sign up for news and inspiration
  • connect
"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Imaginary Girls: a Q&A with Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary-GirlsWhen I was a teenager I posted a picture from a Mary Engelbreit calendar on Kate’s bedroom door. BE KIND TO THY SISTER, it says (it’s still up there).  Not many may know the depths of true sisterly love.  And in the narrow white space above the illustration I wrote, HINT HINT! But my sister doesn’t need the hint. We are grateful for each other every day.

You may recall that I know Nova Ren Suma from our time at Yaddo last spring. I loved her even before we met in person, and her relationship with her little sister is a big part of why. It was something we had in common–Nova knows the depths, and her brand-new novel, Imaginary Girls, proves it. This lovely, haunting, heartbreaking novel simply could not have been written by a girl without a sister.

They forgot who she was:
Something fantastic we could never explain. Someone better and bolder than every one of us. Someone to paint murals and build bridges for. Someone worth every ounce of our love.

So I’ve got two treats to offer up this fine Monday morning: a copy of Imaginary Girls (which Nova signed over dinner last week) and a Q&A with my friend the author. As you can see, Nova managed to pack a whole lot of awesomeness into only three questions!:

1. Do you have any special writerly rituals and/or superstitions?

I can be a bit superstitious about writing, and much of it has to do with a great and everlasting fear that all of this will disappear and no longer be “real.” I don’t like talking about novels in detail out loud before I’m sure they’re going to be published. I think I learned my lesson–it felt so at the time–from talking about novels-in-progress before, or talking about an agent request, or something that felt “real” but turned out to burst into nothingness. So I keep my novels close until I feel it’s okay to talk about them out loud, because I just don’t know. (Really, you never know.)

My writerly rituals have included writing with a scarf over my head, like a laptop-size tent, writing forward and never letting myself skip around–a rule I’ve since broken with the novel I’m writing now that I can’t talk too much about since… you know why–and the usual caffeine-related routines to jump start the pages. Fact is, I could use a few magic rituals for when I’m feeling stalled… Taking suggestions!


2. Which do you feel is the very best line you’ve ever set to paper?

A very long time ago, before I published a novel, I wrote a blog post about a paragraph that “I’d save from a burning building.” By this I meant that it was the best thing I’d ever written, and out of the 500-page monstrous manuscript otherwise known as my first attempt at writing a novel, it was the only thing I couldn’t live without saving. You can read my passionate treatise on the paragraph here. I felt so strongly about that paragraph, so deeply in love with it, that I vowed I’d do something with it.

Maybe I wrote that whole novel only for this single paragraph, I told myself. I can’t let it die.

But… I did let it die. I had to. I had to move on and write other novels. (I hope readers of your blog remember your beautiful, important post about letting go of early novels.)

So I think that paragraph I blogged about may be the best thing I’ve ever written, since I’ve never felt so confident about a piece of writing before or since. And maybe this unknown and unpublished paragraph feels more beautiful because I can’t now find it on my hard-drive, even though I just went searching. Maybe that’s how it’s meant to be: the best thing I’ve ever written is a mystery even to me.


3. Desert island reading list. Five titles. Go!

The Last Life by Claire Messud–I never tire of rereading this novel

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino–I could read this a hundred thousand times and always discover something new

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter–so lush and twisted, I want to read this again and again and again

A collection of Alice Munro short stories–comfort food

And, especially as this one might give me some useful survival tips, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray


[Ed: Funny thing–well, not really, because the book is amazing–The Bloody Chamber is on Deirdre’s desert island reading list as well. Mine too. And thanks for all the other great recommendations, Nova!]


Nova’s doing a blog tour (in which she reveals secrets related to the book–so fun!) through July 1st, so you can read more about Imaginary Girls on each blog along the tour and on her website. You can also read an excerpt here. And if you don’t already follow her on Twitter (@novaren) or have her blog on your reader, you should definitely add it–you writers especially. Her posts are always thought-provoking and inspiring on that front.

So to enter this giveaway, just leave a comment and tell me about something you’ve loved and lost (whether it’s a friendship, a special piece of jewelry, something you once wrote and were really proud of…anything!) I’ll leave it open through the end of the day on Wednesday, June 29th, then use the random number generator thingamabob. Good luck and enjoy!

20 Comments to Imaginary Girls: a Q&A with Nova Ren Suma

  1. June 27, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    My favorite grandparent (my mother’s dad) was the first one to die. I was really upset, thought it was unfair. It’s going to sound horrible, but I kept thinking ‘I have six living grandparents (long story), why did HE have to be the first one to go?’
    my mother also loved him very much. She was a daddy’s girl. One day, she caught me crying (the angry kind, you know) and she said she wanted to give me something. So she gave me my Grandpa’s old harmonica. And I was really grateful, because I knew how much that harmonica meant to my Grandpa, and how it meant much more to my mother.
    Unfortunately, on moving day last year, it got lost. It was like losing my Grandpa all over again, and I felt like I let my mother down in a way, even though she told me she knew it wasn’t my fault.
    But yeah, maybe it’s a bit of a dramatic story, but it’s the first one that came to mind.
    can’t wait to read IG!

  2. Yolande's Gravatar Yolande
    June 27, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    A friend. 🙁
    Thanks for this giveaway!

