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Interview with authors of The Sidewalk Artist

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Interview with authors of The Sidewalk Artist

Post Number:#1 by elleng
» 27 Jan 2008, 14:25

Interview with Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk, authors of The Sidewalk Artist
questions from ellen george

It was my pleasure to ask the talented authors of The Sidewalk Artist, Janice Kirk and Gina Buonaguro some questions about their work....

ellen - Ladies, as you know I am an uber fan of The Sidewalk Artist!

Gina and Janice - Many thanks for your enthusiasm and support!

ellen - How did the two of you form a writing team?

Janice and Gina - We met in a French class when Gina was living in Kingston, Ontario for a few years. We had to introduce each other to the class and discovered we were both interested in writing. So we started meeting after class to exchange our individual work. After about six months, Gina had an idea for a novel that Janice built so much upon that we decided to try writing it together. Our first experiment was so positive overall that we decided to give it another go with a second book.

ellen - Hoes does that work in terms of ideas and pen to paper? Who does what?

Gina and Janice - We talk a lot before any writing happens - about plot, characters, tone, etc. Then we assign each other tasks and go off individually to write sections or chapters. And then we go back and forth, exchanging drafts, from there. We almost never sit side by side together and write. Finally, we read everything aloud multiple times and thus come to agree on every word.

ellen - Can you tell us about The Sidewalk Artist? What was the inspiration for the book? How did you decide on the artist Raphaello?

Janice and Gina - Gina's original idea was a Bridget Jones-y travel story, and Janice insisted the guy our heroine met had to have an unusual occupation, so we came up with a sidewalk artist. Then we had to decide what he was drawing. Janice was working on that chapter and out of nowhere came up with Raphael's famous little cherubs. The book took off from there. One other unexpected twist in the plot arose when Janice wanted to write about Venice, her favorite city. Our original plan was to write about the places where Raphael lived or where his artwork was housed. But no paintings of his are in Venice and there is no evidence he ever even visited the city. But then we came across this little unknown church of the Archangel Raphael and the story went in another wonderful unexpected direction.

ellen - Did you travel to the book's locations? I never look at the Eiffel Tower without thinking of Raphael - or a gondolier, or red poppies...

Gina and Janice - One of us has been to every location in the novel except Urbino. We had to wing Urbino with the help of a video on Raphael from the library and a few guidebook entries. Certainly having been to these locations really helped us with the visual elements in the book.

ellen - Many book clubs have read your book - you have discussion questions for them - how did that evolve and what kind of questions are they - can you share a sample of them?

Janice and Gina - We received numerous emails requesting book club questions and so we formulated the questions around the elements of the book that intrigued us most as writers. Readers can find a list of book club qustions on our website:

ellen - So many fans all over the world! You were kind enough to be able to 'autograph' books for fans without leaving your door - by sending out autographed labels to be placed in the book - is that a plus for your fans who might not be near?

Gina and Janice - Absolutely! We really think it helps build a connection with any admirers of the book, for whom we are so grateful.

ellen - Would you like Artist to become a motion picture?

Janice and Gina - We'd love it!! We think it's a very visual book and a compelling plot and in fact wrote the chapters as 'scenes' in our own heads. We envision Johnny Depp playing Raphael - he'd be absolutely perfect!!! (are you listening Johnny??) (note from ellen - heavy sigh - Johnny please call me!)

ellen - You are at work on your second book - tell us about it -

Gina and Janice - Summer of Grace (tentative title), a story of family, love, humor, and betrayal, takes place in northern Italy during the summer following World War II. A Canadian woman married to a missing Italian resistance fighter meets an American soldier with a secret.

ellen - When do you think that it will be released?

Janice and Gina - St. Martin's Press, which also published The Sidewalk Artist, has slated publication for 2009. Visit our website for updates:

ellen - What is your responsibility as an author?

Gina and Janice - This is an interesting question for fiction writers. We don't know if it is a responsibility but we do hope our books have in some small way touched people's lives in a positive way. We see The Sidewalk Artist as a book about hope and new beginnings. When we receive emails from readers telling us The Sidewalk Artist helped them through some bleak times in their lives, we feel we have done something important.

ellen -- Who are the authors you read?

Janice and Gina - We each have our own favorite authors but the commonality between us is that we like plot-driven novels with complex characters and that don't end too bleakly. We like a bit of hope. A recent mutual favorite was Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

ellen - For those who want to publish, what is your advice?

Gina and Janice - First, write a good manuscript. Then it's about persistence and networking. Meet other writers, be bold enough to ask them for contacts with agents, don't get discouraged by copious rejections, and never give up (we realize this is much easier said than done). We heard Steven King's first novel received 130 rejections - we vowed not to be discouraged until rejection letter number 131. Luckily, we didn't get that many, but it felt sometimes like we were getting close.

ellen - Is it hard to get a book published?

Janice and Gina - Yes, Even after we got our agent, it took him a year to sell the manuscript. It's a tough market out there and getting tougher as the pool of readers seems to be shrinking while the number of books being published by already established authors seems to be growing.

ellen - What would you say to a person reading this that has a story in them?

Gina and Janice - Write it down, then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Having a coauthor - or at least a trusted friend with an honest editorial eye - can be invaluable.

ellen - What's next for you?

Janice and Gina - After we finish our second novel, we plan to take a short break and then start on our third. Our third novel may take us back to the Renaissance.

ellen - How can people contact you? Website?

Gina and Janice - The best place to contact us is by emailing us at And of course please visit our website for updates and other information:

ellen - Ladies, anything you would like to say in parting?

Janice and Gina - The Sidewalk Artist is coming out in paperback form in April 2008. Please visit our website for updates and check Amazon and your local bookstore in the spring. And as always, thanks for your support!

ellen - Many thanks Ladies! Every success!

Review of The Sidewalk Artist is on this site.

ellen george
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