Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sleep Before Evening by Magdalena Ball

Tell us the book title and your author name.

Sleep Before Evening by Magdalena Ball

What inspired the book?

The book was originally inspired some years ago when I first read Walter Pater’s The Renaissance and wanted to write about the whole idea of the way creative art, and an almost forced stance of seeing the beauty that surrounds us, gives life meaning. But the more immediate inspiration came from my children, and the big life change that moving into motherhood created in me. I wanted to write about motherhood and the whole idea of the mother child relationship. There are plenty of examples of bad parenting in this book, but overall, I think that there’s a kind of growth that occurs in all of the characters as they move towards self-actualisation.

What makes this book special to you?

Like any first novel, the book was created in a kind of secret – in moments snatched from all those other activities that we have a mandate for, and for me, I almost think of this as something I’ve been moving towards for several decades. It contains so much blood – so much struggle to say something more than what I was capable of saying in day to day prose/conversations. I feel like I’ve actually created a kind of language for myself and broken through an aphasia I’d been struggling with.

What makes this a book that other people MUST read and WHY?

Well of course no one must read it – it’s just another novel in a world full of novels after all. But let me say this. From everything that everyone who reads it has told me to date, the novel is a nice mixture between deep and literary, and accessible and fast paced. So if you’re looking for some easy to read entertainment, you’ll find it my book. If you’re looking for a serious novel with transcendence and a significant theme that touches on a range of things like how we create meaning in our lives, the nature of families, truth, beauty and art, then you’ll find it in my book. It is often intense, but I think for most readers, will be a powerful, positive read.

What people NEED to read this book and WHY?

Because the wonderful reviewer Cathy Biribauer of Rose and Thorn ( said this: “Magdalena Ball demonstrates her mastery of the musicality of language and many scenes are imbued with striking imagery…As the drama coils tighter and tighter, it is this quality of writing that keeps the reader utterly glued. As Marianne struggles with her demons and we almost hold our breath as she nears her eighteenth birthday, Magdalena Ball's Sleep Before Evening shows us that in order to find yourself, you sometimes have to lose yourself first.”

What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

My creativity is sparked by my wonderful (and often challenging) family who never let me rest on my laurels or take anything for granted. I mean that in the most positive sense. I’m also constantly being inspired creatively by the amazing books I’m lucky to get my greedy little hands on. Other people’s words inspire me always, in whatever context I hear them. So do other people’s art, music, endeavours. My tips for others is to a) always keep that childlike sense of wonder at the world – sometimes you have to take a forced stance, but after a while it comes naturally. Also, to listen. There are stories everywhere you look and everyone has one.

What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

Time always. There’s never enough. There never will be enough. You have to find ways. Don’t let that four letter word stop you. You never will have more time than you do right now. Just get on with it – a tiny bit at a time always moving forward (while looking back).

What do you think motivates people to become authors? What motivated you to get into this unusual industry?

My publisher calls it ‘hopeville’. It surely can’t be money unless you’re under an illusion! I think it’s simply that you’re the kind of person who takes great pleasure in using words to define your world. I’m a word girl. I have to work with words, either reading or writing. If I were more musical or had more of an eye for imagery, I might find another medium. I think everyone needs some form of artistic release though. To decide to have it as a vocation takes a fair amount of stubborn tenacity along with the love of words.

Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote any books?

I haven’t done anything too unusual, but I did make a big pot of “quark soup” once to promote my poetry book Quark Soup. Of course it wasn’t made with those theoretical particles which were present in the early days of the universe, but rather that lovely, low fat cheese you get all over Germany. It made me feel like a kind of Earth witch, stirring my caldron and feeding my readers both literally and metaphorically.

FICTION - If there is a setting, tell us how you decided on that setting and what you did to create a complete and vivid setting for your readers?

The setting is more or less real in my novel. I lived in Long Beach, Long Island in 1982, and since I was a similar age to my protagonist when I was there, it seemed right to have the setting/time and place align with that – it just made it easier for me to get these things right. I was able to map the real with the fictional to create a setting (and situations) that people tell me have a high degree of verisimilitude. But of course there were many mistakes in my first draft. To make it complete and vivid, I did a few things – one of which was to get a great reader who lived there to point out what was incorrect. Another was to create a big town map, using real, and home-made elements so that I was able to trace the roads my character walked on, working out the timings and other things. It wasn’t always easy though, especially since much of the information had to be accurate for the 80s rather than today. I live in fear of someone telling me that I’ve got some detail of the Subway ride wrong or missed a critical street. But I think that most readers will find it fairly realistic and complete.

FICTION - What inspires you about the hero or heroine in your book? What makes them memorable for the reader? What motivates the hero and/or heroine? You can include information about both if you want.

The heroine, Marianne, is a self-contained character and I like the way she moves in and out of control, and the way she has to traverse the line between allowing herself to be creative and feel great passion, without losing control of her body and life. It’s a struggle she has to overcome. Sleep is definitely character oriented fiction, and the whole story grows out of the heroine, who manages to create her own mayhem out of almost nothing and then falls to the worst possible low. Then, again, with nothing but her own instinct and desires, she pulls herself back up. I like the mother daughter dynamics and I think that it’s one of the key things that drives the action forward. I think many people will recognise my heroine – she’s like every teenager, suddenly questioning who she is and why she has always done the things she’s done. Her home life is both wonderful and horrible, and similarly the world she enters. But always, the motivation for all the characters in this book who grow is a kind of self-actualisation.

FICTION - Is there a villain or something that causes friction in your story? Tell us about what or who it is and how that contributes to the story. Any details about conflict and friction is good information to know.

The sexy harmonica player Miles is the villain. He whispers in my heroine’s ear and provides her with the tools of self-destruction, but in some way, he also opens a door that remains open. Most of the conflict occurs within the heroine, but the good looking musician is always there, tempting her with the wrong music.

Thanks Nikki! The book can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles. For more information and to view the book trailer and reviews, visit:



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