This morning, we’re talking with Sarah Combs whose YA debut, BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME, comes out today with Candlewick Press.
When mysterious blue butterflies suddenly appear in Gloria’s hometown right before her summer away at a camp for gifted students, she wonders what they might portend. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, she resolves to make the most of her camp experience. But some things prove to be more challenging than she ever imagined, and with new friends, new love, and a whole new way of seeing the world, Gloria senses that her future is about to take flight.
DA: Welcome, Sarah! Thank you so much for joining us on the Fearless Fifteeners blog. I have to say, after finishing BSA, I felt so lucky that I would get to conduct this interview. And a fellow-Kentuckian at that!
SC: Thanks so much for having me. I love meeting (and have immediate affection for!) fellow Kentuckians, especially in the realm of YA lit.
DA: Let’s talk about BSA – what compelled you to write it, and how long did it take to finish?
SC: The story had been alive in my heart and mind for years, but I had never been brave enough–or allowed myself time and space enough–to write it down. When I found myself at home with two young sons (my brain hungry for sustenance; my imagination heightened by the weird deepening and slowing-down that had happened in my life), I finally realized that my days weren’t always going to be shaped like this, and that there was no better time to take my writing seriously. So every day without fail I wrote during my boys’ naps (two hours on a good day, bless their hearts), and a year later I had a novel on my hands.
DA: BSA has such a glorious cast of characters, each one so different from the other, yet somehow congruent. Which character would you say you most relate to and why? (I have a theory about this – curious to see if I’m right!)
SC: Well. I could tell you that the narrator Gloria has nothing whatsoever in common with me, but I’d be lying through my teeth.
DA: Your bio on the back of the ARC says that you met your husband at a geek camp not unlike the one in BSA. This begs the question: is Gloria’s love interest in the novel inspired by your husband?
SC: Oh, my. First: One of the things I love best and respect most about my husband is that he’s a very private person. I’m sure he’s beyond mortified that my bio mentions not only him, but the provenance of our friendship. Second: I don’t think any of the characters in BSA is directly inspired by any one person in my life; rather, I consider each of them a sort of amalgamation of any number of people I’ve met or known or loved or encountered briefly on the street–some real, some imagined. Third: To the extent that shades of my husband *do* exist in the story, I hope I’ve been savvy enough not to put them anywhere too obvious (how’s that for cryptic and equivocal, hmmm?). This fiction writing thing, man. It’s tricky business.
DA: Some authors like to outline a novel before starting, while others dive right in. Some like to hammer out a first draft without editing, others edit as they go. Can you speak a little about your writing process?
SC: I read and write on the sentence level. I always have. It’s excruciating and takes forever and I wish I could change, but I’ve accepted that it’s just the way I roll. Outlining? I wish! I’m infinitely jealous of outliners–they’re like those miraculous people who makes lists or whatever before they go to the store. I just happen to be wired the exact opposite way. I start with a voice, a mood, a feeling. From there, the characters lead me on their own way, and it’s surprising every time.
DA: One thing I love about the path to publication is that everyone has a different story. Some authors queried for years, writing dozens of closeted manuscripts, while others get book deals with their first effort. Tell us a little about your publication story.
SC: On the one hand, I was embarrassingly lucky: While still in manuscript form (and, in one case, when I had no more than a title and the first 250 words on paper), BSA won two separate YA novel discovery contests, and those wins earned my words a look from a handful of editors and agents, among whom were the two women who would eventually (after formal queries, the traditional route) become my agent/editor dream team. On the other hand: I have always–all my life–read, read, read, read, read. BSA might have been my first effort, but it was the direct result of a lifetime of reading.
DA: As we are Fearless Fifteeners, we’d like to hear something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of.
SC: I’m afraid of tornadoes, silverfish, and hitting a deer when I’m driving. I’m not afraid of roller coasters, B-grade horror movies, or getting lost.
DA: Lastly, can you speak a little about your second novel and/or what you’re currently working on?
SC: Book 2 is top secret, but I can tell you that it’s wildly different from BSA, and it’s coming from Candlewick in spring 2016. Book 3 is currently percolating, one excruciating sentence at a time.
DA: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
SC: No, thank YOU. Here’s wishing nothing but good things for you and your fellow Fifteeners. I can’t wait to read your books, starting with Mosquitoland!
Sarah Combs was born and raised in Louisville but has spent more than half her life in Lexington. She graduated with degrees in English and Classics from the University of Kentucky, where her fiction and poetry earned Dantzler, Farquar, and Oswald Awards for excellence in creative writing. She has worked as a high school Latin teacher, a university English instructor, a youth and teen librarian, and Jane-of-All-Trades at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, where she leads fiction workshops for writers. While still in manuscript form, Breakfast Served Anytime won the 2010 YA Novel Discovery Contest, as well as the Young Adult Novel Contest sponsored by She Writes.
|David Arnold is the author of MOSQUITOLAND (Viking/Penguin, 2015). Previous “jobs” include freelance film composer, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. And chips. He believes fiercely in chips. David is represented by Dan Lazar at Writers House. You can find him at davidarnoldbooks.com and on twitter @roofbeam.|