As a teen growing up in Pennsylvania Sarah fell in love with theater and considered majoring in drama at college, but opted for English instead. Learn below just how Sarah's love of theater and film found a unique place in her writing process.
But first, let's talk about Beyond Lucky.
Can you give us an overview of your MG, Beyond Lucky?
Ari Fish believes in two things: his hero-Wayne Timcoe, the greatest soccer goalie to ever come out of Somerset Valley-and luck. So when Ari finds a rare and valuable Wayne Timcoe trading card, he's sure his luck has changed for the better. Especially when he's picked to be the starting goalie on his team. But when the card is stolen-and his best friend and the new girl on the team accuse each other of taking it-suddenly Ari can't save a goal, everyone is fighting, and he doesn't know who, or what, to believe in.
Before the team falls apart, Ari must learn how to make his own luck, and figure out what it truly means to be a hero.
What sparked the idea for Ari’s story?
This book really evolved over time. At first, I wanted to write a story about a quirky town full of quirky people. (My goal was to write like John Irving.) When that did not produce enough conflict…or even a main character, I began to focus on a boy who loved his hero. I think I picked soccer because my son was a daisy picker! I thought the soccer culture was interesting—on the field and on the sidelines.
(Better a daisy picker than the, er, kind my five year old was on the soccer field : )
But it wasn’t until I discovered Ari’s obsessions—his superstitions and love of the Presidents—that I found his voice and realized what he wanted. I can thank Elliot for that. My son has been interested in US Presidential history for a long time.
Check out my Facebook page. All summer, I will be posting Elliot’s Presidential Facts on video!
What a great idea!! I'm SO there.
There's a very nice review of Beyond Lucky on Publishers Weekly among others, congratulations. This is the second novel length book you’ve published. I’ve read how many authors find their sophomore book more difficult and stressful in some ways. What was different and/or the same this time around for you?
First of all, writing is hard. Period. It is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. It takes tenacity and fortitude. You can’t give up. You have to re-evaluate all the time. And most of the time, there’s no promise waiting for you at the end.
All of that was true for me.
But I am not the kind of person who does anything the easy way.
After Head Case was released, other writers might have written a novel in the same genre. Not me! Early on, Beyond Lucky was also in third person. Beyond Lucky also has a huge cast of characters.
Writing a second book IS hard….maybe because you think it’s going to be easier. (I’ll admit: the third one isn’t easier either!) I also think that the more you begin to understand craft, the more you think about every word.
That is so true, Sarah. I never thought about it like that, but it makes sense. The more you know, the more options you have, the more choices you need to make/consider all the way down to each individual word. Sooo, what you're saying, if it IS hard then you must be doing something right, . . . right? . . . . Um, Sarah?
Many reviews for Beyond Lucky comment on the spot on voices of the three main characters, Ari, Mac, and Parker.
Thanks! I have to admit: I LOVE Ari, Mac, and Parker. They are so real to me. What really made Parker come alive? When I made her a girl. (In the early drafts, she was a buff boy….he created very little tension.) I LOVE when she stands up to Mac.
Do you have any pre-writing routines (like Ari) to get yourself ready to write?
I am the Queen of Rituals!
First, I believe we must celebrate and honor every step of the process. I have rituals for good writing days and bad. I make special meals when I hit page 100 and 200. When I write THE END, I often buy myself a prize. (Don’t tell my husband!)
I won't if you don't : )
As for prewriting rituals, I develop one for each novel.
I love that idea!!! I listen to different music depending on what I write, but this is even better. Tell us more.
For Head Case, I started my day by reading (out loud) a Billy Collins poem. For Beyond Lucky…and now as I write my new novel, I make myself some cappuccino, and then I pull out a card from my “inspiration deck.”
Here’s today’s inspiration:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain
I recently visited the Met in NYC. I love this quote from Alexander McQueen: You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for—to demolish the rules but keep the tradition.
Great quotes, thanks for sharing.
