Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Interview with Leila Sales, Author of Past Perfect & Contest

I really, really enjoyed Leila Sale's sophomore novel, Past Perfect, so I was so pleased when she agreed to an interview. Enjoy!

I know this is a question authors hate to get and I'm sorry, but I must ask: What inspired you to write Past Perfect?

I worked as a costumed Colonial tour guide on Boston’s Freedom Trail the summer after my first year in college, and it was filled with so many funny experiences and quirky characters that I knew that, someday, I would want to write about it.

My friend Kendra knew that I’d had this experience, and about two years ago she started nudging me to do a YA about it. Kendra is also, as I recall, the one who came up with the bit where the protagonist would fall for a Civil War reenactor and not be able to be with him because they “come from different times.” That was an amazing suggestion, so obviously I stole it!

I also was grappling with a breakup of my own, so I wanted to write a story about being haunted by memories of what could have been. I came up with this theme of “nostalgia,” and then I was able to fit all those ideas into one book!

How much research did you have to do for historical reenactment setting in Past

My writing partner, Rebecca Serle, and I went on a research roadtrip down to Colonial Williamsburg. I interviewed a teen interpreter about her experiences working there. She was very helpful, though I kept interrupting the poor girl to ask, like, “Where would you say the cool kids work? At the basket makers? The furniture makers? Do you have crushes on any of the boys here? If so, which ones? Are the ones in the fife and drum parade hot?”

As for the rest of the historical facts, I knew some from my old job on the Freedom Trail, some from high-school history class, and some I gathered by doing reading or talking to people. But this book did not require anywhere NEAR as much research as an actual historical novel would!

Is the term "farbs" actually a thing in the world of historical reenactments? Cause I think I might have to start calling people farbs.

Yes! “Farb” really is a thing. According to its Wikipedia entry, there’s no consensus on where the word comes from, but it may be short for “Far be it from authentic.” I have never known any Colonial interpreters to use it, but I hear that Civil War reenactors use “farb” liberally.

Which of your characters--from either of your books--would you say is most like you?
All my characters are a little bit like me (except for toad-like Bryan—let’s say he is not like me AT ALL because I am super-non-toad-like). Violet, from MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS, is probably the most like me, though she is certainly not an exact replica of me! She is her own person.

What made you decide to write for teens?

I have always written for teens, starting from the time I WAS a teen. I love to read YA literature, and I have always found the topics in it more compelling than the topics usually covered in adult novels (extramarital affairs, unfulfilling careers, mortgages, etc). I don’t think I ever decided to write for teens—it’s just the sort of writing that I most love to do.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I have lots! From the kids book world: Anne Spencer Lindbergh, Meg Cabot, Philip Pullman, David Levithan, Gabrielle Zevin, John Green. For adults: Connie Willis, Dave Barry, Chuck Klosterman, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde. And on and on and on…

Thanks again for the awesome interview!

Oh, and guess what? You've got the chance to read Past Perfect by filling out THIS FORM and checking out the list of countries Book Depository ships to to make sure you're eligible (so yes, it is international). Ends November 11. Good luck!


  1. this is awesome!!
    new follower :D

  2. 'Farb' is totally my new favourite insult as well. If only it were applicable in every day life, right? ;) I actually read it in another book after reading 'Past Perfect', and that was where the woman was a Civil War reenactor, and it totally made me laugh. It was sad how gleeful I was, actually knowing what it meant when it came up in the text.

    Awesome interview! Really loved this book. =) Thanks for the giveaway as well.


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