Sarah Darer Littman [Interview] (By Ava Trembath)

Editor’s Note: So, regular readers of TWS will know that we just did a book review for Sarah Darer Littman’s novel Anything But Okay, available October 9th. I have to let you all know that it was not my own original curiosity that led me to wanting to talk with Sarah and check out her latest book. It was actually my soon to be teenaged daughter Ava Trembath who asked me if I could reach out to Sarah Darer Littman to do an interview. So, of course, in wanting to be a cool Dad, I did just that. I had no idea that Littman would ended up being one of the nicest people I would ever digitally meet, and become someone I would dare call a friend! So, while all credit is due to Ava for constructing the idea to have Sarah on the site, I thought it was only right that I let her take the reigns, and have her ask the questions on this go around.

And if I am being honest and candid here, I have spent the last two months talking with folks from the world of horror, so I am probably not in the best mental state to be asking questions to the greatest Young Adult novelist of this day and age. So, who better to chat it up with a YA mastermind that an actually young adult themselves, my amazing daughter and future astronaut for NASA or that weirdo Elon Musk or that weirdo “president” of our’s so called “Space Force” who digest a new novel a day on average. So, ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Sarah Darer Littman with questions by the amazing Ava Trembath. Enjoy!

Ava Trembath on Anything But Okay:

I really liked this book because it had real life problems that are happening today.I liked that it would switch between Stella and her brother and that her brother’s point of view was in emails and texts to his friend even after he died.I also liked that it was told from his sister’s point of view.Some authors would write it from the main person who’s affected by what’s happening not from the rest of the family.In this book it shows that it affects all of the family and even friends.I love this book because it is interesting, sad, funny, and amazing.

What was your favorite book to write and why?

LOL, I always compare this to someone asking which is my favorite child. I suppose there are a few that are special to me in different ways. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite book to write – it was probably one of the harder ones given the circumstance, but In Case You Missed It is very much a book of my heart. It sold to Scholastic and that evening I went to an author event with Gregory McGuire at the public library with my mom. We had a wonderful time, and when I dropped her back at her apartment, I told her “I love you, I’ll see you when I get back,” because my son and I were invited to TED in Vancouver to see Dave Isay of StoryCorps accept the TED award. We had an amazing time, and I was texting Mom pictures. When I got off the plane my phone rang, and my boyfriend called and said Mom was dead. I compare the feeling of that call to having a limb ripped off without anesthetic.

That was in mid March, and the book I’d just sold on proposal was due in August. Writing that book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it ended up that one of the themes of the book was learning how to carry on when everything feels completely bleak and the future is uncertain. It ends with hope, but without everything tied up neatly in a bow and happily ever after.

I also love my middle grade fairy tale retellings, Charmed I’m Sure and Fairest of Them All CHARMED I’M SURE, because I got a chance to go back to the original (vs the Disney) fairy tales and examine them in a humorous way with a modern feminist perspective, by telling the story through the teenage daughters of the original characters. There’s another book in that universe coming out in 2019.

 What is your favorite type of books to read?

I like reading books – Fiction, Non-Fiction, YA and middle grade, historical fiction, historical biography, poetry, picture books. I think that’s what has enabled me to be a versatile writer – able to write edgy YA, humorous middle grade, to do business writing and write political opinion. Reading widely helps me make connections that other people might not make.  

What is a type a book that you want to write, but haven’t yet?

I’d love to write a picture book. Note I say write, not illustrate – I am artistically challenged. Stick figures are about the best I can manage.

I’d also like to write a dystopian novel because there seems to be more inspiration every day when I read the news. I keep bookmarking news stories in a “Book Ideas” folder. I’m particularly interested in the intersection between teenagers and technology, because I see how much new technologies impact my teen readers, both positively and negatively. It’s not just the teen readers either. When I visit with classrooms, either in real life or via Skype, I ask classes that have read my cyberbullying novel, Backlash, to raise their hand if they’ve had something hurtful written about them online. Inevitably, most of the kids in class raise their hands. I tell them that as adults, we’re supposed to be modeling the behavior, and we’re not doing a very good job of it. That’s one of the reasons I gave up regular political writing in mid-2017 – it just got so toxic that it was affecting my ability to write fiction, and fiction is what pays for my mortgage and health insurance.

Are you a cat or dog person? Or both?

I am most definitely a dog person. I LOVE dogs, and always felt there was something missing in my life during the (thankfully short) periods of my life when I wasn’t able to have a dog. True story: Mom prohibited Dad and me from going to pet stores together, because every time we did that we came home with a dog!

I actually like cats, too,  but unfortunately I’m seriously allergic to them. Just another reason to be a dog person.

What is your favorite place to write/read?

I was a single mom when I started my writing career, so I’ve learned to be able to write anywhere and everywhere. I’d write in the carpool pickup line, in cafes, on the train, in doctor office waiting rooms, you name it. Now that my kids are older, my favorite place to write is my study, where I’m surrounded by bookshelves with my favorite books. Here are are two walls of bookshelves – there are more on the other walls and downstairs. My favorite place to read is everywhere! I have library books downloaded onto my phone so I can read if I have a moment while I’m out and about. I also love taking relaxing baths at the end of the day and read in the bath. So far have managed not to drop the iPad in the water, but did ruin a book once : )

 What made you want to write?

I’ve always loved to write as a way of self expression. As an introvert, I’ve always found it easier to find my voice in writing than through speaking out loud. But it’s more than that. By nature, I’m a very curious person, and I write to answer questions. Through researching the questions and the act of writing about them through whether it’s for a column or my fiction, I’m able to find some clarity – and hopefully pass that on to readers.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

I’m more of an early bird, although I’ve worked to become slightly more of a night owl because my husband is one. Otherwise there are times when we’re both working intensively on our separate projects where we end up being like two ships that pass in the night for weeks on end. I’m definitely more focused in the morning, especially if I work out.

Do you think that people other than young adults would like your books?

I do! My books are classified as young adult and marketed to that audience, but as far as I’m concerned I write for thinking human beings of all ages and gender identities. It’s one of the reasons I get frustrated about how my cover designs tend to be very gendered, as compared to male authors who write books with female protagonists. I wrote a blog post about that for #kidlitwomen month. http://sarahdlittman.blogspot.com/2018/03/branding-or-gendering.html

What is your favorite book/author and why?

Ha! That’s another really difficult question. I love so many books it’s hard to chose just one. But if you force me, I’d probably say The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. My most influential author is George Orwell. I have my MFA students read his essay “Politics and the English Language” because I think it’s so important to the understanding of good writing, and how language can be used for both clarity and for obfuscation, particularly in politics.

Do you like to write with pen and pencil or typing on a computer better and why?

I like to jot down ideas with a pen and paper, especially when I’m trying to brainstorm or work out a problem. I do most of my serious writing on a laptop, however,  because I can type as fast as I think. Writing longhand is too slow for my brain when it comes to getting words on the page.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog Benny (aka “the writing assistant”) makes me laugh constantly, especially when he throws his toys up in the air and they land behind him and he’s like “Where did it go?”  Reading Ava’s review definitely made me smile!

 

 

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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