No One’s Watching

1American author Sandy Green explores the world of Irish Dance in her latest YA novel No One’s Watching. Recently we spoke with her about the book.

What are your own roots?
I’m Jewish and have a special affinity for Celtic people because of similar hardships our ancestors and families have endured and survived with tenacity and a sense of humor.

What inspired/motivated you to put this book together?
My love of dance inspired me to set No One’s Watching at a summer dance camp. I have a BFA in dance from Florida State University and extensive training in ballet, modern, and character dance. As a little girl, my daughter begged to take Irish dance lessons after watching a live performance of Michael Flatley in Lord of the Dance in 1995. I also became mesmerized with Irish dance and, of course, the music, which can be haunting, joyful, and poignant at the same time.

Did it come together quickly or did you really need to work at it?
I started with an outline in 2004. Since then, I revised the point of view, title, setting, characters, and included Irish dance as a major component. I wanted to write about dance because it’s something I’m so familiar with, but I needed a compelling story to carry it. After many revisions and tweaks, it was accepted for publication in 2013 and published earlier this year.

What was the most challenging aspect of the process?
I wanted to be respectful of Irish dance and culture and still show conflict involving characters who make assumptions about them.

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
Talking and reminiscing with my daughter, Olivia, about her joys and struggles as an Irish dancer was most rewarding.

What did you learn during the process?
By the time I added Irish dance to the story, my daughter had become a very experienced championship dancer and the expert I consulted. I wanted to be accurate and researched facts about the specific music and instruments.

How did you feel when the book was completed?
I felt satisfied at the end of the book. The main character has a future, and the reader can imagine her continuing her life happily and successfully in many possible situations.

What has the response been like so far from critics and readers?
I’m pleased that people I’ve never met have liked No One’s Watching. Irish Dancing and Culture Magazine gave it a half-page review in their August issue and called it “a refreshing narrative” and “great read.” Dance Spirit magazine selected it for their September Pick-of-the-Month. One reader on Amazon said that familiarity with dance wasn’t needed in order to enjoy the book. But the most meaningful reactions have been from dancers I met at a recent feis. I spotted a dancer with a T-shirt emblazoned with the Irish proverb, Dance Like No One’s Watching, and asked if she’d mind if I took her picture with my book. She not only agreed, she said she’d already read the book and loved it. Another dancer, who bought the book there, emailed me the next morning. “I finished the book on the car ride home. I have one word to describe it: BEAUTIFUL. Feel free to quote me.” I’m so happy people are enjoying my work and, if they’re not familiar already with dance, that I’m introducing them to different forms of movement.

What’s next on your creative agenda?
I’m working on a book set in a fictitious village in County Galway, Ireland with an American teen on school holiday while her dad gets international experience with his company. She decides to solve a local mystery to take her mind off her problems, one of which is a raging fire phobia. The big problem is that she’s dealing with an arsonist.

What made you want to be a writer?
I love words. Creating images and stories with them has always been a part of my life.

What do your family and friends think of your vocation?
They think it’s great as long as I don’t talk about it too much.

What makes a good book?
A good book can be character driven, plot driven, or both, but it needs to connect with a reader like a good friend, the kind of person you may not see all the time but your relationship can pick up where you left off. A good book encourages interaction between the characters and reader. The reader cares about the characters, and the author reveals just enough so the reader invests himself in the life of the characters.

What are your thoughts on the state of Celtic literature today?
Celtic literature isn’t only for the Celtic Nations. Every culture on a meaningful journey has grappled with universal truths and the struggles to live by them. In the best of times, by sharing our journeys, we find allies across nations. One way to do this is through the written word.

Are we doing enough to preserve & promote Celtic culture?
Locally to where I live, the Virginia Scottish Games held in northern Virginia is a very popular annual event, as well as the Maryland Irish Festival and the various Irish dance feiseanna for competitive Irish dancers.

What can we be doing better?
With distractions available today at the touch of a finger, encouraging reading for pleasure in our youth might be one way to connect them to the past, find relevance in the present, and prepare for the future.