In SING ME TO SLEEP, Beth is a gifted singer who has always been “The Beast”- that is, until she is given the soloist spot in her choir and receives the makeover of a lifetime. Can you share with us a favorite line or scene with us from the book?
One of my favorite places in Switzerland is the Jungfraujoch—or Top of Europe. I loved setting Beth and Derek’s first meeting there. Here’s an exclusive sneak peak from Chapter 10:
“Oh, baby look at that.” Meadow jabs my ribs with her elbow.
Two way hot guys wearing jeans and red and white hockey jerseys are talking to the guy who seated us. One of them is a taller than me guy I remember seeing on the Amabile guys’ website and the other one—
Catches me staring—
And grins at me.
My eyes hit my plate, and I jam a fork full of pork schnitzel and buttery noodles into my mouth. I blush to the tips of my fingers. He’s got a magnetism that didn’t show up in his pictures online. Angel face, medium height, slim build, dark, soft hair. Pale, pale skin. I can’t believe I actually chatted with that guy. I can’t believe I was such a snot. He doesn’t know who I am—doesn’t have a clue that the awkward scarlet faced girl staring at him with her mouth hanging open is the mysterious Bliss soloist. He’s awful, right. Horrid. As bad as Colby. For sure.
“It’s him.” Meadow perks up. “Derek.”
Poor Meadow. The trip up here this morning was brutal. Debilitating stage fright is merely one of her conditions. It’s all real, too—no act. She’s okay now. We’re sitting in a cozy restaurant, The Crystal Something or other, all windows and peaks and sunshine, balanced on top of one of the tallest mountains in the Swiss Alps. The Jungfraujoch. Don’t ask me how you say it. It’s part of this giant installation worthy of a James Bond villain hideout. They call it the Top of Europe. It’s built on top of a mountain and there are all these giant peaks right in our face. When we first saw it, we all stopped at the same time. Staring. Amazed. Alps on steroids.
You mentioned in prior interviews how your daughter sang in a competitive girl’s choir – The Junior Amabile Singers. Can you discuss how those experiences inspired you to write a novel set in this world?
Amabile is a community based choral organization. The wonderful professional conductors, managers, and musicians with the choir receive small stipends, but just about everything else runs on volunteer parent power. So I was around for lots of practices, ushered, sold tickets, served on the endowment fund committee, helped pick new gowns, carpooled a group of hilarious young ladies, and even got to travel with the choir to choral festivals.
At a festival near Powell River. B.C., a group of stunning teen girls attacked us when they saw, “Amabile,” embroidered on our jackets.
“Are the boys here? We love the boys! Where are the boys?” They squealed and waved every time they saw us. And the boys weren’t even there.
I knew the competitive youth choral world would make an amazing backdrop for a novel. But I didn’t have a story.
Then something happened that broke all our hearts.
That story took hold of me and didn’t let go.
Have you had the opportunity to talk with the people within the Amabile family about SING ME TO SLEEP, and if so what sort of feedback have you received?
Amabile has been amazingly supportive. They found photos for the tribute section that will be in the back of the final hard cover. They recorded, “Beth’s Song,” for SING’s trailer soundtrack, and I’m traveling to London for their 25th Anniversary Festival and SING’s launch the very end of February. I’ll be blogging about it from the road—so watch ChatSpot on my website, www.angela-morrison.clom and follow my blog tour for a posts from the road.
I sent ARCs up to them That made me nervous. But they loved it. Here’s a link to reviews from some of their singers.
A portion of SING ME TO SLEEP takes place in Switzerland, when Bliss choir competes in a prestigious international choir competition. On your website you’ve mentioned you lived in Switzerland for four years. Do you have any memorable experiences you can share with us about living over there?
The first place we lived in Switzerland was a beautiful village in the vineyards between Lausanne and Geneva in Vaud, a French speaking Canton.
The Swiss are meticulous with their vines. They groom, train and trim them all year long. (Even their apple orchards are trained on wires.) Harvest is amazing. The vineyards are full of pickers with plastic containers that mount on their backs. They hike down—everything in Switzerland is on the side of a mountain—some are just higher than others—and dump the loads over their shoulders into a bin sitting at the edge of the road. A mini tractor pulls it down the street to the winepress.
