Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Utah Book Month Author Interview: Sara Zarr


I'm fortunate to host the lovely Sara Zarr on the blog today! Sara was a National Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl, and is also the author of Sweethearts, Once Was Lost, How to Save a Life, and the upcoming The Lucy Variations.

She's been a favorite author of mine ever since I read Sweethearts. Why? Because I could so relate to the characters, in ways both good and bad. The more I read, the more I thought "this is exactly what it feels like." Sara's characters are so real. They make for some of the best contemporary YA out there. I was so excited to have her answer a few questions:


About her books -
Your books deal with a lot of emotional topics. What do you hope readers will feel, or take away, from your books?

Primarily, my hope is always that readers will get totally absorbed and have a great reading experience. I'd love for them to connect with the characters and the story, to be invested. Beyond that, there's other stuff to be taken away from the stories, I think, about more universal things like the nature of love and family, and how we're generally our own worst enemies, the gray areas of human relationships...but I want readers to be able to pick up those things themselves, if they want, and not have them shoved on.


Unlike a lot of YA novels, parents play a big role in each of your books. Is it important to you to include relationships with parents?

I never set out to do that, but it does seem like my books always turn out to be about family. Adolescence is a time of such tension between our own needs and desires and plans--our independence, basically--and what our parents hope and expect from us, which are often different things. So I think whenever I'm writing a young character's emotional journey, parents just tend to be a part of that.

In How To Save A Life, both of the main characters start out being a bit difficult to like. Did you like writing characters that the reader might not initially sympathize with?

This question always makes me wonder if I'm totally out of touch with this issue of "likeable", because I don't intentionally write characters who aren't. To me, they are just complex humans, with good days and bad days, and since fiction is about conflict, we happen to catch them in the midst of a lot of bad days. But I do like the process, in every book, of getting down underneath whatever the shell is to the vulnerable person beneath, and figuring out what they truly hope and fear, and what it is they're longing for.




About her -
photo from sarazarr.com Now I wish I'd ask where that jacket is from...
What were some of your favorite books as a teen?

I loved anything by Robert Cormier, and there were a couple of Madeleine L'Engle books that really affected me. House Like a Lotus, particularly. For less literary fare, I was basically obsessed with VC Andrews. And I loved paperback YA stuff about girls getting makeovers--ugly duckling stories

What are some of your favorite recent reads?

The List by Siobhan Vivian, and The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando. Two very different books. The List is a great feat of craft, and so smart in what it has to say about the culture of girls and beauty. Tara's book has her usual poignancy and poetry, but this one is also a fun read, perfect for summer.






What are some things you like to do in Utah?

Since moving here from San Francisco, my love for and appreciation of nature has increased about a hundredfold. I live pretty near City Creek Canyon, and love to walk or hike up there on the various trails, and watch for birds (which is different from birdwatching - that takes way more patience than I have). Even the cemetery near our house is full of beauty, and has great views of the valley and mountains. As for indoor things, I like seeing movies at The Broadway, going out to breakfast at Oasis, and trying out all the coffee shops in town.

Can you share anything about what you're working on now?

I'll have two books out in 2013. The Lucy Variations is about a 16-year-old pianist having a creative crisis. I've also got a collaborative novel with Tara Altebrando, currently called Roomies, which is sort of two stories in one and involves email correspondence the summer before college, between two girls who are to be each other's roommate. When all the work on those is done, I'm taking a break!



Thanks again to Sara for answering my questions! You can find Sara online at:
sarazarr.com
Twitter

And now, because I love her books so much, I'm giving away a copy of paperback Sara Zarr book of your choice from The Book Depository!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 comments:

  1. How lucky for you to get to interview Sara! Way to go! I love her books. :)

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    1. Thanks. I was so excited for it. I think she's such a good writer.

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  2. Utah is so great for places to hike and enjoy the beauty outdoors. I haven't had a chance to go up City Creek Canyon yet, though. I'll have to put it on my docket. And, I've never heard of the Oasis (sad), so I'll have to try that out some time too!

    Thanks for the great interview, Kathy. I don't know a lot about Sara Zarr because I haven't had a chance to read her books yet. I look forward to it more than ever now. :)

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    1. Yeah, I actually hadn't heard of any of the places she talked about before. But maybe that's because my knowledge of Salt Lake begins & ends at Temple Square...
      I think you'd really like her books, whenever you have a chance to pick one up. :)

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  3. Woah, woah, I love Sara Zarr, the first book I read by her was Sweethearts and it was just that...sweet. Oh my gosh, it was soo good. The Lucy Variations looks very very good and I cannot wait for it to release. Yes! Oh and The List is very very good. I read it.

    Great interview.

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    1. That was my first book of hers, too! And good to know about The List. I haven't heard much about it.

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  4. Well, she definitely has done what she set out to because I always become completely absorbed in her books. I can't wait to read How To Save A Life and her upcoming books as well!

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    1. How To Save A Life is really good. It took me a couple chapters to get into it, and then I read it straight through.

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  5. I just finished my last Sara Zarr book (ONCE WAS LOST), and now I'm super sad that there aren't any more, yet. At least there are two coming out in 2013!

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    1. I know, I'm so excited. I still need to read Once Was Lost. I'm hoping to this month.

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  6. I haven't read any books by her, but they sound so good. They're definitely toward the top of my list.

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    1. They are so good! I hope you'll get a chance to soon.

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    2. She is definitely one of the best authors. I loved Story of A Girl.

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    3. She is definitely one of the best authors. I loved Story of A Girl.

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  7. Thank you both for the fab interview! I finished How to Save a Life last week, my first Zarr read, and I loved it. I am EXTREMELY excited for The Lucy Variations and Roomies! Both sound amazing!

    And ahhh, I have to chec out The List and The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life soon!

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    1. Thank you! I really want to check out the Pathetic Life book, too. With a title like that you know it has to be good. :)

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  8. I had the biggest obsession with VC Andrews as a teen. :) How to Save a Life and Sweethearts are both on my to-read list, but sadly haven't gotten a chance to read either yet.

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    1. Somehow I managed to miss out on VC Andrews as a teen. I hope you'll get a chance to read them. Sweethearts is my favorite.

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  9. I really enjoyed How to Save a Life. I really want to read some of her other books.

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    1. It's such a good book. Her others are just as awesome!

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  10. Great interview! I really liked How to Save a Life, but I haven't picked up any of her other stuff yet. Will have to rectify that soon :)

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    1. Thank you! I hope you like her other books. :)

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  11. Great interview! I haven't read any of her books yet, but they all sound absolutely fabulous, so thank you for the fabulous giveaway! I love THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR PATHETIC LIFE too :D

    Rabiah (name on Rafflecopter)

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  12. I also like V.C. Andrews when I was a teen (and I still do). Amazing interview really!

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  13. Aww how did I miss out of this interview and giveaway?? I really enjoyed Once Was Lost and can see the Zarr has such a great gift for writing complex characters that you can't help but like. Even if they are the complete opposite to who you are!

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