Hello everyone! First of all I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Sarah for joining us today on Book Blab!
The Ice Chorus is Sarah's second novel, her first novel, "These Granite Islands" was short-listed for France's prestigous Gran Prix de lectrices d'Elle, and sold 40,000 copies in the US alone. The Ice Chorus has gotten rave reviews and has been re-released by ALMA books of England in paperback, and in the US in September of this year. (You can read my review of The Ice Chorus here.)
LJ: I'm always curious how long an author has taken to write any given novel. How long did Ice Chorus take, and were you in Ireland at the time of writing the book?
SS: I wrote this book rather quickly, in around 18 months – I had a deadline and a contract to deliver the book, so I had to move. I do better under deadline – nothing like a gun to the head. Right now I have a manuscript due in January, and only 130 pages. Wish me luck.
LJ: Can you tell us a bit about the writing process for you? Some write in a straight line, others use an outline, some write in bits and pieces. Was it one peanut of an idea in the beginning? Or did you have the whole story mapped out before hand.
SS: I have a notion of a story, but I don't write in a linear fashion – and my stories aren't told in a linear fashion either, so you can imagine the process is pretty organic. Also I go off on tangents and let the characters sort of drag me around, so I'm not always in control of the material and more often it has me. I write in bits and pieces and fits and starts and somehow it all coheres into a whole at the end, and believe it or not, I'm not sure how.
LJ: Did you know from the beginning that you were not just writing a story about Liselle and Charlie but about different types of love that one can have for different people in thier life?
SS: Any love affair – but particularly an extramarital affair - is rarely just about two people. They might be at the center of the web, but the reprucussions reverberate cross more heartstrings than their own. Also, I don't believe one can neatly compartmentalize love – that you have one sort of love for a friend and something completely distinct for a child or a parent – for even those loves change and grow and recede. Love's unpredictable at best, right?
LJ: Your characters are very well defined. Each has a distinctive "voice" which many times is lacking in novels. Like Remy, for example, (my personal favourite), and Soibhan, and even down to the people that visited in the hardware store to chat with the camera. Would you say this is a learned talent, or something a writer either is born with or not.
SS: If I'm going to spend months living with and writing a character, they might as well be interesting. Life is too short to spend around dull or uninspiring people - and books are even shorter. I wouldn't say writing three dimensional character is learned, or even a talent, maybe more like an instinct or the result of a long habit of observation – so when you say born with or not..? Maybe so.
LJ: I love how you didn't portray the husband as the "bad" guy that deserved what he had coming. Can you tell us how you saw Stephen and what made you create him in the way that you did?
SS: Seldom is one person at fault in the failure in a marriage. Again, three dimensional characters are believable characters and the good spouse/bad spouse notion is a little too simplistic. Besides, what would we think of Lise's character had she married a total shit? I wouldn't respect or relate to her, and I doubt a reader would. I saw Stephen as being close to the cusp – he was nearly a good match, but not quite, and not quite present enough for Lise. That said, I do not need for all my characters to be likable...I look forward to someday cooking up someone evil, awful or obnoxiosly saintly or pious – that might be fun.
LJ: I read somewhere that you were a writer-in-residence at some point in the writing of this book, did you find this helped the writing process? Or hindered it.
SS: I'm in a residency program or writers' colony about once a year – much different than being a writer-in-residence at a university, where you would have duties and students. I usually have a month of condensed writing time, so save up a lot of new material to get finished. It very much helps the process to immerse, step away from life and responsibilities of home and give the writing ultimate priority. I was recently at one for a month and one of my housemates dubbed it assisted living for writers.
LJ: What would you say is one of the surprising things about being a published author? Something you didn't expect or really had no idea would happen?
SS: Hands down, the most pleasant surprise in having work out there and available to read has been the feedback and responses I get from the readers. It's turned out to be quite a give and take proposition – I take them away or entertain or engage them for at least the time it takes to read a book, and they in turn make it all worth my while when they take the trouble to reach out and let me know I've touched them in some way, or that they related to a character. I was asked this in a recent interview and I responded by encouraging readers to write to writers, give feedback, even a wee customer review on Amazon or B&N or Goodreads, a comment on a blog – just a word. Think kipper tossed to a starving cat.
LJ: ) And lastly, the cover... I'm a huge sucker for a georgous cover, and yours is beautiful. How did it come to be and did you have any say in the design of the book?
SS: The jacket for the hardcover version of this book was so tragically bad and so misrepresented the story it killed sales and ruined the chances of the book succeeding. I made sure when I signed with my publisher Alma that this wouldn't happen again, that I would have some say. As it happened I chose the cover photograph and Alma designed around it. A collaboration – as it should be, and everybody's happy.
Once again, thank you SO MUCH, Sarah, for joining us today, and on behalf of myself and all of the fans of your writing I can't WAIT for Vacationland to come out! And we wish you great success with the rest of your writing career!
For more information on this fantastic and extremely talented author, visit Sarah's website here.
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