The grapes are pressed often mere minutes after picking. The aroma is wonderful. Until the leftover skins and stems start to ferment. Rich compost—but it stinks.
In the fall, the dairy herds come down from the mountains. Every day until it got cold or the grass was gone in the pasture near us, an ancient Swiss man herded about ten gorgeous tawny queens past our window. They wear big bells that make soft melodies that sound like fairy charms from a distance.
I loved living around castles and cobblestones, alps and pristine lakes, but the Swiss people I came to love will always be a treasure.
What would you like to say to all the "Beths" out there struggling with image, bullying and self confidence issues?
High school isn’t the whole world. Like Beth, find your song—and sing it no matter who tells you to shut up.
Exterior beauty can be bought—but the beauty that comes from working hard to be the best you can be at what you love is the type of beauty that will change your life—make you who you want to be. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. My first novel, TAKEN BY STORM, was a rejected a gazillion. And now we getting ready to celebrate it’s paperback release NEXT WEEK!!
Beth writes a lot of poetic song lyrics according to what is going on in her life. Where did you get the inspiration for these lyrics from- are you musically talented like Beth?
I wish I could sing like Beth. I sing alto in the choir at church, but I have to sit next to a good alto or I get lost. My daughter is a much better musician.
My kids made it clear that my lullabies were not especially soothing, but last October I found a fan. I got to go with the teens from church and spend a Sunday morning with the physically and mentally handicapped adults who live at the Arizona Training Center south of Mesa. I was assigned a legally blind man who could not speak and could only see things inches in front of his eyes.
The activity included an hour singing kid’s church songs. I put my arm around his shoulders, got right in his face and sang my heart out. Surprise! He loved it. He clapped, laughed and stomped his feet. So maybe I can sing.
My editor, genius that she is, suggested weaving lyrics throughout the text. The deeper I got into the story—the more vital those lyrics became.
Were there any aspects of writing SING ME TO SLEEP that were particularly difficult for you? What did you enjoy most about writing the book?
Hardest? Hello! Writing those lyrics. The free verse poetry that I love to write and was a such a joy to create for Leesie’s Most Private Chapbook in TAKEN BY STORM are a far cry from song lyrics. And I had to write them all. Pop lyrics, choir numbers, even a take off of a broadway song from “Phantom of the Opera.” My first attempts were bleck. I had to study songs, listen, listen, listen, and map their rhythm and rhyme schemes, and fill in the blanks. Like you would a sonnet.
Enjoy most? Writing the Choral Olympics scenes was so fun. I got to draw from the very real Choir Olympics that my daughter competed in and my own high school escapes to fiction writing workshops where I met exciting guys like Beth meets Derek. That part of the book is sooo romantic.
For fans of TAKEN BY STORM who have been waiting to hear more about Michael and Leesie, there is a sequel entitled UNBROKEN CONNECTION on the way. Can you tell us more about this book and any other projects you are currently working on?
STORM is really Michael’s story. UNBROKEN CONNECTION is Leesie’s. She’s at BYU. He’s in Thailand. And they just can’t leave each other alone. This fall, I finally drew all my notes together, buckled down and did the research, and wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote. The story took some twists and turns that even surprised me. My agent loves it. I know you will, too. Razorbill has it under consideration now. That means they are reading it and trying to decide if they can make money publishing it. Soon, I’ll either have great news, or I’ll be so depressed. That’s the book biz!
I have two unsold novels that I’m revising. One is a time slip adventuresthat will be kind of like Jane Eyre meets the Terminator—but my assassin ain’t no robot.
My other WIP is a soulful historical romance about a Scottish coal mining lad who has to leave his true love behind when his family emigrates to North America—today I’m calling it MY ONLY LOVE.
And I need to get to work on Leesie and Michael’s third book—CAYMAN SUMMER—before they get grumpy. They aren’t amused at the cliff-hanger I left them on at the end of UNBROKEN CONNECTION.
Angela Morrison is the author of Taken by Storm. She graduated from Brigham Young University and received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.