Since when did you write your own stories and how did it come your first book was published?
I remember writing my first story when I was eight years old. It was hand-written in pencil and bound with three pieces of string. It was titled “A Dream I Wish Was True” and was a complete rip-off of a sketch on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. And I’ve been writing ever since.
NEVA started as a short story, which I submitted to the SCBWI British Isles (www.scbwi.org) Undiscovered Voices anthology (www.undiscoveredvoices.com). I let my friend and fellow editor Sara O’Connor and my niece Megan read it. They both wanted to know what happened next and encouraged me to write the rest of Neva’s story. I told myself that if my story was selected, then I would write the novel. And, luckily it was included in the anthology. My agent Jenny Savill received a copy…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Which author inspires you most of all?
Last year I read To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee for the first time. I was blown away. It’s exactly the type of novel I love: quirky and engaging characters, an intriguing and original plot and that extra something to say that grabs hold of you and won’t let go and makes you analyze your life and the way you look at the world. I only regret that I didn’t read it sooner, and I more deeply regret that she never wrote another book.
Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
Anywhere and everywhere. Things I overhear while riding the Tube in London. Memories from high school. Reading books, magazines, blogs, etc. Listening to music. Going to a museum or gallery. Brainstorming with other writers. Watching TV or movies or just sitting around doing nothing. I keep an ongoing list and challenge myself to come up with 100 ideas a year.
I think inspiration can be practiced. You can train your brain to look for ideas and ask ‘what if’. The key is to not be afraid to look stupid. Some of the best ideas grow from god-awful ones. Once I decided not to worry so much about looking stupid and judging every idea as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, I was free to be more creative – and much, much happier.
I also work for a company that creates series fiction for children and young adults (www.workingpartnersltd.co.uk). We are asked on a daily basis to generate ideas and brainstorm stories together. It’s a very creative environment and I am continually inspired by my fellow editors and writers.
How do you get in contact with your readers?
By the end of March, I hope to have my web site – www.sara-grant.com up and running. I am also on Twitter as AuthorSaraGrant and plan to have a Facebook page for readers soon. I love to hear from readers.
When and what do you read yourself?
I LOVE to read. I am always reading at least one book. Sometimes I like to mix reading one fiction and one non-fiction – usually research for the next book. I have a pile of about forty books that I have purchased and are waiting – begging – to be read.
I love to read while travelling on the Tube, trains and airplanes. I read every night before bed and if the book is really compelling then I steal any moment I can to finish the book. And then immediately feel bereft that the story is over.
I try to read 50 books a year. (Yeah, okay, I admit it. I’m a list-maker and obsessively goal-oriented.) Earlier this year I read Nothing by Janne Teller. It was disturbing and powerful and I can’t stop thinking about it. I just finished Going Bovine by Libba Bray and it was this manic, crazy brilliant quest that I couldn’t put down.
At the moment I’m reading Across the Universe by Beth Revis and Utopian and Dystopian: Writing for Children and Young Adults edited by Carrie Hintz and Elaine Ostry.
So many books, so little time.
What is so fascinating for you about writing dystopian novels?
The freedom. Writing dystopian stories allows you to play with issues and ideas in a way that you can’t in contemporary fiction. You whittle away the part of the real world that doesn’t serve your story and focus on the aspects that are most interesting to you. I love the idea of raising issues with readers. I don’t want to tell my readers what to think; I just want to ask them to consider particular issues and let them draw their own conclusions.
How did it feel do hold your own book in your hands for the first time?
For that…I have no words. It’s a strange combination of awe and panic. It was the moment I finally believed my book was going to be published. It was a life-long ambition realized.
What would you do, if you had to live under the Protectosphere like Neva in your first book “Dark Parties”? Would you revolt?
We are all trapped in our figurative Protectospheres. We all set physical and philosophical boundaries for ourselves. But to live in that type of truly limited environment would mean to slowly go insane. I want to believe that I would revolt. Your question is one reason I wrote the book. I wanted to explore this idea. We all want to believe that we would stand up and fight for what’s right, but history and newspapers are full of people who stood by and allowed bad – sometimes truly unspeakable – things to happen.
NEVA is rooted in my belief that one person, one vote, one voice can change the world. There’s a quote from Margaret Mead that inspired NEVA: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
If you had to live under such a Protectosphere now, what would you miss about the outside world most of all?
It’s funny. When I moved to the United Kingdom from the United States there were loads of things I missed – from a certain type of candy to snow storms. When I use to visit the States, I would come home with a huge suitcase full of products that I couldn’t get on this side of the Atlantic, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the only thing I missed and continue to miss everyday is my American family and friends. I think I could endure a lot as long as I had my husband, family and friends.
Are you already writing another novel and can you tell us, what it will be about?
It’s another dystopian novel. Its working title is Half Lives. It’s very much a work in progress, but here’s what I know so far:
Half Lives chronicles the tales of two unlikely heroes – Icie and Beckett. Both struggle to keep themselves alive and protect future generations from the terrible fate that awaits any who dare to climb the mountain. Even though they live hundreds of years apart, Icie and Beckett’s lives are mysteriously linked.
The stories of Icie and Beckett are told in alternating chapters. Half Lives is a race against time and the battle to save future generations. It’s about the nature of faith and power of miscommunication – and above all the strength of the human spirit to adapt and survive.