When I finished reading The School for Good and Evil, I can't help but send a shoutout thru Twitter, to it's Author. And when I did, I didn't expect any reply,yet he humbly did. Who would've thought that an Author with a New York Times Bestseller book which landed a contract with Universal, would make time browsing through tweets and reply to fans? And so, he became one of my favorite Authors, not only because he's a genius and brilliant at writing an awesome novel but because he reminded me that one can be famous, while his/her feet is on ground.
It was my first time asking an Author for an interview, and I was delighted that he accepted it, and many thanks ofcourse to one of his Publicists Kathleen, for helping me out! Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, this month's Author interview is with no other than, the Soman Chaninani! Read on:
1. Before being an author, you're a screenwriter/director, so When did your love for writing start?
When I was 10 or 11, I'd say. Writing has always felt like breathing. If I don’t do it for a while, I start to feel like I’m dying.
Writing also makes time disappear in the most magical way. It challenges every part of me so intensely that I forget who I am, where I am, or how long I’ve been there. I remember once letting out a terrifying scream in a library because someone tapped me on the shoulder while I was writing an intense scene. (He wanted to borrow my power cord.)
Most of all, I love that writing forces you to surrender. You cannot, cannot control your writing – for if you’re not surprised by it, how do you expect the reader to be? For someone as controlling and tyrannical as I am, writing forces me to trust the little elves inside to do the work.
2. Where is your usual/ favorite place or spot when writing?
I need somewhere totally silent and preferably warm. I tend to favor cushy recliners so I can melt into them, rather than a desk.
3. Why chose fantasy,middle grade for your novel?
I think the book chooses you more than you make these decisions consciously. So when I had the idea for THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL, I wasn't sure what genre it would be or who the audience was. But in time, the voice of the novel comes out with you really 'thinking' about it. And it seemed natural that it would be a fantasy novel that appealed to the younger set. That said, I'm not a big fan of the MG vs. YA classification system. I see the novel as hopefully transcending those kind of arbitrary boundaries.
Now let's talk about your book!
4. Did you have particular persons in mind that you based your characters from while writing the book?
Not particularly, though it's true that every character derives from real life in some way, however small. My friends always joke that Sophie is the real me -- and I certainly know a boy who reminds me a lot of Hort. But at the end of the day, the characters' voices are quite internal to me. So I don't 'base' them on anyone as much as follow what I hear in my head.
5. Did you see yourself in any of the characters you've created?
I'd say I'm a pretty 50-50 mix of Sophie and Agatha -- Sophie's feistiness and ambition vs. Agatha's sensitivities.
6. Who's your favorite character and why?
I love writing Sophie the most, because of how extreme she can be. It's a chance to really just take risks on the comedy (and sometimes horror front), without ever losing touch with reality.
7. If you'd be taken by the School Master, do you think you'd be an Ever or a
I can be comically high maintenance (my friends joke Sophie is the real me), so I’d surely be an overachieving Ever and the most regular user of the Groom Room (the medieval spa, which only the top ranked students are allowed to use). That said, Evil’s classes have no boundaries – for sheer entertainment value alone, I can see the allure.
That’s if I had a choice. In the process of writing the book, I realized I wasn’t quite sure which school I would actually end up in– so I created an online assessment to answer that question. Atwww.schoolforgoodandevil.com, every reader can take a 10-question SGE Entrance Exam to determine whether they’re an Ever or a Never. I wrote all the questions myself and there’s a bank of over 100, so the questions change every time.
I’ve taken it a number of times, trying to be as honest as I can, and I always end up 75% Evil and 25% Good. Those who read the novel will agree that this isn’t a surprising result in the least.
8. Since the book is a trilogy, would there be any 'disappearance' of some characters as the story progresses?
Ha, ha -- is this a coded way of asking me if any of the characters die? I'd say that's a safe bet. This is a trilogy that will balance darkness and light. So there will be scary moments -- and heartbreaking ones.
9. I as a reader really enjoyed the first book! So what can we expect from the sequel?
I think the sequel is even more unpredictable than the first, if only because the school changes so much by the end of the first book. The question is how did the events of the first book affect Sophie and Agatha? How have they changed? And are they truly happy now?
10. How did it feel when the book landed a film contract with Universal?
It was so gratifying to have the book end up in the hands of such wonderful producers -- and a studio that truly knows how to make commercial, but artistic fairy tale films. I think together, we're all going to work very very hard to make a film that transcends the book and stands on its own merits.
11. You have a crazy schedule since you are doing the tour, would a detour to the Philippines be possible in the future?
I hope so! I've always wanted to visit -- and I have quite a lot of family there. Let's hope that for Book 2 or Book 3, I can make a detour to that side of the world and come see all of you.
12. What do you do on your free time? Or should I rephrase that to, do you have a free time??
No! This is why I'll be single for the rest of my life (kidding, hopefully). I play a lot of tennis, read a lot, go to dinners with friends, and try to stay up on movies.
13. Any advice to budding young writers out there?
I had such an unusual situation in which I had sold the series before I ever wrote the first book – so the pressure and fear was certainly daunting. But I’d tell any author that ultimately your conscious mind controls so little of storytelling. It has to come from your soul and who you are. The best thing you can do is relax and let the story happen. Unfailingly, the best parts of THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL are the parts that surprised myself as I wrote them. As Robert Frost said, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader."
Of course I did not pass up the chance of taking the exam, and know if I'd be with the Evers or Nevers! (See pictures below). Thank you, Soman!