Month: March 2016

Staying Awesome Interview Series: Sarah Enni, Part II



Welcome to Part II of my interview with Y.A. writer/creator of the First Draft podcast, the wonderful Sarah Enni! To read Part I, click here.

Today Sarah discusses all things writing and reading. Let’s bask in her brilliance, shall we? Off we go!


On Writing

1) Your website bio states that you write about “teenage punk bands, sad quarterbacks, and bank heists (for now).” I’m a total sucker for all three! What tends to strike you first: premise or character? Or does it vary from manuscript to manuscript?

Premise tends to come to me first, followed by setting. My books have been inspired by thoughts like, “What if Cupid was a real high schooler?” or “What would the book version of the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse song ‘Valerie’ be about?” Then I write approximately three full drafts before I “get” my characters and what the book is REALLY about. (This is a time consuming process and I cannot in good faith recommend it, LOL.)

2) I’m a firm believer in what author Nova Ren Suma calls the Book Of Your Heart. There’s one particular story that speaks to every writer in a stronger, more personal way than the rest. The most truthful and important story in their creative arsenal. Have you written the Book Of Your Heart? If so, how would you describe the experience of bringing those words onto the page? If not, do you see yourself writing the Book Of Your Heart in the near future?

I sort of think every book needs to become the “book of my heart” to some extent in order for me to finish it! But there is one project I’ve been mulling over for five years (five years!), waiting for my skills to match the premise. I am so, so, so scared and excited to finally start that project – hopefully in the next year or so. It’s gonna be a doozy.

3) What are some of the most inspiring bits of writing advice you’ve collected in your journey so far? How has it helped you become a better writer?

Oh man – I have loved hearing what every single writer has to say about advice. The one thing that has stuck out to me most actually came from Tumblr’s Rachel Fershleiser, who isn’t a novelist but hangs out with and advocates for them all day. She said to remember that you’re an author, you’re not your book. It’s so challenging, but important, to remember that you are not actually your work. At some point, if other people are going to read what you write, you have to guard that separation to stay sane.

4) Can you share tidbits about your current project? (I’ll totally pay you in chocolate cake).

WHICH ONE?? Ha! I am working on three projects right now, at various stages. The one I’m going to get back to right after answering these interview questions is about teenaged criminals in an alternate London who are staging a vengeance heist. It’s steampunky and sassy and it’s been a joy to write (and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite…).


On Reading

1) I still remember the first time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. To this day, it remains the book that led me to writing for publication. I’d started writing as a child, long before Harry came into my life, but those were Stories Just For Me (translation: they were atrocious). Which book(s) do you credit for sparking that desire to pursue a career as an author?

Twilight. Seriously. (Warning: this story is gonna get sad.) My dad died when I was 23 years old, and it was awful. I was about to get on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., where I lived at the time, and at the airport I picked up Twilight (this was just before the movie came out). I read it all in one red-eye flight, and then tore through the next three books, ecstatically grateful to have Forks to escape to. At some point while writing that series, I had the realization that this was something I could do. And losing my dad so young made me realize that if I wanted to do it, I’d better get started. I’ll forever love Twilight, without any irony, for that reason.

2) Do you have a favorite genre as a reader? Or do you pick your next reads based on premise and/or other things?

I was just thinking about this! I can be organized and structured in lots of areas of my life, but when it comes to what I read, chaos reigns. I read absolutely every genre, and every age group, and my house is packed with books that have been recommended or lent to me, or that I bought on a whim, or was sent by a publisher. (It’s crowded.) But when it comes to what I actually pick off the shelf and start — that’s all serendipity. It’s important for the right book to happen at the right time.

3) What’s the last book you read that made you wish you’d written it?

OH MY GOD. I’m going to say JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL by Susanna Clarke, because I adored that book, and never in one million bazillion years could I ever write it, or anything like it. But it was un-put-down-able in a way that is a rare gift.

4) First Draft was born out of an epic road trip across the U.S. If you could take a road trip across any fictional location in any book/book series, which one would it be? Why?

Middle Earth. I’d sing drinking songs at Rosie’s in The Shire, overstay my welcome in Rivendell, and probably spend the rest of my life in Rohan. (This is also cheating, since I did a three week road trip in New Zealand, which is essentially Middle Earth, and it’s the #1 place I’d return to if I had the time/money!)


A ginormous thank you to Sarah for being my first guest in this new series! Make sure to keep up with her online using the following links:

@sarahenni / @firstdraftpod

Staying Awesome Interview Series: Sarah Enni, Part I

I’m super stoked for this post, y’all. Not only am I kicking off a new interview series, which focuses on some of my favorite awesome people and what makes them so, my first featured writer is Sarah Enni!




Why is Sarah awesome?

