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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Interview & Giveaway: Sophie Weeks, author of OUTSIDE THE SPOTLIGHT

Hey, darlins' - coming up in Fairy Tale Fortnight, Bonnie and I are going to have two lovely guest posts from the following contributor, Sophie Weeks, but before we dive head first into FTF, Sophie wanted to share her just-released book, Outside the Spotlight with you! I'll be reviewing this one some time in the misty, distant future (ie after FTF and Jane in June), but I will say, I've kinda fallen in love with the quirky little excerpt I read.

But until then, please content yourselves with this interview with Sophie, and a chance to win five - count 'em, five - copies of Outside the Spotlight!

Outside the Spotlight has a a very creative, magical realist, "Thursday Next" feel to it - what inspired the story?
The novella was actually a failed NaNoWriMo project, at first, but I begin every story by asking myself “what if.” What if Christmas was a place you could live? What if literary characters and cultural ideas had lives and desires of their own? I was definitely influenced by Jasper Fforde's work, which I enjoy, but I was also interested in laying out some of the philosophical challenges that would surround these characters as they tried to understand their own reality, which is our fantasy.

Tell us a bit about the town of Christmas, and Isabella's desire to experience life elsewhere.
Christmas is a place where every idea, song, or story that relates to Christmas is real. Baby Jesus and Santa hang out together, the air is fragrant with gingerbread (and gingerbread lattes!), and you might get a card or gift from your neighbors on any day at all. But it's always cold there, and the dating pool is small. Christmas is a place for children and lovers, not for adventurous single women. My main character Isabella, who comes from my favorite French carol, needs a vacation.

What were some of the challenges in writing the book, for you?
One challenge was the conflict between wanting to keep the plot moving forward and wanting to just play endlessly in these remarkable worlds. When I'm conceiving a work, I live inside it until I know all the details of my characters' lives and surroundings, so it can be hard to sift through those details and figure out what's relevant. I was also faced with the dilemma, at a certain point, of how much to explain or contextualize. But explaining a joke kills it, and explaining a literary reference is pedantic, so I hope my readers will simply appreciate the literary context I create without feeling like they have to look up every line of poetry!

Were you nervous to introduce a character like Sherlock Holmes, whom people have very decided opinions on, and often regard as sacrosanct?
Very nervous—I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan and have been since I found a copy of all the Strand stories when I was a kid. But the advantage I had was that I was dealing with a “different” Sherlock, one who exists outside the stories, is formed by the stories, but has his own personality. I also saw it as a chance to correct some misconceptions that other interpretations suggest: that Holmes is rude and surly, for example.

Are you a "pantser" or a "plotter" - and how do you think that has helped or hindered the story/process?
I'm a major pantser. Every time I try to plot “properly,” I lose all interest in the story. In some ways, I see myself as more of a director or conductor, trying to manage a bunch of performers to create an emotional experience for the reader. I believe that, just like in classical drama, the seeds of the plot come from within the character.

If you could "dream cast" any of your characters for a movie adaptation, who would you cast, for which part, and why?
It's easier to cast Isabella—in a dream production, she'd be Uma Thurman. Thurman has that intelligence and character written all over her face. Casting Sherlock would be harder just because there have been so many remarkable actors to take on that role. Still, I thought Christopher Plummer knocked it out of the park when he played Sherlock in Murder by Decree, and since this is imaginary, I'll choose Christopher Plummer circa 1979. Don't hate me, Cumberbatch fans, he's just too young for my character.

Whoa, Sophie. WHOA. I might have to uninvite you from FTF and pretend this interview never happened. You did not dis The Cumberbuns Benedict Cumberpatch. He's perfection!
Ahem. Moving on...

Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Movies at the theater or movies from your comfy couch? Comfy couch, by all means. But then, my local movie theatre seems to specialize in action flicks.
Physical books or ebooks? Ebooks. I have owned and lost hundreds and hundreds of physical books in my life. It's a lot easier to move a Kindle than twenty boxes crammed with books.
Rereads of favorite books or endless piles of new books? Endless piles of new books. Life's short, and there's so much I haven't read.
Sweet or salty? Salted caramel.


In a world created by human ingenuity and dreams–the world of songs, stories and books–Isabella has lived in Christmas for over four hundred years. But when she seeks a vacation from the endless Christmas puddings and jingle bells, she discovers that the world of ideas is more dangerous than it seems. Given permission to visit the foreign genre of Mystery, Isabella experiences a shocking crime, one that threatens the very fabric of her society. With the help of Sherlock Holmes, she must find the murderer who is picking off literary characters one by one, threatening annihilation in a world where death is unimaginable–after all, a well told tale never dies. As the investigation grows ever more troubling and dangerous, Isabella must learn to trust both her heart and Baker Street’s notoriously woman-hating sleuth.

Sophie has provided 5 copies of Outside the Spotlight to five lucky winners! This giveaway is international and ends on March 30, 2013  April 3rd at 12am EST. Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter. DO NOT leave sensitive info or email addresses in the comments!

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