My friend Allison recently interviewed me for her blog http://thebudgetmaven.com/. She had some really unique and fun questions, as well as a giveaway, which is still going on. So without further ado, I give you Allison and me...
A lost fortune, a scandalous past, and a broken heart. It’s the perfect storm for former belle of the ball, Constance Cavendish. Now broke, Constance is forced to work for the same man who jilted her years before in order to provide for her family. Like Gossip Girl in petticoats, Love in Three-Quarter Time delivers all the drama, romance, and poignancy readers have come to expect from author, Dina Sleiman. Dina joins us today on The Budget Maven to discuss the writing process, her feisty characters, and her upcoming contemporary novel.
Both Love in Three-Quarter Time and your debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion, feature female characters who are fiery, passionate, and free-spirited despite living in a time period when these qualities were seen as quite scandalous. Did you find it hard to navigate these characters around their more demure cultural standards?
That’s an interesting question. I personally get tired of bland vanilla heroines quickly. InDance of the Dandelion, the main character was a peasant, and therefore not expected to live up to all the cultural niceties. In addition, the medieval period was a lustier and grittier time. However, when I switched to a society girl in the Regency Era, I knew the expectations would be different, and so I played with that. Here is a girl who thinks her fiery nature got her into trouble, and so she is repressing it in the beginning of the book. Much of the story is about her finding her true self again and learning to direct those passions toward God. I think that many young Christian women today, especially in more conservative denominations, still deal with the same struggle of thinking they have to repress their true God-given natures. That’s just not true.
Going into Love in Three-Quarter Time what was the research process like?
From a research stance, this was probably the easiest book I’ve written so far. I knew a lot about American history already, and there was plenty of information available about Virginia in the 1800s. The medievals are much harder, and even my contemporary novel required a lot of research into cultural topics and current events. I took a research trip to Charlottesville and Monticello to nail down some of the final details. It was a pleasant three-hour drive from my house, and I really enjoyed it. The area was just how I pictured it in my head. I found a plantation house called Birdwood Pavilion similar to my White Willow Hall exactly where I needed it.
Were there any surprises for your characters that you didn’t see coming initially?
Usually pretty early on in the process I can see the book through clearly until the end, then it is just a matter of trying to type down everything in my head before I lose it. But the minor characters tend to surprise me by really coming alive during the writing process. Sissy and Martha, two young slave women in the book, were characters that caught me off guard by how real they became and how much they added to the story. And Mrs. Beaumont and the twins turned out to be much funnier than I anticipated.
What three songs would be at the top of Constance’s iPod playlist if she taught dance today?
Hmm…I think if she taught dance today she’d probably like cutting-edge music. Think about it, waltz was very cutting-edge in its day. Beyond that, I guess it would depend on whether this is Constance at the beginning or the end of the book. By the end of the book, I think she’d like some cool but spiritual Christian rock. Something with a driving beat like she danced to at the Indian village. So maybe “Lost in You” by Red, “All Around Me” by Flyleaf, and “Never Alone” by BarlowGirl.
Which of your Love in Three-Quarter Time characters are you most like?
I’m kind of a mix of Constance and her sister Patience. I relate with Constance in her love of dance, nature, and that passionate part of her personality. But I also relate with Patience’s academic and scientific side. Overall, I think the Constance at the end of the novel is pretty similar to me, except that I’m not as outgoing as Constance.
For other writers out there, how did the process for writing this book differ from the process for writing your first novel, Dance of the Dandelion?
Love in Three-Quarter Time is the third of four novels I’ve written. And it was the only one I wrote during National Novel Writing Month. I had a solid first draft done in six weeks. I loved just spilling the words on the page without much thought to editing. That process worked really well for me. I hoped I could repeat it with novel number four, but because I kept stopping to edit and write the proposal and synopsis and what not, my creative juices got stopped up a few times along the way, and it ended up taking over four months.
How do you develop such distinct, realistic personalities in your male characters without making them stereotypes?
I actually have a secret for that. At first I have to wait for the characters to sort of pop to life in my head so that I can get to know them. Once they do, I assign them a Myers-Briggs personality type. For the rest of the book, I use that type to keep them on track. It’s especially helpful for a book like this with three men who have points of view. This way I’m able to keep each one distinct.
What would Constance order at Starbucks?
Something spicy for sure and fun. I’m thinking a cappuccino with pumpkin spice or peppermint flavoring.
One of the many things I love about your novels is the way you so organically weave aspects of faith into your storylines without being preachy or corny. Is that a conscious choice you make as you write each scene, or is it something that just sort of happens?
I have a theory that the more realistic your characters are, the more they have flaws and the more they struggle, the more you earn the right to include a strong spiritual message. I also focus on making the message about an authentic relationship with God and not about morality or religiosity. In this book I actually have Constance studying the Bible for the first time in her life. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but I think her honest struggles and questions with the text ended up really bringing it to life. And I have a lengthy spiritual discussion between her and Lorimer. I was waiting for an editor to tell me to cut it, but I think the unexpected turns in the conversation kept it fresh and vibrant.
If Dandelion Dering (from Dance of the Dandelion) were to meet Constance Cavendish (from Love in Three-Quarter Time), would they get along? What advice would Dandy give to Constance?
Ha ha! That’s an awesome question. I would have to say it would depend on which points in their journeys they met. If they were both fifteen, they would have hated each other. Dandelion would have been painfully jealous of Constance’s pampered lifestyle. She would have related with Constance’s slaves and resented her. Constance on the other hand, would have disdained the grubby peasant girl and been threatened by Dandelion’s beauty. But, by the end of their journeys in their twenties, they would have become fast friends. They would have seen true followers of Christ with similar passionate hearts and a shared love of beauty, music, dance, and nature.
Tell us about your newest project.
My new novel coming out in November will be something really different. It was actually the second book I wrote, and the subject is very close to my heart. Dance from Deep Within is a contemporary novel about three returning college students who meet over a project and become fast friends. They come from vastly different cultures: a veiled Muslim woman, a blonde Christian ballerina, and a bi-racial hippie chick. My husband is from the Middle East, and I always wanted to write a story about a Muslim girl. After this one, I’ll probably be returning to my historical roots with a young adult medieval novel.
A big thank you to Dina for stopping by The Budget Maven today. One lucky reader will win their very own ebook copy of Love in Three-Quarter Time. All you have to do is follow Dina on Facebook, twitter, or Pinterest. Just make sure to comment (on Allison's original post, click here ) that you’ve done so (extra entries if you do all three)…and feel free to ask Dina any questions or leave her a nice comment below as well. **Giveaway will be open until Sunday, September 22nd, 2013. Winner announced Monday, September 23rd, 2013.**