Saturday, March 5, 2011

Under the 'Hood'- An Interview with Sarah Blakley-Cartwright

QUESTION (Q): What is your favorite scene in the book?
SARAH BLAKLEY-CARTWRIGHT (SBC): I have to say, I’ve always loved the horseback ride. You’ll see what I mean: it’s every girl’s fantasy.

Q. Do you base your characters on people that you know, or have met?
SBC: I do. Even though the characters David Leslie Johnson created were already very strong, I had to envision them on my own. When I hit a snag working out the relationship between two sisters, Catherine Hardwicke told me, “Think of Erin. Use the relationship as a model for Lucie and Valerie.” As an only child, my best friend Erin was like my sister. We’ve spent overnights at Catherine’s house since we were 13 years-old, shooting comedies about Venice Beach insane asylums, making drawings of each other in the backyard, running up the Pacific Coast Highway in red feather boas. And just that, having a real-life example to draw upon, made them come to life for me.

Q. Tell us about your writing process: how do you write? How do you approach a book? Where do you do your best writing?
SBC: I write on paper! It’s very romantic, although that isn’t why I do it. I pick up every morning with whatever scene I feel like writing at that moment. Otherwise, if I write something I don’t feel connected to, it really shows. My best writing comes from the bathtub. I have to be comfortable. When I’m really stuck, I turn out all the lights and lay in bed with a voice recorder. I only fall asleep half the time.

Q: How do you balance time for creative pursuits with the mundane tasks required to live life. Walk us through a typical day in your life.
SBC: I think the trick is to sneak writing into the pockets of time in between those tasks. No one has a perfect, planless day. But we do stand in line and wait for the water to boil. That’s when the writing gets done. Always having a pen and notebook nearby helps!

Q: In what ways did your childhood influence you as a writer? As a person?
SBC: Both my parents are talented artists. Our houses were always filled with a stream of creative adults. I grew up thinking of the artist’s career as both glamorous and within grasp, as something I could strive for and achieve.

Q: Most writers are also avid readers. What authors did you read as a child? What authors do you read today? Do you have a favorite book or author?
SBC: The incredible dystopian world of Lois Lowry’s The Giver comes to mind. A favorite book that I’m just re-reading is James Agee’s A Death in the Family, which is a beautiful, clear-eyed portrait of an American childhood.

Q: What is the first book you remember reading by yourself as a child?
SBC: I remember my first chapter book. My father and I were on a road trip up the East Coast. It was so cold that my hair was frozen. And I’m an L.A. girl, used to 65 degree winters. In a small town, we stopped at a tiny, dusty antique store where I became obsessed with a first-edition Bambi. I guess my dad thought I’d earned it. I read the book that night in our cozy lodge, fireside. I finished it over the next day or so in the backseat of our rental car, all the while imagining the deer asleep and nestled in the frozen countryside we were passing.

Q: Lastly, ebooks: friend or foe?
SBC: I say, embrace technology! Red Riding Hood is actually Little Brown’s first simultaneous enhanced e-book and print publication. It allows for a new, multisensory form of reading, where the reader can watch a video conversation between me, Catherine and David; hear a recording of Catherine reading the introduction to the book; peruse set design blueprints of, photos of the set itself, costume design sketches, and the best of the film’s storyboards. Reading the eBook, you’ll really get a sense of how the world was created on film.


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