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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Interview & Giveaway with Caridad Ferrer, Author of When The Stars Go Blue!

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"There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes." ~William Makepeace Thackeray

Today I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Caridad Ferrer who dropped by to discuss her latest novel, When the Stars Go Blue, a contemporary retelling of Bizet's Carmen releasing November 23rd of this month. Cardiad brought along with her a signed copy of the book to giveaway. See details below.

Caridad Ferrer is a first generation, bilingual Cuban-American, whose young adult debut, Adiós to My Old Life won the Romance Writers of America’s 2007 RITA for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance as well as being named to the 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list, awarded by the ALA. Her second novel, It’s Not About the Accent was released in 2007 with Publisher’s Weekly stating, “…this twisting book amply rewards readers.” She has also contributed to the anthology, Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and Other Quinceañera Stories.  Official Website
When the Stars Go Blue: A Novel

1. Based on the famed opera of Carmen, When the Stars Go Blue is about Soledad Reyes, a dancer who becomes involved in a love triangle set against the competitive world of drum and bugle corps. Can you tell us a little more and share with us a favorite line, scene or passage from the book?

It was a lot of fun for me, because I've always loved the story of Carmen—and as a lifelong musician, I've performed the music more times than I can remember and know it the way other people know their ABCs.  I've also always wanted to be able to do a story that would incorporate my love of drum and bugle corps and again, Carmen is just a natural fit, because there are few activities out there that so naturally lend themselves to the kind of passion and drama this story demands. What was really fun about it was being able to incorporate it in two different ways: I have the love triangle that is so central to that story, playing out with my characters as well as having the drum corps actually performing the Carmen story.  So we have a case of the story within the story, as it were.

The characters are Soledad, an accomplished, driven dancer, representing Carmen, Jonathan, a disciplined music prodigy representing Don José, who is the disciplined army officer who falls irrevocably in love with Carmen, and finally Taz, the flamboyant soccer player, who represents the bullfighter, Escamillo, who catches Carmen's eye and fuels Don José's jealousy.

One of my favorite passages in the book is in the very beginning, where Soledad is ruminating on her love for dance—while her words are specifically about dance, they're also applicable to any of the arts, be it music or drum corps or sports.  It's kind of a universal sentiment to anyone who devotes their lives to the pursuit of their passion, regardless of what form it takes.

It was knowing that for every four perfect minutes of a solo, there were hours of repetition and tears, my throat aching and tight from screaming because it just wasn't right and it had to be done again.  And again.  And again.

The applause—that was a bonus.  Approval acknowledged with a deep, graceful curtsy and a grateful smile.  But I didn't need it.  When it was right, I could feel it.  The audience—they didn't even exist in those moments.  I wish I could describe it, but it was… gossamer.   A fleeting sensation that coursed through my system like a drug.  Lasting just long enough to block out all the pain and sweat and entice me to do it again.  

And again. 

People always asked why I danced.  Why I'd devoted so much of my life to something that seemed to offer so little in return.  But good as I was with words, in this, they kind of deserted me.   Every once in a while, I wished I could talk about it.  How dancing created this huge, chaotic jumble of emotion and adrenaline rushing through my bloodstream—the freedom and power that came from the ability to command my body so completely. but if I tried, the words just came out a mess and sounding completely lame.  I don't know—somewhere along the line it had just gotten easier to keep quiet.

2. What three words do you think best describe When the Stars Go Blue?

Passionate, visceral, and lyrical (I borrowed that last one from some of the prepublication reviews.  It was used multiple times, so I figured it was legitimate.)

3. What do you love best about the main characters Soledad, Jonathan and Taz in your novel? 

Oh boy.  Let's see… with Soledad I love her strength, her loyalty, and watching her open up to the possibility of love when it was the last thing she expected.  With Jonathan, I love his vulnerability and his struggle and determination to become his own person.  In Taz, I love how he uses his goofy brashness to mask a truly sensitive, romantic soul and I love how he sees the world around him.  Sees all the possibilities.

