Adi Rule earned her MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and also has a BA in voice from the University of New Hampshire. Her first book is Strange Sweet Song.
NAW- Please give me your bio in brief elaborating on how and why you decided to write?
I’ve always been a writer, really; I grew up with a writer mum, and it’s just something that’s always been valued at my house. I didn’t always know it’s what I wanted to do for a living, though. At first I was sure I’d study sharks, then I wanted to be an opera singer, then finally I realized that writing was what I was actually good at. I was a playwright for a few years before earning my MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and now I write young adult novels.
NAW- Tell us about your book, ‘Strange Sweet Song.’ How did you get the idea for the book?
Strange Sweet Song is the story of Sing Da Navelli, a young classical singer who enrolls at a prestigious conservatory in the wild woods. It’s told from three(ish) points of view — Sing’s, in the present day; a young man named George whose story spans the previous century; and the Felix, a great, tragic beast who lives in the forest. Sing is the daughter of celebrities, and must balance high pressure and expectations with her own true love of singing. George’s and the Felix’s stories intertwine with Sing’s in unexpected ways and each story sheds a different light on the others.
Strange Sweet Song came from a couple places. Sing and the Felix both came from their names. The name “Felix” is often associated with cats, but it actually comes from the Latin for “happy,” not “feline.” So the Felix started as a celestial embodiment of happiness who experiences a devastating fall; her story is about her journey back toward her origins and her own name.
Sing’s name is most obviously a reference to her musical heritage, but more than that, it’s a verb — a command — rather than just a pretty, musical name. Her name brings with it a lot of the high pressure she feels, and she refers to it in a physical sense several times — having to “drag it around” with her, etc. But as Sing learns about her own identity and her own voice, and as she learns that the syllable sing has different meanings in different languages, she becomes better able to embrace her name.
The second starting point for this novel was the world of classical music itself, which can be incredibly cutthroat and petty. There can be a lot of posturing and condescension and insecurity. But at its core, classical music is a thing of great beauty and emotion, and people play and sing (and listen) because they love it with all their hearts. I wanted this story to show both sides of this strange, contradictory world.
NAW- How easy/ difficult is it writing for the young?
I don’t really think about audience much when I’m writing. I just write the story I want to tell in the words I want to use. YA writers are lucky in that respect, I think! The whole YA vs. adult lit conversation is usually between other people, while we just get to write what we write.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I do quite a bit of singing, mostly with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which is the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops. It’s a really fun group to be in, and the music is wonderfully diverse. This week we sang movie music with John Williams, coming up is Prokofiev and Shostakovich. It’s never boring!
I also work for New Hampshire Parks and Recreation, giving tours of an historic mansion on the seacoast. It is a crazy, dear old house, with tiny doors and sunken rooms and large windows at the edge of the sea. I feel very fortunate to get to spend so much time there.
NAW- Name your five favorite books.
Wow, that’s a tough question! I love everything by Terry Pratchett, Frances Hardinge, Roald Dahl, Sarah Caudwell, and Diana Wynne Jones, the Bunnicula series by James Howe, The Plague by Albert Camus, Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, The Secret of Thut Mouse III by Mansfield Kirby . . . okay, that’s way more than five already!
NAW- What do you prefer when you are reading, an ebook or traditional paperback?
I am a traditionalist, I admit. All the books I own are physical objects. I have a very hard time reading ebooks. I’m happy for — and a bit jealous of — people who can have 800 books on a little device at their fingertips, ready at any given moment to dive in. But reading that way just isn’t a skill I have.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
My next novel with St. Martin’s Press is called Redwing, and it’s due out hopefully next year. It’s more fantasy than Strange Sweet Song, which is magical realism. Redwing is a little mythological and a little steampunk, and I’ve had a lot of fun creating the world and its societies.
I’ve also got a couple other projects in the works for my fantastic agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, more YA magical realism. One in particular is a bit lighter and funnier than what I’ve been doing lately, which is a nice change. So hopefully those will have some kind of future!
Thank you so much for having me!