Good morning! Today's SBBT's guest is Sara Zarr, whose first novel Story of a Girl was released this spring. (You can read my review here.) When she's not writing, you can find Sara at her blog-- The Story of a Girl
Kelly: Tell us a little bit about Sara Zarr. Where do you live? How do you spend your days?
Sara: I've lived in Salt Lake City ever since my husband moved here for work about seven years ago, and I have to say I love it. There are a lot of displaced Californians like me here who feel like we've discovered this amazing secret of the quality of life available in Utah. Others are catching on, though. I think right now two of the fastest-growing cities in country are in Utah. Right now I'm writing full-time and spend my days creatively avoiding work.
Kelly: Beer, wine, or a soft drink?
Sara: I'm really sort of addicted to water, but in the summer there's nothing like a great local microbrew with friends. It may surprise people to know that Salt Lake City has several outstanding microbreweries.
Kelly: Who is your favorite writer?
Sara: Oh, I can never name favorites. Of anything. Robert Cormier is the writer who made me want to write.
Kelly: Beach, city, or forest?
Kelly: What draws you to Young Adult literature in particular? What I mean is, why Young Adult fiction and not, say, mystery, chick lit, or "literary fiction"?
Sara: I'm sure some of it has to do with the influence of Cormier, and M.E. Kerr, and the other great YA authors I've always admired, but really it's just that when I think of stories they usually involve teenagers. There's something about adolescence that is ripe for storytelling, I guess, and I love the straightforward, concise sort of storytelling that seems to be one of the hallmarks of YA.
Kelly: Coffee, tea, or a triple skinny latte?
Sara: Why thank you for offering! Coffee with real half and half, no sweetener.
Kelly: Story of a Girl is your first novel. How long did it take you to write? And I mean from the very beginning--from the spark in your eye to the lovely product I just received?
Sara: I started writing the first draft in 2001, I think, so...six years? That's a bit deceptive, though, as there were huge chunks of time in there spent waiting to hear back from potential agents and editors and contests. I'd say about half that time was waiting.
Kelly: Movie, Theater, or a Concert?
Sara: Movie. Unless the concert is a rock concert in a small venue starring a band or songwriter I love.
Kelly: If you had an entire week and unlimited resources to do whatever you'd like, what would you do and why?
Sara: I'd tour Europe. I've never been off the North American continent!
Kelly: Halloween, New Year's, or Valentine's Day?
Sara: New Year's. I love fresh starts.
Kelly: Story of a Girl really resonated with me, in part because Pacifica reminded me so much of the town I grew up in. You really nailed that California small town down on its luck. Did you grow up in a small town as well?
Sara: I actually lived in San Francisco, a few blocks from Golden Gate Park, until age eleven when we moved to Pacifica. So I have direct experience! Even though Deanna's particular story is not autobiographical, her high school was my high school, her landscape was my landscape, her sense of being trapped in that town was mine (and every teen's who lived in Pacifica without a car). Originally I was going to have it be a fictional town like Pacifica, but then I decided why try to disguise it? I can sort of appreciate it now when I go back to visit as an adult, but it is what it is. I've had a lot of strong response to the setting.
Kelly: Story of a Girl concerns, in many ways, forgiveness and redemption. It seems to me, that Deanna has to forgive others before she can let herself off the hook. Was this theme of forgiveness and redemption one you brought into the book consciously, or did it develop organically as you were writing?
Sara: A little of both, I'm sure. The forgiveness and redemption aspects seem to be part of my writer's DNA---they keep coming up in everything I do; I don't know if I could stop them if I tried. But you can't really go into a book sure of what you want to say. If you do, you close yourself off to other possibilities and perhaps become blind to the other important tasks of writing a good book.
Kelly: In the process of figuring things out and forgiving others around her (Tommy, her father), Deanna makes a few mistakes along the way: kissing her best friend and saying hateful things to her best girlfriend. What are you saying about the nature of friendships and growing up in Story of a Girl?
Sara: I guess that it's hard. People let us down, we let them down. You can't go through a meaningful life and have real connections without occasionally inflicting pain on yourself and others. I think the temptation for most of us when we do that is to walk away and start over with someone else in hopes that we won't mess it up this time. But you can't walk away from yourself, which is something Deanna figures out. The real triumph of her friendship with Lee and Jason is in that last moment of the book, when they are going toward each other instead of away.
Kelly: I absolutely adore the title of your novel and think it fits the book perfectly. Was Story of a Girl the title from the very beginning or did you come to it later on?
Sara: Thank you! Coming up with a title can be one of the hardest parts of writing a book or story. When I started the book, it was called The Miracle of Life. Then it was Together Alone. There was that line on the first page where Deanna has that line,...in my head I wrote the story of a girl… and I went with that. For a long time it was THE Story of a Girl, but the "the" got dropped in the cover design process and I never looked back!
Kelly: What can we look forward to next from Sara Zarr? My second book with Little, Brown is about to go into production. It's called Sweethearts, and it's about childhood sweethearts who experience something traumatic together as kids, are separated for years, and then find each other again during their senior year of high school. Drama ensues. By the way, I've decided that's what I want on my headstone: "Drama ensued."
Today's SBBT schedule:
Sonya Hartnett at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
David Brin at Chasing Ray
Laura Ruby at Miss Erin
Bennett Madison at Shaken & Stirred
Shaun Tan at A Fuse #8 Production:
Chris Crutcher at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at The YA YA YAs
Kazu Kibuishi at Finding Wonderland
Christopher Golden at Bildungsroman
Kirsten Miller at Jen Robinson's Book Page