Author Interview: Nova Ren Suma

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nova Ren Suma

  • Dani Noir

Zoom in on thirteen-year-old Dani Callanzano. The summer before eighth grade, Dani is stuck in her nothing-ever-happens town with only her favorite noir mysteries at the Little Art movie theatre to keep her company. But one day a real-life mystery begins to unravel—at the Little Art! And it all has something to do with a girl in polka-dot tights... Armed with a vivid imagination, a flair for the dramatic, and a knowledge of all things Rita Hayworth, Dani sets out to solve the mystery and learns more about herself than she ever thought she would.

Dani Noir is such an awesome and adorable read. What inspired you to write Dani Noir?

Thank you so much! I'm thrilled you liked the book. The first thing thatinspired me to write Dani Noir was simply my memory of being a thirteen-year-old girl in a small nowhere town—which I was and which I guess I can't really forget because I just wrote a whole novel about it. I remember feeling so sure that real life was going on everywhere and anywhere else but where I was, and all I wanted was to escape. Now, me, I escaped into books. But I tried having my character Dani escape into something else: old black-and-white noir movies. Dani's lucky; she has that movie theater to slip away to. When I was thirteen, we lived in a house off a dead-end dirt road on a mountain; it would've taken me hours to walk to a movie theater. And Dani is so much cooler than I was back then—I didn't know what a noir movie even was until I was way older.

So that's the place where this novel started, but Dani took over from there. It's her character—this imaginative, opinionated girl—that was my biggest inspiration, almost like she was a real person who I met and had to write about.

Dani has such a spunky attitude and she had me laughing the entire time with her creative remarks. Was her voice easy for you to write?

I'm glad she made you laugh! Her voice was very easy to get down—sometimes too easy, to the point where I could probably write hundreds more pages in Dani's voice, even though the story is long over. Maybe you noticed this about Dani when you were reading her, but she's sure not afraid to say what she thinks, and her imagination tends to take her up and away from reality in crazy little diversions. I loved going off on those movie-inspired fantasy sequences with her. There was a point, during the writing of this novel, when I was walking around in my own life going, "Now, if this were a movie, I wouldn't have to stay at work all day. I'd just jump out the window..."

No writers got hurt jumping out of any windows during the writing of this novel, though, don't worry!

What was your favorite scene to write about?

There's a scene that takes place in a playground at night. Dani and her friends are sneaking around spying on Jackson, the guy Dani suspects of cheating on his girlfriend. She's determined to do something, to catch him in a big lie and set everything right. Only thing is, she's not such a talented sleuth, and she ends up doing a lot of fumbling around in the dark, so the spy mission doesn't turn out exactly how she plans in the end.

There's a little chase sequence in that scene that I loved writing. I got caught up in the excitement. It's still one of my favorite parts of the novel.

What was the hardest part for you to write?

I had a tough time getting into the scenes when Dani visits her dad at his new girlfriend's house across the river, where she meets her soon-to-be stepsister Nichole. It's funny, I think my initial frustration at that part of the book is because I was so caught up in Dani's emotions. She did not want to visit her dad at his new house. She did not want to cross that river! So I was protesting just as much as she was. It took me a long time to get words down. Then, suddenly, she and I had a dramatic moment while crossing the Rhinecliff Bridge, where her imagination runs wild as it tends to, and that's when the whole scene clicked for me. Once I realized how angry she was, and how terribly she was about to behave when she meets her dad's girlfriend and Nichole, I got carried away. It was loads of fun to write after that.

Dani was one of my favorite characters, but I also really enjoyed Austin’s character. Who was your favorite character? Least favorite?

I do adore Austin—and poor Austin; Dani doesn't always give him a fair shake—but Dani has to be my favorite character above all others. I love her because she's who I would have wanted to be when I was thirteen. She's far more daring and outspoken than I was ever was back then; actually she's far more daring and outspoken than I am right now! So I can't help but love her for that.

I didn't like Nichole—and neither did Dani, if you couldn't tell. I may have gotten out my aggression on Nichole-like people in real life by writing her the way I did.

We know Dani’s favorite noir mystery, so I was wondering, do you have a favorite?
That's the thing: Dani and I do share some things, and our favorite noir movie is one of them. We both love Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth as the femme fatale. We both adore that movie, and yet we both wish it ended differently. Dani says, "I don’t like . . . when she ends up with the mean guy who used to be her boyfriend and all’s forgotten. I like it when she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, when she might walk out of the room and never come back and you know you’d miss her forever. That’s the Rita Hayworth I like to remember." I tend to agree with Dani on that one.

Is there anything you hope readers will take from Dani Noir?

I hope readers leave feeling like they've spent a patch of time with a real girl, that Dani felt authentic to them: her obsession with old movies and her passion for uncovering lies and her flaws and her missteps and mistakes and everything. Dani feels real to me, and I can only hope that I captured her for everyone else. Also, maybe, someone will read this book and want to run out and see a Rita Hayworth movie. She's pretty spectacular and not to be missed.

I can’t wait to read more of your work. Can you tell us what you are working on now, or plans you have for future novels?

Oh, thank you! Dani Noir was my debut tween novel, and what I'm writing now is my debut YA novel. It's called Imaginary Girls and it's due out tentatively in Summer 2011 from Dutton. It's the story of two sisters, their strong bond, and the dead body that threatens to break it.

Though it's YA, the new book does have a couple similarities to Dani Noir—the first-person voice, which is my most favorite voice to write in because you get so close to your characters—and the setting, since Imaginary Girls takes place in a small upstate New York town, too, a town a lot like one of the places where I grew up. So keep an eye out for the book in 2011!

And, of course, I don't want to stop writing for tweens either. In my head there's a new thirteen-year-old girl clamoring for attention. She's not leaving me alone, so I'm sure I'll give in and write a novel about her soon.

Thank you so much Nova for allowing me to interview you!

Thank YOU so much for having me! It was a lot of fun to revisit Dani Noir and answer these questions. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.



Kelsey said...

Great interview, you asked some great questions. I really want to read Dani Noir now!

Unknown said...

Hi :)
A bit late but I wanted to say thank you for the excellent interview. I really enjoyed learning more about Nova and her writing. Thanks for sharing Nova.
All the best,

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