you've read? Do you read a lot of YA or do you mainly read adult novels?
Wild Roses by Deb Caletti, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, and Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin.I still buy armfuls of YA. There are so many good books and many of my favorite authors are YA authors. I read adult novels, too, but it’s about half and half with YA.

8. What's one quirky fact you think readers would enjoy knowing about you?

I once chased a giraffe on foot across the South African veldt. I was taking a hands-on course in wild animal management -- not that I need to know how to catch giraffes, but as a safari kind of thing it sounded more fun than riding around in a jeep taking pictures. Which it was. Compared to a giraffe, I’m a really slow runner.

9. What's your ideal writing location?

It used to be my office, but the internet and email (and computer Scrabble!) are too much of a distraction. So now I write on an ancient (ie, non-internet-enabled) laptop on the couch. The dogs love this, because I let them climb up and sleep next to me all day.

10. How much of yourself do you see in your characters? Of all your characters which is the most like you?

My characters are all way more interesting than I am! Ruby and Tallulah, my two main characters, are both very different from me. Maybe I’m most like Stan, in Ten Cents a Dance. Quiet but ambitious. I’ve been told a couple of times in my life that I’d never succeed at something, but each time I went after it anyway and I made it. (One was getting accepted to veterinary school. The other was getting published).

11. Are there any other questions you wish I'd asked?

You’ve asked such great questions! I can only think of one: “What advice would you give someone who’s interested in being a writer?”Read. Read, read, read, and then read some more. While you’re reading, start writing. Reading gives you a feel for the rhythms of language, how dialogue works, etc. But you’ll only really learn by writing. Writing is a craft. No matter how good you think you are, always believe you can do a little better. It’s the only way to improve.

Thanks again, Tasha!

Thank YOU, Christine!!


Rachael Stein said...

that was a great interview :D i loved christine fletcher's 10 cents a dance. it was like AMAZING!!! :D

Beth Kephart said...

I am hearing so much good about this book — and cannot wait to read it myself. A very illuminating interview, Tasha,


Axa said...

great interview!


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