In July 2012, I took part in webchat with French Night School fans on the Robert Laffont Facebook page. The questions were awesome, the discussion lively, and everyone was very nice about my poor French.
Here’s a transcription of the webchat in English.
CJ Daugherty: Hello everyone! I will answer your questions as best I can. Pardon my French – I’m not an expert!
Q: Do you identify with one particular character in the book?
CJ Daugherty: Rachel’s personality is most similar to mine. I gave her my humour. But she is much better at science than me!
Q: How did you get the idea of the history of this book?
CJ Daugherty: I’ve always been intrigued by British boarding schools. I attended a normal state school in the US, so boarding schools are very different from my experience. I wanted to explore what it was like to be young and sent away to school. I visited a boarding school in the town where I lived and from that moment I knew I wanted to write about it.
Q: What is it like (how does it feel) when you write?
CJ Daugherty: It is a strange experience – like going away from yourself. I don’t know where the words come from. I work very hard on the story, but the actual words come from out of nowhere.
Q: In the second volume, do we learn more about Allie’s family?
CJ Daugherty: YES! I SWEAR IT. In Book 2, we (and Allie) find out who she really is.
Q: How many books are planned for this series?
CJ Daugherty: Five books altogether.
Q: How did you manage to put yourself in the shoes of rebellious teenagers? We always say that adults do not understand us, how did you do it?
CJ Daugherty: I was a rebellious teenager. And I remember those years very well. In this way, Allie’s anger reflects my memories.
Q: Would you want to live like Allie at Cimmeria?
CJ Daugherty: Hmmm … Maybe yes. I think escaping from your family when you’re young can be a good thing!
Q: How long did it take you to write Night School? And how did you get the idea to write this novel?
CJ Daugherty: I wrote Night School in 5 months. Once I’d created the characters, everything went very quickly!
Q: Why is the character of Sylvain nice after he tried to assault Allie at the ball? We’ll see him in the other books?
CJ Daugherty: Sylvain is a complicated person. He was never told no because he is the only child of a very wealthy family who spoiled him. Like a prince, I suppose. Personally, I never believed he was a completely bad person – just confused, lost. Once he has done this awful thing, he feels the need to atone. He genuinely likes Allie, but something about how he feels for her intimidates him. He is a main character in the other Night School books.
Q: Is that you would be happy if you were told that your book would be adapted into a movie or series? And what is your favorite character?
CJ Daugherty: I would be very happy if Night School were made into a film or TV series! And I think my favourite character is Allie. But I love them all!
Q: I have a question for you that really came to mind when I finished your novel. Why is this first volume in Allie’s pespective only, while the style used is omniscient narrator?
CJ Daugherty: The style that I used is known as the “third person limited”, which means that there is a distinct narrator but she can only see what Allie sees. I like this style for thrillers, like Night School, because it creates a delicious frustration of not knowing what happens “off stage”, if that makes sense? It makes it more exciting. When I first started writing the book I tried writing in first person, but it didn’t work for me.
Q: Are Allie’s parents likely to have a greater role in the second book? As we learn more about this mysterious organization that depends Cimmeria?
CJ Daugherty : We will learn much more about the secret organization in Book 2, and a little more about Allie’s family. But her parents will not have a major role in Book 2. Ask me the question again after Book 2 and I’ll explain in more detail why. But at this stage, I would reveal too much!
Q : Do you find/see yourself in the character of Allie?
CJ Daugherty: Allie’s obsession with truth is my obsession. This is the main thing that we share.
Q: Can I ask you whether the relationship between Allie and Carter will intensify? I really love their relationship.Thank you!
CJ Daugherty: Shakespeare wrote ‘The course of true love never did run smooth. “ Allie is so lost and traumatised, and Carter has had a life so difficult, they find it hard to learn how to love. Neither really knows what it’s like to have a happy family. And there is also Sylvain, who is handsome, sensual and French, stirring up confusion for Allie. And that’s all I can tell you! 😉
Q: I wanted to know if it was voluntary on your part to stretch out the mysteries surrounding the school and its occupants for so long? I must confess I thought I’d go crazy, like Allie, to see that the first book did not answer all of her questions.
CJ Daugherty: I must admit it was hard for me to decide how much to reveal in Book 1. When writing it, I’d reached a point that felt like the end, so I decided to stop there. I know it’s a cliffhanger but the problem is … I LOVE cliffhangers. But I’m happy to tell you that Night School 2 reveals much more!
Q: What gave you the idea and wanted to write a novel for Youth (Young Adult)?
CJ Daugherty: Like many authors, I was inspired by Twilight, which seemed to open a door for writers into this new, exciting genre. Until then, I had not thought about writing for this age group. But Twilight was a good book, and it made me think again about writing about teenagers. I worked for the British government at the time, and I was planning to write a political thriller for adults. But after reading Twilight and Vampire Academy, I decided to write a YA thriller instead.
