One of the other participants in my first workshop at Vermont College of Fine Arts – which was also her first workshop – was a young writer, Adi Rule. She brought a piece to workshop that was one of the most stunningly beautiful narratives I’ve ever read. I knew she’d go places, and, yup, she has.
Her debut novel STRANGE SWEET SONG launches today, and I know it will be a gorgeous read. I can’t wait. It’s also a thrill to call her an agency-sister, as she is repped by Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Adi grew up in New Hampshire among cats, ducks, and writers. When she isn't writing, she may be found winning Triple Yahtzee or losing at Upwords against her grandmother. She sings in the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops, has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and probably has more vintage memorabilia from Disney's Robin Hood than you.
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, STRANGE SWEET SONG. And - wow! - what a spectacular cover. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
The story takes place at a remote, prestigious music conservatory where history is entwined with mythology. The main character, Sing Da Navelli, is both thrilled and terrified to learn that her first audition there will be for the opera Angelique, which was written at the conservatory. While the role of Angelique is one Sing has dreamed of singing since she was a child, it is also the role her mother was performing when she died on stage two years ago. As Sing struggles to find her own voice, she is drawn to the dark forest that surrounds the conservatory, where the great beast from the story of Angelique is rumored to roam.
I think the story started out with its names, actually. The mythical beast that haunts the forest is called the Felix. She's catlike, with celestial origins. Felix is traditionally a cat's name, but it doesn't actually come from the Latin word for "cat," it comes from the word for "happy," and that was the spark of that character -- a being who embodies happiness, what causes her to fall so far from that state, and what restores her. The main character's name, Sing, is a tribute to her distinguished parentage. But, as she says, it's both a name and a command. I wanted to explore what would happen if a character had both a true, innate love of singing, and a name that almost works against her own psyche.
Can you describe your path to the publication of STRANGE SWEET SONG?
My path for this book was fairly traditional. I queried Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency about another novel. She liked it, but wanted to see something else, so when I had finished a pretty good draft of what was then called Sing, I sent it along. I was thrilled beyond the moon when she offered to represent me. EMLA is just a warm, fun, fantastic agency to be a part of. (Janet, I know you'll back me up on this! You bet I do!) Joan sold Sing to an enthusiastic editor at St Martin's, and we revised and revised. It's funny, with a big publisher like SMP, I assumed that -- and was okay with -- I would be somewhat lost in all the gears and big machinery. But it hasn't been like that at all; it's been a very friendly place to launch a first book.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Well, I'll certainly echo the same advice everyone gives, because it's the best -- read a lot and write a lot! And find your support system -- you're going to need feedback from people who have your work's best interest at heart. Learn to accept the label "writer," and remember that it only means, "someone who writes." It doesn't mean someone with a book on Oprah's Book Club; neither does it mean someone who has a great idea for a novel but never writes any words. But it can mean someone who is learning, someone who writes a lousy first draft, someone who writes a piece that just doesn't work, or someone who hammers out and polishes a story into something truly wonderful.
Also, learn to love revision. Also also, revision does not equal copyediting.
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
One of these days, I'm going to clean the heck out of my apartment. Sunbeams will bathe the floor, my mother will start visiting again, and all the spiders living in my shower will close their multiple eyes and inhale the light scent of pine. That will be a glorious, glorious day.
Hah! Your mother will be happy, I can vouch for that. Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Yes! :) I have another book coming out from St Martin's (fingers crossed for 2015) called Redwing. It's a bit industrial revolution and a bit mythological. We're in the editing/revising stage right now.
Do you have a website where readers can learn more about STRANGE SWEET SONG?
I love it when people pop by to say hi on my site or social media! I especially love pictures of cats! Find me here: