Today I’m excited to have an interview with author Gail Strickland, author of Night of Pan, for the Curiosity Quills’ blog tour! The book is described below:
The slaughter of the Spartan Three Hundred at Thermopylae, Greece 480 BCE—when King Leonidas tried to stop the Persian army with only his elite guard—is well known. But just what did King Xerxes do after he defeated the Greeks?
Fifteen-year-old Thaleia is haunted by visions: roofs dripping blood, Athens burning. She tries to convince her best friend and all the villagers that she’s not crazy. The gods do speak to her.
And the gods have plans for this girl.
When Xerxes’ army of a million Persians marches straight to the mountain village Delphi to claim the Temple of Apollo’s treasures and sacred power, Thaleia’s gift may be her people’s last line of defense.
Her destiny may be to save Greece…
…but is one girl strong enough to stop an entire army?
- What got you into writing for teens instead of teaching music or musical theater?
Actually, I still teach piano and often volunteer for local musical theater. Just last week all my piano students dressed up as fairies, queens … one of my boys was a horse wearing a sombrero! Yes, I told him he had to take off the horse head before he performed so he could see the keys!
- Do you think your background in musical theater and music teaching translates well to writing YA?
Yes, I definitely do. Partly because I think I’ve learned how to really listen to young people. Not just a “pretend listen” as my daughter used to say. A deep hearing of what matters to them and what worries them and perhaps even what disconnects them from themselves, and they might not even know it. Thaleia, my fifteen-year-old Oracle of Delphi defies the priests who are trying to boss her around. She challenges their lies and deceits and says: You can’t kill the Song! And I happen to think she’s right. And what is the song? Thaleia tells us: “It is the gods’ song and the stars and sun and earth and wind. It is all of us.” I want my YA readers to understand what their own song is and to never let anyone kill it.
- Do you have a soundtrack or playlist for Night of Pan?
Oh, now you’re discovering my darkest secrets! I almost always start a day’s writing with Enya and sometimes move on to Tibetan Buddhist monks. Pretty strange, right? I need something that doesn’t interfere too much with the flow of my writing, so preferably without lyrics. Both those gave me just the right ethereal nudge.
- What is your favorite type of music?
I don’t think I have a favorite. I put on whatever suits my mood. I jump around from blues, to women who sing with a lot of heart. I love Corinne Bailey Rae, but I also love The Band and old John Lennon songs. Like I said, as long as it has heart. When I play piano for myself—my background is as a classical pianist—so it’s mostly Beethoven and Brahms and Debussy.
- Who would play you in the movie of your life?
The young Julie Christie. Did you see her in Dr. Zhivago? Al Pacino called her “the most poetic of all actresses.” Or Cameron Diaz, because she’s earthy and real.
- What is your favorite work of Homer?
The blind poet Homer was a wandering bard who lived around 850 BCE. The written word did not exist in ancient Greece at that time. Can you imagine singing by memory 15,000 lines of poetry all composed in a rhythm called dactylic hexameter? You couldn’t skip a line. You couldn’t skip a beat. Several hundred years later both The Iliad and The Odyssey, his only known works, were written down. I have a fondness for the wily Odysseus, the hero of The Odyssey.
- There will be obvious comparisons to Thaleia and Cassandra—do you think the two girls compare, and why or why not?
Such an interesting question! No one’s ever asked me that before. Cassandra and Thaleia both have profound visions and can prophesize the future, but no one will listen to them. This is true. However, in Cassandra’s case, no one would listen, because the god Apollo cursed her—the very god who first gave her the gift of prophecy to win her love. When she denied his advances, he cursed her: Though she could see into the future, no one would ever believe her. Cassandra must struggle with the knowledge that a god opposes her for all time.
Thaleia’s visions are a gift from the gods. It is a mortal man, the old priest Diokles, who convinces the villagers to not believe her. Knowing that if they believe her visions and the wisdom of her oracles, he will lose his power over the sacred center of the ancient world. However, Thaleia can fight back knowing that the gods are on her side.
- Who is your favorite contemporary YA author?
I couldn’t possibly choose just one. Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm Series is marvelous. John Green has an astounding way with words and understanding human nature. But perhaps the very top of my list is Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I’d have to say that in my opinion, that’s one of the best works written whether YA or adult.
- What words do you have for teens wanting to write?
Someone once said, and I’ve always taken it to heart: A writer is someone who writes. Please, do not believe that some magic day—say, you publish a book—that only then will you give yourself permission to say, “I am a writer.” There is no magic moment. If you write, then stand in front of a mirror and say, (as many times as it takes for you to believe yourself) “I am a writer.” If you write, because you love it. If you write from your heart and read it out loud to roll the words over your tongue and hear their rhythm … then re-write it. And re-write it again. You. Are. A. Writer.