First off, congrats! Pointe is a terrific first novel! Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for it?
BC: Thank you so much—I’m honored!
Pointe was initially a kidnapping story. I was inspired by the abduction of Steven Stayner in the 1970s, whose experience was later told in a TV movie called I Know My First Name Is Steven. I saw the movie when I was ten years old, and never stopped thinking of Steven, who was returned to his family after seven years in captivity. I wondered about the people who were close to him before he left—how their lives had changed because of the kidnapping and how they’d interact with him and process his story when he came back.
Why did you decide to use ballet as the backdrop for Theo’s story?
BC: The ballet came about because I used to dance (though I was a tapper who also took a few years of jazz lessons and a member of my high school dance team). I’ve taken several ballet lessons as an adult, and ballet is so difficult but beautiful—my favorite performing art to watch, for sure. Lucky for me, making Theo a dancer meant rewatching favorite dance movies and spending lots of time with the American Ballet Theatre’s online dictionary. Ballet is such a competitive, high-stakes world, and I knew that writing about a serious dancer would be a challenge, but that Theo’s professional aspirations would also add some needed tension to the story and provide some relief from the heavy Donovan storyline.
BC: Characters typically come to me before the plot, so I tend to think of what’s happening to them as just part of their lives, rather than issues. For me, I suppose the balance comes in working to flesh out the characters as much as possible so the reader feels invested in what’s happening to them. My editor really pushed me to take them beyond simple supporting characters, and it turns out none of them really had easy lives. But I don’t know anyone who isn’t dealing with several different problems at once, whether long- or short-term, so it felt realistic to write my characters that way, as well.
Were you hesitant to write a “dark” book? Why/why not?
BC: The book got a lot darker once I went through revisions with my editor, and, without giving too much away, there was a moment when I had to decide if I was willing to really go there. I was hesitant for several reasons—I thought some people would assume the story was autobiographical or that they’d believe I was depraved for writing about such dark topics. I got over that pretty quickly as I began rewriting because there wasn’t any other story to tell for Theo. And I think I would have been doing a disservice to readers to gloss over the darkest parts of her journey. Some teens have lived a very real version of that story, and I don’t think it sends a good message to decide certain narratives aren’t worth telling because they might make people uncomfortable.
If you don’t mind us asking, what’s next for you?
BC: I’m happy you asked! I’ve recently sold my second novel in a two-book deal. It’s called Little & Lion, and the story follows a sixteen-year-old girl living in Los Angeles, who is black American and part of a Jewish family. Her stepbrother has recently gone through a mental health crisis and she is dealing with the aftermath of that, along with finding unexpected love. It’s due out in spring 2017. I’m also thrilled to be contributing a short story to the upcoming anthology Summer Days & Summer Nights, which will be edited by Stephanie Perkins and published in summer 2016.
Thanks so much, Brandy!