Interview With YA Author Sara Zarr
Today Fire and Ice is pleased to introduce YA author Sara Zarr. I’ve met Sara at a couple of book related events and she is always very down to earth & friendly. She’s one very talented woman.
Author Bio: “Sara is the acclaimed author of three novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), and Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009, Utah Book Award winner, INSPY winner). Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain online, Response, and several anthologies. Sara’s fourth young adult novel will be published in early 2012. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at http://www.sarazarr.com/.”
Here’s what Sara had to say in our exclusive interview about her latest book, “Once Was Lost…”
Once Was Lost was inspired by the story of Elizabeth Smart. Tell us a little bit of her background and what moved you about it.
Elizabeth Smart was taken from her bedroom in the middle of the night, back in 2002, here in Salt Lake. It was so incredibly sad, and I was certain that there was no hope. I’d see the blue ribbons people put up around the neighborhood and think, “When you take those down? How do you know when to give up hope?” I thought about that question as applied to life in general, and started asking the what-if questions that lead to a story–What if I were a teen in Elizabeth’s community? What if I sort of knew her? What would that feel like? Etc. And when she was found, alive, it forced me to re-think all my ideas about “too late.”
Samara is an unique name, any reason you picked it?
I can’t remember, except that in my mind her name was Sam, but it wasn’t short for Samantha. So I think I started looking for other names that could be shortened to Sam. The fact that she’s a pastor’s daughter and the name sounds biblical helped.
What is the overall message you hope readers glean from Once Was Lost?
I don’t hope for a message. I always hope readers connect with the story, that it feels real to them. First, I want them to enjoy reading. Second, it’s nice if the story compels them to think more deeply about some aspect of life…whatever aspect that the book brought up for them.
Samara’s parents are far from perfect. Is there anything you wish her father or mother would have done differently?
Ha! Yes, of course, a lot. Her father should have talked more openly about what was going on in the family. Her mother should have returned her calls. But, as readers can see in all my books, parents are flawed humans, like all of us. They, and we, don’t always have the courage or wisdom to do what’s best for everyone.
Tell us a little bit about your aversion to facebook and too much social media.
Well, I actually love social media. I’m a Twitter fiend. My issues with Facebook are: It is really difficult on Facebook to keep my private/family life separate from my public life as an author. FB does provide some tools to help you “manage your identity” to different groups of people, but the tools are complicated and, based on past “privacy oversights”, I don’t trust them. I don’t like the categorization of life it forces you into. It just makes me uneasy. Recently, there was a “glitch” by which everyone who listed Salt Lake as their hometown got a link put on their profile to the Salt Lake Visitor’s Bureau. That kind of stuff drives me nuts!
In general, I think we all live too much through screens. I try to set limits for myself and notice when I’ve gone over that tipping point between fun and connection, and mindless clicking.
Do you have any new books in the works?
I do! My fourth book, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE, will be out in about a year. I’m very excited about it. It’s about two girls, Mandy and Jill, whose worlds collide when Jill’s mom decides to adopt Mandy’s baby.
Ten books that have influenced your life.
In no particular order…
THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier
MYSTERY AND MANNERS by Flanner O’Connor
HO– USEKEEPING by Marilyn Robinson
THE WAR OF ART by Stephen Pressfield
MEMBER OF THE WEDDING by Carson McCullers
STORY OF A GIRL (By me…cheating? It was my debut novel, and it changed my life.)
SECRETS IN THE DARK by Frederick Beuchner
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
MY GRANDFATHER’S HO– USE by Robert Clark
THE HOLY WAY by Paula Huston
Do you believe in miracles? Why or why not.
Oh boy. I am a practicing Christian, and therefore the answer must be yes, as the whole point of the faith is based on a miracle – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But when it comes to the present day, or the possibility of miracles in my own life, I’m a skeptic. This is why Elizabeth Smart being found alive was so powerful to me. Though it didn’t involve the laws of physics being broken, she might as well have been Lazarus, that’s the extent to which I’d written her off for dead.
What has been your most rewarding moment as a YA author?
The most rewarding moments always have to do with interactions with people–with readers who have connected with my work, or with other writers who are struggling with the same hopes and fears as me.
Any upcoming events?
I’m giving a keynote address at the SCBWI New York conference next weekend. And this summer, I’m teaching a week long workshop in YA (and middle-grade) fiction. Info here for anyone interested! http://imagejournal.org/page/events/the-glen-workshop/2011/east/index
Thanks so much to Sara Zarr for taking time out to be with us! Visit Sara at her website http://www.sarazarr.com/
Little Brown has generously donated a paperback copy of Once Was Lost for our blog readers. To enter to win simply fill out this form.