But nonetheless, let's crack on with an AUTHOR INTERVIEW! And today, the lovely lady on my hot seat is none other than Sara Grant, author of Half Lives and Dark Parties (two of my favourite teen books of all time!). I met Sara last year at Andy Robb's book launch event, and then she kindly invited me to hers, which was just one of the most swishy events I have been to! Sara also introduced me to the amazing Nina Douglas, which led to me getting involved with Fierce Fiction blogging and reviewing- so if you think about it, I have Sara to thank for all of these exciting things that have happened :)
I caught up with Sara about her three top tips for aspiring writers, nuclear power and why she decides to write futuristic tales...
When did you first start writing? Did you always have dreams of becoming a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing my first proper story when I was eight years old. This was the first story I wrote just for the fun of it. It was called ‘A Dream I Wish Was True’. In the story, I got to meet my favourite movie star. I wrote with pencil on lined paper and tied the sheets together with three pieces of string. It even had a dedication. After that I was hooked. I’ve been writing stories ever since.
What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
The first books I remember reading were The Boxcar Children and The Secret Garden. I read these books over and over and over again.
How do you find inspiration to write a book?
Like sports and art – from mastering the piano to playing football – creating stories is about practice, practice, practice. It’s about training your brain to look for ideas. Stories are all around you and we are hard-wired to tell stories. I’m continually on the lookout for ideas. I keep a running list of story sparks on my phone – it could be a title, a character or a movie pitch – Willy Wonka meets Hunger Games, for example. I know I’m ready to tell a story when the same idea pops up again and again on the list or several ideas begin to merge into one.
Your writing for children (your Magic Trix series) and your teenage books (Half Lives and Dark Parties) are written in two incredibly different styles of writing. Do you find it easy or difficult to switch between your two styles and, if difficult, in what ways do you combat this?
I fully immerse myself in the characters, setting and drama of each story. Once I really know the story, it’s easy to slip back into the skin of my main characters – be they a ten-year-old fairy godmother in training or a rebel teenager fighting to overthrow an oppressive government. I try to only work on one book or series each day. If I need to switch between stories, I will usually re-read part of the story and maybe even play music that inspired the story as a way to ramp up to writing, revising or editing.
As a full-time writer, what is your daily schedule like?
The great thing about writing full time is that no two days are exactly alike. I am a morning person so I tend to wake up and get writing. I am a list maker and goal setter so I typically outline what I want to accomplish each day. I try to make my writing goal come first. I often spend some portion of my day either giving or organizing events – from writing workshops for adults to school or library visits for my teen or younger readers.
I also like to have some collaborative work. I work behind the scenes as a plot editor on a series of teen books. I am a guest lecturer on writing for young readers at Winchester University. I work with three friends who are also writers and editors on Book Bound – www.bookboundretreat.com – offering writing courses for adult writers. I also help edit and produce Undiscovered Voices – www.undiscoveredvoices.com – an anthology that highlights up-and-coming writers and illustrators. And I like to host events and activities with other writers through The Edge – edgeauthors.blogspot.co.uk – eight, UK-based writers who write edgy teen fiction.
Dark Parties and Half Lives are both based in the future, and describe an apocalyptic society in which your characters fight for survival. Do you think the future is something we should embrace or be fearful of?
Definitely embrace. I still find it amazing that I’m drawn to write dystopian novels. I’m the biggest optimist. I believe the best in people and have great hope for the future of the planet and humankind.
My novels are not prophecies. I don’t write about the future I think will happen. I write futuristic tales because I love the freedom – not only the freedom to imagine the future and make the rules, but also the freedom that I can afford my teen protagonist. Dystopian stories allow writers to rid teen protagonist of pesky parents, mobile phones and the internet, which make answers and rescue come far too swiftly – and boringly.
And dystopian novels allow readers and writers the freedom to explore themes in a way most contemporary teen fiction can’t. You can illuminate a particular aspect of society or human nature and whittle away the parts of the real world that don’t serve your story.
As Half Lives seems to warn us, do you think world governments should be more careful of how they use nuclear power?
My editor sent me a podcast about how the U.S. government planned to mark the long-term storage site for nuclear waste. As you may know, some types of nuclear waste are deadly for more than 10,000 years. China, the planet’s oldest continuous civilization, stretches back, at most, 5,000 years. The fact that we are creating a substance that will be deadly for longer than we’ve been around seems like something from a scary science fiction novel – not something that’s happening in counties around the world. It’s definitely something governments should address very thoughtfully. You can read more about the issues explored in Half Lives on my web site: www.sara-grant.com/half-lives/half-live-discussions
If you were stuck in an underground bunker like Icie, what three items and what three people would you take down with you?
This is a very difficult one.
I’m assuming you mean items other than ones vital for survival, such as food, water and flashlight. I would have to take a HUGE notebook and a gazillion pencils because I’d definitely need to write. I also would pack a photo album chocked full of pictures of my family and friends.
I would take my husband and my two cats along with me too. But it might be fun to take one of my favourite movie stars – such as Kevin Spacey – or my favourite singer – someone like James Taylor. Or a great storyteller like Libba Bray. They would provide endless entertainment.
What advice would you give to aspiring young writers?
1. Write! As simple as it sounds, to be a writer you have to write and finish a story. I know so many amazing writers who have loads of great ideas but don’t find the time to write or never finish a story. Write what you love to read but also experiment with your writing.
2. Read! Read anything and everything. Read the classics, the current bestsellers and everything in between. Everything you need to know about writing can be found by reading and analysing great fiction past and present.
3. Never Give Up! Believe in your work and never stop learning and improving, writing, rewriting. Writers must learn how to deal with rejection. J.K. Rowling was rejected numerous times before Harry Potter found a publisher. You need to be able to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and keep improving.
How do you think books can change the world?
To change the world, first you need to know how and why it needs to change. Books are a safe place to explore. The best books make you see the world differently. Through books we can gain insights, empathy and understanding. I love a book that begs to be discussed. I also think books can demonstrate that one person can make a difference. We not only have to see the change but have the courage to act – books can provide inspiration for both.
I'd like to thank Sara Grant MILLIONS for agreeing to be interviewed and spending so much time and thought on answering my questions :)
If you would like to see my signed copies of Half Lives and Dark Parties, click here.
Thank you very much for reading, and be sure to check Sara Grant and all her magical books out!
Until next time :)