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 -
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...|
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:
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