  • She writes Y.A. novels, which makes her automatically cool.
  • She’s a real life Lois Lane. Or as some Muggles would say, journalist (!!!).
  • She’s a member of YA HIGHWAY, a group of amazing YA/MG authors who share content about the craft of writing + the wide world of publishing + contests/giveaways.
  • She’s the creator of one of my absolute favorite podcasts, First Draft.




In Part I of my interview with Sarah, she discusses All Things First Draft. Here’s what she had to say about a podcast that should be on everyone’s radar:

1) First Draft is stacked with awesome interviews featuring YA and MG authors, all of whom share their personal journeys toward publication and finding their truth as both artists and individuals. You’ve had to travel across the U.S. to interview them. Could you describe the experience of driving all over the country in search of these amazing talents?

The podcast did indeed begin with an epic road trip – from Washington, D.C. to Seattle, mostly along the southern route. I was already planning on driving across the country because I was getting a divorce, and was moving in with my mom temporarily in Seattle. I figured, why not make that road trip into something inspiring, for me and maybe others, too? So I started reaching out to basically every author I’d ever had a good interaction with, and built my road trip map from there! As you know, young adult and middle grade authors are some of the kindest, most generous people in the world, so tons of them said yes. At that point it was too late to turn back, and I’m so glad I didn’t! Once I started meeting with people, they would recommend their friends in the next town, and so on and so on, until I was back on the west coast.

2) Let’s talk prep. You’re a journalist by day, which explains why you rock so hard at interviews. How do you get ready for a sit-down with your podcast’s guests? Do you have any rituals to enter Maximum Podcast Awesomeness Mode?

Such a good question! There isn’t a ton of prep for the interviews, but that prep is incredibly important. I have a trusty notebook I carry with me everywhere, and I devote one page to jotting down questions. Usually I spend an hour or two familiarizing (or re-familiarizing) myself with the author’s works (looking on Goodreads, etc) and writing down any questions that come to mind, and noting themes that appear in multiple works. Then I Google the author and read previous interviews they’ve done. That’s so important – I try my very best to try asking questions the author hasn’t answered hundreds of times before. And finally I read back at least a few days into the author’s Twitter feed. If they recently sold a book, or talked about a favorite TV show, or came out in support of Donald Trump (!) I’d want to know that going in.

The research and prep really is my ritual for Podcast Awesomeness (haha), because it’s best to do that as close to the actual interview as possible. Keep it fresh! Also as I’m setting up the mic and getting ready to start the interview, I make sure the author knows what he or she is in for, what’s expected, and reassure them that I won’t immediately go home and put our unedited conversation on the web for the whole world to see. It’s best to start an interview when both people know the parameters, and understand that nothing unexpected is going to go down.

3) Aside from spending time with amazing authors, what’s one thing you love about working on the podcast? Have there been any unexpected benefits or challenges to launching it?

One of my main reasons for starting the podcast project was my long-held desire to be an NPR reporter. I had training and experience in print journalism, but no clue about audio reporting, editing, producing, or even knowledge of how to speak into a microphone. So I figured the best way to learn was to dive in with my own project and see what happened. The unexpected benefit has been learning so many new skills, including all the crazy back-end stuff that comes with hosting data on a server, working with wonky iTunes, and mastering (I hope) social media promotion.

It’s been challenging because it’s very time-consuming. Every podcast takes about two hours to record, and about six hours to edit. Then it’s about another two hours putting together all the content for Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. And even then, I’m still lagging – I hate that I don’t have transcripts for every episode, to better serve audio impaired fans, for example. I sincerely hope the podcast can grow so I can get more time and resources to accommodate other things like that.

4) If you could interview an author from a different time period, who would it be? Why her or him? (Personally, I’d love to see Emily Brontë’s reaction when presented with a mic!).

Holy crap WHAT A GOOD QUESTION. Wouldn’t it be insane to meet Oscar Wilde at some Austrian castle and get lost in his labyrinth brain? Or what about Mary of Magdala, who wrote her own gospel?? That girl would have DIRT. And I’d love to hear her throw shade on the people who squirreled her gospel away for thousands of years.


Bonus question: you’ve previously mentioned your love of podcasts and how they inspired you to launch your own. Which ones are your go-to’s?

I could list great podcasts for AGES, so let me break down a few categories:

For writers:

– ScriptNotes (it’s about screenwriting, but has tons of great general tips on writing and storytelling)

– Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life (Sara interviews authors, and other artists too. It’s amazing how similar the challenges are for all creative professionals.)

For comedy nerds:

– Comedy Bang Bang

– How Did This Get Made

– Spontaneanation with Paul F Tompkins

– You Made It Weird

– WTF with Marc Maron

For everyone else:

– Switched On Pop

– Song Exploder

– Diane Rehm’s Friday News Roundup

– Pop Culture Happy Hour

– You Must Remember This

– Astonishing Legends


That’s it for Part I of my interview with Sarah Enni! Stay tuned for more with Sarah on her creative process as a writer and her favorite reads! In the meantime, make sure to check her out online:

@sarahenni / @firstdraftpod