Hi, there! You may remember me: I’m Sophie from @mindofabookdragon (Instagram) and a blogger at The Mind of a Book Dragon! I had the chance to sit down with Cecilia Vinesse recently at her event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL. I had had the chance to read her debut novel, Seven Days of You, before the event and I absolutely loved it! It’s full of firsts, lasts and figuring out how to say goodbye to a place you call home. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something light and fun.
Cecilia Vinesse: Hi! Oh my, something that isn’t in my bio. Hmm, let me think about this. I was a really, really big musical theater person for a really long time. I had the all original cast albums of different shows, and I had all the lines memorized. I used to, this is embarrassing, I’m sharing something embarrassing, I used to, when my family was out of the house, we used to have this really steep set of stairs so I would play the music really loud and I would sing it at the top of the stairs like I was in a production of the show. I really thought that was what I wanted to do, like I really thought that was—for a large portion of my teen years that was my dream, but then I realized I’m actually really nervous in front of crowds and that I like telling big stories, but maybe in a quieter way. So slowly over the years all of my Broadway posters came down off the wall. I still like it but not in the same obsessive way that I used to.
S: Oh, that’s so cool! What was your favorite musical?
CV: Well, I came of age in sort of the Wicked time so that was, I think, when I really fell in love with them. I think, in a way, it’s not too far from YA, right? Like, it’s two young girls who want to be friends but are enemies and don’t like getting to know each other growing up. I think there’s some common ground.
CV: Yeah, definitely! That was definitely a big influence. I don’t have a dissimilar biography from Sophia where I’m half French and I’m half British—she’s half American, half French. I moved to the States when I was little and I moved to Japan, I moved back to the States, I moved back to Japan, back and forth just like she did, even though nothing that happens to Sophia ever happened to me ever, nothing that romantic or exciting or dramatic. There was a kernel of truth which was having to face these endings and goodbyes and feeling like I didn’t know how I would really hold onto those things that mattered to me, and I think that feeling and the intensity of that feeling especially right before I left somewhere really stuck with me. It took me a while to realize that I really wanted to write about it, but even when I wasn’t writing about it, it stuck with me and I remembered it. It kind of haunted me in a way. I thought about it a lot.
S: That’s really neat. On the way here I found out I was accepted to New York University, but the first year I have to live in Florence and it really reminded me of the entire situation where I think, “How am I going to pick up and leave?” I love how relevant your story is for many people, especially those of us going to college soon!
CV: Oh my goodness, congratulations! I had a friend who did that program and she loved it. You will love Florence. You’ll have a wonderful time if you go. Thank you!
S: That’s so great to hear! What was the hardest part about writing your book?
CV: The hardest part about writing my book was writing my book, because it took me so long! The first draft I ever wrote of it was eight years ago, and it was really bad. I thought, “I’m probably not supposed to do this because this is so bad and it’s never going to be good. It’s never gonna be what I wished it would be or imagined.” So just putting it aside, coming back to it, putting it aside, coming back to it, and eventually after a lot of that, hitting on the story and finally feeling like it clicked. It took a lot of time and it took a lot of frustration, but it was worth it because once it did click it was, not easy, but I could feel it coming together in a way that it hadn’t before.
S: Was there an easy part?
CV: There were a few months where I was really, really in it and writing after it kind of clicked. It was maybe like three or four months I just felt like the story was my whole world. I would go to sleep and I felt like I was hearing Tokyo outside my window even though I lived in Scotland and I was hearing cows and sheep, but I thought I was hearing Tokyo. I think it was so pleasurable to be that immersed in it. I guess that is the dream of writing, that you’re that immersed in it and it feels that real.
S: Certainly! It’s so awesome that you had it surrounding you like that. Do you have a favorite character?
CV: I have two favorite characters—Mika and Allison. I love them both so much and I think it’s because I’m so intimidated by both of them. If I knew them in real life I would be like, “They are so cool. They won’t ever talk to me!” But because I writing them I get to hang out with them all the time and listen to their jokes and their humor and their cool references. I loved writing them.
S: I love Mika! How did you write such strong female characters? I loved that aspect of them so much.
CV: That’s such an important thing for me to hear, I really appreciate that. I think I write the kind of characters that I would have wanted. I had many great examples—there are so many books with wonderful female characters in them, but I think I wrote characters that I felt like I could be friends with. I went to an all-girls school and I have a lot of strong female friendships, and our aspirations and our relationships with each other are so intense, some of the most important ones in my life, and I wanted to put that on the page as well.
S: Of course! I think they’re well represented. Do you see yourself in any of them?
CV: I’m an older sister, and I wrote Sophia as a younger sister because I knew that if I wrote her as an older sister I would maybe give her too much of me. I purposely made her a younger sister, so I think I gave some of my traits to Allison. I’m like a less cool version of Allison. A lot of how my sister maybe saw me when we were teenagers, like scoffing and dramatic all the time and reading poetry.
S: That’s so fun. I have three sisters myself, and I’m the youngest, so I see where you put that into Allison. What kind of writer are you? Would you describe yourself as a panther or do you like to use outlines, etc.
CV: I will do a very light outline but if it takes me in another direction I will go with it. I won’t be married to the outline, and often I’ll hit a certain point where the outline becomes irrelevant but a whole new outline will form in my head. I guess a good way to describe it would be like a chain of dominos. I’ll see a new chain of dominos and think, “If I poke this domino, the story is going to go this way and this is going to happen.” So I think I use outlines as a sort of safety net and then I just jump into whatever else comes up.
S: Awesome! I love hearing the different ways people write. Just to wrap things up here, do you have any closing comments or advice you’d like to give?
CV: Sure! I think the biggest advice that I would give someone who would like to write is if something is speaking to you, if a story or an idea is calling to you, and you want to pursue it and it doesn’t work out right away, don’t worry. Live your life, let the moments in your life kind of form the story. You never know when you’re gonna find bits and pieces that you’re going to use for the worlds and the books you want to create. There is no shame in taking your time and looking around a lot and gathering up these things because they’ll make the world even richer that you’re trying to create. I wish I had known that because I tried to rush myself, but when I slowed down it came a lot easier.
S: Thank you so much! It was lovely talking with you tonight. I had a wonderful time, it was great meeting you.
CV: It was great meeting you too! Thank you for having me!