Today we continue the chat with Sara Grant, whose YA dystopian novel DARK PARTIES comes out later this year.
Tell us about your writing journey. How have publishers reacted to your work?
DARK PARTIES started as a short story, which I submitted to the SCBWI British Isles (www.britishscbwi.org) UNDISCOVERED VOICES anthology (www.undiscoveredvoices.com). I let a writer friend and my niece read a very early draft. 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.
The anthology was sent to UK-based editors and agents who focused on children’s fiction. I received calls and emails from editors and agents who were interested in what they’d read. I signed with an agent from Andrew Nurnberg Associates because we hit it off immediately and within moments I knew she understood my work and would be an amazing partner in the crazy world of publishing. And I was right. We worked together for about a year before she submitted my novel and about five months later I accepted an offer from Little, Brown in the US.
Another benefit of writing dystopian fiction is the ease with which it can cross borders and appeal to readers around the world. I intentionally didn’t identify the country in DARK PARTIES. In my mind, it’s a mixture of my two homelands – the US and UK, but it could also easily represent other countries. DARK PARTIES has sold to the US, UK, Germany, Poland and China.
How about readers? Have you found any special challenges reaching people with this genre?
My book isn’t released in the US until August in the US and October in the UK but I have started to be approached by book bloggers who have read advanced copies of DARK PARTIES. Because DARK PARTIES is my first novel, I must admit it’s a very strange experience to have something you’ve written out in the world. What I’m most fascinated by is watching this story take on a life of its own. It’s very gratifying to have people read something you’ve written and even more exciting to learn what they’ve discovered in the pages of your novel.
DARK PARTIES was published in March in Germany under the title NEVA. I was lucky enough to visit Germany for the launch and attended the Leipzig Bookfair where I got to meet my very first readers. It was an overwhelming experience for this small town girl to be signing copies of her book in a country she had never before visited and being so graciously welcomed by enthusiastic readers.
What are some of your favorite speculative fiction books for young people?
I love The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The first book in her trilogy is a master class in deftly creating a world but not letting the world take over. She blends a compelling love triangle with page-turning action.
I’ve also recently discovered China Mieville. I’ve heard him speak and read a few of his short stories but he’s definitely an author I intend to read more of and study.
If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world, which would it be? Why?
Oh, this is a difficult one. I will have to go with my earliest influences in TV and film – Star Wars and Star Trek: the Next Generation. I suppose I couldn’t resist a trip on NCC 1701-D. I love the idea of being able to be beamed anywhere. I would also spend endless hours on the holodeck. Oh, and of course work with Jean Luc to bring peace, love and justice to the universe!
What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?
If I thought the last question was difficult….hmmmm…I find personal questions like this even more tricky to answer. Am I honest and tell you that I think the most perfect food in the universe is mashed potatoes and I will eat them for any meal? Does that make me sound too bland? It’s true but is it interesting? Maybe I should mention that I can say my alphabet as quickly backwards as forwards. Surprising but is it too trivial?
A relevant fact: I remember writing my first story at eight years old. It was written on notebook paper and tied together with three pieces of string. It was dedicated to Farrah Fawcett Majors. (Um, yeah, I was writing under the influence of an extreme obsession with the TV show Charlie’s Angels at the time.) Too weird?
What if I shared that I quit my job as director of communications for one of the biggest foundation in the US and moved to the UK to be with a British man I met standing in line for a ride at Universal Studios in Florida?
Maybe that’s interesting but it certainly isn’t the whole story. So maybe I’ll just say that I wrote my first story for children when my niece Megan was born and I got my first book deal the year she turned seventeen. Oh, I don’t know. I think I should just stick with something simple so how about I just say: orange is my favorite color.
Thanks, Sara! Best wishes for the success of Dark Matter.