The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Leila Sales

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Leila Sales

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Summary: Robert thought that he should have been able to give This Song Will Save Your Life a sixth star. Unfortunately he couldn't - but he could chat to author Leila Sales when she popped in to see us.
Date: 24 January 2014
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Robert thought that he should have been able to give This Song Will Save Your Life a sixth star. Unfortunately he couldn't - but he could chat to author Leila Sales when she popped in to see us.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Leila Sales: I imagine girls like me, or at least girls like who I was as a teenager. Maybe girls who seem quiet and bookish, but who have a lot going on inside.

  • BB: I have to say, I don't think I've seen such an overwhelmingly positive response on my Twitter timeline as I have for This Song Will Save Your Life to ANY book, certainly not for a long time. Where you surprised by just how much people have loved it?

LS: Yes! Very much so. I’m surprised and delighted. I’ve heard from many readers who loved and were deeply affected by my previous books, but the Twitter response to THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE has surpassed what I saw for those other books. I had expected about the level of reader engagement here that I’d gotten for PAST PERFECT, and of course I’d hoped for slightly more (we writers always hope for something more than whatever we’ve achieved before!), but I hadn’t expected anything like this. It’s pretty amazing.

  • BB: I mentioned in my review of This Song Will Save Your Life that there were a huge amount of wonderful lines which I'd have shared with readers, if I could narrow it down and wasn't afraid of spoiling it. What do you think is the most quotable book you've ever read?

LS: I quote Dave Barry books a LOT. He is so funny and I’ve read his books so many times that I can quote a lot of lines from them.

  • BB: This Song Will Save Your Life is one of the very rare books that made me cry on public transport. How emotionally affecting was it to write?

LS: Thank you! I’m glad to hear that. Yes, there were a couple moments writing it when I felt overwhelmed by emotion, but by and large I don’t sit there writing and thinking to myself, My God, this is so beautiful, this is so moving. Usually I’m just sitting there thinking, My God, this makes no sense, there is no way to make this believable. Once I’m far removed from a book I can reread it and feel more deeply affected by it, but I need some distance from it to get there. Otherwise I’m reading it with more of an editorial eye, trying to improve it.

  • BB: There are a huge amount of wonderful songs mentioned throughout the book. If pushed, could you pick your favourite three?

LS: Ooh that’s tough. I will give you three songs that I love very much, though I can’t say that they’re my favorite three songs ever. They’re just the first ones I think of.

This Old Heart of Mine, by the Isley Brothers
Rave On, by Buddy Holly and the Crickets
Pull Shapes, by the Pipettes

  • BB: You write for the fabulous Chocolate NYC blog, which has me nearly as jealous as your writing ability does... have you always been a chocolate fan?

LS: Absolutely. When I was a kid my mother used to give me breakfast after dessert, which was a couple chocolate chips. Now that I am an adult, I sometimes start my day with chocolate chips even before I get to breakfast.

  • BB: When not writing, you work as an editor at Viking Children's Books. Has your writing changed since you became an editor - do you pick up tips from working on other people's books, and apply them to your own?

LS: My two jobs are closely connected and mutually beneficial. It helps me figure out solutions to problems in my manuscript when I help authors figure out how to address flaws in their own. Sometimes really fixating on a plot problem in your own writing is not going to help you solve it; you’re just going to run into the same brick wall over and over again. You have to be a little sneaky and creep up on plot problems from the side, and working with other authors on their manuscripts allows me to leave my own writing issues in the background, quietly simmering. You don’t have to be an editor to get those benefits, though. You can just read a lot of other writers’ work, and sometimes you’ll see that they have done things that give you ideas for what you want to do. That’s not too far off from what it’s like to be an editor.

  • BB: On that subject, what's the one book published in the last few years which you'd most love to have been the editor for?

LS: There are a lot—there have been so many fantastic kids’ books coming out recently. The first answer that comes to my mind is CHIME, by Franny Billingsley, so I’ll say that.

  • BB: If you were hosting a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?

LS: This is really tricky. Like, do they have complicated dietary restrictions? Or would it be a potluck dinner? If it’s a potluck dinner than I’d invite the best cooks. A lot of my favorite characters are spotlight hogs, so they might not get along well at a dinner party—they’d all be competing to talk the most. So I’m just going to stick to inviting some of my best author friends: Rebecca Serle, Lauren Oliver, Jess Rothenberg, Courtney Sheinmel, and Jocelyn Davies. We’ve had dinner together before, and I adore them all to bits, so this seems like a guarantee of a good dinner party.

  • BB: What's next for Leila Sales?

LS: Editing more books, of course. There are some that I’m tremendously excited about coming out really soon, like HALF BAD, a debut and the start of a trilogy by Sally Green. It’s a YA novel about witches, but it’s not like any witch novel you’ve read before. I’m working on some writing projects of my own, but I don’t have anything concrete to say about them yet. And of course I’m going to eat more chocolate. That probably goes without saying.

  • BB: That all sounds great, Leila - and not just the chocolate. Thanks for chatting to us.

You can read more about Leila Sales here.

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