Christine Dadey’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Houston for her to attend the prestigious Rousseau Academy of Dance. Now, two years later, Christine struggles to compete among the Academy’s finest dancers, her parents are on the brink of divorce, and she’s told no one about her debilitating performance anxiety and what she’s willing to do to cope with it. Erik was a ballet prodigy, a savant, destined to be a star on the world’s stage, but a suspicious fire left Erik’s face horribly disfigured. Now, a lonely phantom forced to keep his scars hidden, he spends his nights haunting the theater halls, mourning all he’s lost. Then, from behind the curtain he sees the lovely Christine. The moldable, malleable Christine. Drawn in by Erik’s unwavering confidence, Christine allows herself to believe Erik’s declarations that he can transform her into the dancer she longs to be. But Christine’s hope of achieving her dreams may be her undoing when she learns Erik is not everything he claims. And before long, Erik’s shadowy past jeopardizes Christine’s unstable present as his obsession with her becomes hopelessly entangled with his plans for revenge
I'm currently elbow deep in Phantom's Dance, so I was thrilled that author Lesa Howard agreed to do an interview!
Phantom's Dance is has plenty of ballet jargon. What is your background in dance?
I knew what a pirouette was, and that was about it. So I spent tons of time doing research. Watched documentaries and movies, a reality show about ballerinas, and bought the book Ballet for Dummies. But what helped the most was connecting with a former ballerina, now an instructor at the Houston Ballet. For the two years I worked on Phantom’s Dance, I must have emailed her with some of the dumbest questions. But she was patient and I couldn’t have done it without her.
Where did you draw inspiration to write Phantom's Dance?
I’ve always loved the Phantom of the Opera, in all its incarnations, from the original Gaston Leroux novel to the corny rock opera Phantom of the Paradise and the fabulous Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. I enjoy each unique spin on the story.
What helps you to prepare to write?
Daydreaming! I’m super good at it. Once, as I stood in line at the grocery store and the cashier scanned my things, she talked to me, sharing the events of her day. At one point I realized I had not heard a word she said because I was running through a troublesome scene in my head! I was mortified and soooo glad she didn’t know I’d just zoned out on her. Too rude. But I can’t always help it. It just happens.
What is your favorite genre to read?
I honestly can’t answer that. I read pretty much anything. All that matters to me is a good story. It would probably be easier to say what I don’t like— westerns, dystopian, and erotica.
What is the most difficult part of the writing process?
The first draft. It’s in my head, but it’s like chiseling granite to get it out and onto paper. Once I’ve got the first draft down the fun part begins—revising and editing. That’s when I get to add the emotion and drama.
What are the pros and cons of publishing Phantom's Dance independently?
Definitely the lack of exposure. It’s very hard to keep it out there in front of readers because there are so many books available to choose from. Plus, every minute I spend on self-promotion is one not spent on writing.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m a writer with a nonprofit organization in Houston called Writers In The Schools. As a writer, I am placed in residencies in Houston area schools where I’m paired with classroom teachers to share my experience as a professional writer and together we work to enhance the children’s reading and writing experience. It’s an awesome gig. All that creative writing! And at the end of a residency, the children get a published anthology of their work.
What advice could you give aspiring writers?
Grow a tough skin. I’m talking alligator hide, for a lot of different reasons. The most obvious being all the rejection, but then there’s your willingness to be exposed, truly exposed, from the inside out, because more often than not, that’s how it feels. So toughen up.
If you won a weekend getaway, would you choose a tropical island, a cabin in the mountains, a ranch house, or a luxury apartment in a big city?
Tropical island with a fruit-juicy drink served in a hollowed out pineapple!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m working on a coming-of-age YA set in the mid 70s. Here’s my working pitch and title.
It’s the me decade and Raynor Davison, a young man born with a sense of entitlement as big as the truck he drives, is all about the me in that phrase. It’s also the decade to see the first International Women’s Year, and Holly Galloway is coming of age at a time more choices are available to women than ever before. In this bittersweet love story, neither Raynor nor Holly is prepared for the fact that having more choices doesn’t necessarily mean making the right ones.
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