Delighted to be organising the blog tour for Live Like Your Head's On Fire by Sally-Anne Lomas (Story Machines Publishing). If you love to dance and find the experience cathartic, read on - and if not, maybe we can get your feet tapping anyway...
I caught up with Sally-Anne Lomas to get to know the author behind this gorgeous Young Adult title! But first, here is the blurb...
When fifteen year-old Pen Flowers climbs out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night to dance in the empty streets, she ignites a flame in herself that will change everything.
In Conversation with Sally-Anne Lomas...
How important is dance to you as a form of self expression?
I love to dance! One of my earliest ambitions, aged ten or eleven, was to be a dancer, after that an Olympic swimmer, then a professional tennis player. I’ve always been a physical person. I considered studying choreography at college but opted for English instead. I think we often use fiction to explore alternative lives. What if I’d been a dancer?
Sometimes words aren’t enough and you have to let the body do the talking. I don’t like sitting still so if I get blocked or restless I get up and dance things out. Dance is great for exploring emotions – anger, grief, joy, envy – dancing stuff out is transformative. Children learn to walk and talk at the same time and there’s a reason why – they’re related. You can use the body to expand your vocabulary. It’s a natural progression from walking and talking to dancing and writing. While writing LLYHOF I worked with a choreographer to build Pen’s dance scenes and found that I could use the dance exercises to get to the heart of my other characters too.
As a debut author, how have you found the process of finding a publisher and finally holding the book in your hands?
Writing a novel is hard but getting published is harder. I was lucky that the first agent I sent the manuscript to liked it and took me on. But when LLYHOF was sent out on the rounds of the major publishers it didn’t get picked up. Penguin were interested but decided the plot was too slow moving. My agent advised me to write another book but I wanted to fix the problem with the plot and kept working on the novel. I was delighted when a revised manuscript of LLYHOF was eventually picked up by Sam Ruddock at Story Machine Books, a small East Anglian publisher who specialise in creative ways of promoting and presenting work. Being published by a small press has suited me. I found going public overwhelming so it’s been lovely to be able to work closely with a local publisher, being consulted at every stage of the process and getting individual attention. The moment when I first held my novel as a physical object, felt the weight, smelt the pages, stroked the cover and realised that my life-long dream had come true and that LLYHOF existed in the world as a published book - unbelievably joyous. Let’s just say I quite often sit and hold the book against my heart.
Are your characters inspired by people you have met in real life?
Yes they are – but I don’t lift people whole they are more like Frankenstein’s creation – an arm from here, a smile from there. I steal bits of people and stitch them together until they start, like the monster, to have lives of their own and emerge as new beings. For example Mrs Hadley, Pen’s dance teacher, owed quite a lot to memories of my dance teacher at school, mixed in with bits of my current Zumba teacher and a splash of a writing mentor who was very kind to me. I admit to enjoying naming one of my least attractive male characters after an ex-boyfriend who done-me-wrong. A petty but satisfying act of revenge.
How would you describe your book in one sentence?
A dare-to-dream adventure where fifteen year old Pen Flower’s passion for dance leads her through the darkest of nights to a realisation of her own destiny.
What would you love readers to take away from this book?
I’d love readers to find a good friend in Pen and be inspired by her story to discover and believe in their own passions whatever they may be. I’d like them to realise that even in our darkest hours there’s always hope, and that no matter how overwhelming our problems seem running away from them is going to make them worse. Who knows, maybe some readers will share Pen’s love for the mystery of the night and dare to dance their hearts out in the empty night time streets!
Grab a copy from Story Machines for £8.99 here and support a small publisher!