1) What inspired you to write Sparkle’s Song?
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved writing and telling stories, but I never thought I would be a published author. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Maverick Publishing, kind of fell in my lap. Steve Bicknell, having seen "Map the Music," my documentary on the importance of music, reached out to me through email saying he was taken with my passion for music. He asked if I was interested in coming up with a children's story involving that passion, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. I have always been inspired by music, so the thought of creating a story about a little girl who felt the same way I do about it was very exciting for me.
2) How long did it take you to write the book?
I think I came up with the story in just a few hours. I added a lot of my own personal experience into the basic concept, so it really flowed from there. I believe that new or first time writers tend to write about what they know about. So the idea of a little girl suffering the loss of a loved one and using music as a way to find the light in the darkness...well it made sense to me. Thats exactly how I came up with my film as well. I lost my dad, and found solace in music. Of course the story went through many edits before it became what it is now, however. I think we went back and forth with rewrites for maybe a year or so.
3) What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
I always loved Where the Wild Things Are. I remember something magical about that book. The Witches by Ronald Dahl is another one. I liked the R.L. Stine Goosebumps series. And even as a kid I was reading Stephen King's books. I am so intrigued with darker stories and monster movies. Always have been.
4) Where did you come up with the character, Aunt Millicent?
Aunt Millicent embodies the idea of someone who is so full of love, but suffered a great loss and therefore closed herself off. I haven't thought about this before. Great question. Perhaps she represents what I could have become if I completely turned inward after losing my dad. She is what I didn't want to be. So in that case, it was even more important that Sparkle reach out to her to remind her that its ok to be happy again, and to continue on with life despite the sadness.
5) How did you meet the illustrator, Mariana Ruiz Johnson?
Once we had the story together Steve sent me example illustrations from three different artists, and asked which one I felt really captured the energy of the characters and the world they live in. All three were beautiful, but there was just something so right on about Mariana's work. When I saw her illustration of Sparkle for the first time I thought “That’s her! That is Sparkle." She took the notes I gave about how I envisioned her, and brought her to life. Her use of color, the way each instrument in the forest had a distinct personality... her work doesn't feel like a cartoon to me; it feels like art. Which really got my attention. I am a huge fan of hers.
6) What is your favorite song?
I have so many. And I have different favorites on different days. But the first song that ever truly moved me to tears is Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. It still gives me the chills each time I listen to it. I actually decided the have a yellow bird in the story as a reference to the song. In the song she talks about a "yellow bird flying" ... it’s very symbolic to me. Tori's music has been a huge part of my life since I was 12 years old. One of my first tattoos is of a yellow bird. Yellow bird is probably my favorite character in the book.
7) If you could play any instrument, what would it be? Why?
I always hear the strings in a piece of music first if there are any...Hands down it would be the cello. I think its mysterious, haunting, beautiful, dark, sexy....I could go on and on. I actually did play for about a year, but I realized I wasn't meant to make music. I was meant to appreciate it. So I am very lucky that I am able to make films about it.
8) Where can we purchase a copy of Sparkle’s Song?
The book is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com. I know Maverick is working hard on getting it in stores as well. That would be incredible!
Check out this wonderful video trailer Samantha is working on for Map the Music 2. It's all about the connection between music, people, and love!