4. If When the Stars Go Blue was to be made into a movie, do you have certain actors you envision in the lead roles or do you think unknowns would be best suited to play them? 

Wow.  This is a tough question to answer, since when I work on my stories, I do use visual avatars, to help me with certain character aspects, but putting it into actual practice….  Hmm… let's see… For Soledad, I would absolutely love to see Naya Rivera who plays Santana on GLEE as Soledad.  She has so much of the coolly arrogant attitude, yet can show Soledad's softer side and we already know that girlfriend can move. Taz I'd love to see portrayed by Spanish actor Javier Beltrán.  He's so much how I envision Taz, in that he's not conventionally handsome, but he's extremely striking and very sexy.  Jonathan has always been the most difficult one for me to conceive of who could portray him, but it recently occurred to me that Jackson Rathbone would really be rather perfect.  He's physically very pretty, but beyond that, he has the ability to encompass the full range of what Jonathan goes through emotionally.  I first saw him in an episode of the television series Criminal Mindswhere he went from vulnerable and gentle to cold and vicious with nothing more than a change in his physical stance and the expression in his eyes.  It was absolutely chilling and that's when I thought to myself he would make the perfect Jonathan.

Of course, that could change tomorrow, because as you said, there might just be unknowns out there who would be even more perfect, who might physically embody the characters more fully.  Much as I love Naya, she is a wee thing and part of what sets Soledad apart as a dancer is that she's a larger than average dance which makes her an anomaly and is part of what defines her emotionally.

5. Soledad Reyes is a character whose life revolves around dance. What do you think her theme song would be if you had to choose one song in particular for her?

Initially I had felt "The Show Must Go On" by Queen, but the more I thought on it, the more I realized that "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles is really the perfect song for Soledad.  The lyrics can really be interpreted in so many ways for the varying stages of her journey.

6.  What were the most challenging aspects of bringing When the Stars Go Blue to life?

Well, there was the fact that I was working from such iconic source material-- both Bizet's opera as well as the original short story by Prosper Mérimée, which frankly, was terrifying.  There's this fear as an author, that you'll never be able to live up to it, as well as a tremendous amount of respect for the material.  For me, too, I didn't want to simply do a retread of the story by moving it lock, stock, and barrel, into a contemporary time period.  I really wanted to bring something original and different to it, so I spent a great deal of time with the short story and studying the libretto of the opera and researching all the various interpretations of the story that have been done throughout the years.  From there, I tried to think of how I could interpret it in a contemporary manner, and that's when the idea of merging it with drum and bugle corps and having the traditional, artistic version of Carmen serve as the backdrop came into play.  What I also realized was that while this is ostensibly Carmen's story, it's not really told from her point of view--it's always the men telling their version of the events-- so given that I write in First Person point of view, there was one vitally different aspect I could use.

Also, in the original, Carmen is portrayed as a rather cold, amoral thief, using men only for what they can give her, a marked difference from how I conceived of Soledad, and of course, the original also ends rather tragically, with Don José killing Carmen.  While I'm perfectly willing to go dark, I didn't want to go quite that dark, however, I did want there to be serious consequences.  I guess you could say that the deaths in my version of the story are metaphorical, rather than literal, but no less traumatic for it.  In fact, it might be more so, because all of the characters have to live with the consequences of their actions.

7. What was your inspiration -- can you give us any insight into that first spark that helped form the idea for the novel? In addition, can you tell us about how the book changed since your initial rough draft?

The inspiration from this story actually came from an editor who thought, based on the obvious passion I showed for music in ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE, I could take a story like Carmenand really do something interesting with it.  And that's pretty much all it took—I sat around playing the "What if?" game with the story until I came up with a concept I felt would work well.

