(This is the cover for the Kindle version of Random Magic)
I am joined today by the incredible Sasha Soren. Sasha's book, Random Magic will be released in January of 2010. She has taken time to answer some questions for us curious readers...
1. Could you start by telling us a bit about your new book Random Magic?
SS: Maybe the best way to explain the experience would be to just ask you to think about how you feel when you’re reading a book you really love.
You know, when you’re totally involved in the book, to the point where you lose sleep, or forget where you are, and feel as if you’re actually part of the world of the book.
A book can make you laugh, or cry, or be angry, or feel some particular way, as if you’re actually living those events. Every book lover knows that feeling, precisely.
So, have always thought it would be great to be able to literally visit a book. Not just to have an intense, mental experience or reaction, but to actually be able to jump into a story.
Was thinking about it one day, not even planning on it being a novel, but just thinking to myself, “Well, which book would be fun for a literary road trip?”
One of the first books that sprang to mind was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, just always thought it would be an interesting place to visit.
Then was thinking about what would happen if someone visited the book. Then realized it wasn’t as interesting to think about that, as it was to mull over what might happen if Alice was displaced from her story.
Fictional characters exist on paper. They can’t jump off a page into our world. But what if they really did exist, and you could meet them, just walking around?
Had a brief thought about maybe making it a contemporary or Victorian-era story, where Alice would visit our world, but decided it would be more challenging, and maybe fun, to write a story about a world very different from our own.
Started thinking, well, what would this world look like? And then just kind of started jotting the story down.
Henry, as the main character, was just going on this surreal journey to go find and bring back a fictional character, which was just an amusing thought because it’s so preposterous.
After all, if a friend of yours explained, quite calmly, that they were just going to pop you into a book to go find and bring back a fictional character, you’d think they were nuts. Or just daydreaming. But what if they were genuinely serious?
So, Henry ends up on an accidental adventure, and he’s totally unprepared. Turns out he’s going to need all the help he can get, because he’s totally lost in this other world, has no how anything works, what’s dangerous or not, or even how to survive.
So, that’s how Winnie (the second lead character) happened. Didn’t even invite her in, she just kind of showed up. Well, that’s Winnie for you! People who’ve already read the book, and so have already met Winnie, would probably agree.
2. Will Random Magic be a stand-alone book or a series?
SS: Really, it could go either way. Right now, you can read the book straight through and close the book on the last page feeling content that you’ve gotten the whole, mad story and haven’t missed a thing.
Could it be a series, though, yes, as the book does end on an open note. It really just depends on whether or not people are curious about what might happen next.
Either way, the book in its current incarnation is a very satisfying story, and didn’t seem to need a sequel. It would make an interesting series, though -- to follow Winnie, if for no other reason. She’s so entertaining.
3. After visiting your web site, I learned that you have traveled to many exotic places such as Cairo, Madrid, Rome and Amsterdam to name a few. What has been your favorite destination so far?
SS: Every city has its own particular energy and personality, so it’s really hard to choose. Favorite destination is anywhere I haven’t been, yet.
All cities are kind of like specific people. They all have their own personalities, in a way, and they’re all interesting in their own way.
But as for favorite cities, yes, there were some that were memorable, for different reasons:
Venice: Beautiful in its decay. The city is constantly in danger of flooding, and, in that respect, is almost a doomed city, as the waters will one day just drown the city and nature will reclaim what’s hers. It has temporal beauty, for that reason. It’s also just a beautiful city, with a lot of ancient secrets buried by water.
Cairo: Wonderful for exploring in the desert, obviously, and the waters of the Nile. Very different for any city dwellers, the desert was lovely and totally lethal for unwary travelers.
Paris: This is a favorite city for a lot of people, but it’s easy to understand why. All the outdoor cafés, lots of arts and culture, and even the ugly parts of the city are strangely charming.
Barcelona: Everyone should try to visit at least once, particularly to see the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, which is a total trip. Las Ramblas is also a great walk through the city, and the bit near the harbor has a great market. You can wake up every morning, go over and buy some cheese, bread, fresh cherries and coffee, and just sit by the water and enjoy your morning.
Athens: Beaches just a boat ride away, spectacular nightlife, good food, and thousands of years of ancient history, literally, just underneath your feet. There’s a quality of timelessness in the air, as well, even given all the heat, noise and contemporary annoyances. Very easy to love this city, although some find it totally confusing to navigate. They’re right, of course.
There are lots of cities worth exploring, and you’ll learn something new and interesting in every place you visit. Travel is a wonderful education. It’s a better education than the things you’d learn at university, because you’re learning about life, itself.
