Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dark Turns & Q&A with author Cate Holahan

1.) What inspired you to write Dark Turns?
The idea for Dark Turns came to me while watching my four-year-old in ballet class. She was pressed against a cement wall with her legs spread and a teacher pushing on her back to encourage a full saddle split. She managed to do it and, for a moment, smiled as though she’d received a new plush toy. The next moment, she was crying in pain.

I began worrying about ballet’s intensity and wondering what happens to young women forced to push themselves to such a degree before they are emotionally mature enough to handle the physical and mental strain. My fears grew into the novel.

2.) You studied ballet for two years while writing Dark Turns. Can you tell us a bit more about that experience?
When I realized that I wanted to write a book where ballet would feature prominently, I knew I had to take a dance class. As a long-time journalist, I’m a big believer in research. You don’t have to write what you already know, but you better learn about it before you let anyone read a word. So, I enrolled in an adult ballet class.

Most of the class members had significant dance experience. Some were retired professional ballerinas or area women who had danced in college and high school companies. One woman was a former gymnast. I was one of the few in class without any prior experience.

On my first day, my teacher patted my stomach and said that she could help me “fix my problem.” I had given birth to my second child several months earlier, but had lost the baby weight. I was back to what I’d thought was a slender, hundred and eighteen pounds and feeling pretty good about myself. “My problem?” I asked.

She again pushed her hand against my abdomen. “You are a marshmallow. But I will make you a rock.”

I don’t know if I ever became a rock. However, my posture and flexibility, which was awful, greatly improved. My legs became stronger and leaner. Ballet definitely did things to my body that no Zumba class had ever accomplished. It also was terribly humbling at times. Ballet is about the details. How is a foot pointed? How is an elbow angled? Does the spine resemble a steel rod? Every movement I performed, even when I somehow accomplished the act, was clunky.

3.) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I plot out everything. Then, as the characters develop, I rip up the plot and rewrite my twists and turns. But I always have a road map.

4.) If Dark Turns was made into a film, who would you choose to play all your characters?
o My protagonist is an African American ballerina. In my dreams, Misty Copeland would play her. She’s beautiful and she overcame plenty of adversity to become ABT’s first African American principal dancer, which I think would give her the inner strength to fight off some of the antagonists in my novel. She’s driven. She’s amazingly athletic and graceful. Who wouldn’t watch her do anything?

o Zoe Saldana could also fit the role.

o Aubrey, the school’s competitive star ballerina, would be played by Elle Fanning.

o Peter, a charming guy with a somewhat complicated backstory, would be played by Michael Pitt.

o Dimitri, Nia’s former flame, would be played by dancer Sergei Polunin.

o Marta would be Kristin Stewart.

o Lydia would be Selena Gomez.

o Joseph would be Harry Styles.

5.) The cover art is amazing. Was this the first and final design or did you consider another direction?
Thank you. This was the second cover. The first was too much like another book out there so my publisher decided on this one. They do an amazing job at Crooked Lane with cover art and with helping shape the story. I am very fortunate to be working with them.

6.) You nailed the boarding school vibe so well. Did you base your setting on a real school?
I based the aesthetics on prep schools my friends have attended and on Princeton, where I went to college. However, the vibe really came from marrying my memories of high school social interactions with my experience of the work it takes to hack it in an environment where everyone is smart and competitive.

7.) You begin each chapter in a very unique way with a specific ballet pose that sets the tone. Did you place these in your first draft or were they added in later once the story took shape?
I owe this to my agent Paula Munier who I am very blessed and lucky to have in my corner. She told me I needed an organizing principal that could help bring readers into the world of professional ballet. Each term does relate to the chapter in some way, whether it’s a double entendre or a move done in class. I had fun with them.

8.) What do you think is the most difficult part of writing a book: the beginning, middle or end?
For me it’s the middle. Stories tend to take shape in my head with an opening chapter and an ending. The work comes with getting there and adding enough misdirection so my destination isn’t painfully clear.

9.) What’s the best piece of advice you received while writing Dark Turns?
The best piece actually came from Matt Martz, Crooked Lane’s Editorial Director, before I started writing Dark Turns. At the time, he was working at St. Martin’s Press and he spoke at a conference that I attended, The Algonkian Writers Conference in Manhattan. He said something along the lines of don’t torture a story to death. If one novel isn’t getting published, put it in a drawer and write something else. Don’t keep changing the same tale in hopes that the next rewrite will land a deal. That proved true in my case. It was the book I wrote after the one I’d been pitching at the conference that sold.

10.) What are you working on next?
I am working on the finishing touches of my second novel, tentatively titled The Widower’s Wife. It is due out August 2016. I love the story. It’s about a woman who fell off a cruise ship and a life insurance policy. Was her death an accident, a failed insurance fraud attempt, or murder? I’m really happy with the way it turned out and I hope to return to the characters in future stories.

About the author:

CATE HOLAHAN is an award-winning journalist and former television producer. Holahan’s articles have appeared in BusinessWeek, The Boston Globe, The Record and on web sites for CBS, MSN Money,,, and CNBC. Her short fiction won first place in the 19th annual Calliope competition, a magazine published by the writer's group of American Mensa.

Advance Praise for Cate Holahan

“In this twisting danse macabre of jealousy, obsession, vanity, and revenge, Cate Holahan gives more than a superb debut performance. Dark Turns provides a master class in murder.” – Jan Coffey USA Today bestselling author of Trust Me Once.

“Cate Holahan’s debut novel, Dark Turns, reads like a mash-up of Black Swan and a particularly juicy episode of Gossip Girl.” – Charles Dubow, bestselling IndieBound author of Indiscretion

Title:  Dark Turns
Author:  Cate Holahan
Publication Date:  November 10/15 by Crooked Lane Books
Length:  336pgs
Genre:  thriller/suspense
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

Nia Washington fought her way up from the streets and was nearing the pinnacle of her profession when an injury and a broken heart derailed her career. Taking a temporary job as a dance instructor at an elite boarding school was supposed to give her time to nurse both body and soul. It was supposed to be a safe place to launch a triumphant comeback. It is anything but.

Not long after she arrives at the beautiful lakeside campus, she discovers the body of a murdered student, and her life takes a truly dark turn. Suddenly, she is drawn into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with a ruthless killer. And Nia isn't the only target. She must use all of her street smarts to protect her dancers, save a wrongfully accused student, and rescue the man she loves.

A stunning and suspenseful tale of passion and betrayal, Cate Holahan's Dark Turns will take readers deep into the mind of a murderer and the woman who must put an end to the killing.

My Review:

This novel captivated me from cover to cover. Suspense ruled the day as Holahan created a wildly original and thought provoking novel. Plot twists abound as you get drawn into this captivating world. Holahan’s descriptions brought everything to life with dark undertones, giving the entire tale a chilling feel.

The cast of characters in this novel really took the story to a new level. The intensity with which they were developed created an unforgettable bond between the characters and the reader. Not only did I get to know them well, but the little details that emerged throughout the story made it even better.

Holahan has melded suspense with life to create this awe inspiring story. It’s a must read for those who enjoy the genre.

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