  3. Suzanne Lucero's Gravatar Suzanne Lucero
    June 27, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    This is difficult. I can’t think of any ONE THING that I’ve loved and lost because it’s happened so many times. Something is misplaced during a move, or thrown away by an unsuspecting family member, or given up to keep the peace. But, you know what? If I dwell on the loss it eats away at me, turns me bitter, so I’ve learned to let it go, cherish the memory of whatever-it-was and move on.
    One time, though, a piece of my childhood showed up again, a very special children’s book I’d had since I was three but donated to a used book store because, well, just because. I went in to the store several years later and there it was, my book, in the children’s section, forlorn and forgotten. Of course I bought it back immediately and it is now safely hidden away where no-one but I can find it. I retrieve it occasionally, to revisit that special time in my childhood when anything was possible. 🙂

  4. June 27, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    I *love* Nova’s comments about letting go of “the best thing [she’s] ever written.” I think that is a tremendously important lesson for a writer, and shows just how true Nova is to her craft.
    I loved and lost a person, of course (or maybe it was that I loved a lost person). But I also loved and lost a badass, incredibly unique spoon ring my grandmother gave me when I was in my early twenties. Left it at a boy’s house and never returned…

  5. June 27, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve sort of lost my best friend. April, we met on the 1st day of 1st grade. We discovered we lived across the pasture from each other. After graduating, we have gone our separate ways. Not because of a fight, just life. We actually only live about 30 minutes from each other, but just haven’t worked at reviving our long friendship. It makes me kind of sad.
    Now I am depressed. Amy
    bookgoonie at

  6. June 27, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    My now husband gave me a promise ring (a beautiful white gold Claddagh with an emerald in it) and after wearing it for an entire year, it fell off somewhere in Germany while I was on vacation with my grandma. Calling him internationally to tell him was about the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I was bawling the whole time). However, about a week after I got home, he gave me another ring. 😉 [I never, EVER take this one off, lol]
    I loved reading Nova’s book and would love to own a copy of my own. Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. June 27, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    The more posts I read about Nova and her books, the more infatuated I become with her. I absoluely love her writing style.
    I have loved and lost a lot of things. Some being completely worthless and some that I cherished very much. My best friend moved away and my grandmother passed away. THose would have to be the things I cared for the most and then lost.
    Thanks for the post and the giveaway!

  8. June 27, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I loved and lost my dad. He inspired me in so many ways. He anchored me and made me feel connected in a disconnected world. He was my lighthouse whom I sought in the depths of the dark when sailing on the open waters of the world alone.
    I am so excited to read Nova’s Imaginary Girls! Thanks for the chance to win a copy:)

  9. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    June 27, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I loved and lost my Barbie doll house 😉
    I got choked up reading the first bit. Love you big sis!

  10. June 27, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I’ve lost a couple of friendships along the way, either through disagreements or because we’ve lost touch. It’s sad though because my friends mean everything to me.

  11. June 27, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I had a best friend throughout college-we were even in each other’s weddings-but that friendship disappeared. I know people grow and friendships evolve, but it’s sad when they go away completely.
    heisereads [at] gmail[dot]com

  12. June 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Ironically, today’s devotional touched on how we shouldn’t try to hang on to things. 😉
    What really came to mind when I read the prompt was my history with my prodigal daughters. Fortunately, the loss wasn’t permanent, but devastating at the time. One right after the other. Then one came home and left again. The hardest blow was when she took our grandson away. I cried an ocean of tears.
    We value what we have so much more because of the time that it was lost. It helps me understand the parable of the lost sheep.

  13. Rina's Gravatar Rina
    June 28, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I started a book in longhand when i was in 3rd grade. I brought it to school once in 4th. Someone dumped chocolate milk all over it. It was my only copy. :[

  14. Sylvia Uy's Gravatar Sylvia Uy
    June 28, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    It’s actually my grandfather. His death was really sudden and one day, he was just gone. It was really devastating to me and my whole family…

  15. June 29, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    My first dog ever! The puppy and baby(me) crawled and grew up together. She died 10 years ago, but sometimes I still miss her.

  16. dee's Gravatar dee
    June 29, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I loved and lost my guinea pig Sisyphus. He was a curmudgeon and a misanthrope but I loved him. He had a better sense of direction than other guinea pigs and never failed to inspire me to write poetry and prose with his ridiculous goings on and outraged squeaks. He enjoyed having his ears scratched, but disliked getting his tummy touched. He would bite when provoked. He was a nibbling enthusiast and a keen stairs climb-downer. He did not like climbing up the stairs. He died of pneumonia in november and I buried him under a tree surrounded by primroses.

  17. Grace Radford's Gravatar Grace Radford
    June 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    This is gonna sound really stupid, but the one thing that comes to mind right now is a video game I used to play all the time. It was a barbie video game for my Game Boy and I just loved it to death. She was a spy and I had so much fun going through all the levels. I think I lost it in my very old house, I’ve never seen it since we moved, but I remember being very sad because I no longer had it with me. Pathetic, I know, but it was something I lost. haha.

  18. Veronika Briseno's Gravatar Veronika Briseno
    June 29, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the giveaway. Is a rally want to raed tjis book. I lost one of my nieces 10 years ago I still miss her she was only 11 months but she teach me so much. I am grateful for the time I have her with me.
    flaka.077 at gmail dot com

  19. June 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    I lost my dad when I was 10. He was missing for 5 years and… well, it was an awful experience. I love & miss him very much.

  20. June 30, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you so, so much to everyone who took the time to leave a comment. I was really struck by how personal many of these stories are, and want you all to know how much I appreciate your sharing them.
    I used a random number generator and the first number that came up was 9. My sister left comment #9, fittingly enough. But she’s not allowed to win, so I tried again and got 16. Dee, you win!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.