Today it's Sara Grant's turn to feature on the blog. Writer, editor, teacher and enabler - Sara is a woman of many talents and, as you might expect, a very busy one. Nonetheless, I managed to pin her down to chat to her about her new book release, Chasing Danger, and lots more. But before that, let's find out a little about the woman herself.
Sara loves everything about books – writing, editing and reading them. She has a brain full of story ideas and a bookcase overflowing with books. She also adores visiting schools, libraries and bookshops and sharing her passion for stories. Her latest project is Chasing Danger - an action-adventure series for middle grade readers. She has given creative writing workshops in Europe and the United States and taught master's classes on writing for children and teens at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Winchester. Sara was born and raised in Washington, Indiana, a small town in the Midwestern United States. She graduated from Indiana University with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She lives in London and is represented by Jenny Savill at Andrew Nurnberg Associates. She is published by Scholastic. To find out more about Sara and her work check out her website or connect with her on Twitter. To buy her books click here.
Many congratulations on the publication of Chasing Danger. It’s such a fun book, I loved it! Can you tell the readers what it’s about?
Chasing Danger is the start of a new action-adventure series. I think of it as a tween, re-booted Charlie’s Angels with the twist of exotic locations. Here’s the blurb for the first book:
“I couldn’t shake the feeling that this vacation might actually kill me.”
When fourteen-year-old Chase Armstrong is sent to visit her grandmother at a remote tropical resort, she’s looking forward to sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling. The last thing she expects is danger. But she’s in for some surprises. She discovers another girl hiding out on the island and uncovers a devastating secret about the mum she’s never known. When modern-day pirates attack the island, it’s up to Chase to outrun, out-think and outfight the pirates . . . before it’s too late!
It's such a great idea for a book! What sparked it and how did you develop the story?
I was a super fan of the TV show Charlie’s Angels when I was a kid. It had smart, strong, feisty – and yeah, gorgeous – women at the heart of the action. I’ve always wanted to write a series that would give teen readers the same experience I had when I watched Jill, Kris, Kelly and Sabrina in the 1970s.
I also love to travel. The first book in the Chasing Danger series sprang from my trip to the Maldives a few years ago. While my husband sunned himself and read a series of books, I plotted and planned mayhem. I envisioned and then pitched the first Chasing Danger as Die Hard (one of my all-time favourite action movies) on a desert island.
The things writer do on vacaction, eh? Now, what about your fab book cover? Who designed it and did you have any input into the design process?
The amazing team of designers, artists and illustrators at Scholastic. They did a great job of capturing the action and energy of Chasing Danger. I offered a few suggestions, but basically the initial cover Scholastic presented to me is the one you see.
Great job indeed, team! Moving on, Chasing Danger is only one of several books you’ve written. Could you tell us a bit about the others, please?
I’m a writer of many personalities. My first two novels were for young adults – one dystopian (Dark Parties) and the other apocalyptic (Half Lives). Both are stories of rebellion, true love and survival. Next I wrote a series for younger readers – Magic Trix. In many ways, it is the opposite of what I’d been writing. This fun magical series followed eleven-year-old Trix’s quest to become a fairy godmother.
Which do you prefer to write: the early chapter books, those aimed at the middle grade reader, or your young adult novels? Why?
I love the opportunity to write all different kinds of novels for a variety of age ranges. I’ve always wanted to write a mystery/thriller series so I’m having a blast creating murder and mayhem for Chasing Danger.
As well as sprinkling fairy dust with your Magic Trix books you also work your magic for other authors through the Undiscovered Voices (UV) competition. Why did you decide to get involved with this and what compels you to continue with it?
My friend Sara O’Connor and I came up with the idea about ten years ago. We pitched the idea to Working Partners and SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and have worked with them to help more than 33 writers and illustrators achieve their dreams of publication. Undiscovered Voices has grown and so has the team who organize it. We now have an amazing group of authors and illustrators who plan Undiscovered Voices nearly year round. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. The team is already in place for the next Undiscovered Voices, and I can’t wait to see what talent we’ll discover! You can check out all the previous and past Undiscovered Voices at: undiscoveredvoices.com.
What a wonderful achievement! You also help writers as one of the Book Bound team. For those who don’t know, could you explain what this involves?
Book Bound is a group of friends who have worked on both sides of the editorial desk. We offer a limited number of workshops and retreats for writers who are interested in writing fiction for children or teens. You can learn all about us on our web site: bookboundretreat.com.
How do you balance your writing time with author events and your UV and Book Bound commitments etc?
I’m a planner – not only when writing my books but in my life. I don’t wake up without a to-do list. I create a plan with deadlines for every project and stick to it. I love what I do so I never really have to work. There are times when deadlines collide and I need to work nearly 24/7, but usually it’s pretty manageable.
Talking of writing time, can you give us a brief insight into your actual writing process?
For Chasing Danger, I started by developing a proposal, which included a pitch, character profiles, a multi-book arc, as well as a detailed outline for book one and sample chapters. As I mentioned, I’m a planner. I write a chapter-by-chapter storyline for each book. Because Chasing Danger is a mystery/thriller, I like to plan all the story’s twists, turns and surprises. Then I share it with my Scholastic editors. They give me feedback on the plot and character arcs. Once we are all happy with the storyline, I sit down and breathe life into the story – expanding the 7,000-word-ish storyline into an approximately 45,000-word book.
Impressive! Which do you prefer, though: setting the story down in the initial draft or self- editing?
I love writing the first draft. It’s a thrill to see the story come together and surprise you. I have learned to like the revision process too because I know it’s what can make a good story an amazing book.
What about working with an editor, how do you find that?
I’ve been really lucky to work with so many amazingly talented editors. I love that I have such smart and talented people who want to help make my book the best it can be.
Donning your teaching hat for a moment, if you had to restrict yourself to offering only three pieces of advice to authors seeking publication what would those be?
Excellent advice, Sara. And what three pieces of advice would you proffer to debut authors?
Do everything you can to promote your book but know your abilities and limitations. No one has unlimited time, and there is always something you can do to promote your book – from school events to twitter. I create a plan of what I will realistically be able to do and then do it to the best of my abilities. And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy it.
So wise. Now, to round off the interview, let’s go random... Notepad, pen and Word document or hard core Scrivener?
Soup or sandwich?
Scuba diving or skydiving?
Reinvent yourself as a journalist or a psychologist?
Cutting edge or playing it safe?
Gorilla or giraffe?
Writers’ retreat or writers’ party?
And finally, if you had sixty seconds to talk with your eleven-year-old self what would you say?
You were right. Your time is coming. You will find love and achieve your dream. Hang in there and keep believing because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Fantastic! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Sara. I wish you continued success with all that you do and look forward to many more books from you in the future.