4. Do you collect anything (post cards, spoons, etc.) from each place?
SS: Memories, definitely. Don’t really have a collector’s personality, so, tend to collect memories, rather than things -- what a city looked like, smelled like, the sounds of the language, unusual sights, people, events, vibe, colors, the taste of various foods, etc.
For example, tried crushed sugar cane in Cairo, where it’s an ordinary local beverage, like Coca-Cola might be, elsewhere. It sounds revolting -- and looks a bit revolting, as well, as it’s all foamy and green. But it tasted ambrosial, couldn’t drink enough of it. That’s an example of collecting a memory, an experience, rather than a thing.
But, yes, do also sometimes collect a postcard from each city, or a backpacker’s badge. Normally, though, it’s not an official tourist postcard, but some small memento with a memory connected to it.
For example, spent one New Year’s Eve in Venice, the entire main square was filled with people toasting the new year, drinking wine and champagne, small bonfires, and a great fireworks display.
You’d make a toast and a wish for the new year, then when the bottle was finished, throw it on the cobblestones. If it broke, your wish would come true. Bohemian idea, very messy aftermath. Strangely delightful, though.
Now, it would be hard to explain to someone just why the champagne cork in your pocket is such a fascinating souvenir. Of course, though, if you were there that night, you’d know exactly why.
The cork isn’t the important thing, the memory is the important thing. But sometimes you just look at some bit of flotsam that has no significance to anyone but yourself, and just laugh. Or just cry. And so on.
5. Do any of these exciting places show up in your stories or are they for research only?
SS: Yes, the city of Venice, Italy was a strong inspiration for the scenes in the Floating City.
The complicated streets of the city, the regal and slightly spooky golden masks worn during the Venice Carnival, the pale green water, the air of sensual decay, those are all elements drawn from research, just walking around the streets of Venice, taking mental notes.
Have an idea about a book of short stories that would take place in Rome, Italy, as there were a lot of interesting places there that just seemed like they’d be a great background for a series of stories, but Venice was the only real-world city that seeped into the pages of Random Magic.
It has a strange, secretive character and was a bit hard to pin down on paper. It’s a charming city, but there’s an elusive quality, as well, almost as if the city really were enchanted and might vanish overnight. If Venice were a person, rather than a city, that person would be very intriguing.
6. Are you currently working on any other projects you would like to share with us?
SS: Always working on a new project, but wouldn’t want to discuss any of them in detail, because have found that when you talk about something, you usually end up not writing about it. Superstition, maybe. But, mostly, it really does work that way. If you talk about it, you won’t write it.
7. I have also discovered that you have a passion for music. Please tell us about your other talent.
SS: Music is wonderful. When you’re fully engaged in the process of creating music, that’s a really invigorating, happy kind of feeling, and gives you a natural buzz.
The project you’re referring to is a collaborative album that was recorded in Paris, France, which was a fascinating experience -- the city and the album!
All of the songs on the album have a specific story behind them. Actually, some of them sort of just showed up mid-way.
The song ‘Christiania’, specifically, just happened to show up out of nowhere. Had just been on a little road trip to Christiania, which was a sort of rogue city, almost. Very bohemian at the time.
The lyrics of the song are factual, they describe what the city is like, what the vibe is like, and even sound like the music you’d hear on any given weekend night in the city.
At least, all of these details were factual at the time. The Danish government has never really been pleased about having an autonomous city of bohemians just hanging around making merry, and since the album was released, has redoubled efforts to shut the city down.
It would be great to work on a new album, but have no plans to do it at present; can jot down lyrics or music for new tracks any time but it takes time and money to create an actual album.
Was it interesting, though, yes, very pleased with the way the album came out -- it was a huge amount of work but would gladly do it again.
The process itself was really satisfying, to start with a tiny thread of an idea and create something out of thin air.
Actually, making music is quite a lot like writing, because you’re still conjuring up specific images, emotions, thoughts, poetry, and so on.
The only real difference is that you’re working with sound (voice and instruments) rather than silence (text).
8. Lastly, please tell us about your favorite way to unwind after a long day of writing.
SS: Sleep! Writing is hard work, it can be really grueling and you do need to rest if you’ve been working steadily on something.
A languid soak in a hot bath, nice pot of tea, or escaping into a good book -- those are also options that work like a charm in restoring a bit of energy.
Actually, they work like a charm at any time, and any reason’s a good reason to treat yourself with a little kindness and consideration.
Sometimes you’re so involved in some particular project that you forget you’re only human, and do need to force yourself to rest -- just so that you can work for a longer period of time, and work more efficiently. Ironic, no?
Sasha, thank you for spending time with us today. Congratulations on Random Magic and much success to you in the future!
Want more Random Magic? Check out these posts...
Random Magic Book Trailer
The Garden of Muses
For more information about Sasha Soren and her work please visit her website.