Q: How did you come up with the idea for Sing Like No One's Listening, and for your character Nettie?
A: Before I was an author, I was a performer in the West End (which I guess would be London’s version of Broadway). I’ve always been fascinated by the drama school world, especially having seen it from both sides, first as a student and then as a teacher.
The inspiration was partly from my own experience at performing arts college, and partly from a period I went through during my career as a musical theatre performer in the West End when I developed terrible stage fright.
With Nettie I wanted to explore the idea of what happens when you lose your voice, and how you go about finding yourself again when you feel lost and powerless.
Q: Can you say more about how much you drew on your own acting experiences in shaping the novel?
A: I initially drew on my own experience a lot, although the story kind of became its own thing very quickly.
The college setting of Duke’s Performing Arts was inspired by my time at theatre school, when everything was so exciting and possibilities were endless, but I was still unsure about who I was, both as a performer and a person. I loved writing about that time at college when everyone’s working themselves out and finding their feet.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: It changed so much! At one point I was completely stuck with the logistics of the ending (the plot is quite complex towards the end), and I can remember going into my writing class one week with a stack of paper, each sheet with the title of a different scene from the book jotted down on it. I spread them all over the floor and the group helped me find a way through to the last chapter.
It ended up very different from how I first envisioned it!
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope they come away uplifted, feeling inspired to believe in themselves, to trust in their talents and to keep the faith that they can succeed, even when things get tough. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you have a lot to offer the world.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m editing the sequel, Dance Like No One’s Watching, for its UK publication, which is soon. I’m also working on a historical fiction, set in Restoration London, and a new YA love story. And I’m also working on a screenplay.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Two of the main characters, Fletch and Luca, are named after my neighbors’ dogs!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb