The Compulsive Reader: Insight from Sasha Watson, Author of Vidalia in Paris

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Insight from Sasha Watson, Author of Vidalia in Paris

What prompted you to write about a young man in Marco's position, who gets by by stealing and selling art?

One way of falling in love is to be so dazzled by someone that you don't look beyond the surface that they show you. The perfect word for this is 'glamour', in the original, magical sense. Someone wearing a glamour appears to be one thing but is really another - and the appearance is usually everything you secretly desire. Though of course there's no magic in the book, Marco holds this kind of glamour for Vidalia. She looks at him and sees someone who moves easily in the world of art, who is free of responsibility, who has no fear. She starts to think that by being with him, she can have a perfect, glamorous life, that she can be the princess at the ball. Once she looks closer, of course, Vidalia sees something uglier behind the surface. That's where the art theft comes in. I wanted Vidalia to get swept away by a gorgeous illusion and then, finally, to have to look inside herself for what was really important. That's where Marco's character came from.

Do you see much of yourself in Vidalia?

While the details of my family, my talents, and my love life are all different from Vidalia's, I think we have the same sensibility. I love art as much as she does, and I'm just as deeply affected by it. For better or for worse, we both look for excitement in the wrong places sometimes, too. In this book, Vidalia is just beginning to learn what I now know: that the real exhilaration and satisfactions of life come from being a productive, creative artist and not from the outside world.

What artist, living or deceased, would you like to meet the most?

I think the answer to that question might change by the day, but today I'm going to say Helen Adam. She was a Scottish poet, folklorist, photographer, filmmaker, and collage artist, who also conducted seances, cast spells, and read tarot cards in San Francisco in the 60s. This YouTube clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9b7RhTYUKE) of her when she was in her eighties gives a pretty good idea of why I'd like to meet her. She's not only a brilliant artist, but she seems like she'd be a lot of fun hang out with, too. And I'd definitely want the meeting to take place in that fantastic apartment she's jumping around in!

How much time elapsed in between when you first started writing Vidalia in Paris and the date of publication?

It was four years from beginning to end. There were gaps in there, when I took breaks between drafts, but I started writing in 2004 and the book came out in 2008.

What was the hardest aspect of writing Vidalia in Paris? The easiest?

The hardest part was creating the character. I'd been very focused on poetry for a long time so when I started the novel, character felt very foreign to me. I had to teach myself how to do it. In the book I'm working on now, the character came to me very easily, so I guess I learned the lesson! The easiest, or at least the most pleasurable part, was writing about Paris because I love the city so much.

In your author bio, it is mentioned that you have lived in Paris. What's one of your favorite places there?

There are so many, I really can't limit it to just one! I'll give you three. I love the Luxembourg gardens for sitting outside in the spring, eating sandwiches from the bakery and talking to friends among the flowers; I love Shakespeare & Company for curling up in a corner and reading in the winter; and I love the Canal St. Martin for wandering along on summer nights, while people play guitar, hold hands, and enjoy life around you.

Will we be hearing more from Vidalia in the future, or do you have plans for other books?

Right now I'm working on a book about a completely different character, but I plan to return to Vidalia after that. I've always felt that her story would take three books to complete.

What's one good book that you'd like to recommend to your teen readers?

It's almost pointless to recommend this book because everyone's already reading it. I have no choice, though, because it's all I can think about: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The story is gripping beyond belief and the writing is wonderful. The main character, Katniss, goes through some excruciating trials, both physical and emotional in a dystopic, futuristic world, and it all rings perfectly true. It's the best book I've read in quite a while.

(TCR agrees! Click here for a review!)

Is there anything I didn't ask you wish I had?

Hmm, maybe, "Who else helped to make Vidalia a reality?" The answer is my fantastic editor, Joy Peskin, at Viking Young Readers, who understood Vidalia from the start and offered wonderful guidance on all aspects of the book; everyone else at Penguin, who did so much work on the book, particularly the designers who created the beautiful cover; and my agent, Rosemary Stimola.
Thanks so much, Sasha!
To learn more about Sasha, visit her very pretty website, sashawatson.com, for more info!

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