Today I'm proud to host fellow Utah writer Sara Zarr! Sara's writing career got off with a bang when her first novel, Story of a Girl, was a finalist for the National Book Award. She followed that with the award-winning Sweethearts. Her latest is Once Was Lost. Sara and I will be "interviewing each other" (yeah, we're a little unsure how that works too) this Saturday, Oct. 24, from 4:30-5:30 at the main branch of the Salt Lake City library. It's part of the Utah Humanities Book Festival. As she's busy with the new book, I'm keeping her interview short and sweet.
SH: Sam's story parallels the abduction of a girl from her congregation. Without revealing any spoilers (of course) I'm curious about the ending. Had you always intended that ending?SZ: I went back and forth on the ending for awhile. I had to think a lot about what this character needed, and also think a lot about my idea of "realistic" since I always write realistic fiction. Some stuff happened in real life that helped me know for sure how I would end the book.
SH: There is very little religion in novels, especially YA novels it seems, unless the religious leaders are evil. I love your straight approach. As a Christian and the daughter of a pastor, religion is a central part of Sam's life and you deal with her fears and hopes and doubts honestly. Do you find in general that people are uncomfortable with this topic or have been welcoming?
SZ: Since I almost completely avoid reading reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, Shelfari, and most blogs, I really have no idea what kind of conversation may be going on about that. I like to stay out of it unless asked. I'm sure it makes some people uncomfortable, and I get that. There are plenty of other books (most of them) that never make the merest mention, so the uncomfortable people will still have stories to read. I wanted to write a book for everyone else---something that hadn't yet been done (as far as I knew/know) about a character with a sincere faith, that was not a religious/Christian marketplace book and also not a total loss of faith/cult book. I didn't want to write a testimony or anything with answers---just one teen character's first dark night of the soul. As a reader, I enjoy reading about people like me and I also enjoy reading about people different than me. I hope this book finds an audience on both sides of that equation.
SH: If you were to, say, have me over for dinner, what would you cook for me? What sort of entertainment would you provide? And are you free next weekend?
SZ: I would make you a casserole, Shannon, because when I think of you I think of home and hearth and pie. I'd get my husband to play piano for you while I flambed the Baked Alaska. Sadly, I'm not free for...a while.
OH! Taunted me with casserole and Baked Alaska and live music, but in the end--DENIED. It's official, Sara Zarr is ruthless! Fortunately, she's also an extremely fine writer. We're gonna rock the festival on Saturday.