The wonderful Adi Rule is here at The Hiding Spot to answer a few questions about her debut novel, Strange Sweet Song, a novel about a talented vocalist named Sing and a sinister boarding school cloaked in myth and legend. You can read my thoughts on this fantastic novel here!
Strange Sweet Song has many gothic elements. Did you specifically plan to write a novel with gothic undertones or did the story just lend itself well to a gothic setting and atmosphere?
The physical Gothic-y elements just kind of came together, I think. I wanted the conservatory’s concert hall to have a history that was greater than the school itself, and I liked the visual interest of an old church with gargoyles and stained glass. I chose crows for one of the plot threads because of their harsh voices and their intelligence, but it’s also a bit of a bonus that their association with the macabre adds to the atmosphere.
Angelique itself, the opera at the center of the story, is replete with melodrama, supernatural terror, and, of course, a pure-hearted damsel in distress. It’s an affectionate poke at 19th century opera, but it’s also the lens through which the main character examines her own life. Angelique’s shortcomings become more apparent throughout the book, and part of the main character’s journey is learning to let that sort of story go.
Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Alternately, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?
I had a lot of trouble with the climactic scene on the roof of the cathedral. I think that’s the scene I rewrote more than any other. There’s so much that has to happen in it emotionally, but at its core it’s an action scene, and it was difficult for me to get those two sides to balance out.
The easiest scenes to write were the Felix scenes. Her perceptions are unfiltered and her motivations are simple. I had a lot of fun imagining her world.
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?
I originally called it Sing, after the main character. My publisher changed it to Strange Sweet Song.
Many people dream of their ideal jobs while working somewhere less desirable to make ends meet, never realizing what great experience those jobs of necessity are for their future. What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?
For the last couple years I’ve worked at historic homes and mansions giving guided tours, which is awesome. Being out of your element (geography, tax bracket, century) can really feed your creative life. Giving tours is all about storytelling. It can be overwhelming at first, because you never know if visitors are going to ask about architecture or family trees or dishes or historical context, so there’s a lot of stuff you have to be able to access in your head. But you also have to connect the past to the present in a way that resonates with people. Being in those spaces, where you can not only see the objects, but smell them and exist with them in the place they were meant to be, is pretty close to time travel. My favorite comment I ever received was from a visitor who said, “Wow. You seem like you really love this house.” I don’t know if he meant it as a compliment, but that’s how I took it. And it was true!
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
“Muffins.” Muffins are delicious, inexpensive, and nontoxic to pets. You can never be harmed by people hurling physical muffins or the word “muffins” at you. It’s easy to spell, unlike “embarrassment,” which I have never spelled correctly on the first try. And hearing the word “muffins” reminds me of the hilarious muffin-eating scene in The Importance of Being Earnest.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
When I was a kid (an only child), my escape was toys (He-Man, My Little Pony, Thundercats) and books, particularly Roald Dahl, James Howe, Zoobooks magazine, Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield, and looking for Waldo. (OK, now let’s play, “Guess the Decade!” haha.) I still love all things fantastic and brightly colored. My favorite hiding spot now, I think, is video games. Some days I just want to explore amazing, impossible lands. And some days I want to blow up some heads.
Learn more about Adi and her books here.