Your approach to writing a first draft is unique. Would you share a bit about your process for writing Beyond Lucky? (hint: this is where her drama background comes in)
I write skinny. Sometimes just dialogue. I try to write as fast as I can. This is because I LOVE to re-imagine scenes. My opinion: everything is arbitrary. It’s the point of the scene that matters.
My early drafts are all about getting to know the characters. I put them in a variety of situations and I let them talk. At some point, early in the process, I change POV’s. It may seem unnecessary, but I always figure out A LOT about my characters this way. I consider myself the director of my book. I like to see the characters from all angles.
For Beyond Lucky, I did something I had never done before. I deleted the first big draft. Thank Cynthia Leitich Smith for this. (She revealed that she does this regularly.)
I've heard about this but have yet to muster the guts to do it. Good for you!!!
Here’s the whole story!
I had written a version of this book way back in 2003. I submitted it to a few editors, and they all rejected it, offering similar feedback. Feeling ill equipped to address the problems, I put it away. I went to Vermont College and wrote two more novels. I played around with the manuscript a little bit—Margaret Bechard gave me some great feedback. But even then, I knew that there was something missing.
Back in the drawer it went until 2008.
What made me take it out? An SCBWI dinner. I sat next to a woman who was an agent. Although we had never met, she insisted my name looked familiar. After the main course, she snapped her fingers. “You wrote a soccer book, didn’t you?” Apparently, one of the editors that rejected the book in 2003 had sent it to her for a second opinion. I figured if she could still remember that book five years after rejecting it, something had to be working. So I opened the file. I re-examined those rejections. And then, because I knew I could do it now, I deleted the whole thing. I wrote the book from scratch. I re-envisioned every single character and situation. I created a new structure and even a new POV. What emerged was the book that would become Beyond Lucky!
Deleting a manuscript—and I mean really getting rid of the entire thing—was pivotal. It let me think about the characters in a new way…and this time I knew what they wanted. My best advice to new writers: don’t be afraid to delete.
Yes, it was an act of faith—in myself and my story. But if I had held onto those bad scenes, I would still be playing with them now. I would never have discovered the voice of my protagonist, Ari Fish.
Wow, good for you!! I hope you have a special way to celebrate deletes, too : )
You are not only a writer but a teacher (and a dang crazy good one, I know, I've taken many of her classes). How do these roles mesh together and how do you manage your time?
Studying the craft of writing with a group of smart colleagues is the best way I know to fuel my engine. Reading and thinking about why writing works makes me look at my manuscripts with a critical eye. Nothing is more important to success than a supportive community (that, and good coffee!!).
So true. Sarah has her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, she teaches writing and runs the spring Novel Writer's Retreat held at Vermont College annually. If you have the opportunity to take a class of Sarah's (learn more here) or attend the Novel Writer's Retreat, do it!!! I know from personal experience both are life and career changing experiences!! And Sarah does such a great job at creating that supportive community setting we all need for success.
I ask my spotlight writers what their most and least favorite words are. What would Ari’s be and how would he use them in a sentence?
Ari’s favorite word is EXTREMELY. As in “It’s an extremely bad omen.” (Parker likes spectacular.)
My least favorite word is moisture. Don’t even say it near me. It makes me squirm.
LOL!!!! Did you know . . . on Facebook there's a page dedicated to those who hate the word moist (moisture), seriously, and to date there are 6,739 others that 'like' this page or rather hate the word moist. I'm guessing there will soon be 6,740. Too funny.
I love the word, serendipity. I guess I’m all about providence and luck!
What a perfect way to tie up the interview. To win a copy of Sarah's book, leave a comment (+1), be a follower (+1), tweet about the giveaway (+2).
I'll announce the winner July 14th. Good luck!!!!!
Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to share your writing process with us AND tell us about your book, Beyond Lucky, available now!! I look forward to your next and your next and . . .
In closing: Beyond Lucky's book trailer.