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