www.sarahfinebooks.com, on Twitter (@finesarah), and at http://thestrangestsituation.blogspot.com/, where she blogs about psychology and YA.
MWG: Sarah, welcome to the Missouri Writers Guild conference blog. But better yet, welcome to the conference! What will you be speaking about?
Sarah: Thank you! I’ll be speaking about several things, actually. One of the sessions is about how writers can develop thinking habits that help when dealing with writer’s block and rejection, another is about writing teen characters, and then I’m offering a master class about how to “properly” traumatize characters.
MWG: I love that--properly "traumatize" characters! Who is the perfect audience for your workshop?
Sarah: I think all of them are appropriate for writers at any level of experience, because I’ll be focusing on the intersection of psychology and storytelling.
MWG: Sounds fascinating! You have great experience in the YA genre. In your opinion, what makes a great YA novel?
Sarah: A story that captures the universal experience of that time of life: the struggle to develop independence; the all-encompassing emotion; the rawness of propelling events, making decisions, and accepting major responsibility for the first time in one’s life, most likely before feeling completely ready to do that. No matter what situation or genre within YA, a great young adult story is a distillation of that life experience that resonates with teens—and with adults who remember what that was like.
MWG: What are one or two mistakes you find new writers making when writing YA?
Sarah: One would be trying to provide a life lesson or “teach” the teen reader—if that’s why you’re writing YA, you should probably stop. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong point of view, but the number one goal should always be to tell a good, absorbing, genuine story. And I suppose another mistake would be failing to listen to teens talk; dialogue is tricky to begin with; but if you’re an adult writing YA, you’ll do well to sit in a coffee shop or mall and just listen.
MWG: Great advice! Tell us a little about your latest YA book! Where can people find copies? Will you be selling any at the conference?
Sarah: Sanctum is the story of a girl who sneaks into hell—a dark, walled city—to rescue the soul of her best friend, a mission greatly complicated when she’s captured by the Captain of the city’s Guard. It was published in October of 2012 (Skyscape/Amazon Children’s Publishing); and the sequel, Fractured, comes out on October 29th of this year. I believe I’ll be at the author signing on Saturday with copies of Sanctum.
MWG: Terrific and sounds like a captivating plot! You also have a blog. How important is it for authors to have a blog?
Sarah: I don’t claim to be an expert in this kind of thing (though my agent, Kathleen Ortiz, certainly is), but how important it is to have a blog depends on your goal. A blog is helpful in connecting to the writing community, deriving support, and learning; but I don’t think it’s necessarily important in getting an agent or finding publishing success in the world of fiction. Most of my blog audience is other writers, not readers. However, I do think it’s crucial that authors have some kind of web presence; but these days, there are so many ways to do that—a website, Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.. I’m most active on Twitter these days, but also have a tumblr site for my series. Authors should choose the medium(s) in which they’re most natural and comfortable, and simply interact and participate.
MWG: Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Sarah: I’m looking forward to meeting folks at the conference!
For more information and to register for the conference (discounted price before 4/15/2013), go to: http://www.missouriwritersguild.org/Conference2013v9/index.htm
Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg.