Courtney Yasmineh is the author of the new novel A Girl Called Sidney. She is a singer-songwriter and rock musician.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for A Girl Called Sidney, and for the main character?
A: I ran away to the Northwoods as a teenager. I tried to write about my experience many times. Friends and fans of my music often told me I should write it down.
A memoir was my first thought but I wanted to take flight and say whatever came to me. I didn’t care about telling my life story, I cared about telling a great story. I was eventually able to get the character of Sidney to eclipse my own memories of myself.
Q: The book is set mostly in the Chicago area and in Northern Minnesota. How important is setting to you in your writing?
A: I like the expression that “geography is everything” and to some degree I concur. I am very drawn to certain places on this planet and those places are so unique that they can’t be replicated. The human experience in those places is dictated by the environment. I love places that impose themselves on your way of living.
Q: Did you know how you would end the novel before you started writing, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I knew the basic arc of the story that I had lived and I knew that I wanted to try to use the character of Sidney to tell more stories that feel profound to me, so I knew she had to get through this first adventure alive and with positive options ahead of her.
Q: You're also a musician--how do music and fiction-writing work together for you?
A: I have written songs on guitar since I was 10. I’ve been making up stories with a version of myself as the heroine for just as long. The two things are survival techniques inseparable to my being able to live in this world. And now the people who listen to my music are curious about my other writing forms so the two mediums I work in are enhancing each other.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am in Europe on a six-week small club tour, playing new material as well as songs from my current six-album body of work.
I am touring as a duo with my producer/drummer Rob Genadek and we have along a four-song EP that is a pre-release for a full-length album I hope to put out this fall.
I am writing a second novel about Sidney’s college and young 20s experience set in the Minneapolis First Avenue 1980s.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: You can find all my music and book appearance dates here.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb