May 03, 2017

The Bonaventure Adventures blog tour: Q & A with author Rachelle Delaney:

Written by Rachelle Delaney
Puffin Canada
288 pp.
Ages 9-12
May 2017

Yesterday, middle grade youngCanLit writer Rachelle Delaney witnessed the somersaulting launch of her newest book, The Bonaventure Adventures.  Today, as part of Penguin Random House Canada's blog tour for The Bonaventure Adventures, I am pleased to present my interview with author Rachelle Delaney.

Author Rachelle Delaney
(Photo from author's website 

HK:  Having read your earlier middle-grade novel The Circus Dogs of Prague and knowing that the Bonaventure is a circus school, I’m struck by your ongoing interest in circuses.  How did this interest arise? And did you ever dream of being a circus performer yourself?

RD:  I’ve definitely been a bit obsessed with the circus for several years now. It began back in 2010, when I was teaching creative writing to some kids enrolled in circus classes. This struck me as such an interesting way to gain an appreciation for arts and sports and performing, all at once. So I started researching it as a potential setting for a novel, and I quickly learned about the National Circus School in Montreal, where young performers from around the world go to study the modern circus. I spent some time in Montreal, doing a bit of research and taking in contemporary circus shows, which were so incredibly different from the traditional shows I grew up with. And I fell in love with the modern circus scene, and with Montreal too (it’s pretty hard not to love Montreal). I’ve been back many times in the past five years; at one point I even had an Access Copyright Foundation grant to do circus research there. Tough job, I know. ☺

HK:  Your research into circus schools and circus performers must have been extensive as your writing demonstrates an in-depth knowledge of  the full array of circus skills.  How did you conduct your research? And did you conduct any personal research at a circus school in Montreal or here in Ontario?

RD:  Well, I’m glad it seems like my knowledge is extensive, because I still feel like there’s so much more to know about the circus world! Fortunately, the Bonaventure Circus School is a pretty quirky place—it’s nothing like the professional schools I learned about through my research. So that setting gave me some freedom to be creative.

I went about my research in three ways: reading everything I could, talking to any circus pros who would answer my questions, and—this is where it got scary—taking some circus arts classes myself. Now, I’m awfully uncoordinated and not at all acrobatic, but my teachers were patient. Natalie Parkinson of Toronto’s Hercinia Arts Collective was particularly great—she answered all my ridiculous questions while attempting to teach me acrobatics and aerials. I have no more skills than my main character Sebastian, but it was such a fun experience.

HK:  A theme of The Bonaventure Adventures is the duality of persons, sometimes to deceive but more often just to show different faces in different circumstances and with different people.  Audrey Pott, the clown teacher, suggests that “When you get to know your inner clown, you get to know the person you really are deep inside, not just the person you might sometimes pretend to be.  It can be soul-expanding.” (pg. 92) Do you think it’s a good idea to have two (or more) different personas to show the world or is it better to show all aspects of your personality to everyone?

RD:  Good question. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to have two or more personas to show the world, but I think a lot of people—adults especially—do exactly that. I suppose it’s a social survival strategy, and not a terrible one. But it takes courage to show up as your whole self. I know I’m still working on it.

HK:  I know that The Bonaventure Adventures is aptly tagged as “Harry Potter meets Cirque du Soleil” because three young people come together to navigate life in a circus school.  As with Harry Potter, do you foresee or have already planned sequels to The Bonaventure Adventures that would have Seb, Frankie and Banjo having more adventures at the school and in Montreal? If so, please let us know what and when we might expect them.

RD:  I’m one hundred and fifty percent open to writing a sequel or three about Seb, Frankie, and Banjo’s adventures in Montreal (and beyond). But as of right now, there are only plans for the one book.

HK:  Angélique Saint-Germain insists that the students “pursue perfection, practice at every opportunity” (pg. 78).  One student, Camille, even considers giving up sleep to practise.  Do you believe the adage that practice always makes perfect? (I think Seb might not agree with that completely although his somersaults did become passable.)

RD:  I do believe that practice is essential, and that if something (whether it’s writing or juggling swords) is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly for a long time. But I don’t think that practice necessarily leads to perfection, or that perfection is even the point. Striving for perfection, in my experience, can really suck the joy out of life. Also, practice without sleep is just an all-around bad idea, especially when acrobatics are involved.

HK:  We know that it’s important for young readers to see themselves in a book’s characters and I think all readers could see themselves in Seb or Frankie or Banjo.  Did you write them as a reflection of Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively (going back to the Harry Potter reference) or just young people who reveal multiple characteristics in temperament, strengths and weaknesses? 

RD:  You know, I didn’t even notice the Harry Potter parallel until someone else pointed it out recently! I can sort of see similarities between Seb and Harry, in that they’re both intelligent and introspective. But Frankie is this mysterious, hot-headed parkour expert, and Banjo is a timid slack-liner from a backwoods logging town, so I don’t see Ron and Hermione in them. But it’s not a bad comparison—I’m certainly not complaining.

What appeals to me about Seb, Frankie, and Banjo connects back to your question about hidden personas. Each one harbours secrets and aspects of themselves they feel like they can’t or shouldn’t show. And they help each other find a sense of belonging; when they’re together, they feel more whole.

HK:  If there is one theme or message that you would like middle-grade readers to take from The Bonaventure Adventures, what would it be and why?

RD:  I’ve been playing around with the theme of authenticity for a few years now, although I didn’t realize it until a writer friend recently pointed out that it’s a recurring theme in my writing. I’d love middle-grade readers to know that sometimes the things you’re passionate about can seem strange or even pointless to others. But those interests are not only valid but so very important, because they make you who you are.

Also, if I can add one more: fire-breathing should never be attempted on an empty stomach. I didn’t actually try this myself and I DEFINITELY don’t recommend anyone try it ever, but it was one of my favourite facts from my research. Apparently the pros recommend a bread and milk appetizer before breathing flames. Who knew!


Many thanks to Rachelle Delaney for answering my questions about The Bonaventure Adventures as well as to Vikki VanSickle, her publicist at Penguin Random House Canada (and an author in her own right) for arranging this blog tour stop.


Other Rachelle Delaney books

I encourage young readers to read The Bonaventure Adventures and, while crossing fingers for a possible book two, check out Rachelle Delaney's earlier middle grade books.  They are all bon adventures!
The Lost Souls series:
The Ship of Lost Souls (2009)
The Lost Souls of Island X (2010) (in US The Guardians of Island X)
The Hunt for the Panther (2013)

The Metro Dogs of Moscow (2013)
The Circus Dogs of Prague (2014)

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