Orca’s Limelights series– a brand new series of novels about teens in the performing arts– will be launched in a few weeks time (woohoo!), with the publication of the first three Limelights novels. The three of us authors are spread across this rather large country, but we’re not strangers to each other. Though currently living in Ottawa, Tom Ryan is an old Fernwood writing buddy of mine; and in March, I visited Toronto and had the pleasure of meeting Toronto author, Karen Krossing, for coffee in a great local cafe– and we had a great conversation. It turned out we’d been published together before, a few years ago in the anthology, Cleavage, and within five minutes, I felt like I’d known her for ages. Soon, Karen, Tom and I starting chatting online, and somewhere along the way, decided it would be fun to interview each other about our new books.
So… Here is my interview with Karen Krossing, about her soon-to-be-published novel Cut the Lights!
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In Cut the Lights, the director of a student-written fringe play is at odds with her cast, until the breakdown of the lead actor forces them to work together.
Each of the Limelights novels is about a performing art. Why did you choose to write about directing?
This book captures my passion for theatre. I became hooked at an early age after seeing performances at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, and I later took drama courses in high school and university. For me, theatre provides the opportunity to examine our world through a finely tuned lens, and it’s more exciting and interactive than film.
I chose the point of view of a director of a play because I could easily imagine the conflict between the director’s vision for the play and the needs of the actors and stage crew. My director, Briar, struggles to maintain control over her cast and crew while attempting to inspire them to greatness.
What kind of research did you need to do to write this book?
My teenage daughters were both attending an arts high school as I wrote this novel, so they were a terrific source of practical knowledge. My eldest daughter had recently directed a play at her the school’s fringe festival, and I based some of Briar’s experiences off her insights.
I also researched how to direct a play using books and articles, and I had to learn how to write a one-act play for Briar to direct during the novel.
Finally, I researched mental illness, since one character in the book suffers a breakdown. I don’t want to reveal too much plot, so I won’t get into specifics about that research. But I also talked with people who’ve experienced a breakdown in order to be true to life.
Have you drawn on your own experience at all in writing this book?
Absolutely. I’ve drawn on my experience in theatre classes and working on shows – acting, managing sound and lighting, and designing sets and props. I absorbed the atmosphere of my daughters’ arts high school in creating the school featured in the novel. And since I’ve supported family and friends through mental illnesses, I borrowed from those experiences. I’ve observed that, although we all face trying times during our lives, performing arts like the theatre can be a great comfort and source of insight into how to move forward.
How are you like (or different from) your main character?
Briar and I both share a love of theatre. Like me, Briar doesn’t want to act on stage, she prefers to direct. I don’t like the spotlight, but I do like creative control over my projects, although Briar needs to learn how to share control – something that I hope I do a better job at than Briar!
I can understand why Briar wants to create a masterpiece on stage, since I want every novel I write to be as good as I can possibly make it. Briar works with light, sound, actors, and so on, while I prefer words, yet we’re both building scenes, characters, and story.
Both Briar and I want to create deep emotional experiences for our audiences. And we both want to inspire those around us to do the same. I mentor emerging writers, and Briar learns to empower her cast and crew.
How did you come up with your title? What other titles did you consider?
“Cut the Lights” refers to the moment when Briar decides to cancel the play – the moment when everything about the upcoming performance seems bleak and impossible to overcome. The stage lights fade to black, and Briar’s dream of directing a play is lost. I brainstormed titles as I conceived the novel, mostly using theatre terminology. Other titles I came up with but rejected include: Curtain Call, The Fourth Wall, and Fade to Black. I basically wrote a long list of possible titles, letting myself write poor ones as well as ones that didn’t capture my theme. Eventually, one arrived that fit.
What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?
For readers interested in the theatre, this novel gives insight into how to direct a play. What does a director do? How do you envision a stage production, manage the personalities of the actors and stage manager, and work with lighting and sound? The community of people who work on a play together can become quite close – too close at times – but that closeness can also become a strength.
Thanks so much for the great responses Karen!
You can read more about Karen on her website or find her on Twitter or Facebook. For an interview with Tom Ryan, author of the Limelights novel Totally Unrelated, visit Karen’s blog. For an interview with me about my Limelights novel, Attitude, visit Tom’s blog. You can also read sample first chapters of all three books– and enjoy the Limelights video trailer (made by Tom Ryan!) at the Orca Limelights site. Have fun!