Hey, everyone, and welcome to my tour stop on the Triple Threat Blog Tour for “Dance of Shadows”! Today, we’re talking to author Yelena Black about her influences when writing her debut, as well as the dance world in general and a whole lot more. So pull up a seat and get the popcorn, because these answers are quite interesting. I tried to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but there still might be one or two in there – you’ve been warned! Now, see how Black answers after the jump!
USAGI: Hey there, Yelena! Thanks for joining us today. Let’s get to the questions, shall we? Out of all of the contemporary YA elements to add to paranormal, I find it fascinating that you chose dance (specifically, ballet) to explore. Why choose ballet?
YELENA BLACK: I studied dance for many years and have always loved ballet. When I was coming up with the basic premise for the book, I was intrigued by the idea of taking that quality of the dance and stretching it into a story about legend and ritual, and about an otherwordly “mysterious element” carried through the centuries. I also grew up on classical music, and have always been fascinated by the legend surrounding Stravinsky and the premier of The Rite of Spring, when the audience supposedly went into fits upon hearing the opening sequence. Crazy, right? The idea that music and dance can elicit such an amazing response from people intrigued me, and one of the kernels for the plot of Dance of Shadows.
U: I think everyone who’s read the book so far can agree that this book has a very “Black Swan” feel to it, but less overtly sexual and more overtly paranormal. Was “Black Swan”, or the “Swan Lake” story influential to creating “Dance of Shadows”?
YB: I have always loved Swan Lake (particularly Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of it), and I thought the way it was woven throughout the Black Swan film was amazing. Certainly there are similarities between the film and Dance of Shadows, although I think you’re right to point out that Dance of Shadows is much more paranormal. I think Black Swan was a fantastic psychological exploration of a dancer-gone-mad, but that’s not what I am trying to do in Dance of Shadows—at least not primarily. But the world of dance provides such good fodder for storytelling that it’s hard NOT to write about it! Whether that be for a movie or for a novel.
U: Being a third-generation ballerina myself (though I quit as a child after a few classes), I know the stress one goes through trying to dance perfectly as ballet (specifically Russian ballet) demands. Is this a stressor you personally experienced at Vanessa’s age? Or one you wanted to explore, instead, as an observer?
YB: I was never as talented or as diligent a dancer as Vanessa, so it’s not experience that I used firsthand. But I was very hard on myself as a teenager and as a student, and I know what it’s like to have people expect certain things from you and struggle to live up to those expectations, and I definitely used those feelings to inspire Vanessa’s story.
U: You have eight tracks to create a soundtrack for this first book in your trilogy. Make them count. What are they?
YB: Sure! I’ll give you four classical and four contemporary:
1. Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mendelssohn): I love the light-yet-frantic quality of this piece. I can always hear the flutes from the orchestra in my ear, and the strings building up into a whirlwind of sound.
2. Tristesse (Chopin): When I used to take ballet class as a young girl, this is often what we did adagio barre or centre to in my classes. Adagio was always my favorite part of class because my strength lends itself to more controlled, melting movements than the petits allegros.
3. Habanera from Carmen (Georges Bizet): I love the spicy rhythm of this piece. Very flamenco in feel, and super sexy.
4. Summer from Four Seasons (Vivaldi): I’ve seen many different interpretations of that piece, from very modern to very classical. I like that it lends itself to different styles of ballet and it feels feverish and powerful.
5. All Around me (Flyleaf): I love any rock group with girl power, and Lacey Sturm’s voice is so unique and powerful. This is one of my favorite songs of theirs—a haunting, obsessive love song.
6. Dark Side (Kelly Clarkson): Can she do anything wrong? I love this song because we all have “dark sides”—especially some of the characters in Dance of Shadows!
7. The Only Exception (Paramore): Another band with a fantastic lead singer, Hayley Williams. I listed to this song while I was working on Dance of Shadows because I think, in many ways, Vanessa can relate to this feeling of loss about Margaret—and when she meets Zep, she thinks that he can truly be the one for her.
8. I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor Swift): This would be perfect for Vanessa once she finds out the truth about one of the characters …
U: Who was your favorite character to create for “Dance of Shadows”, other than Vanessa, and why? (Pick someone else, because your protagonist is an easy answer!)
YB: I loved writing Josef, the choreographer, and Blaine, who always made me laugh whenever I was having a rough day.
U: Finally, what is your message to the audience about or through “Dance of Shadows”?
YB: I hope that readers have fun, are scared, and fall in love with Vanessa as much as I have. I never thought about putting a particular “message” across in the book, but if there is one, I think it would be that family is the most important thing in the world … and don’t try to summon a demon!