Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interview with Irish Dance Writer Rod Vick

I first read Rod Vick's work in the form of a serial story called "The Irish Witch's Dress."  I was impressed with his storytelling ability and the way he wove Irish dance into an adventure.  Because I am interested in doing the same with my writing, naturally, I wanted to read more.  Rod was kind enough to grant me an interview. 

What inspired you to write your first book?

The first Kaylee book was inspired by my daughter, Haley’s, love of Irish dance. We noticed there really weren’t books out there with Irish dancer characters, and so I thought about writing one. I actually outlined eight in case people liked the first. They did, and so I wrote Green Storm, Fire & Metal and the rest. In each book, Kaylee gets a year older and faces different challenges related to dance and growing up. I should note that these are fiction and do not tell the story of my own daughter’s dance career. However, I think the conflicts faced by Kaylee resonate with dancers and non-dancers alike.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

As with all art, I think there are messages the author has in mind, and there are messages that the reader constructs on his or her own. As in real life, messages are sometimes Big Idea messages, and sometimes very subtle. The major message in Kaylee’s Choice is that making choices is hard. We reach a certain age and realize that we can’t have it all, that some things have to be sacrificed for others. At one time my own daughter was taking piano, viola, flute, dance and gymnastics classes as well as playing softball. Eventually, she had to decide what to keep on her plate, because the time commitment increases as you become more competent and passionate about something. There are lots of little messages in Kaylee’s Choice, too, regarding friendship, adult-child relationships, cruelty, money, finding life’s passions, etc. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if readers find others as well.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

As I mentioned before, they don’t tell my daughter’s story, but they’re a pastiche of what I’ve observed dancers and adolescents going through as they grow toward adulthood. The second book, Green Storm, finds Kaylee dealing with the heartbreak of a broken leg right before her first dance competition. In the third, Fire & Metal, Kaylee’s parents are forced to move after Mr. O’Shay loses his job, and that’s traumatic for her because of the friends she will lose, as well as having to leave her dance school. In Christmas in Ireland, Kaylee’s favorite aunt becomes seriously ill. We all face issues similar to these, and Kaylee’s role is to guide us through her singular experiences with them.

Do you see writing as a career?

I see writing mostly as a passion, whether one does it as a vocation or an avocation. You’ve got to love it on some level. Most writers don’t make a particularly good living. According to Writer’s Digest Magazine, 92% of the books published in 2004 sold 99 copies or fewer. The average book published in the United States sells 250 copies in a year. That’s not going to put the kids through college or build that winter home in Boca Raton. Personally, I hold down a day job as a writing instructor. I love that as much as I do the writing process. The Kaylee books do well, but until Disney options the movie rights, I’ll hold onto my day job.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I’m working on my third serialized novel for Feis America Magazine. It will begin in their November-December issue as is titled “The Day the Feis Stood Still.” It’s about an Irish dance competition (a feis—pronounced FESH) being held in the 40th-floor ballroom of an old Chicago hotel. The police arrive and tell the 400 dancers and their parents that there’s an emergency on the lower floors and that they’ll have to stay put for the time being. No stairs, no elevators. But the police are vague about the nature of the emergency. One dancer, Maddie, and her friend, Elle, become suspicious and brainstorm a way off the 40th floor so that they can find out what’s really going on. I’m also working on a CD coming out in the fall, called “The Haunted Island Feis.” I’ll also have another novel, The Irish Witch’s Dress, coming out in paperback in October.

Where can a reader purchase your books?

An easy way to do so is to go directly to my web site,

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I’ll toss out the three big principles I tell my students: DJTUSU (Don’t Just Tell Us, Show Us), Get out of the box, and Writing is rewriting. And here’s another: If you really want to write, you’ve got to make time to write. You can’t just do it when everything else is done for the day. A person who says, “I’ll write from 8 to 10 p.m. every night” will accomplish far more than the person who says, “I’ll write if I get time.” Writing is like dieting: If you only do it when it’s convenient, you don’t lose a heck of a lot of weight.

What inspires you to write and why?

We live in a beautiful, amazing world, and I think it’s fun to turn our imaginations loose on that world and say, “What if…?” I also like the idea of being able to hold a finished book in my hand and say, “I did this!” It’s the culmination of an amazing creative process. And for whatever reason, I NEVER get writer’s block. The seven Kaylee books, plus Dance of the Third-string Quarterback, plus the serialized novels The Irish Witch’s Dress and Irish Dancer in the Oval Office were all written in the span of about four years. But the most wonderful inspiration is when readers come up to me at Irish dance competitions and say, “I loved your book!”


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