Today I'm honored to have author Sara Zarr. Seriously Sara Zarr is like hero/idol to me. I can't tell you how much I adore her book STORY OF A GIRL. It's one of those books that just makes me work harder to be a better writer so that hopefully I can tell a tale so masterfully. I'm sure I'll feel the same way about her new one, ONCE WAS LOST which comes out tomorrow!
So here's Sara to tell us all about herself and ONCE WAS LOST!
Q: Tell us all about ONCE WAS LOST. What's it about? And how did you come up with the story?
Sara: It's about fourteen days in the life of a pastor's daughter, Samara, who's in the midst of something of a personal tragedy (her mother is in rehab, her father is clueless) when a local tragedy happens: a young girl from her father's congregation is kidnapped. We see that through the eyes of someone who would like to have some hope, but the things she's grown up holding onto don't seem to be coming through for her.
The idea was one of those that was a long time in forming. When a teen girl in my city (Salt Lake) was kidnapped in summer of 2002, I started putting it together. At first it was kind of an ensemble piece with multiple POVs, including those of adults, with every character peripherally connected to the missing girl. It was all very epic. In late 2007 I took control of it and began shaping it into a YA novel.
Q: What are five songs that would be on the soundtrack to ONCE WAS LOST and how do they relate to the book?
Sara:Oh God, Where Are You Now? by Sufjan Stephens - Basically, that is the question Sam asks throughout the book.
I Know There's a Word for This by Aimee Mann - A great anthem of malaise, if that's not a contradiction in terms, and Sam (and her mother) are depressed.
Idea #21 (Not Too Late) by Over the Rhine - This is the theme song of the book, for me.
The Killer Inside by Better Than Ezra - A number of people in the book may or may not be suspects in the kidnapping. It's good to have a creepy song like this (and also BTE's Porcelain) playing in the back of your mind as you read the last third.
Ballad of Humandkindness by The Dears - I always have a line of this song in my head, "And I turn on the news / and there's always some dude / who's relentlessly bringing me down." It's just a great song for anyone who is pissed off at the state of the world, and the state of themselves.
Q: ONCE WAS LOST is about a crisis of faith, something I believe we all go through as teenagers, not necessarily about religion but about who we are and how we fit with our friends and families. Can you talk about a time you had a crisis of faith, maybe as a teen, maybe as a writer, and how you got through it?
Sara:I'd never thought of this before now - I was going through my crisis of faith in myself, God, and my future as a writer exactly when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. That summer, so much was wrong with the world. I mean, I guess there always is, but I was really feeling it. 9/11 was still in recent memory, the economy was in the toilet, I'd just been laid off and had also parted ways with my first agent with three unsold books. I was relatively new to Utah and still feeling homesick for CA. When Elizabeth was kidnapped, it was the kind of thing that felt like the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back. My basic attitude toward life was, "What the HELL?" Who is in charge? Why is everything falling apart?
How did I get through it? I don't know. I started therapy. I went to my first writing workshop and felt like I was doing the right thing with my life. I prayed a lot. Mostly, I waited. Eventually (like a year later), there was this moment when I sort of felt a voice inside me saying it was going to be okay. And it was.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to become a writer? Was it when you were a kid or later in life? Who were some of the people that inspired you to become a writer? (authors, people in your life, fictional characters, whoever. Since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday, we love to hear about other inspiring women, but we're happy to hear about influential men, too.)
Sara:I always wrote, but didn't think of it as a potential career until I was 25 and done with college. The people who inspired me were the people who were like me---writing and hoping one day to be published. I don't even know where most of them are now, but, hello if you're out there, and thank you! The very first writer I ever wrote a letter to was Marilyn Sachs. I'd adored her book as a young reader, and when I started writing seriously I felt like reaching out to everyone whose books I'd ever loved. Any writer of YA or MG who hasn't read Sachs, especially THE TRUTH ABOUT MARYROSE, needs to! She wrote back---a lovely handwritten card.
Q: I know ONCE WAS LOST hasn't even come out yet, but once we all devour it, we'll be wanting more, so what's next for you?
Sara:Oooh, well, all I can really say is I'm hard at work on my fourth novel for Little, Brown. My editor hasn't even seen it yet so I have to be vague.
Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!
Sara:First album I bought on my own, with my own money: Abba's Greatest Hits, Volume II. On vinyl. First concert I attended that was not arranged by my mother: U2, in 1986, on their Joshua Tree tour, at the Cow Palace. Not a bad way to start.
Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!
Sara:This past spring I was lucky enough to be part of the Rochester Teen Book Festival. Man, they know how to make a writer feel like a star! They literally roll out a red carpet. You travel in a stretch limo. When you step out of it, they have all the festival teen volunteers waiting so that as you walk the red carpet they are cheering and shouting out your name. If you're an author and you ever get invited to this event, SAY YES!
Thank you so much, Sara, for sharing the story behind ONCE WAS LOST and telling us so much about yourself :)
And a huge thanks to Sara for putting up a signed copy of STORY OF A GIRL as part of today's contest. It's one of my all time favorite books, so here is your chance to win it!
To enter just leave a comment about Sara's interview. You can also get extra entries:
+1 for tweeting/blogging about today's interview/contest
+1 for tweeting/blogging about Sara and her new book release ONCE WAS LOST
Note your extra entries in your comment along with an email address to contact you at. Then tune in two weeks from today because I'll announce the winner when I interview author Kathy Charles!
That's right you have two weeks to enter this contest because I'll be off honeymooning next week :) And don't forget to enter my Save Shrinking Violet contest too!