Summer has become synonymous with reading and author interviews it seems. I am so excited to finally be interviewing and including West Coast author Paddy Eger to the group!
PE– Paddy Eger AS– ME
AS- I am so excited to finally be interviewing you! Your book 84 Ribbons was one of my first books to read and review last summer. You set the bar quite high for the rest of my summer reading. I am thrilled to say, you have once again set that bar! You are also now my farthest author interview/guest blogger all of the way out on the West Coast! Thank you for taking the time to chat.
AS– Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…
PE– I’m one of those people who sits at a desktop to work. I have my cup of tea nearby and sip it when I’m thinking about little problems or celebrating a well-written paragraph. Usually I prefer a quiet space, except when I’m writing about ballets my dancers are preparing to perform. Then I play the music and often find professional ballet companies YouTube videos to watch. That really inspires me!
AS– You are a Washington native. How do you think the environment influenced your writing?
PE– Since I live in rain country, it’s easy to spend my time writing. I like including weather and our landscape as part of my setting since I love the salt water, the mountains and our forests. For my ballet trilogy, I’ve based in here where I grew up.
AS– In 84 Ribbons, book one of the ballet trilogy, I wanted Marta to step away from her comfort zone so I sent her to Billings, Montana. Of course, I had to explore that area so my geography was accurate. I even stayed on an older B&B to get the feel of living in a boarding house setting. I also drove around town and spotted a large house that could become Marta’s residence. I had fun drawing the floor plans of the various locations Marta visited.
PE– In When the Music Stops, book two in my trilogy, I take Marta and her mom to my favorite ocean beach, Kalaloch. They share an important conversation there and I’m able to introduce readers to that stretch of Washington beach as well.
AS– Writing was not your first career, teaching was! How do you think that has impacted your writing? Was it a difficult transition?
PE– I’ve always loved words: their sounds, the way they feel on my tongue and how writers use those same 26 letters in such creative ways. Among my ‘wordy’ past times are reading, word searches and writing my impressions of the world around me. I was one of those test-takers who loves essays and groaned at being put into selecting True-False boxes.
I taught primary grades most of my career. Reading with kids, playing word games and also reading aloud to the class made me happy. I still work in classrooms helping students with writing so you see, I didn’t completely leave teaching.
AS– You do have educational work published. When did you realize that you might actually have a knack for writing fiction and go for it?
PE– For several years I lead training for classroom volunteers so I needed to create my curriculum. That was my first attempt to write a book. I enjoyed crafting the book so I went on to create accompanying materials. About that same time, I friend of mine, who is a well-known author, invited me to take her writing class. I needed a piece of fiction. Since I’d danced and still had interest in ballet, I decided to write about a young dancer who wanted to become a professional.
My writing was adequate, but I knew little about writing fiction so I slaved through the class. When a book agent met with me, she said she saw potential in my writing. That’s when I felt I might be able to create a short book. I was wrong. Turns out with over three hundred pages in my first book, I wasn’t done with my story. Once I realized I had more to say, I knew the writing bug had bitten me.
AS– What steps did you take to make it happen? Education, workshops, networking etc.
PE– My friend’s workshop got me started writing, but I knew I needed to learn more so I attended a local conference, Write On The Sound, joined a critique group and read articles and books on the craft of writing. I continue working to better my writing by attending classes and have added a second critique group. I write and read blogs and articles, network with writers and follow several writing information sources looking for ways to improve myself. It’s a full-time job!
AS– How much of Marta, Lynne, Bartley and the others, come from your own experiences in the dance world?
PE– I tried to give my female leads my love of classical music and ballet. Since I danced for seventeen years, I know many of the basics of ballet; class warm up sequencing, performance issues and understanding the late 1950s when I also danced. I never had the opportunity to dance professionally, but I knew the types of issues dancers’ faced then (and now) from people I spoke with and biographies I read. Professional dancers assure me I’m correct in addressing the issues I’ve taken on in my ballet stories.
AS– I just finished reading When the Music Stops but also read 84 Ribbons, which I LOVED. I know how hard it is to write a review on a sequel, but how difficult was it writing a sequel?
PE– Writing a sequel was easy since I wasn’t done telling Marta’s story when book one ended. I always knew my story’s arc; I just didn’t know all the details when I started book one. Marta’s story came to me as a title with a rough outline in one day. Characters started popping up (some uninvited) and wanted to be part of my story, so I let them in. I feel they added depth to Marta’s life.
AS– *SPOILER* Marta has a few love interests between the two books. How did you decide whom she ended up with? I really, really, liked Sam. I couldn’t tell you why, but I was disappointed that she doesn’t pick him! haha
PE– I liked Steve. He fell in love with Marta almost from the moment he met her. I know he was a pain at times, but I wanted him to end up with Marta. I liked their opposites: she barely finished high school while he was completing college when they met, he was spontaneous while she was guarded and cautious.
When I started book two, I didn’t know what other guys would step into her life. I had great fun writing Dennis (the jerk!) but knew that was not going to work! Then Sam appeared and I liked him a lot. The more time he appeared, the harder it was to dump him, but I promised Steve he’d prevail.
AS– The next installment follows Lynne across Europe. Have you ever had the chance to travel to some of her stops?
PE– Lynne story is totally based on places I visited on trips to Europe. Actually it was on one trip while I was writing 84 Ribbons that I decided Lynne needed a book and I started writing notes to myself about what I enjoyed in the small villages especially. As Marta’s brash sidekick, I wanted to share here story. She seems so upbeat and together when she’s in books one and two. In Letters to Follow-A Dancer’s Adventure, book three, we’ll open the curtain on her life and also tie up loose ends for Marta.
AS– What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?
PE– Write, write, write. Sit down every day and write. Like all skills, you need to practice, practice, practice. Most of what you write will be questionable; some will be worth keeping. For now, save it all. Tidbits of ideas often lead to inspiration later on.
ALSO: Anna, I want to thank you for interviewing me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my books and main characters. After spending so much time together they feel real to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Thank you for writing reviews for both 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops. Hearing what readers think of our stories help us develop our craft.