As far as how STARS has changed since my first draft—the beginning of the story is far more fleshed out than I originally conceived of it.  It shows more of Soledad's relationship with her grandmother, Mamacita, who developed into an absolutely wonderful character, plus we see a lot more of what makes Jonathan the way he is—both good and bad.  He also has to work a bit harder to convince Soledad to join the corps than he did in the original draft.

8. If you could inhabit the life of one literary character and dive into their world for just one day, who would you choose and why? 

Oh, I would love to dive into the world of Maggie Deloach, the protagonist in Anne Rivers Siddons' HEARTBREAK HOTEL.  It's actually a book I reference as being a favorite of Soledad's in STARS because it was myfavorite novel when I was her age.  Still is, actually.  It's set in Alabama during the summer of 1956, just as the Civil Rights movement is getting underway and it follows the emotional journey that Maggie takes, during that summer, evolving from Southern Princess to her first, tentative steps as an independent woman—kind of a novelty for a woman of the south for that time period.  It's an absolutely beautiful, fascinating story and I would love to experience some of what she does, especially her friendship with Aiken Reed and the relationship she has with Hoyt Cunningham, the two people most responsible for her evolution during that summer.

9. You are the author of Adios to My Old Life and It’s Not All About the Accent. What types of feedback do you receive from readers? Is there one comment in particular that really affected you?

The feedback I've received on both of those stories has been both varied and extremely gratifying.  With ADIÓS I received a lot of emails not just from teenagers, but from their moms as well, saying things like, "I never thought I'd be able to relate to a Cuban-American musician, but Ali's issues were so universal."  With ACCENT the comments that touched me the most were the ones I received from immigrants or children of immigrants, saying I'd really captured the stories of their journeys but the one that really touched me was the email I received from a rape survivor who thanked me for getting it right.  That was so special to me because I wanted to treat a sensitive subject realistically, but with the respect it deserves.

10. What can we look forward to from you next? Any new projects or upcoming series in the works? 

Well, I'm working on a couple of projects as we speak—one is a novel set in the 1960s that's been sort of my baby for the last couple of years.  Technically I suppose it's a women's fiction novel, but I suppose it could also be considered a coming-of-age novel as well.  I have another idea that I'm also looking forward to really diving into, also an adult novel.  As far as YA, I have an idea that's in the very early stages—something that would be very different for me and that has me very excited.

 One SIGNED copy of 

When the Stars Go Blue: A Novel

A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.

But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.

Official Rules:
1.You must be 13 year or older to enter.
2. This contest is open Internationally
3. Entries must be received by Midnight EST on December 5, 2010. 
4. Once contacted, winners have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address.
5. To enter to win, simply fill out the form below. Good luck!  


Kristen said...

Amazing Interview! I am a new follower! This looks like a great book thank you so much for sharing!

My Bloody Fairy Tale

Kayla said...

The book sounds absolutely amazing. I look forward to reading it!

x. Kay

Delilah said...

Can't wait to read this book. I don't dance but I do play a few musical instruments and there are moments when... the music takes over. That sounds kinda lame. I don't know how to describe it. Caridad Ferrer got it in one though,

"...gossamer. A fleeting sensation that coursed through my system like a drug."

Once you've experienced it, been 'in the zone' so to speak, whether through music or dance or even calculus (hehe,its been known to happen,or maybe that was just me...) you always want to find that place again, that higher moment where you are more than yourself, where the pieces fit and you dont even have to try anymore, you just Are....

Misha1989 said...

Thanks for the interview! I think the book sounds great. I love the song-Gravity.

MissAttitude said...

I love this book and I love Caridad's chocies of actors! Javier beltran would be so good as Taz (he just needs a silver streak a la Alejandro Fernandez, heehee).

When the Stars Go Blue has inspired me to read Heartbreak Hotel. I'd never heard of it before :)

Thank you for this interview!

Delilah said...

Sounds cool. Can't wait to read this.

"...gossamer. A fleeting sensation that coursed through my system like a drug."

