Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Skype with Hannah Barnaby, Part 1!

Hannah Barnaby's fancy author pic.
In case you missed it, we actually got to skype with author Hannah Barnaby (author of Wonder Show)  at our last meeting! Ms. Barnaby was incredible - she has a great sense of humor, she'd answer any question we could think to ask, and she was really generous to skype with us anyway - maybe we should send her a big THANK YOU?  CommentsectionGO!

The interview's pretty long, though, and I know if I'm too ADD to read the whole thing at once, some of you will be too, so I'm posting the interview in two parts.  Check out Part 1 after the jump (click the link that says "Ready more" at the bottom) for Hannah's thoughts on Wonder Show and its characters, how she cures herself of writer's block, and what she'd do for an act if she was in a circus sideshow.

Before the interview, though, THREE THINGS:
  • I have no idea who asked which questions, so take to the comments and take credit for your question!  
  • This interview is SPOILER FREE, which means that if you haven't read Wonder Show, any questions that could give away parts of the story have been moved to the end of Part 2.
  • Whenever you see words inside brackets like [these], that's something that wasn't in the original question or answer that I've added as helpful info and etc.

And noowwwww (drumroll on your laptop, please)... 

Q&A with Hannah Barnaby, Part 1!

Back in the day, being a strongman meant
wearing a ladies swimsuit. 
1.       SMITH PUBLIC LIBRARY: How did you come up with the idea of the book?

HANNAH BARNABY: I have always loved circus history, and I had a dream about a girl running away from home on a bicycle. When I woke up, I couldn't stop thinking about her and wondering where she was going and who she was trying to get away from.  So I sent her to the carnival and made up the rest as I went along.

2.       SPL: Do you have any plans for a second book?

HANNAH: Yes, but not a sequel to Wonder Show. I'm currently working on another YA novel, about a girl who is tracking down the people who received her brother's organs after he died in a car accident.

3.       SPL: Did the stories that Portia [the main character of Wonder Show] hears as a child come from real gypsy stories or where they made up?

HANNAH: No, I made them up. I have Italian relatives on my husband's side, and I've heard many stories about them.  The stories that Portia's family tells are what I imagine my husband's ancestors sounded like.  In fact, the name of Portia's mother, Quintillia, is taken from my father-in-law's family.

4.       SPL: Can you say one word that describes the whole story?

HANNAH: “Powerful”. And “hopeful”.  I guess that’s two words!

Daisy and Violet Hilton, the conjoined twin
sisters on which Pippa and Polly were based.
5.       SPL: Do you have a favorite character, and why?

HANNAH: I love Polly and Pippa (they count as one, right?) because they are based on a real-life pair of sisters [also conjoined twins] who worked the vaudeville circuit and were movie stars.  They ended up working at a grocery store in North Carolina, bagging groceries.

6.       SPL: Is there a character who you are like in the story?

HANNAH: I am a lot like Portia in some ways, but not in other ways. I try to give each of my main characters one trait that we share, so I can relate to them, and one thing that's very different, so I don't forget that I'm not writing about myself.  Portia and I are both very stubborn and we don't always let people help us.  [Also, see question #26 for a little more on this answer.]

7.       SPL: Have you ever had writer’s block? And if so, what’s the craziest thing you have done to get out of it?

HANNAH: I have had periods of what I called "writer's block" but were probably just laziness.  One thing I do to get myself started when I sit down to write after not writing for a while is listen to a certain song that I associate with the story. I make a playlist for every project.

8.       SPL: What's the playlist for Wonder Show?

A wonder show's "Bearded Lady",
 plus a bearded someone-else!
HANNAH: I think it's on my website, but I'll have to check [It’s not on the website, Hannah! Put it up, pretty please?]. It was a very odd combination of songs, many from the 1930s and 40s.

9.       SPL: What made you want to write Wonder Show?

HANNAH: I had always wondered if I could write a novel, and then I heard about a grant from the Boston Public Library.  I applied with a proposal to write what became Wonder Show, and I won the grant.  So I got to spend 20 hours a week for 9 months working on the book.  And I still didn't finish!  From the time I started the book to when it was published, it was SEVEN YEARS.

10.   SPL: What was your biggest inspiration while you were writing the book?

HANNAH: I had all kinds of inspiration, from the work of other writers to photographs from old carnival shows to music that I loved.  It all created an atmosphere in my head that transferred into my writing.

11.   SPL: Are you planning to write any other books for younger kids and adults?

HANNAH: I have a few ideas for picture books, but they are really hard to write because every single word has to be perfect.  I don't know if I'll ever write a book for adults. I just don't find most adults as interesting as I find young adults. Maybe I'm stuck on my high school self.

12.   SPL: How old were you when you started righting Wonder Show?

HANNAH: I was 30.  I really thought I'd publish a book before that.

Um, OUCH?!
13.   SPL: What do you do when you're not writing?

HANNAH: I have kids, so they keep me busy most of the time.  I love to knit, I love photography, and I love to cook.  And bake! I bake a LOT.

14.   SPL: Since you have kids, is it hard to write new books?

HANNAH: Yes! But next year, they will all be in school at least a few days a week so I'll have more time.  Sometimes I feel bad when I work - my son just wants me to play blocks!  And I think if you really love to write, you can't ignore it. You find a way.

15.   SPL: Are there any of your family members that are like the characters in Wonder Show?

HANNAH: Most of the characters are different from the people I actually know.  They are more based on actual carnival performers that I found out about during my research.  I probably include things in my characters that are based on people I know, but I don't always realize it.  And that way, I can deny it if they ask. *laughs*

16.   SPL: Has someone ever recognized you in public for your writing?

HANNAH: Like, recognized me on the street?  No, not yet!  My picture isn’t actually on the back flap of the book jacket with my bio, so probably makes people recognizing me less likely.

Signs for a wonder show, plus the "bally", a stage where
someone would shout out things to entice people to come in.
17.   SPL: Is there anyone in your family who is interested in writing books like you?

HANNAH: My dad loves to tell stories, and I think he would have been a writer if he didn't have to support a family.  My mother-in-law was a teacher, and she wrote some picture books when she was younger but they were never published.  One was about what all the animals do in the zoo when it rains.

18.   SPL: Can you imagine yourself traveling with the wonder show like Portia? If so, what would you do?

HANNAH: I probably don't have any talents they could use.  Maybe I could learn to throw knives if I had Marie to teach me.  There weren't many good jobs for people who weren't special in some way.

* * * * * * * * * *

She loves books, knitting and baking?  Three of my favorite things!  She definitely makes my list of authors I'd want to be friends with if they weren't busy writing AMAZING books (and, you know, if they lived around here).

Stay tuned for Part 2 - if you asked a question and don't see it here, look for it in the Q&A's Part 2 (coming on Thursday)! Leave a comment to:
  1. Tell us which question is yours!
  2. Ask Hannah one last question - we'll send her an email with the questions and post her answers here on the blog!

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