Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Sara Shepard Interview!
It's hard to believe but May 27th is finally here! Yes, after long anticipation, fans all over will be going out to buy their copies of the next Pretty Little Liars book, Unbelievable. Sara Shepard was kind enough to do an interview with me, so check it out!
When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
I think I was pretty young-- I started writing stories for fun by about or fourth grade. My sister and I loved to sit at our coffee table in the living room and draw, and we'd make up these alternative universes with all sorts of characters-- talking flowers, things with square heads, people who had small, button-like eyes and spoke in very squeaky voices. We were unstoppable-- and we probably drove our parents nuts because these worlds were ALL we would talk about. We started telling each other stories about our alternative worlds, and then we started writing them down. I wrote in cloth-bound notebooks and on my dad's computer, which was back when Macs were called Macintoshes. The screen was about six inches wide at the most. I
probably have a lot of my early stories still saved on a disc somewhere-- I'd love to pull them out and see them sometime!
What was your inspiration for the Pretty Little Liars series?
Well, Rosewood is sort of based on where I grew up, in a Pennsylvania town just outside Philadelphia. I wanted to write a story about a suburban town that seems perfect on the outside but really isn't so perfect on the inside. I like exploring the idea that everyone, no matter who they are, has things about them they're not so proud of.
The characters are mostly facets of me, or loosely based on people I knew. I did not, however, know anyone who went missing or was brutally murdered-- nor did I have someone called A sending me mean secret messages. My editors and I came up with those two concepts together.
How many books are going to be in the series?
Right now, there are going to be eight. I'm so excited!
What is a normal routine for a day in your life?
Well, I work from home. My husband and I have three dogs, so I'm usually up pretty early to let them out, feed them, etc. I write pretty early on. I usually take dogs running to clear my head-- oftentimes I can get plot ideas when I'm AWAY from my computer. Then I come back and write some more, surf on-line, go out with friends, cook dinner, etc. etc. I try to keep normal
work hours and take weekends off, but working from home is great because I can randomly take a vacation in the middle of the week-- like just a few days ago, I flew up to Vegas to hang out with my sister, who was there for a work conference. If I'm really on a deadline, though, I may work crazier hours. I definitely don't work at night, though-- I'm so not a night person!
Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life?
Well, each of the main characters share things in common with me: Aria is sort of like the girl I was in high school-- quirky and arty and sort of over the whole thing, but at the same time longing for acceptance and love. Spencer is a good student and a little anal, which I also was in high school. Like Emily, I was a swimmer-- and also like Emily, I got to a point where I really wanted to quit. And like Hanna, I was really into clothes. I think I can respond to some of the emotional aspects of Hanna, too-- like her eating issues. I had eating issues when I was in high school as well, so I know what that feels like.
What is your favorite part of being a writer?
I really love writing, and sometimes I feel like I NEED to do it. It's very satisfying and a dream come true, doing this thing I love and actually getting PAID for it. Sounds cheesy, but it's really true!
What is the hardest part of being a writer?
Sometimes it's hard to stick to a schedule. And sometimes, when my books are with my editors, I feel really aimless. I'm actually writing adult fiction as well, but as none of that has sold to publishers, I have to try and make my own deadlines-- which doesn't always work! Some days, when I have nothing to do, I watch marathons of "Project Runway" and knit sweaters all day. Which is so fun and relaxing, but sometimes I feel a little guilty for it!
What was your best subject in school and why? Worst, why?
Hmm...I think English was my best subject-- I was one of those freaky people who really ENJOYED writing papers. I was an English major in college as well. I also loved biology-- something about science really captivated me. Worst subject...I wasn't particularly great at any economics class I've ever had (which is probably why Spencer is doing so poorly in AP Econ-- I can
relate!!). I just didn't get economics concepts. I also was really bored by history-- but that's a shame. Now I watch most historical shows on TV and think they're fascinating. I just think they made you memorize too much history stuff in school. If they would've made it more of a story, which it was, I think I would've been way more interested.
What are you working on currently?
I am getting to work on Pretty Little Liars #5-- which is yet to be named. There's a huge twist in the plot...which you'll see in Unbelievable. You think the series is over...but it's really not!
What advice would you give to teens who want to be authors?
I would say keep writing. Read a lot-- you can learn a lot from the way other writers handle certain situations, like moving the plot forward, dealing with tension, mastering dialogue and detail, etc. etc. When I was in high school, if I was in love with a writer, I even tried on my own to see if I could write in their voice. (Yes, I'm dorky, I made up writing exercises for myself.) I always kept journals-- which actually helps me now, because I can read back to, say, my eighth grade journal and better
understand the emotional place I was in back then. And, what else... Show your work to other people. Take writing classes in college-- they actually seem to help. But mostly, just keep doing it and don't get discouraged. Every writer thinks they suck, even ones way more famous than me! It seems to be part of the business!
Make sure if you haven't read the series to check it out, and if have go out and grab Unbelievable today!