I don't dance but I do play a few musical instruments and this is exactly what it feels like when you get 'in the zone' so to speak. I can't describe it but...once you've experienced it, you always want to get back to that place.

Cass (Words on Paper) said...

I've taken notice of this book since YA Outside the Lines. ;) Can't wait to read it!

buddyt said...

Interesting idea to use a well known opera as the theme for a book.

Have you any plans to do this again with any other operas ?

Thanks for the giveaway.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

EVA SB said...

Carmen is also my favourite opera so I look forward to reading this book.

A Canadian Girl said...

This one is already on my wishlist because the plot sounds pretty unique so thanks for the giveaway :)

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

Ooh, it sounds exciting! I've always loved Carmen and can't wait to read your modern take on of the story!

And what a beautiful title you chose for the book Caridad, what inspired it?

Thank you for the interesting interview and thanks so much for making the giveaway international!! :-)

stella.exlibris (at) gmail (dot) com

Lucy D'Andrea said...

The book sounds really interesting! I am looking forward to reading this book! Thank you for the giveaway!


Chi Kittie said...

I am in new follower. I love this blog. I am glad to find you and thanks for the giveaway. :)


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Yah! *high five* I'm 1/2 Cuban :)

Great interview. I love the cover.

PS I adore the names Caridad and Soledad.

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone! Thanks for such lovely comments on the interview-- I really enjoyed answering all of the questions (and they were really great questions to answer as well).

Ari, you'll have to email me and tell me what you think of Heartbreak Hotel once you read it. It's just such a lovely book and I adore it so much-- I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I do.

Carol T-- it really is amazing how well so many classic opera stories would lend themselves to reinterpretation-- as far as having any plans to do any others, not at the moment, but I think if I were to take on any opera story and try to play with it, it would most likely be Madame Butterfly. Now there's another story with intrigue and passion and all sorts of meaty emotions to dive into! *g*

Stella, I chose WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE because it's the title of a great song, composed by Ryan Adams and made very popular by Tim McGraw, although my favorite version and the one that inspired me to borrow it for my own book, was a recording by Irish group, the Corrs, performing it with Bono from U2. The lyrics are just haunting and lovely and truly fit the essence of the story. I had gone through literally dozens of titles for this story, but once I settled on this one, I couldn't imagine it as anything else.

Again, thanks so much everyone for commenting and you know, any questions, I'm happy to answer! :-)

Vivien said...

I am a former dance major so this book sounds great! I danced for 14 years but unfortunately had to stop due to knee surgery. Great interview. Can't wait to read this.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

LOVE the title, Caridad. I'm raving about it over at Win a Book -- which is where I've got this posted. Thanks to our favorite Butterfly for the e-mail!

SueFitz said...

The book sounds interesting. thanks for offering it.

Glad_Swan said...

I can't wait the book! I need read it!!!! Thanks a lot!

lastnerve said...

I love books that have anything to do with dance. I can't wait to read this one


Ashley said...

I loved this book SO much! I thought it was stunningly beautiful and everything about it was amazing!
And this was a really great interview! One of my favorites I've read.

I also have to give the author some serious props... I know how they story of Carmen is supposed to end, but this is the first time I can ever remember reading a book with a love triangle and not guessing how it was actually going to resolve itself. That's pretty crazy considering I knew how the real story was supposed to end! (I have to admit I was terrified for a while Soledad would die, because I really liked her!) And both male love interests seemed so great, it was hard to choose!

the epic rat said...

Beautiful cover - and interesting interview with Caridad! I'm definitely keeping this book on my radar!

Pisinat said...

I recently discovered this book an shame on me for not having discovered it earlier because it sounds amazing! I love books which take place in dance universe :)

Aik said...

I'd love to read a book about dance! This one has the potential!

Ashley said...

I've had my eye on this one for awhile now; it looks super good!


Anonymous said...

It sounds really interesting!

Thanks a lot! ♥