As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

September 30, 2010

Interview with Author, SARA ZARR, National Book Award Finalist

Interviewed by Amy Finnegan

We're thrilled to welcome Sara Zarr to Bookshop Talk for our first ever interview! Sara is not only an extraordinary author, but also a super cool person. As for her novels . . . well, I'll let a few professional critics introduce those:

"[Zarr is a] master of show-not-tell....[a] subtle, beautifully-written novel." ((starred review) VOYA )

"Zarr's writing is remarkable." ((starred review) Booklist )

"Engrossing." ((starred review) Publishers Weekly )

Yep. See all those “starred reviews”? Sara is a what people call a Pretty Big Deal, and yet she still took time for an interview with a start-up review site. So after you read a bit about her here, be sure to check out her novels. You’ll be happy you did.

Here are a few questions we had for Sara:

Bookshop Talk: It’s hard enough to write about the life of a teen and make the story feel genuine, but you go beyond that and write about some pretty difficult subject matter: kidnapping, abuse, questioning one’s religious beliefs, family dysfunction . . . all of these topics can open an author up to both criticism and praise. Why do you feel it’s important to provide teens with literature containing more controversial topics?

Sara Zarr: When I'm writing, my mind is far away from audience or thinking in terms of "providing" something in my work. I start with characters or situations that I'm interested in exploring, and that seem like they'd make good books, and then it's a matter of paying attention to the stories and giving them what they need. After it's all over, I can think about audience a little more. To me, it's not about "controversial" or "clean." Teens deserve stories that respect the adolescent experience in all its complexity---sometimes it is good and beautiful, sometimes it's hard and ugly. There's a place for all kinds of stories. 

BT: Your first published novel, Story of a Girl, earned a National Book Award nomination—pretty amazing, especially for a debut author! And since then, you’ve had two additional novels receive rave reviews from critics and readers alike. What is your secret to writing about teen characters, and their unique challenges, so well?

SZ: Well, one, thank you, and two, I don't know if there is a secret. I think that part of it is I'm very in touch with my own inner life - not just remembering what it felt like to be 15, but what it feels like to be me, now. Self-knowledge is very helpful when you want to write complexly about human experience. If there is a secret, it's remembering that being an adult doesn't mean you have life figured out. If you approach writing from a standpoint of believing you have it figured out, it's going to be difficult to write authentically from the POV of a teen just starting to experience life beyond childhood.

BT: Can we expect another book from you in the near future?

SZ: I'm wrapping up the final revision on my next book right now, so that should be out around fall 2011. It doesn't have a title yet, which is driving me crazy!

BT: What are some of your all-time favorite books?

SZ: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (and lots of his books), Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons (and almost anything by Anne Tyler), Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, of course. The Secret Garden, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, almost everything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. To name a few!

A very big thank you to Sara Zarr for joining us on Bookshop Talk! And now you can check out her award-winning novels for yourself:

Story of a GirlWhen she is caught in the backseat of a car with her older brother's best friend - Deanna Lambert's teenage life is changed forever. Struggling to overcome the lasting repercussions . . . she longs to escape a life defined by her past. With subtle grace, complicated wisdom and striking emotion, The Story of a Girl reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, epiphany and redemption. (Amazon product description)

Story of a Girl (paperback)
Story of a Girl (kindle)

SweetheartsAs children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend. When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken. (Amazon product description)

Sweethearts (paperback)
Sweethearts (kindle)

Once Was LostSamara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel. (Amazon product description)

Once Was Lost (hardcover)
Once Was Lost (kindle)

You can also visit Sara at her website: Sara Zarr

Do you want to WIN a book by Sara Zarr? Check out the post on Bookshop Talk titled "Giveaway!"

1 comment:

Jessica Day George said...

I love Sara, and her books! If I ever get a sec, I will post a review of ONCE WAS LOST, my personal favorite!