Friday, December 22, 2006

What's Fresh with Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl

In the three years since her father caught her in the back seat of a car with an older boy, sixteen-year-old Deanna’s life at home and school has been a nightmare, but while dreaming of escaping with her brother and his family, she discovers the power of forgiveness.

Hello Sara, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Sara: I've been writing my whole life, but never got past the first few pages of a story until about ten years ago when I decided to sit down and write a whole novel. I'd never had any formal schooling in creative writing, so it was a sort of "learn by doing" process. Of course, I love books and reading so I had at least a clue as to how a book should read! I finished that novel, got an agent, wrote another novel which I hid in a drawer, wrote another novel, lost my agent, then wrote what would become STORY OF A GIRL. I got a new agent, and we made the sale to Little, Brown in May 2005. And STORY OF A GIRL is just coming out now! I thought the day would never come, honestly.

The process of writing and finding an agent all happened pretty much through persistence, trial and error, and more persistence. I didn't have an "in" or get any referral that paid off...just cold queries and lots and lots of patience!

Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Sara: I wish I had a typical schedule. I've been writing full-time for almost a year now, and I'm still figuring out what works. "Writing full-time" doesn't mean I write 40 hours a week, it just means I don't have another means of income at the moment. My ideal day looks like this: get up and have my shower, breakfast, coffee and e-mail done all by 9:30 or so. Write from 10 until lunch. After lunch, hopefully have another hour or so of productivity on the work in progress. After that, my mental capacities are quickly diminishing, so I take care of random items of business stuff with my agent or publicist, post to my blog, backup my work, and call it a day.

Please tell us about STORY OF A GIRL and what we can expect from your characters.

Sara: STORY OF A GIRL is my debut novel. It's a young adult title from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and it's available now in some places (January 10 everywhere else). The story finds sixteen-year-old Deanna Lambert at the start of the summer before her junior year, but it's not a summer kind of story with sun and adventure and romance. It's more like a summer nightmare as she's stuck in foggy Pacifica, working at a strip mall and forced to deal with someone and something from her past she'd rather forget. It's about family and friendship and forgiveness.

Sounds wonderful, Sara. What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Sara: I'm working on a second book for Little, Brown, tentatively titled SWEETHEARTS. It's about childhood sweethearts who are reunited in high school. Drama ensues. It should be out mid-2008.

Thanks again for sharing with us, Sara. I wish you the best with your debut! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Sara: Start with concrete details. Make sure the reader knows where your characters are in the time/space continuum, for example. Disembodied voices on an empty stage are great for experimental theater. Not so much for novels.

Sara Zarr is from San Francisco, but now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Find out more and read her blog at

8 fresh comments:

Little Willow said...

Great interview, interviewee, and interviewer!

stephhale said...

Great interview, Kelly. I heart Sara, she's one of my fellow 2k7er's and I can't wait to read her book!

TinaFerraro said...

Yeah, great interview, and the book sounds terrific. I'll look for it next month.


Kelly Parra said...

lol! Thanks, LW. =D
Hi Step, cool! I really want to read STORY OF A GIRL too!
Thanks, Tina!

Sara Z. said...

Thanks for the interview!
(By the way, I lamely typed "disembodies" when I meant "disembodied." The 'd' and 's' are too close together on my keyboard!)

Kelly Parra said...

You're welcome, Sara, and thank you! Oops, sorry I missed that--all fixed. =D

Simone Elkeles said...

My agent story is pretty much the same, glad to know there's other writers out there who struggled like me!
~Simone Elkeles

Kelly Parra said...

Hi Simone, I know that feeling! =D