Saturday, December 5, 2009


It's time for a new contest! I'm giving away a copy of PURGE by Sarah Darer Littman.

All you have to do is leave a comment about something interesting in the interview that follows, and please include an email where I can contact you if you are the lucky winner.

*Contest ends December 20.
**Only US and Canada entries please.

I first met Sarah Darer Littman on MySpace. Her posts were insightful and often hilarious. After reading her first book CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, I was hooked. PURGE is her second book, and I'm happy to report she's written another and is hard at work on a fourth. But I'll shut up now so you can read her interview and find out some great stuff straight from her.

Readingjunky: When did you first think about being a writer?

Sarah Darer Littman: I wanted to be a writer back in high school and thought I would go to college and major in English but my father was like: "How are you going to make a living as an English major?" Unfortunately I wasn't strong enough to follow through on the courage of my convictions and I ended up on a completely different path - with an undergraduate degree in politics and an MBA in Finance, of all things. It wasn't until I was approaching 40 and having a mid-life crisis that I thought I didn't want to be in my nursing home thinking, "What would have happened if?" I knew I had to at least give myself a chance at pursuing my dream, even if I failed.

RJ: What was your biggest inspiration for PURGE?

SDL: I was inspired to write PURGE when my mother sent me a picture of myself as a teenager. ( When I first looked at it, as a 40-something year old woman, I thought, "Wow, I had a good figure." But almost immediately the voice of the girl in the photo started up in my brain - the one that thought she was fat and ugly. I've suffered from body image problems my whole life and was actively bulimic in my late 30's. When I thought about how energy I've spent hating my body and the way I look, energy that could have been put to better and more creative uses - well, I hoped that if by writing PURGE I could help even one person not to make that same mistake it would be worthwhile.

RJ: What drives your writing most?

SDL: Characters, plot, personal experience …Character is the most important for me, but the process seems to be different with each book. The idea for CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC came from an exercise on character webbing, and I really had no idea where the plot was going when I started - I just had a very strong sense of the MC, Justine. With PURGE, personal experience played a more important role because of the nature of the story, but character was still the driving force. My upcoming novel, LIFE, AFTER, required a lot of research and the research framed the plot more than in my two previous novels. The novel I’m working on now, WANT TO GO PRIVATE? is about a girl who becomes involved with an Internet predator, and it’s more plot-driven than anything I’ve ever worked on before.

Writing each book is a learning experience.

RJ: Do any of your characters resemble you in any way?

SDL: Justine in CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC probably resembles me the most, being a short frizzy-haired Jewish girl (True Confessions: Hooray for Japanese Straightening!) with an obsessive love of chocolate.

RJ: Does any particular type of music inspire your creativity?

SDL: I can’t write with music playing unless it’s classical, because if there are words I start singing along and that’s not pleasant for anyone within earshot. Even the dog hides. I have Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and Handel’s Water Music on my iPhone so that if I’m working at a café and there are people gabbing really loudly and distracting me, I can plug in the earbuds and tune them out. But at home I work to the sounds of the voices in my head.

Oh dear. That sounds vaguely psychotic, doesn’t it?

RJ: Can you describe a day in your writing schedule?

SDL: I get up at 6:30am to get my kids up and out to school by 7:30. Once they’re gone, I’ll have a cup of coffee, quick scan of the newspaper, check Facebook and Twitter and various political blogs, and then take the dog for a walk. By 8:30 I make another cup of coffee and head down to my basement Writing Lair to work. I’ll be there until 2 or 3, depending on if it’s a carpool driving day. Once the kids get home from school, my life is spent in the car or in waiting rooms or in the café at Barnes and Noble, trying to squeeze in a little more work time in between chauffeuring duties. Thank heavens for laptops!

RJ: What is most rewarding about being a published author?

SDL: Receiving letters from readers who have felt a connection with your characters or felt inspired in some way by your books, whether it's to explore their connection with faith or to seek help for a body image problem or to write themselves. I also really enjoy speaking in schools - I’m quite passionate about telling kids how important it is to learn to write well even if you don’t plan to be an author, because future employers will judge you on your ability to communicate effectively in writing.

RJ: Who are some of your favorite authors?

SDL: This is one of the questions I always find hardest to answer. It’s like asking me if I have a favorite child. I will admit to having a major author crush on Markus Zusak, though.

RJ: What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?

SDL: Read. Read. Read. Then get your butt in the chair and write, write, write. I basically wrote two “practice novels” before CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC. One was a middle grade about an escape artist class hamster and another was an adult novel about a woman in an unhappy marriage. Neither will ever see the light of day, I suspect, but my writing improved immensely for having written them.

Take classes. It’s important to keep honing your craft. Join a critique group. Learn how to give and receive criticism kindly, effectively, and hopefully with a sense of humor. My critique group is wonderful that way.

Become a member of the SCBWI. It’s a fantastic resource, a great way to meet other authors, learn a lot about craft, the publishing industry, and the people within it. I got my first book contract after hearing my editor speak at an SCBWI conference and realizing that she had the quirky sense of humor required for a book about a girl who’d decided to give up being Jewish for Lent.

RJ: Can you tell us anything about your current projects?

SDL: I’ve just sent my editor the manuscript for a book called WANT TO GO PRIVATE? (at least that’s the working title) which is scheduled for publication in 2011. It’s about Abby, a ninth grader who becomes involved with an Internet predator. It’s been a fascinating and very disturbing book to research and write. Fascinating because I’ve been working with my local FBI office and the Youth Division of Greenwich Police, and I’ve had an opportunity to see how they are working to track down these predators and keep our kids safe. Disturbing in so many ways – because you realize how easy it is for kids to get in trouble and how clueless most parents are about what their kids are up to online. I also found it very hard when I was writing suggestive chat scenes between Abby and the predator and my 13 year-old daughter would come home from school. I felt like saying to her, “Stay away from me, I’m being a pervert right now!” I felt like I wanted to take a shower after writing those scenes, and for a while starting having nightmares.

When I had a research meeting with the FBI, I asked the agents how they managed to deal with this kind of stuff day in and day out without getting nightmares. The Supervisory Special Agent told me they can sleep because they know they're doing this to keep these guys from doing such crimes do anyone else.

Still, writing this made me wonder how people write books about serial killers!

RJ: And finally, what is your favorite way to relax?
SDL: I love to take a hot bath at the end of the day with some nice “smellies” in it and relax with a good book. I have one of those fancy Jacuzzi baths but I never use it because the bubbles would get my books wet and books > bubbles!

A great big THANKS to Sarah for the interview. I hope Santa brings her LOTS and LOTS of chocolate!!!


Readingislove said...

This was a great interview. I love reading how authors got started and what they suggest for people who want to write. I would love to write one day. I have a few ideas that I've started, but unfortunately, I'm too hard on myself to keep going. I keep thinking it's just not good enough... I need to remember that of course it's not going to be good enough if it's never written!

I am very interested in reading her book, Purge. I teach 8th grade and am always looking for books to put into my classroom. The author mentions it having a good message for young girls... that is something I'm interesting. I recently read a book that involved cutting and was unhappy with the ending because it really didn't leave off with a good message.

leannescire @

Star Shadow said...

Great interview,its great when authors how and when they wanted to get started the fact she wanted an english major and ended up with an MBA in finance.

The book sounds amazing thanks, please enter me ty,

Anonymous said...

By what i read i culd say that you might be a good teacher.And in my school i have manage to get to the one million words thanks to the Cirque Du Freak series.

Readingjunky said...

A million words! Hey, that's fantastic! the Cirque Du Freak series is pretty awesome.