Q: Why Allie she waited so long to ask questions about what happens to Cimmeria? Would not you have been more curious and would you not try at all costs to know what happens?
CJ Daugherty: To be fair to Allie, I think she does ask a lot of questions, but no one will give her the answers. She asks Carter and Isabelle, Jo and Rachel. But all she gets are half-answers that make things even more confusing for her. In the end, she breaks all the rules of Cimmeria trying to learn the truth.
Q: What was the trigger that made you say “I WILL write” and especially what was the “genesis” of Night School?
CJ Daugherty: Night School was inspired by a visit to the Gothic boarding school in the town where I lived. It is private, and very exclusive. I tried to imagine what it would be like to study there. What kind of things might happen there… And Night School was born.
Q: Why didn’t Allie “harass” her parents for answers about his brother?
CJ Daugherty: I think we must assume Allie asked what happened before the book began and they would not say. Because all this happened a year before the book begins and she is sent to Cimmeria, not everything in her past is explained. But I always thought she had asked and not got the answers she wanted. She knows that her parents didn’t tell her the truth, that is the root of her rebellion. Maybe I should write a prequel about it!
Q: What was your feeling when you heard that Volume 2 of the series was released in France before appearing anywhere else?
CJ Daugherty: I was very happy! I love France! I cannot imagine a better place for Night School: Heritage to be published first.
Q: Are there any other characters that will happen next? And the question I always asked: How did you get the idea of a school entirely cut off from the world, forming important people in society? This really intrigues me.
CJ Daugherty: There are new important characters in the book 2! I would like to tell you about them but I don’t want to say too much! Also, the idea of Cimmeria being out of touch with the real world was inspired by real schools like Eton and by reading biographies of people who were educated at exclusive boarding schools.
Q: You have Allie at the beginning of the novel, a rebellious teenager who is not afraid of anything. But a few pages later, in Cimmeria, you present it as a girl, and especially shy. Why this change of personality?
CJ Daugherty: Allie is very intelligent. She rebelled against her parents. So when her parents are not there to supervise her life, to argue with her, she is more disciplined. She loves Cimmeria. It is a beautiful, intriguing place filled with interesting people. It’s not at all like her other schools. She does not want to go home. So she plays by the rules in order not to be sent away. However, she finds new ways to rebel.
Q: What was your first contact with the world of the imagination? What would be your ideal soundtrack for Night School?
CJ Daugherty: I should put a soundtrack on my website – Good idea! My first encounter with the world of imagination …hmmm …. When I was a girl, I took refuge in the imagination. I am a dreamer.
Q: Do you do a spin off of one of the important characters of the saga? For example, Carter?
CJ Daugherty: I have an idea for a spin-off set in the 1920s or in the future. I have not yet decided. 🙂
Q: Were you a good student in school? For I confess that you really describe bad students well.
CJ Daugherty: I was intelligent but apathetic. School did not interest me as much as my own reading. For my teachers, I was a nightmare.
Q: Your characters are they sometimes inspired by real people and they all come out only your imagination?
CJ Daugherty: All the characters are inspired by my imagination and nothing more. Some of their attributes come from people I know, but the characters are entirely invented. But I DO steal the names of my friends. 😉
Q: For me, the key part of this book is the mystery. Is it difficult to know things but not reveal them too early in the story to keep the suspense? When you write, is everything planned in advance? Or do you let yourself be guided by your instincts? Where are you in the writing of the next volumes of Night School?
CJ Daugherty: It was easy to keep secrets when I wrote the book 1 because I had not yet decided what would happen in Book 2! 🙂
I’ve now written book 2 and I’m writing book 3.
Q: Does each book correspond to a different school year, a bit like Harry Potter? And will Allie and Carter be together for all the 5 books or separate for some of the time (even if you foresee a happy ending)?
CJ Daugherty: Each book represents a semester or school term. So Book 1 is summer term, and Book 2 is the autumn/winter term. All books are Cimmeria Academy, with only brief periods elsewhere.
And I can’t tell you more about Allie and Carter – You’ll have to wait and see!
Q: Allie has many issues. She has anxiety and panic attacks, for example. Do you have panic attacks?
CJ Daugherty: Thank you for this interesting question. Yes, I have had panic attacks. Personally, I think life is terrifying; I don’t understand why more people aren’t panicking.
Also, when I was a teenager I counted things, like Allie. Many people have told me they did that too, in their youth. This seems to be a common thing.
Q: Would you come to France to sign/launch your novel?
CJ Daugherty: Of course! I am coming to Paris this autumn to say hello!
Q: Are you Stilleto or Converse?
CJ Daugherty: LOL! Like Allie, I’m Doc Martens. Never Stiletto.