Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview with Anna Sheehan, Author of A Long, Long Sleep

I'm very pleased, honored and excited* to present the first ever Bookish in a Box author interview!

(It's really more of a Q&A, but that's close enough, right?)

A Long, Long Sleep absolutely thrilled me (you can read my rave review here), and I knew I had to find out what was going on in the author's head while writing it. Since this is the first author interview I've done, I was incredibly nervous, but Anna Sheehan and my contact at Candlewick were very accommodating. Thanks to both of you for making this possible!

Without further ado:

Rumpelstiltskin is the first thing I thought of when I read the blurb on the back of A Long, Long Sleep. What inspired A Long, Long Sleep?

AS:  A Long Long Sleep was inspired as I had the thought that every parent has while chasing down an errant toddler – "If I could only put you on pause!" Of course, I’d never do such a thing, but I realized, there are people who would. And if so, what would that mean to the person who endured it? Of course, Sleeping Beauty did play a part. I always wondered how someone asleep for a century would reincorporate herself into a world that had moved on without her.
What kicks off your thought process? Did the 62 year/Sleeping Beauty element or the Plastine storyline (or some other part) of the story come first? 

AS:  Well, about the same time as I was chasing that toddler, I had the good fortune to hear a writer – the screenwriter Blake Snyder – mention the phrase, "Stasis equals death." This meant that if your protagonist does not change his or her situation than it might as well be death. But the phrase resonated, and the book sprang from that. The Plastine was an element that grew from the Bodyworlds exhibit – human corpses infused with plasticine and paraded around the world for entertainment and profit. It struck me as wholly amoral, akin to the Nazi’s who made buttons and soap out of human remains, so I took the concept a step further, and made that the antagonist. Really he’s a personification of the manipulation that Rose’s parents and that world has inflicted upon human beings. Rose was emotionally created by her parents. Otto was twisted by UniCorp. The Plastine is an extension of that manipulation of man.
I really enjoyed all of the little futuristic tidbits that you placed throughout the story—the notescreens, the hover skiffs, the NeoFusion batteries. It reminds me a lot of Ray Bradbury’s work, with the heavy focus on humanity in an alien setting. What made you decide to incorporate the science fiction element?

AS:  Thank you – being compared to Ray Bradbury is one of the highest compliments I’ve received so far. The sci-fi stuff came naturally from the stasis. My choices, given the circumstances, were either sci-fi tech or fantasy magic, and frankly, Sleeping Beauty has had magic versions all over the place. I didn’t really want to tell Sleeping Beauty, exactly, but I wanted a story that echoed the concept of a faerie tale without actually being a retelling of one. The science-fiction element that I have is intentionally light – Rose isn’t a physicist or a military strategist or a world leader. She’s a privileged high-school student who loves to paint. The state of the general world technology wouldn’t interest her. The sequel we are planning has a more direct look at some of the technology of this world, because it’s more important to the main characters in that story than it is in this one. In a first-person character-centric novel, the focus has to be on what the character herself would see, not on what a sci-fi buff would look for in a futuristic setting.
After the Dark Times, things improved for everyone, because "there weren’t enough people left to waste." Do you think that the human race needs a wake-up call that big to get our attention or are we redeemable before we reach that point?

AS:  I don’t know. This vision of a golden-time following a dark-time isn’t a new one. I took it from The Great Wave, Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History by David Hackett Fisher, an economist. What tends to happen is that society comes to a breaking point, hovers there until a crisis occurs, breaks, falls, and then stabilizes. That’s where Rose wakes up, at the start of that stable period. As for whether or not human beings are redeemable... human beings aren’t societies. It’s like trying to determine the difference between a glass of water and an ocean. Can you purify a contaminated glass of water? Certainly – usually you can just boil it. Can you boil the sea? Well, you shouldn’t even try. Almost all people are redeemable, bar complete sociopaths (and some of them can at least be trained to behave.) Whether or not all people can or will do it at once is a question I’m not prepared to be responsible for.
When was the moment that you realized "This is it. I did it. I’m an author!"? What was it like?

AS:  It actually happened twice. The first time was when one of my short stories was published in an anthology (The Pen and the Key, for anyone who’s curious) alongside authors such as Anne Rule, J.A. Jance and Terry Brooks. Wow, I thought. There’s my name, right alongside them. But there was a significant gap between then and my first published novel, so I was beginning to doubt myself. Then the book sold, sold again in Brazil, went to a five way bidding war in Germany, and I thought – okay. I’m definitely an author. What was it like? Satisfying. I’d been at it for a long time.
And just for fun: A person from the future comes to you and offers you a trip to any time and place of your choosing. You’re allowed to bring one thing with you. Where/when do you go and what do you take?

AS:  Awh! Can’t I just go to Faerie, instead? I’d love to see what happens in the future, just because I haven’t been there. There’s another part that would like to see Elizabethan England, or tenth century Ireland. As for what I’d bring – I can’t even imagine that any of it would work. If I went to the past, a lifetime supply of asthma medication, as otherwise I’d be dead. In fact, bring me a pharmacy and a surgeon. For the future... goodness knows! As I said, I’d much rather be shunted sideways into Faerie.

What are your three favorite books of all time?

AS:  Oh, toughy. Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Josepha Sherman was my security blanket book for years, so I’ll have to go with that one. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the first thing I ever memorized, so I’ll have to go with that one, too. And can you be nice and just give me the entire collected works of Diana Wynne Jones? Because I don’t think I can pick and choose there. Diana’s works saved my life.

Anna, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Readers, do you want to win an ARC of A Long, Long Sleep? Check back tomorrow for a giveaway!

*It may or may not have taken me 12 hours from receiving Anna's email to actually finish reading it and reply because I was so excited, I couldn't sit still long enough to type anything coherent.


  1. I think we'd all love to go to Faerie! Really, the imagination is boundless when it comes to that place!

  2. Ha, I'd love to put my toddler on pause. In many senses of that.

  3. Great interview. I love the sci-fi take on a fairy tale!

  4. This interview only made me want to read the book even more. Thanks!

  5. Interesting choice of favorite books. Sadly I haven't gotten around to reading any of them.