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Interview: Glen Strathy, Author of Dancing on the Inside

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Growing up an incredibly shy child, Glen Strathy began writing stories at the age of 11.  Later he went on to discover acting in community theatre, where he was fortunate enough to meet other writers, actors, dancers, and artists.  Being part of the performing arts gave Mr. Strathy the realization that expressing oneself through the various forms of creative art gives a person the freedom to be who they really are and who they want to be.

After various career endeavors such as acting, teaching, and freelance writing, Mr. Strathy returned to his first love, writing fiction. The result of this is his first novel for children ages 9 to 12, Dancing on the Inside. Glen Strathy has also co-authored two non-fiction books, one of which, The Coming Economic Collapse, was a New York Times Bestselling Business Book. Mr. Strathy also belongs to the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  

On the education front, Glen Strathy earned a M.A. in English from the University of Western Ontario, as well as going on to graduate from the Artist in Community Education program at Queen’s University, Kingston.

Mr. Strathy resides in Kingston, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Kaitlin Rainey who is also an author, and their daughter. Readers can learn more about Glen Strathy and his works by visiting his website, Facebook and Twitter.  Mr. Strathy also has a website which provides advice and information for budding authors.

Please tell us a bit about your book and what you hope readers take away from reading it.

Dancing on the Inside tells the story of Jenny Spark, a 12-year-old girl who’s so self-conscious she can’t take a ballet class without getting a panic attack. And that’s unfortunate, because she has a burning passion for ballet and – as her teacher discovers – a real gift for inventing choreography. How she manages to realize her dream despite her fear is a story I hope will inspire other girls to pursue their ambitions.

Who are your favorite characters in the story?

Naturally, I have a special love for Jenny, since she’s my heroine. But I also love Ara, a girl who is very much Jenny’s opposite – outgoing, impulsive, and unabashed. In Ara’s case, it’s her lack of self-consciousness that has held her back, even though she has a real talent, especially for improvisation.

Another character who I would like to have done more with is Robyn, a girl with a real talent for martial arts who is forced to take ballet instead – something she has no talent for.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?

Here’s one section I like because it shows Jenny’s thinking. At this point in the story, Ara has asked Jenny for help winning a part in the dance recital and Veronique, another student, is her main competition:

Ara, when she danced her way, was all spontaneity and surprise. She excelled at allegro — fast movements that she could throw herself into (sometimes a little too literally). She was as fluid and thrilling to watch as the otters Jenny used to see playing along the frozen shore of the lake by her old home. Veronique, on the other hand, danced with the mechanical precision of a music box doll. Her strength lay in adagio, slow, precise, graceful movements that required intense concentration, strength, and balance. Both girls were great in their own way.

So far, Jenny had focused on helping Ara develop Veronique’s level of precision and control. But if Ara lost the enthusiasm that made her great, would she be better or worse in the end? How could one dancer become like the other without losing the thing that made her great on her own?

If your current release were to be turned into a movie, who would you love to see play what characters and why?

When I was writing the book, I imagined Jenny being played by someone like Dakota Fanning, Sarah Polley, or Evanna Lynch. Unfortunately, they’re all too old for the role now. If a film were ever made, I would hope Jenny would be played by a girl who can convey a blend of of precocious intelligence and insecurity.

What are your favorite aspects of writing?

It’s wonderful to put myself into the kind of focused state of mind that writing requires. Even better to hear positive feedback from readers.

Your least favorite aspects of writing?

Writing can be lonely work. It’s just you in a room with a computer, trying hard not to look at the internet.

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

Considering that I wrote a book about ballet for girls, and that I have a Master’s degree in literature, you might be surprised that my favorite books as a child were science fiction and fantasy. Among my all-time favorites today, I would include Ursula K. Le Guin’s book, Always Coming Home, the Harry Potter Series, and Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker (though that’s definitely not a kid’s book).

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Night Circus at the moment.

If you could have a dinner party and invite five authors — dead or alive — who would they be and what would you serve them?

Choosing the menu is the easy part. With literary types, you’re usually safest with wine, cheese, crackers, and assorted hors d’oeurves – stuff you can nibble as you mingle. As for the guest list, my “must haves” would be Shakespeare and Leonard Cohen. For the remainder, depending on who is available, I might choose J.K. Rowling, Ursula K Le Guin, Dorothy Parker, Margaret Atwood, or Douglas Adams.

What is a book that you wish you could say that you had written and why?

I’d like to say the Bible, because the royalties would be phenomenal and I could go around telling everyone who has an opinion on it that they’re wrong. But that might get me into trouble. So instead, I’ll say Plato’s dialogues, because they are the foundation of Western philosophy and civilization.

What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?

When I was a young man, a friend of mine had a poster that said “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for.” I have no idea who wrote it, but I have always loved it.

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